In the feverish excitement of a live auction, curious logic emerges to justify the purchase of 2 bull calves. I figured that because they're boy cows, we don't have to milk them twice a day, so it would be simple. Just throw some hay and water at them once a day, and a year later they magically become hamburgers. Turns out that they need to milk me.
They're 2-week-old babies with only 2 stomachs, poor little things, meaning that they won't be full ruminants able to process hay for 3 months. Until then, I have to do what every real Stay-at-Home dad does - bottle feed. Six litres per day. Each.
It gets worse. Not having a big dairy farm with 6 excess litres of milk per day, we're stuck buying expensive formula to mix up 3 times a day. And organic cow formula does not exist, so we'll have to pray whatever evil substances we're putting into our 60-pound babies will work itself out over the next year before they become dinner. Officially, after 72 hours of formula we will permanently be disallowed to call the meat organic.
But logic and ethics aside, I became a born-again father today, feeding our two young-uns for the first time. Rose took to it right away, with classic white dribble on his black whiskers and butting up against the 3-inch nipple when it didn't flow fast enough. But Blossom was another case. He was having none of it. I quickly got over any fears of these beasts and had him pinned down, shoving my fingers between his jaws to pry his mouth open while the boys shoved the bottle down.
After 15 minutes of feeling discouraged, and embarrassed at maybe having to call the breeders to ask for their help, I remembered that I'm married to a birth-parenting-guru. "What would Sarah do", my tractor's bumper sticker should say. Tapping my deepest maternal instincts, I started expressing milk. Cow pinned down, mouth pried open, bottle shoved in, then my fingers right in there squeezing the tip of the nipple to get milk dribbling down his throat. Then clamping his mouth shut and massaging it up and down to get more milk out. After several repeats of this sequence, Blossom started to catch on.
In addition to technique, what turned the corner was remembering that he is a 13 days old baby missing his mom, in a strange new home, reunited with his twin brother for the first time, and surrounded by 3 excited boys and an excited me. I turned the volume down, cradled his head on my lap, and stroked him while he started to feel those golden droplets. He relaxed, trusted, and started sucking more vigorously. Then suddenly he really got it and started sucking loud and hard - the same moment that babies of any species start to lose a bit of their cute effect.
By the end there was no coaxing or pinning or prying, just me leaning fashionably against the wall with a 2-quart bottle in each hand, giving my twins their first meal. And when I stopped by just after dark to tuck them in to their straw bedding, they looked up with I swear a look of thanks and trust. Good night moooooooooon.
Write to Renew - One of our previous graduates, the talented Jay Nahani, is leading us in a Write to Renew workshop June 14th. For writers and non-writers alike, this one-d...