Baby Fix

I don’t miss changing truckloads of dirty diapers, feeling half comatose all the time, and smelling like a dairy barn everyday, but I do occasionally get baby pangs. Spring calving is my oddball way of getting my baby fix.

Unlike my husband, I’ve always enjoyed the newborn stage when our kids were tiny and dependant on me to care for them. I could hold and kiss them a lot and there wasn’t anything they could do about it. They couldn’t get away from me or refuse my affections.  As infants, they slept a lot instead of getting into things I had to worry about, and I didn’t have to constantly check on them. There weren’t any complaints about their meals and they were always content just to get fed.

I feel similarly about baby calves. When intervening is necessary, I like taking care of calves. There are many opportunities to pet them when they’re new and they can’t run off or kick me very hard. Like human babies, calves develop a curiosity toward their environment. They get totally absorbed in watching me like my kids did as babies.

Back when they drooled more, my kids were smitten with me. They would listen to my voice with interest, hanging onto every word, and concentrate on the movement of my lips whenever I spoke to them; unlike they do now. It’s always amazed me how drastically that changed. Nothing I do or say gets them so excited that they kick their socks off like they used to, and they don’t cry for my attention the way they did before they learned to walk and talk.

When I show up to feed cows and cut the bale twine, baby calves will approach me with intense curiosity and watch my every move. Their facial expressions look as though they’re asking, “Whatcha doin’?” Their inquisitiveness makes me want to laugh out loud. They’ll bunch up around me, getting as close as they dare, and sniff the air between us in an attempt to satisfy their curiosity; then dart off when I turn around.

I spent a lot of my early motherhood days admiring my kids’ little mouths, fingers, feet, button nose, and soft fuzzy hair. Since my time isn’t absorbed with infant care anymore, I’ve switched to watching baby calves when I go out to check or feed cows instead. I’m easily amused by calves’ little ears perking up when I go by, seeing their tails twitch excitedly as they suckle or touch noses with their mothers and other calves. Watching them buck, hop, or run pell-mell like kids on a playground playing tag, is entertaining.

I tend to linger as long as possible while feeding cows, just so I can listen to the calves’ little noises and watch them play or sprawl out in the sun for a nap like a groggy baby after getting a belly full of milk. I find it comical when calves snuggle down into fresh hay near their grazing mothers, and munch on the hay surrounding them.

I look forward to regular outings to find out which cows have new calves and see what their babies look like. When I don’t get around calves enough to satisfy my baby fix, I get just as antsy as a hungry baby with a dirty diaper.

This column was originally published April 26-May 2, 2009

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