There are many times that raising 5 kids feels more like herding than child-rearing. Thankfully, I also know how to herd. You see, I grew up on a ranch. That experience taught me many lessons that have me served me well in motherhood:
You’re always needed. Much like having children, life on a ranch never stops. There are always things to clean, mouths to feed, and midnight emergencies. The livestock wakes up early and relies on you for everything, regardless of whether you feel like swinging your legs over the side of the bed that day or if there is snow on the ground. You don’t just leave and come back after a few days without lots of careful planning and making sure you have someone else to fill your shoes.
Childbirth is messy. I stayed up all night with my favorite broodmare (mama horse) when I was young waiting for her foal (baby horse) to arrive. I knew what a placenta looked like long before childbirth classes were on my radar. (Sidenote :: horses eat their placentas and if you’d ever seen that, you probably wouldn’t want to encapsulate yours either.) But those experiences also taught me what a sweet reward is at the end.
Touching poop isn’t that big of a deal. Cleaning horse stalls was one of my regular chores when I was a kid, and it was inevitable to avoid some “blowback” as I tossed it into a wheelbarrow. I once had the opportunity for my class to take a “field trip” to my house when I was a kid, and I’ll never forget chuckling to myself as a couple of the less-than-nice kids in the class tossed around the “Frisbees” they found in the pasture–they were cow patties! (Shoot, maybe I shouldn’t have finally revealed the truth after all these years.) At any rate, I learned that touching poop doesn’t kill you–which made me far less phased than most when it came to newborn blow-outs.
Breast (or teat) isn’t the only way for babies to survive. One of my earliest memories is of my dad bottle-feeding a newborn calf in our living room whose mama had just died. The calf went back to the barn the next day, but that sure left an impression on me about nurturing and survival. Over the years, I bottle-fed and dropper-fed many an animal, from kittens with their eyes closed to baby birds who fell from their nests. We weren’t even the same species, but I was able to care for them like a mama. This taught me that it isn’t how the food is delivered that is important, but whether there is a loving provider making sure the little one’s needs are met on the other end.
What is physically and emotionally draining can give the biggest rewards. It’s hard work, but the rewards are many…just like motherhood.