Calving is always a nice but busy time of year. It’s amazing how different I find it now that our kids are a bit older and can handle themselves a bit more than in previous years (I am aware some farms are likely finished calving by now but we’re only around halfway through).
I can remember feeling very differently about calving season when I had three under the age of four.
In fact, it was the only time in my marriage where I ever let the “d” word enter into my mind. The “d” being divorce, that is. I can laugh about it now but at the time I was completely serious.
I didn’t feel much of a loving draw to my oft-screaming youngest but for some reason I was the only one who could hold her
“What’s the point of being married when I’m stuck inside with three kids all day long by myself?” I remember thinking.
“My life wouldn’t be any different if my husband weren’t here.”
At the time, I had a baby with colic – and any parent who has had a colicky baby might understand how I was feeling at the time.
I didn’t feel much of a loving draw to my oft-screaming youngest but for some reason I was the only one who could hold her. I know now that mothers – especially if you’re breastfeeding – are constant sources of comfort to their babies. They crave the feeling of our heartbeat; they nurse for pain relief and feel at their safest with us.
The fourth trimester
They say the “fourth trimester” (the first three months of your baby’s life outside the womb) is just as important as the preceding three. Once born, the baby doesn’t immediately realise it is a separate being from its mother.
This is why they are soothed by skin-to-skin contact and the feeling of your heartbeat – they were constantly listening to it in utero. After they reach the three-month mark, they start to form a sense of self.
You imagine other partners get things like paternity leave or are able to work from the house and hold baba while you have a long, hot shower
But women get very little support during the fourth trimester and when your baby has a problem like reflux, colic or any other issue, it can feel like the loneliest time in your life.
It’s also easy to feel a bit cheated when your partner is a farmer. You imagine other partners get things like paternity leave or are able to work from the house and hold baba while you have a long, hot shower. Or take the weekends to give you a break from motherhood – even just by letting you sleep in if you had (yet another) sleepless night.
The farm will take precedent over your needs – and your partner’s needs – every single time, so if you don’t have outside family support (and we didn’t), you will struggle.
By Father’s Day of that year – a day my husband finally got to spend some time with us all – I remembering telling him that I couldn’t continue like this for much longer. He promised to do more to help me.
With those sweet summer months that followed, in between milking we were able to indulge in a whole lot of family time
But then, as colic tends to do, it disappeared when our baby turned four months old and things got exponentially easier. She would still only sleep in my bed, with my hand resting on her chest, but she was much less miserable. Magically, so was I. Equally magically, with both of us less miserable, my husband spent more time in the house.
With those sweet summer months that followed, in between milking we were able to indulge in a whole lot of family time.
But I won’t ever forget the way my final fourth trimester made me feel.
No one stops in to have a baby cuddle (the constant crying didn’t help here, I admit) or see how mammy is doing
And how, by the time you have a third child, everyone just assumes you know what you’re doing and have everything under control.
No one stops in to have a baby cuddle (the constant crying didn’t help here, I admit) or see how mammy is doing. Just a few phone calls or visits (with food) would have meant the world to me.
So I do my best to make sure the new moms in my life feel supported. You should, too, whether it’s baby number one or baby number 11. At any point, you could be thrown for a loop and will forget everything you ever thought you needed to know about newborns. This is also true for calves – which is likely why it’s on my mind right now. We keep learning and growing each season.