Yesterday revealed a connection shared by all mothers, regardless of species.
After we moved onto the farm and got things prepared for cattle, we purchased our ‘starter kit’: Five mature cows and six calves. In short order, I identified and proclaimed Camille to be our matriarch cow. She was the surest of herself and stood out as a herd leader. Over the past couple of years, I have grown closer to her as she has allowed me to get closer to her. She is now not just the matriarch but she is my cow.
She has given us some of our best calves. The first calf to drop on Bear Vale was hers, Dutchess. The next year she gave us Eleanor, who I’ve assigned as Connie’s cow, and this past spring, she delivered her first bull calf for us, Farley. Each of these calves holds a more intimate meaning to me. I would be lying if I said I loved all my cows equally–I definitely have favorites and Camille’s babies fall in that category.
A few weeks ago as we were cleaning out the barnyard, Cody pushed the cows into the feed bunk area and pointed at one of the cows, “she isn’t pregnant.” He was pointing at Camille. I told him not to worry about it, that she was our best cow. “She’s not pregnant!”
So what if she was open? She simply needs a rest and more than deserves that. The conversation was one that brought up emotion for me. Cody went straight to the business angle–if she isn’t producing, she’s hamburger. Oh, no! Not my cow! I immediately identified with her. She was being judged by her ability to produce babies and it wasn’t up to par. My production hasn’t been so hot either and after two losses, should I too be ‘put out to pasture’? I reminded him to choose his words carefully… I know he meant no harm but he was venturing into unsafe territory.
In this farming business, I am the heart; he is the brains and brawn. Camille is my cow… I couldn’t see things in black and white. (After all, we have had other cows bred with the anticipation that they would give us a calf only to have the pregnancy not take. Those cows went on to give us calves the next year.)
Yesterday as we headed out for a hike we went through the barnyard and discovered a lost calf. The remnants were almost unidentifiable yet it was very clear what happened. Camille stood close by and it didn’t take long to realize it was hers. Cody went to get something to clean it up. I watched my cow as she stood by her baby and my heart broke. As Cody collected the remains into a bucket she watched with concern. As he walked off, she followed and called out. More tears fell.
She still conducted herself as a mama… She wanted that life, she mourned the loss of it, she hoped… I knew all too well that feeling. I couldn’t find the words. Later I said to Cody, “Did you notice she still cared?” He did. Camille understood the life she anticipated bringing forward was gone, but it did not change her passion for that life.
Miscarriage is not unique to our species. My cow illustrated the love and heartache of a mother yesterday and I feel even more connected to her now through our mutual losses. (Good luck trying to send her down the road, Cody!)