Oh, Baby!

Baby Eleanor Roosevelt-Cow, me, & nurse Moe (sans sweater)
I am a woman of a certain age, but not a mother. Life is complicated, you know? And timing is everything. So while I hope to be a mother some day, for now I just dress my dog up in little sweaters (hey, it's cold up here!) and hope my eggs aren't drying up in the meantime. (Is this post too personal? Mom, are you reading this?)

But here's the thing: when my mommy friends tell me I couldn't even imagine the miracle of birth, I just smile. Because while it is true I have never brought a human infant into the world, I have helped welcome several cows. And that really is a miracle, every time.

Someday perhaps I will get organized enough to post a video of a Holstein birth, but for now you'll have to just imagine it. Picture the 1400 lb Mama, making small, huffy breathing sounds, alone in the maternity pen, almost as if she'd attended lamaze classes. Cow mothers are almost always silent when birthing, until the final moments, when sometimes they bellow as they heave and push. They usually give birth on their own, unless there are complications, in which case the farmer will assist by reaching inside to turn the baby (if the calf is breech) or help by pulling (often the case with twins, which tend get stuck in the birth canal).

I was a very big baby, almost 10 lbs. And my brother was over 10 lbs (Thanks, Mom! Still reading?). But that's small, compared to a baby Holstein, which typically weighs-in at around 100lbs at birth. Within just an hour of entering the world, the babies are up on their feet, testing out their wobbly, knock-kneed new legs. Mama looks on, sometimes licking her baby when not anxiously lapping up fresh water to rehydrate herself. It's a tender moment, and then it is over. Almost as if it were nothing at all. Cows are gentle, but they are not sentimental.

But I am. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd be the girl at the tail end of a cow, covered in birthing fluid, pulling a stuck calf out with every ounce of strength in my body. Nor did I know one day I'd be crying tears of joy in a puddle of placenta, exhausted and relieved when a new born we were sure wouldn't make it comes out breathing like a little champion.

It's a miracle. Every time. And then it's over.
That's just life on a farm.

(PS: Mom, if you are still reading, you're a trooper. And you'll make a wonderful grandma someday.)

elizabethmosier (April 7, 2011 at 1:09 PM)  

Alison, this is great! I just discovered your blog today, and look forward to more!

SamAli (April 7, 2011 at 1:37 PM)  

I love this. And I love you guys. And yes, you will be a fabulous mama one day!

Q (April 7, 2011 at 5:29 PM)  

i am so excited about your writing! thanks for inspiring my explorations...and my heart appreciates your transformation toward dairy princess, hmmhmmm, i mean queen...after, also, spending years in the big city. and trading that life for green land and (sad to say) a lil country music. keep up the great work! hugs, q

Ericka (April 10, 2011 at 7:28 PM)  

calves walk on their birthday, can human babies do that?! i think NOT. :)

great post. i really love your blog.

Weekend Cowgirl (April 11, 2011 at 7:55 PM)  

Beautiful post and precious calf. It is always amazing...

Megan Urban –  (April 11, 2011 at 10:18 PM)  

This is great, I forget to appreciate how others give birth. And so interesting that a cow is collected and silent while in labor...because I sounded quite like a cow during mine! Will share the story one of these days!

annie (April 12, 2011 at 12:02 PM)  

Love this! my grandparents had a farm when i was little and calving season never ceased to amaze me. you're very lucky!

Eddy Farm (April 15, 2011 at 6:51 PM)  

I love springtime. You capture the chaos and simplicity of birth so nicely. Excellent.

Sandy (April 25, 2011 at 11:31 AM)  

I just found your blog and I am really not sure how I got here. Twitter maybe? I have become a follower as I am sure I will enjoy it. I too, think the birth of an animal is amazing.

Tracy (May 19, 2011 at 7:44 PM)  

That sounds like the most AMAZING experience of all time. Seriously. I'm super envious!

Anonymous –  (June 21, 2011 at 1:31 PM)  

For you to be you, to do what you have done and the things you are doing, I would bet your Mama's life is not invested in your having babies, but in you having a full and happy life.

One never tires of participating in the birth of a calf, but one can certainly be mighty tired.

Mindy Grange (May 15, 2012 at 12:04 PM)  

I just found your blog today from Jessi posting something about it on FB... man you're giving me my dose of VT... I am so psyched!! I drive by the farm when I'm home in VT on my way from Colchester to Barre (my family's from Colchester, the husband's from Barre) so your pics make me happy and homesick all at once!!

Alison (May 18, 2012 at 7:44 PM)  

thanks, Mindy! Wave to us next time you pass by!

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