Walking is my preferred exercise—possibly a boring activity to some. For me, it “ticks all the boxes” on my exercise list: stress relief, cobwebs swept from my brain, a better night’s sleep, and weight gain kept at a minimum provided sweets aren’t included in the daily fare. My gold star reason for walking is combatting osteoporosis. Prolia injections and walking (weight-bearing exercise) keep hip fractures at bay. Always a good thing.
I walk my “route” just about every day, and a pasture sits along one portion. A herd of cows resides in the pasture. Heifers and bulls, Angus and Hereford, usually chewing on grass or sidled up under trees next to the fence row seeking protection from the hot sun or torrential rain. I’m no stranger to cows. Growing up on a dairy farm, I spent many hours waiting for dad to finish the “milking”. I would march past the cows with electric milking machines attached to their udders from the age of five or six. The machine pumps made a rhythmic noise, kind of like beating drums, as fresh white milk coursed up the sterile hoses and into the cooled milk tank. Passing by an alcove adjacent to the milk room, I sometimes saw a cow in labor, giving the process all she had. The veterinarian was summoned more than once for difficult deliveries, and a rope would pull the calf from its mother, having been tied to the calf’s feet. Farm life, simple yet miraculous occurrences teaching me about God’s creation and His plan for all living things.
Last spring, I was “cruising” along my route (my walking speed is roughly one mile every 19.5 minutes –don’t judge). I reached the cow pasture and stopped dead in my tracks. Across the fence stood a very gravid-looking Angus heifer, whose red ear tag proclaimed her “name” was Number One-Hundred-Twenty-Three. Bovine 123 (123) gazed at me with huge brown eyes, decided I was not worth investigating, then summarily turned and walked away. It was then I saw her bag of waters dangling down beside her tail. I heard myself exclaim, and this is no joke, “Hey, 123! You must be in labor! Oh, you sweet thing, you need a doula!” Rest easy. I know a doula is for humans, specifically women who want additional support during labor and delivery. A doula often works with the medical team of doctors and nurses in the labor experience.
Time stopped, and my imagination held sway. I pictured 123 in a human scenario, what her circumstances might be……
Was 123 a new mom? Where was her significant other? Waiting for her farther out in the pasture? Was the father in the picture? Did she have a birth plan? Would one of the herd step up to the challenge and act as the birth coach?
What about comfort measures? Could 123 stand upright for her labor? Would bedding down in weeds and cockleburs be more comfortable? Did a bovine inflatable ball exist in an adjacent barn to allow 123 to “labor down”? Not to put a fine point on things, but if 123 vomited during labor transition, what selfless heifer from the herd would take a deep breath and hold the barf bag? My guess was Lamaze breathing techniques for cows didn’t exist. Are Bovine epidurals even a thing?
123 would not hear the reassuring gallop of fetal heart tones. No strap would be big enough for her gravid girth. Not to mention placing the transducer in a location to provide strong, consistent transmission of the heartbeat. She had the burden of waiting until her calf was born to confirm its wellbeing.
Postpartum support loomed as a pressing need, in fact, a big one. 123 would probably breast (udder) feed her calf, but sometimes (although rarely) new moms will reject their calves. One would hope yet another heifer would answer the call providing milk supply for the vulnerable baby calf. Would the other heifers get together and plan a meal train schedule?…….
I took a deep breath and returned to the reality standing in front of me. Bovine 123 would be fine. God had created her to have the tools she needed to deliver and care for her calf. That truth was confirmed when I passed by the pasture two days later. There stood 123 with her brand new baby! The baby calf was another heifer, black with a huge white patch gracing her forehead. She had been named! Her new red ear tag proclaimed her as “Bovine 108”. She stood straight, tall, content and calm. I knew there were good days ahead.