Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Joy and Pain - Part 1 of 3
It was early Monday morning, March 8, and Esther announced from upstairs that one of her goldfish had died during the night. She cried and we had the ceremonial flushing. I comforted by telling her that probably by the end of the week, we would have a new pet, a baby calf to take care of and enjoy. Only minutes had passed when I surveyed the pasture and immediately knew that something was going on with Sweetums. Her due date was between Wednesday March 10 and Saturday March 13, so this was a few days early. I spent some time on the internet researching what the signs of labor were in cows and I determined that she was in the early stages. She spent most of the morning separate from the goats and going in and out of the woods. She didn’t eat. She didn’t rest. She wouldn’t come close to the fence line. The farmer-husband noticed that her belly looked considerably thinner this morning. I had read that when the calf moves into position in the birth canal, the belly would look different. But just in case, we did a walk through the pasture and through the woods to make sure she hadn’t already had the baby. We didn’t find anything. I called the livestock agent at the extension office and he encouraged me to look again in the pasture as it sounded like it was very possible that the calf had been born already. I did some more reading on line and read that when cows are in labor, they frequently have a fever and their instinct draws them toward water. So the farmer checked the woods and pasture once more- still nothing. So we spent the day watching her and getting very excited for our new calf to be born. As the day went on, she continued to go in and out of the woods, but she became less restless and more and more like herself. By 4 o’clock, she was grazing and staying in the open part of the pasture. My own mothering instinct told me that something was not right. I called our vet, and he said that it sounded like he needed to come out and check her. My heart sank as I contemplated what was ahead for us and for Sweetums. There were so many questions, so many concerns. The vet arrived within a few minutes. When he saw her, I could tell he knew something was not right. When he checked her, I kept my head down and eyes closed. It was quiet for what seemed like forever. “Guys,” he said, “There isn’t a calf in here.” Those words were like a knife to us. What had gone wrong? What did we miss? I went inside to prepare the kids and cry. Farmer-husband and the vet went to check the woods a third time. Daughter and I cried together inside, knowing that the possibility of the calf being found alive was slim. I went back out to meet the guys as they emerged from the woods. They had found a beautiful heifer calf in the pond in our pasture. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I had thought of a lot of scenarios to prepare myself for things that might go wrong with this birth, but this was not one of them. I never imagined that she would have the calf without us knowing anything about it and then for the calf’s life to end before we even knew what had transpired. I was back inside, crying with my sweet daughter who had now suffered the loss of 2 pets in one day. We had spent so much time and energy and anticipation for this one day, and it ended before we could even enjoy it. I knew we had a few options for what to do now, and the farmer and I decided to try to get another calf and attempt to persuade Sweetums to take an adopted baby.
don't forget to keep reading...parts 2 and 3 are below...