We have a baby. A long labour, with an ambulance transfer for an emergency C-section, that I refused on arrival. A baby girl. Tears seep softly out of the corners of his eyes, the first time I ever see those, it will be a long time before I see him cry again. We bring our little critter home, and our new little family thrives. In the next year, he and I make plans to buy his parents’ farm. The only way we can manage the mortgage is if we convert it from stud beef to dairy. No problem. We re-mortgage, stretched to near-breaking point, until the next year when our lovely neighbour buys our farm, after we subdivide the house and five acres and sell to a young family. A new adventure awaits, I do make some noises about how is this going to work with his other siblings, are they all on board, will this cause family strife later on down the line? He is adamant that we have got it all under control, the sisters have been informed, and are in agreement. His eldest sister and her husband bought nearly 50 acres of the front of the farm a few years earlier, and they had a lot of financial help from their parents to do this, our buying the main farm will pay their mortgage off and the other sister was going to get a large payout when we bought the farm, so large that it paid off her mortgage on her enormous house in a million dollar suburb in our largest city – they are both mortgage-free in their very early 30s.
We built a cosy little house, his parents stayed in the main home, and we embarked on a new phase. We ran the farm together, I started a Holstein-Friesian stud (can’t stop me from breeding things, lol) and we went from strength to strength. We were very interested in organics, adding value and sustainability from the word go. We never went fully organic, but we used far fewer chemicals, drugs and artificial fertilisers than our contemporaries, all the while growing our production, planting riparian margins, developing wetlands and generally loving our environment, and our lifestyle. We added two more babies, four years after our daughter arrived, we had a son, at home, with no midwife in attendance, just my darling and me (the midwife had visited three times, the last part of my 22 hour labour went so quickly I didn’t even have time to get back in the birth pool! He was AMAZING! Calmly guiding our son into the world. As soon as he had ensured he was breathing (he was worried he was very blue) we were both wrapped up warm as we awaited the midwife who was speeding to us – arrived twenty minutes after our baby – he poured himself an enormous single malt scotch and started phoning his friends. I did suggest between my shakes (my body went into shock) that family might want to know ;-). Two years after that, we had another, after a 34 hour labour at home, to complete our family with another little girl. Hey, I give up, these labours were getting longer!!! We were so happy. He loved me pregnant, he loved me post-natal, he loved me fat, skinny, flabby, toned. We were just so into each other. And he was so supportive and kind. We laughed and fought and laughed again. We worked damned hard. I milked up until the births of the kids, and I was back in the shed within days. Springtime could mean 20 hour days sometimes. We built a nursery onto our cowshed, and the kids and babies would get carted over there in the dark, and snuggle down to sleep in their warm little beds there until the pulsators in the shed were turned off, the rhythmic sounds soothing them. That’s not to say it was all plain sailing, our middle child never slept more than two hours in a row until he was fourteen months old, often half an hour would have him up and at ’em! It was exhausting, and we formed a fantastic team. He could always sense when I was about to lose the plot, and step in to relieve the pressure. He and our son (in his pushchair) must have run several marathons around the outside of our house at 3am, 4am, etc, to help him sleep during that first two years!
As our family grew, we both got involved in the kids’ activities, and the local school, both of us serving on various committees. We had become traditional. My friends were mostly still travelling, partying all the while climbing their corporate ladders, I was up to my armpits in nappies and cowshit! It was those busy sports, music, drama years. But we always found time for each other. We love quality film, literature, music, the outdoors (tramping for both of us, and hunting for him) not to mention fabulous food! Oh, and I have a serious fashion habit! But always knew what I could and couldn’t afford. I would buy one special, precious piece, maybe a gorgeous pair of shoes, and dress them with loads of chain store and op shop finds. And then there’s our shared love of horse racing. As we got more financially secure, we bought a couple of fillies and raced and bred from them. A lovely interest, and a great excuse to get out and about. We followed our horses racing all over the country, and loved having our young stock at home, nothing like seeing a couple of gorgeous mares and foals in your front paddock, knee deep in lush, green grass.
Seven years ago, I saved up for eighteen months and took my children overseas to my brother’s wedding, a two week excursion. When I came home, he announced he had bought a dry stock farm that he had inspected while I was away. I was gobsmacked. He had fought tooth and nail to get the farm we had, the third generation farm, his 78 year old father had never lived anywhere else. Literally. Same house. His whole life. We had added some more land to it over the years, and were through the hardest financial years. Things were getting more comfortable, I was no longer required fulltime on the farm, although I was still very involved, rearing all calves, and still milking several times per week, I made all the breeding decisions, and did all the artificial insemination, etc. I bred them, and he fed them. We had recently employed staff and life was good. Then, BAM! We had five weeks to move. We hadn’t sold the home farm, and had bridging finance for the whole thing, millions, and millions! Whoah! I admit I was a little unnerved, and worried that we would lose one of the farms. He never asked my opinion. WTF??? Who was I then? Stock? Did I not get a say in my own life? I, uncharacteristically was fairly quiet. I told him I was shocked, a bit disappointed, but he told me that he had been struggling with how to get separation from his family for the past few years, he was in his 40s, owned his own very successful business, but was always thought of as “the boy.” For example, his father had never owned a dairy cow in his life, we had been running a highly successful dairy stud for about fifteen years, and yet, if we were at a sale, or the like, it was amazing how often his father was asked by the stock agents if the reserve had been met – NOT US!!! It was frustrating. I didn’t even know it annoyed him. But he told me he was pretty unhappy, and needed change. How could I possibly protest? So, I went along with it all. On the first night in our new house, I got into bed with him, and talked. I told him how hard I had found this whole thing. He just said, “but you’ve always supported me, you’ve never not believed in me, I just never thought you wouldn’t support this.” He had bought the farm in his family trust’s name, so I hadn’t even seen a lawyer, or been involved. It immediately became apparent that both of his sisters were very unhappy, and were threatening to sue us. This despite the fact that they had both had high society lifestyles due in part to the moneys they had received when we bought his parents’ farm, and so much of the proceeds were distributed to them. We worked our butts off while they partied and travelled. We worried about whether our old banger of a car would get another year out of her, while they swanned about in new European models. We slogged through mud and rain with small children attached to our bodies, breastfeeding on test buckets, while their children were tucked up with nannies preparing them warm food! His parents were very supportive of his choice. Barristers came down from a large city, all guns blazing, and I WAS NOT ALLOWED TO GO TO THE LEGAL MEETING!!! I was furious! How to be completely discounted and dis-empowered. (The barristers were only ten minutes into the meeting when they took the sisters aside and explained that they had absolutely no case, that they were dreaming, we had done everything completely above board, and informed them every step along the way!)
When I suggested, that first night, that maybe I needed to go “home” for a little while – I was commuting half and hour to milk a lot anyway, as our staff were not coping with the animal health system I had in place – until I got my head around it, but that I was not leaving him, no way, just needed a moment to breathe, and think it all through, shared homes for a little while. He cried. For the second time. He said, “I did all of this for you, to get you out of the family situation we had got embedded in, to get OUR independence properly, at last, PLEASE don’t leave me!” I immediately said, “okay, of course I won’t do that, I am always here for you.”
I stayed. I let him know how committed I was to us, even if I didn’t agree with what he did. I loved him. We made love, urgently, and I thought it was dealt with……..