In February one of my favorite families had their 6th baby. This proud dairy farming family work themselves sick (literally, sometimes) to provide raw milk for their local community. Daddy Farmer fixes tractors and other farm equipment while Mama Farmer runs the dairy. I was finally able to convince her to cut back on her work for the last 2 weeks of the pregnancy and rest more, so Daddy took over the cows and had to turn away mechanic jobs. They reminded me of things about farming I don’t often think about (and neither do most people, unfortunately) like the way rising fuel costs affects their business. Rising petroleum results in higher prices for plastic so plastic milk jugs have more than tripled in cost. We see what we think are ridiculous prices at the grocery store and yet the dairy farmer barely makes $1.00 a gallon on milk. Of course this summer’s drought had a big effect on them too.
I’ve attended the births of their last 3 towheaded offspring and this labor was a little different and longer. We hung out with her all day while Papa and the other children drifted in and out between chores. Her teenage daughter kept poking her head in, asking what was happening, and saying “eww gross!” The 3 and 5 year olds would bounce on the bed and wrestle around and then run back out to play. At dinner time Daddy Farmer went out to a country store to pick up burgers & salads for all of us. Later everyone settled down into homework and TV watching. Around 1:00 in the morning Daddy was snoring in the recliner, Toddler Towhead was asleep on her mattress by the wood stove and the other children were asleep in their room. Toddler came in and snuggled down by Mama’s head and we started fading too so Apprentice and I laid down on Mama Farmer’s king sized bed and we all took an hour long nap.
We woke when Mama had to get up for the bathroom and we saw her contractions were really gearing up. She began pushing for a bit and then asked us to wake up Daddy Farmer. He came in and attempted to pick up Toddler Towhead and move her back to her mattress by the wood stove but she woke up and would have none of that. So she stayed and Daddy laid down with her while mama continued pushing. Within minutes we saw a wet Baby Towhead and Daddy said “already?” (like she hadn’t been working for over 12 hours already). Toddler witnessed the birth with reverence. They have 4 girls and now 2 boys—Daddy was so happy for another male in the house. A few hours later we were cleaning up and Mama said her washer and dryer were broken and we’d have to use the ones in the barn. So we took out across the yard, realized we couldn’t see a thing (we were in the country–no street lights), went back in for a flashlight and then back out to the barn to throw sheets and towels in the washer. I told Apprentice I felt a little like an old time, frontier midwife who would have to walk through the dark night to attend a delivery only she sure wouldn’t have the luxury of a washing machine afterwards. In the old days midwives would often stay at a new mother’s home for several days, cleaning her house, cooking, and taking care of older children. And our husbands get antsy when we’re gone for 24 hours! Driving home later in the dark morning I got Rod Stewart’s You’re in My Heart, and for the homestretch, a favorite: Whiter Shade of Pale.