So You Think You’ve Got it All Figured Out?
Just when I thought I had overcome my old habits of attachment and worrying, I was faced with a tremendous challenge. It seems as though I had become too comfortable with myself again. Too confident in my abilities and my view of the world. And so it became time for me to find a new place from which to grow.
It’s December. My oldest cow, Maria, was due to calve at the beginning of this month. She conceived late last winter, so her baby was due to arrive at an inconvenient time, when we are dealing with frigid Wisconsin temperatures and snow.
My first calculation of her due date was a rough estimate: December 6. As this date approached, I began looking for signs of labor. For weeks, I checked for mucous under her tail every morning and evening. I watched for behavioral changes, like restlessness, kicking at the belly and switching the tail. I watched her udder swell, as it filled with milk in preparation for nursing the new baby.
With each day that passed, I became more and more obsessed with the idea of her going into labor. I wanted that calf to come out before the weather got any worse. I wanted to be there when she started pushing, in case she needed my help. I wanted to support her in any way that I could.
Basically, I had this really awesome idea in my head of how (and when) she would deliver this calf. Although I didn’t notice it until right now, I was slowly moving away from allowing things to unfold, and moving back into needing to control the situation.
The first full moon of the month was on the evening of December 3rd. I saw major signs of labor in Maria that afternoon. Because my own body is greatly affected by the moon, I just knew Maria was going to have her baby that night.
At that same time, my Grandma was dying. I thought, “This baby is coming as my Grandma is leaving. This calf has to be a heifer. I’m going to name her Shirley Mae, after my Grandma.”
I moved Maria into a cozy spot inside the barn, away from the wind and other cattle, and I waited. She looked miserable. She was having visible contractions, and I was timing them. I laid inside that barn on a hay bale for hours, but nothing happened. As midnight approached, I decided to call it a night and go inside. The minute I began to walk toward the house, Maria flipped out and attempted to get out of the stall I had her locked inside. She jumped up on top of the gate, bending it in the process. I released her from confinement, and she ran to join the other cattle at the hay bale.
My Grandma died the following day, and there still wasn’t a calf. “Why didn’t a new life arrive when an old life left?” I was so attached to this romantic idea that I didn’t want to let it go.
I recalculated her due date using a gestation calculator. December 12. “Okay,” I thought, “I got the due date wrong. What happened the night of the full moon must have been false labor. I can deal with this.”
I watched Maria like a hawk.
December 12th came, and went.
I worried harder.
Then I remembered something. No amount of worrying will bring that calf out any sooner than it is supposed to come out. Worrying is pointless. It’s destructive. Worrying gets in the way of life. It prevents me from enjoying what’s actually happening now.
The truth is that the calf would eventually come, but it likely would not happen in the way I believed it should. “Regardless of how the calf arrives,” I thought, “it will work out. Everything always works out. Eventually.”
On the morning of December 14, I woke up, got dressed, and headed outside at 5:30 AM. The instant I opened the door to go outside I heard Maria screaming. I knew she was in labor. I ran to the barn, flipped on the lights, and saw her lying there in pain. And there behind her, I saw the sweetest little baby Belted Galloway calf. She had pushed him out seconds before I arrived. I immediately grabbed my towels and began drying him off.
I felt between his back legs and discovered it was a bull calf. He was supposed to be a heifer so I could honor my Grandma! “This isn’t going as planned.”
Maria got up to lick her calf dry, and forcefully nudged me away. It was 8℉ and I was in full-blown panic to get that wet calf dried off and warmed up.
I slipped back into control-freak mode. I insisted that I help take care of the new baby.
But Maria didn’t want me near her calf.
I got out of the way and let her do her thing. I watched.
I waited for the baby to get up and walk. After a while, he did.
Then I waited for him to drink some milk. He didn’t. He was trying to figure it out, but he wasn’t getting it.
I began to worry at full capacity.
He was shaking so much from the cold. He needed to start drinking Maria’s milk! “Why wasn’t he drinking Maria’s milk?!”
Hours passed. I alternated from watching from the inside of the house to standing inside the barnyard. Watching and waiting. Worrying my ass off. Freaking out. Wishing someone would hit me over the head and knock me out so I could stop worrying.
“The calf had been born, but I could still lose him now. He could die if he didn’t start drinking milk and warm up. He looked so cold!”
Then, from deep inside of me, I remembered once again. This baby belongs to Nature. No matter how much I worry, no matter how much I try to control the situation by willing this calf to nurse, he has his own fate. Nature’s fate. Nature decides if this calf with live, or die. If he’s meant to die, he will. There’s nothing I can do about it. Sure, I could prolong his life by scooping him up and bringing him inside the house to bottle-feed him, but Nature will take him back if he is not meant to live.
Alternatively, if this calf is meant to live, he will. It doesn’t matter how cold he gets, what the weather is like, or how quickly he starts drinking milk. Because if he is meant to live, he will.
This is the point where I decided what I was going to do: let Nature play out as it’s meant to happen, or interfere (because of my intense fear of losing him) and screw up Nature’s perfect plan.
I live my life by Nature. I raise my animals by Nature. I don’t want to micromanage and force my way through life. I want to allow Nature to work Her magic. I want to live my life according to Nature’s plan. If Mother Nature guides me to do something, I will. I will know within every cell of my body what I have to do. But aside from following that inner guidance She provides me, I need to get out of the way and allow it to unfold as it was meant to. By releasing my worries and my fears, I am doing just that.
I realized I had to accept the idea of this calf dying, if that was Nature’s plan. If my calf died, I would be devastated, and it would be really hard to deal with. But in the grand picture of life, everything falls into place. Even in death there is purpose.
Mother Nature has a terrific sense of humor, and she brought it out on the second morning of that calf’s life.
The little calf had spent his first night in the barn with the rest of the cattle. When I went out to check on him that morning, I found him lying alone against the wall, away from all the other cattle, and he wasn’t moving. Maria didn’t even care that I was getting so close to him. Normally she would have charged me in her attempt to protect her calf. She was acting like he wasn’t there.
I stood a couple feet away from the calf, for what seemed like forever, waiting for him to move. It looked like he wasn’t breathing. I truly believed he was dead. I began to cry as I attempted to accept his death. I reached down to pick him up, but just as I began to lift him, he raised his head. He was alive!
My tears of sadness turned into tears of joy.
Mother Nature loves to play with me. Just when I think I have it all figured out, She likes to throw a wrench in the game.
Even so, everything did fall into place. This calf, who was named Diesel, was meant to be born exactly as he was. My worrying was pointless. It only negatively impacted myself. It exhausted me. My worrying didn’t make the calf dry, get him warm, or get him to nurse. Nature took care of all that.
And although Mother Nature was very busy tending to Maria and her newborn calf, She still had time to teach me a lesson.
This whole experience has reminded me of the importance of letting go.
Letting go of what I think I know.
Letting go of what I think will happen.
Letting go of what I want to happen.
Letting go of my fears.
Letting go of my story.
Letting go of it all, so that Nature can write a better story in its place.