every life lesson can be learned

The Day a Calf Lived

I really don’t want to write that life isn’t always good on the franch.  But, it isn’t.  It’s 3 a.m. and I’m sitting in the dark in our living room with tears streaming down my face remembering the days just lived.  I go over in my mind how so many things could have gone differently.  Of course, I dwell on how it could have gone better, forgetting how it could have easily been worse.  On Valentine’s Day, our cow went into labor.  And we weren’t there.  We knew she was getting close to calving and so we had long debated cancelling our out-of-town plans.  But, my husband and I had trained for months to run a marathon and half-marathon, respectively.  It isn’t something you easily give up on.  So, we were staying in a nearby city overnight to run the race on the following early morning.  My poor parents (who, by the way, know nothing about birthing calves) and our children were in charge of the franch for the overnight.  It helped our decision to leave knowing that most of the time all goes well.  Usually, you wake up in the morning and there’s a calf beside her mom.  When my parents called to say that she was indeed in labor, we were excited that they were going to witness for the first time the beautiful miracle of birth on a farm.  My father was texting almost every 15 minutes as the evening hours passed.  But, it soon became clear that labor wasn’t progressing properly and the cow was showing signs of distress.  I knew my husband was worried when he grabbed the Franchlife shirt that I had given him for Christmas and pulled it on over his marathon shirt from our pre-race day packets.  He decided to make the long drive home, not knowing if he’d be back in time to complete his marathon, to save a calf.  We decided that I stay behind so at least one of us would for sure get to that finish line.  He made the drive in half the time and rushed into our two older children’s bedroom waking them up from a sound sleep.  My parents and children headed out to herd the still laboring cow from the dark pasture into the barn.  By this time, it was an emergency to figure out what was wrong.  My parents and children were alert and wide-eyed listening to every word of instruction spoken by my husband.  When he reached his arm into the cow, he found the calf dangerously breech but still alive.  The cow couldn’t give birth on her own and the calf needed to be pulled out immediately.  Every one did their roles amazingly.  My mom held the halter rope tight keeping the cow in the corner of the pen, while my husband and daughter and father wrapped twine around the back feet of the calf and, using a crowbar for leverage, pulled the calf from the mother cow.  Our daughter was hysterical, the whole time shouting, “Is it dead? Is it dead?”, yet doing everything asked of her with speed and accuracy.  My son overwhelmed by the scene dropped his head and let his hood fall over his eyes yet remained ready to respond to any request for a birthing tool lined up before him.  The calf was born within minutes, but wasn’t breathing.  It wasn’t over.  My husband did mouth-to-nose for what seemed like forever as the rest pleaded, “Come on, baby.  Breathe, baby, breathe.”  Even mama cow watched intently willing the calf to breathe its first breath.  Amazingly, its chest started rising and falling.  It was alive!  But, it wouldn’t stand up – and it showed signs that it had been too long without oxygen.  However, we all remained positive that it just needed some time to gain some strength.  My husband stayed well past midnight to help the calf in its first hours and to feed its first meal with a syringe as it couldn’t yet stand to drink mama cow’s colostrum.  He left my father with instructions on the morning feeding once he felt like the calf was on its way to doing well.  If there is ever such a thing as a Franchlife certificate, my parents will be honored in a grand ceremony for what they were willing to do for that calf.  In the early morning hours, my father and daughter went out to syringe-feed the calf risking their safety as the mama cow, now very protective over her calf, pawed the ground and threw her head about coming inches from them.  The calf was doing better, and my daughter even remarked, “It looks happy, poppy, it really likes you.”  In the meantime, my husband made it to the starting line after only three hours of sleep.  I ran every mile faster than any one of all the miles we ran in training.  And, my husband ran the marathon remarkably faster than his goal.  It wasn’t a runner’s high, it was a francher’s high – a calf’s life had been saved.  With medals around our necks, we started gathering our things happily chatting about what we were going to do the rest of the day to help the calf make steady progress.  It was by then late morning when my dad called and I had answered ready for him to say “Congratulations!”  I wasn’t expecting to hear, “The calf died.”  I didn’t want to believe it – it just couldn’t have died.  But, it had.  I’ve only seen my husband’s tears a few times in our years together – another time was when our daughter was in the NICU.  We arrived home to grieve with my parents and children.  My father told us how my daughter had gone missing and had run into his arms when he found her weeping alone in the barn.  It was incredibly heartbreaking to watch mama cow grieve for baby.  She kept nudging its lifeless body not understanding death.  My daughter had later in the day expressed how she wished the other cow who had given birth a couple of weeks ago had had twins so the grieving cow could now adopt one.  I need to go to bed so I think of the words of wisdom earlier said by my children knowing my husband and I were still very sad.  Their mature perspective helps some.  Our five year old had said, “Look around, mom, at all you still have.”  And our nine year old had said, “It’s very sad, it will always be sad, but we have to move on.”  I’m still crying thinking over and over about how we didn’t save the calf.  Suddenly, my daughter comes around the corner startling me.  My sobs woke her up and she snuggles in next to me.  In the middle of the night and half-asleep, she says, “Mom, I’m thankful God saved the calf so it could live one happy day.”

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  1. Poppy

    Franchlife is where lessons are learned every day even at 66!

  2. Rose

    I had tears as I read this. I know how deeply it affected everyone involved. All of God’s creatures are special and it is sad to lose one.

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