Only a handful of weeks remain until the newest member of the Cwach family joins the farm life, and the countdown is officially on.
Over the course of the past few months, I’ve discovered that planning for the arrival of a firstborn baby on the farm – particularly one that is scheduled to arrive near the onset of calving season – introduces some interesting conversations that other to-be parents may not experience.
My chief concern lately has been balancing the potential need to have the farmer both in the calving barn and the delivery room at the same time. Farmer Dan has assured me that friends and neighbors are lined up to be on call to watch any of his other “mamas” that may be giving birth soon. Still, I’m no stranger to emergencies arising on the farm, no matter how much planning is done in advance. So needless to say, I have a lingering concern that this mama may be forced to head to labor and delivery alone if disaster strikes and Dan finds himself stuck helping one of his herd, which I’ve learned can be a long, exhausting and laborious process (at least I’m under no illusions about what giving birth is like for a first-time mom!)
But if farm life has taught me anything, it’s that we can’t control what happens, so I’m doing my best to prep myself to expect the unexpected.
As part of that preparation, Dan and I have spent the past month attending a number of birthing and nursing classes, which have been both educational and a bit entertaining for me. While he may have changed out of his muck boots, Levis and dusty baseball cap, it was abundantly clear that my farmer was still fully engaged in “farm mode” during the classes. When our class leader began discussing nutrition and nursing, I could see the wheels spinning as he studied the pamphlet, looking for all the world like he was reviewing rations for his heifers. When the leader mentioned that adding oats into a diet could be used to help increase a mother’s milk supply, Dan sat up a bit and nodded, joking quietly that he could also add some alfalfa to my mix if I needed.
Later, when I asked him if he was uncomfortable talking about anything related to birthing or nursing, he shrugged and matter-of-factly replied, “It’s kind of a big part of my business.” As a first-time mom, I may not know entirely what to expect, but it’s comforting to know I’m experiencing this with someone who grew up witnessing the circle of life at work. When it comes to unexpected sights and sounds in the delivery room, I don’t think there will be too much that can surprise a farmer.
While my farmer has (wisely) avoided using too many cattle comparisons during my pregnancy, I have to admit that now that I’ve lived on the farm for a few years, I find myself unconsciously doing this very thing. Not only is calving a subject that gets discussed often as spring approaches, but humans and cows share a lot of similarities when it comes to pregnancy. They both go through nine months of gestation, diet and rations play a huge role in the health of the baby and changes as energy requirements are increased near the end of pregnancy, and once that baby is here, the mothering instinct kicks in – for some, a bit more strongly than others. We often joke about what kind of mother I’ll be – will I be like #38, who charges anyone who comes near her newborn, or #35, a docile mama who watches over her calf closely but calmly.
The next few weeks are bound to be full of excitement and surprises as our pregnancy journey nears its end and the next chapter of our lives begins. Only time will tell how we tackle this thing called parenthood – but there’s nobody I’d rather face it with than with my farmer on the farm.