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First-Calf Heifer: A Farm Girl’s Take on Childbirth

First-Calf Heifer: A Farm Girl's Take on Childbirth www.herviewfromhome.com
Written by Erika Wilson

Back when I was a 21-year-old blushing bride-to-be, my OBGYN told me,”Oh, honey. Whenever you get pregnant, we will just go ahead and put you on the calendar for a c-section. There’s no WAY you are ever pushing out a baby.”

Yikes.

That is exactly what a gal never wants to hear, especially one who wants nothing more than to have babies someday. But I kept the faith! Growing up on a farm and ranch in Montana had desensitized me somewhat on pregnancy. I had seen some skinny old cows push out some massive calves, so I figured there was still hope for me. Even if God hadn’t gifted me with birthing hips. 

At that point–I didn’t care. Women had been having babies for many thousands of years, right? Right. It would all be fine. Mainly, I just chose not to think about it.

Fast forward to ten years later. I did finally get “bred.” I suddenly remembered my first doctor’s comment, and I started to experience some unexpected prenatal anxiety. 

For one thing, my husband had three healthy bull calves on the ground already from his first marriage, who were living proof that his big athletic build was highly heritable. One way or another, I knew that my own big bull calf would have to come out at some point, too. (I just wasn’t looking forward to either method.)

My anxiety increased with each ultrasound, as the technician exclaimed, “Wow, this baby is NOT small!” or “Hmm, he’s bigger than he should be at this stage!” or my personal favorite: “Boy, this guy has a huge head!”

Wonderful! SO glad to hear that.

As the weeks flew by, I kept the c-section prediction tucked in the back of my mind, even though my new doctor said we should “keep our options open.” I had assisted our vets with c-sections on cows before, and to be completely honest, I wasn’t any more excited about that route than I was about pushing out that huge head. I started to wish I hadn’t been raised calving cows, pulling big calves out of first-calf heifers with ratchets and chains. My family loved those jokes–oh, don’t worry honey, we will just get out the OB chains if we need to–but while I laughed, inside I was TERRIFIED.

In an ironic twist of fate; suddenly, I was the first-calf heifer!

Maybe if I hadn’t seen all that calving carnage on the ranch, I wouldn’t be as worried about it happening to my own body. Ignorance might have been bliss, but in this case, I was well-educated. I had even been lucky enough to help out on a prolapsed uterus or two. (Never seen one? Definitely NOT pretty.)

I counted the weeks off and watched my belly grow bigger and bigger. As the days ticked by, I bounced back and forth between excitement and dread.

As I entered my third trimester, I decided I wanted to freeze time. The baby moved a lot, which I loved. We had the little guy named, I wasn’t sick anymore, and my shoes still fit. I loved being pregnant. Plus, (and here’s the main reason) as long as I was still pregnant, I didn’t have to HAVE the baby.

“Can’t I just stay like this?” I asked my husband, (somewhat) facetiously; “Does he really HAVE to come out?”

But as much as I willed it to, time refused to stand still for me. 

Baby Hank was no help either–he came right on time! I tried to calm my nerves with a big tub of Coldstone Creamery while his daddy drove me around our back country roads, timing my contractions.

It didn’t help, though. All I could see were pastures of endless COWS.

I went to bed that night knowing tomorrow was the day I had been both excited for and terrified about for years. Luckily, my water broke, so off we rushed to the hospital! It was GO-time!

Three hours of pushing later, my new doctor finally conceded that my first doctor had been exactly right with her prediction. There was no way I was getting this baby out on my own. I bit my tongue and kept my reaction edited to “Well, let’s get him out, then, shall we?!” {While my inner monologue went more like: Really? It took THREE SOLID HOURS of the blood vessels in my eyeballs almost bursting for us to figure this out?

(But hey, an animal science degree definitely does NOT make me an obstetrician.)

They rushed me to the OR, where they finally got my big bull calf out. I laughed when I heard the doc tell my husband it took her a few tries to get him pulled through the incision, because he was such a big boy. In my medicated, blissful state, I felt a welcome pang of pride! For the first time, I was actually glad to hear he was big!

Once they got me stitched up, I held that big baby on my chest like a prize calf, and swore to my husband that we were now officially done having children. 

I felt so blessed, but at the same time, so horrified at what women go through to become mothers.

I had finally graduated from heifer to cow, and thanks to modern medicine, I survived.

And now and then; often while enjoying the weight of that big sweet baby sleeping in my arms, I think about my future daughter-in-law. Chances are good that she may someday get to experience the joys of marrying a high birth-weight bull, too, like her mama-in-law.

I just hope–for her sake–that Hank will choose a bride with a little more HIP than his mama.

About the author

Erika Wilson

Erika Wilson is a Montana farm girl who married a Nebraska farm boy who came with the bonus of three adorable sons! She loves being a step-mama, but last year they added their own little boy—Hank—to the mix, and her dreams of being a mama herself came true. Holding her Masters in Elementary Education, she plans to go back into teaching when Hank goes off to school. Currently she spends her coffee-fueled days as a building manager, and her nights writing (when the baby is actually sleeping). Erika chronicles the beautiful chaos that is mamahood at her blog the https://tiredmamaproject.com/ When she isn’t writing leases or chasing kids; she loves singing in her church’s band The Grateful, Live; and simply enjoying blessed Montana life on the farm with the man of her dreams.

4 Comments

  • I really enjoyed this. My oldest son was 7 when my neice was born. He asked if they came out the same as with cows. I said yeah, pretty much and then he asked if his aunt had to livk the baby clean! So it is a bit different. LOL I was also once told that I “”breed consistency”.

    • LOL! Oh that’s too cute! Farm kids, or even just kids that are around animals and ag, have such a leg up because they just “get” how it all works! And I would take the consistency comment as a compliment, lol! That’s too funny 🙂