Labor Pains

Sometimes the labor involved to help a cow out that’s in trouble is nothing but a big pain. I can relate to the motherly instincts cows have, just not their impulse to calve alone and unassisted.

If a cow’s a first-timer, having complications during calving, or the calf is in jeopardy, her unwillingness to cooperate makes it difficult to be of assistance. Animals aren’t as appreciative of outside help no matter how troubling their situation is.  Cows can make it a challenge to monitor them for problems. My husband and I had our first child during calving season, but I didn’t need checked on because I abruptly checked in with him when my water broke.

At the hospital, I willingly went into a labor and delivery room, anxious to get comfortable. Not knowing what to expect, I was surprised that we were left alone most of the time. I felt insecure about my husband and me getting the counting and breathing down and hyperventilated as a result of doing it wrong. I welcomed the nurse who assisted us. As labor progressed, I increasingly felt out of sorts. I sidelined my independent nature and pride, and uncharacteristically encouraged others’ efforts to ease my labor pain; cooperating fully, unlike cows.

Cows that are close to calving get taken to the barn if weather conditions are too risky for calving in the elements. Some cows try to run off and dodge being steered away from their spot. I think my husband would’ve enjoyed it had I run off or dodged him when the snowstorm hit while I was in labor. As it was, I would hardly let him leave my bedside. He only got to admire our room’s comfy-looking recliner and he had to ask my permission for bathroom breaks so I would release my death grip on his hand. I hesitated but agreed only if he hurried. I didn’t let go of him until the contraction subsided and he was expected back before the next one started. When he didn’t make it back before a contraction mounted, I could only muster one word during a contraction; “HAND! (breath)…HAND!” in a hysterical, panic-stricken voice as though I was dangling from a cliff ledge.

Some women in labor get mad and lash out at their husband for the painful predicament they’re in and make me think of #68. She’s a mean cow when she calves and gets aggressive protecting her calf if we try to help. I wasn’t mean, just possessive about being the first to hold and kiss my baby, but I was also lenient; letting nurses tend to my newborn until feeding time. I had no problem letting them take over so I could stockpile sleep before going home to deplete it again. Post delivery, I relished meals in bed each day and having my own nurse. When it was time to be let out, I wanted to bring the hospital staff with me and that call button thingy whenever I needed something.

To assist in any mix-ups, which happens, we ear-tag calves with numbers that match their mother’s to help determine if a cow is claiming the wrong calf. Similarly, hospitals use matching wristbands but they didn’t need to worry about me getting confused and claiming a different baby because mine were always the cutest ones there.

This column was originally published March 8-14, 2009

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