Akubras and Accomplishments

[WARNING: I’ve included a few graphic birth photos here. If this might bother you, just don’t read it. They aren’t human. ]

war brides

My mother and father met in Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia at a servicemen’s club.  Mom was a local volunteer. Dad was an American GI. It’s a relatively familiar World War II story. [Note: my mother is not in the photo, but she sure could have been.]

In 1987, my mother went home for the first time since 1946, and I went with her. We stayed three weeks and I got to meet all my Aussie relatives.

While we were there, I bought some souvenirs for Dave and Nathan waiting at home in America.

Among those were three Akubra hats, one for each of us. Here’s one of them.

akubra on stand

inside hat

And there’s the inside of the hat.  Notice the size tag?  It’s upside down (I had to either have the name of the hat right side up or the size).  It’s also metric. In American-speak, that would be an extra-large.

This is Dave’s hat. Nathan’s is very similar and it’s the same size.  Mine is much smaller.

That’s because Nathan and Dave both have/had large heads.  When I bought those hats, I had to sort of guess about Nathan’s hat size. I knew Dave would take something fairly large, but I wasn’t sure about Nate, and in 1987, calling America from Australia to ask about a head measurement was a ridiculous idea, so I guessed.

I guessed that because I had to have a C-section when he was born due to the fact that his head simply would not fit through my pelvic opening (it was simple math – and I know, math is hard – but it was pretty simple), his hat size might be very similar to his dad’s.  I could not have strained harder or worked longer or made up my mind to fit Nathan through my pelvic opening. He wouldn’t fit. The circumference of his head (even if it smushed down a bit as vaginally-born babies’ heads do) was greater than the circumference of the opening.

So I guess that he might need a large hat.

I guessed right.

So, what does this have to do with anything?

Glad you asked.

it is an accomplishment

Nicole is all peeved, it seems, because the post about Dr. Tuteur wasn’t about her.  It’s sort of amazing, really. She insists that I should just write about somebody else or something else, so I did. I thought that would make her happy.

It didn’t, as you can see.

And no, Nicole, nobody thought you should be offended. Nobody gives a damn whether you are offended or not.

But this is just so interesting.

It seems that either Dr. Tuteur or I (I’m not sure who she is insulting here, and don’t care) “can’t handle the biological aspect of motherhood.”  Can’t handle it.  What does that even mean? Dr. Tuteur has four children, so I suspect that she did just fine “handling” it.  I had one, and couldn’t have any more, so I’m an abject failure, I guess.

Nicole believes that conception and birth and breastfeeding are somehow gauges of the worth of a female human being.  Can’t do it?  You’re a failure. Don’t wanna do it?  You’re a bigger failure. Do it a whole lot?  You’re a super success.  Do it without any help?  You’re a bigger success.

Nicole thinks that having 11 children via “natural childbirth” and breastfeeding them is an accomplishment. I was so delighted to find this out that I jumped right up and ran out to the pasture to tell Frances.

frances looking

“Frances!” I yelled. “You are accomplished.”

She gave me that look.  You know, like above.  The what-in-the-hell-are-you-talking-about look.

“Nicole says you are accomplished,” I said. “You’ve had lots of calves. You give lots of milk. You’re accomplished, Frances.”

You see, Frances has had five calves since she came to live with us in 2011, and she had one little bull calf before we met her.  And we think she’s bred again (hopefully).  She pretty much has a calf every year.

She has had actual sex with an actual bull exactly twice.  Both times a one-night stand, which is all cows ever have, since they are only in heat for about 12 hours at a time.

She was with a bull for her first breeding at the dairy. They do this on purpose. The bull is better at breeding those heifers than the farmer is with artificial insemination, and they generally keep a small bull hoping that he will father a small calf and thus make her first calf easier to deliver.

And we think one of our bull calves got her bred a few weeks ago. That was a total accident. None of us thought that calf was old enough to do the deed, but I think he managed to surprise us. It was obvious that they’d had a fine time during the night when we went out the next morning. [It’s okay if she is. We know who did the deed, and he’s nicely purebred and registered and not related to her, but still, it was unplanned.]

Anyway, that’s it.  Every other time, she’s been bred via AI.  No bull, just a farmer and a long straw thing.

Little sperm meet an egg and bam!  you’ve got a baby.

And then, just like in people, about nine months later (283 days to be exact about it, give or take a few), you get this.

feet showing

Those are feet. Front feet. Tops up, bottoms down. The white part is the hoof.  Exactly perfect.

feet head

And a bit later, the head emerges (it’s on top, eyes closed, nose on top of one of the front legs).  Again, perfect position.

Frances with calf

A few minutes later, and a bunch of good pushes, and we have this.  Meet Claire.  Frances is doing her mother thing, but don’t let her fool you. This will last for about 2 hours and then she’s done.

She’s all finished with that part of her “accomplishment.”  She scratches it off the list and turns the new baby over to the nursery staff (me and Dave) and heads for the pasture and the older calves that she can boss around.

Now, how much urging did I have to do to get her to do this?  Answer?  None. How much effort did she have to initiate to get this process started?  Answer? None.  Do you suppose she could have stopped the process?  Answer?  No.

Oh, and she breastfeeds, of course.

Sort of.

Frances milking

Frances is a very modern gal and she prefers it like this, thank you very much.

She produces enough milk, not just for one calf, but for five at a time, plus a pig, plus all the milk Dave and I can drink, plus our butter, ice cream and cheese. Usually, she makes about six gallons of milk daily at her peak. This slowly decreases during a lactation period down to about three gallons a day. We then dry her off for two months and she calves again and it all repeats.

And she “accomplishes” all this with massive effort on her part.  Just massive.  See?

Frances grazing

There she is, working hard.

Frances grazing

And here.  The calves with her are the age she prefers. She is Boss Cow and that’s how she likes it.

She expends no effort at all to do all this. Other than those two nights of bull sex, she does absolutely nothing to have all those calves and make all that milk. She doesn’t cause it and she cannot stop it.  She would and has calved with nobody present at all, although we try not to have that happen.

In the photos I showed, I did nothing but take pictures. I didn’t help her in any way.  In a couple of calvings, we did intervene and pull the calf, but that was mostly because it was midnight and during an ice storm and we were all cold and tired and wanted to go to bed. She would have had him anyway if we’d just waited. [There is some evidence that once the head emerges, the sooner the calf is born the more likely you are to have a good outcome, so pulling them is not a bad idea.]

And obviously, nobody can help her make milk.  She can’t strive to make milk. She can’t keep from making milk. She just eats and sleeps and it happens.

We do not have to go out to the pasture and say, “Frances, you go girl. You just work at it and make that milk.”  Or “Frances, how is that calf coming along? Are you working hard at growing it?”  Or “Frances,  you have to work harder, hon. That calf is not going to grow himself.”

And after we milk, she gets neck scratches (probably her favorite thing in the world), but we don’t say, “Frances, thank you for trying so hard today and pushing that extra bit and making that extra pint.”

Nobody says to the dairyman, “How much milk did your cows accomplish today?”  Or “How many calves did your cows accomplish this year?”  Or “Is this cow really good at accomplishing stuff?”

Giving birth is not an accomplishment.  It’s a natural phenomenon that happens after a female mammal has sex and conceives. Making milk is not an accomplishment. It just happens all by itself.

This is an accomplishment.

carving wood

This is also an accomplishment.


Here’s somebody accomplishing something.

reading children

And here’s somebody else accomplishing something.

dog groomer

But being a brood cow?

Not so much.