Pregnancy diary: week 19 – feet up & animal instincts

This week started with a 4-day weekend, and it’s also been half-term. My parents-in-law came for the long weekend, and my mum-in-law (who is a teacher) has been here with us for the rest of the week. This means that I’ve not had to do any house work, shopping or general chores because they did them, and they have been a big help in entertaining Andrew. So I’ve had more opportunities just to put my feet up and relax compared to a normal week. I’ve still been at work for 2 days (I got half a day off for the Tuesday bank holiday), but even so it’s been less tiring than usual. I’ve also been feeling a bit less sick, which makes sense because sickness is correlated with tiredness in this pregnancy, and I’ve definitely noticed that both have dropped a bit this week. It was about this time in pregnancy with Andrew that I started to feel more normal again, so hopefully it’s not just the relaxing week that has helped in this, but a sign of how things will stay.

Definitely looking bumpy from this angle now

Despite the unusually (for Cambridge) wet weather at the weekend, we did manage to get out for a couple of days, and visit a farm on Sunday and a zoo on Monday. It was nice to get some fresh (if a little damp!) air and amble around whilst entertaining Andrew, who really needs to run around even when it’s wet. He’s just started to get interested in animals and watching what they do, so these two venues were perfect for him.

The farm was very quiet, so we got some interesting demonstrations with just us there, including a sheep being sheared and feeding time with the calves. The calf feeding time was particularly interesting from a breastfeeding point of view. There were two calves, both of whose mums were dairy cows. The farmer explained that they take the calves away from dairy cows at about 24-48 hours after birth, otherwise it leads to problems with their milk supply. Because the cow produces loads of milk even without a calf (that’s what they are bred for), the calf would have a continuous, over-generous supply to deal with, sometimes drinking more than it needs to, and often drinking from just one nipple on the udder because it doesn’t need to change to another as the supply is so generous. This leads to the cow getting mastitis in the other parts of the udder, and you end up with a poorly cow. The reasons why the farmer takes the calf away 24-48 hours after birth (and not straight away) are (a) that they do allow the calf to drink the colostrum, the early post-birth milk full of antibodies, direct from the cow, and (b) so that the cow and calf haven’t had chance to form a bond. Once they are separated, the calf still gets to drink mum’s milk, but from the calf equivalent of a baby bottle! It’s a similar thing, but with a cow-sized teat rather than a human-sized teat. Basically these calves were being fed expressed milk from a bottle! I wish I’d taken some photos, but it was so wet I just didn’t think about it at the time.

This got me thinking about how ‘animal’ breastfeeding is, in the sense of ‘natural’, and that ultimately we are just another species of mammal, similar to cows (and dogs, cats, pigs, sheep etc.) in how we’re designed to feed our young. In fact the very name ‘mammal’ comes from the fact that mammals have mammary glands (in females) that produce milk to feed the young offspring. The milk that a cow produces is tailored to provide the calf with what it needs to survive until it’s old enough to not require the milk any more, just like human milk is tailored to provide the baby with what it needs to survive until it’s old enough to not require the milk any more. This experience of hearing a farmer talk about mastitis and colostrum (two things featuring prominently in antenatal and postnatal breastfeeding info), whilst giving some calves expressed milk from a mummy cow in a bottle, really brought home to me just how biologically natural breastfeeding is.

After this demonstration, we went to look at the pigs. Initially I walked away again, repulsed by the smell and gagging, but Tom persuaded me to try holding my nose because he thought I would love to see the little piglets that were suckling on their mum. So I braved it (actually holding my nose worked surprisingly well), and it was worth it to see the tiny baby pigs climbing all over each other to get at a nipple! There was also another mummy pig who was nearly due her piglets, and definitely looked like she was going to pop any moment! I could relate to her too 🙂

Andrew looks on as a family of tapirs munch on a bush (the stripey baby is so cute!)

Babies was a theme at the zoo too. In the past few months they’d had a ‘baby boom’ as it said in the guide book. Here we’re not just talking about mammals though, but birds too. There were some owlets that had been born back in April, which didn’t look quite as cute and fluffy now as they did at a few days old in the pictures in the guide book, but still cute (you’ll have to take my word for it because I didn’t take a picture, again!) The lemurs had also been reproducing, although I’m not sure we actually saw the babies – if we did they’d grown to adult size as all the ones we saw looked the same size. Something I did capture on camera was a lovely family of tapirs – daddy, mummy and baby were happily munching on a bush in their enclosure. At one point a squirrel ran very fast through their enclosure, and it must have startled them, because all of a sudden they all ran quickly across to the other side, and the parents were very protective of the little one in their movements. Again, this reminded me of the protective feeling for my child(ren) that I have as a parent, and how we have quite a lot in common with animals: we are, after all, animals.

Next week we’ll have reached the big 2-0, the (roughly) half-way point. We’re looking forward to having another scan on Tuesday, so I’m sure there’ll be another inside the bump picture to go with the regular outside one. Where are the weeks flying to….?!