CONTENT WARNING: This post contains sensitive content around cow birthing and calf complications. Reader discretion is advised.
This week we were on high alert as we anticipated Madeline going into labor. The beginning of the week was pretty uneventful. We spent our evenings working with Baxter, continuing to train him how to behave around the chickens. The farm was feeling normal after all the chaos of last week. Wednesday is when everything shifted.
Our breeder reached out with some concerns about Madeline, so we had the vet come check her out. She wasn’t interested in hay anymore and was a bit wobbly on her feet. After discussing our options we decided to induce labor. Our biggest concern was that if we didn’t intervene she may go another few days without eating and not be in good shape for the delivery. Thursday afternoon she was given the second dose of meds to induce and within about 2 hours she was in active labor.
An hour of contractions and no progression. We notified the vet and continued to monitor her, but still no progress. The vet decided to come by and I am so glad he did. The calf was breech. He tried for what seemed like an eternity to turn that calf and get him in a better position. “Something is wrong with this calf’s hind end”. These words hit me like a brick to the chest. So many thoughts were racing through my head at this point. Was this related to the acorn toxicity? Is the calf viable? Is Madeline going to make it? Then my critical care nurse mode was activated. We have to do everything we can to get that calf out. The vet assistant went to get chains to pull the calf. The vet and his assistance starting pulling with all their might. The calf wasn’t budging.
The pulling continued and it felt like we were playing tug-of-war, we were at Madeline’s head and the others pulling the calf. Still the calf was not budging. The they brought in the calf jack. This brought my already sinking heart to the floor. They got everything hooked up and they cranked on the chains to get that calf out. Poor Madeline had to lay down at this point. A few good cranks and the calf was finally out. But there was no celebration. The calf was clearly deformed. The hips and knees were fused, which explained why he was unable to reposition the calf, and the base of the spine was protruding out of the skin. The calf was alive but obviously not viable. We couldn’t let him suffer any longer. He had to be euthanized. We let Madeline sniff around the calf but you could tell she knew something was wrong. I think this is when I felt completely dissociated. I don’t have another word to describe it. I can’t be emotional right now. I have to stay strong. I have to move forward. I have to… cry.
It took me a minute to shake the shock of what happened. I wanted to do all I could to help Madeline but I felt frozen by it. I was flooded with thoughts of doubt and sorrow. How could this happen? Am I really meant for this? I pushed those thoughts aside as we still had work to do. We moved Madeline’s first calf into the same paddock so she could “mother” her and have some company. I gathered up my stuff, said my goodbyes, and headed back home. It was a long and stressful drive home. It was dark, rainy and windy. Doing my best to hold back tears I kept my focus on the road.
I arrived safely at home and was promptly greeted with a big bear hug from Baxter. Next stop was the chicken coop, I need to collect eggs and close the coop. I gave Bellatrix a quick hug and headed inside. Beau, Carl, and Jasper greeted me with great enthusiasm. I love my animals. All of them. Losing our calf was crushing. But we have to move forward. There will be loss, there will be hard days, there will be moments that just don’t make sense but you can’t just give up.
I love this quote by Brad Gast, “No matter what happens, no matter how far you seem to be away from where you want to be, never stop believing that you will somehow make it. Have an unrelenting belief that things will work out, that the long road has a purpose, that the things that you desire may not happen today, but they will happen. Continue to persist and persevere.”
We will all face difficulty but how you respond to it makes all the difference. We learned so much from this experience and there is always going to be more to learn. We are not giving up on our dreams. We are pushing through and one day we will look back and be thankful for what we learned this week.
How can I pray for you this week?
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