A niche field

No, I’m not talking about a chocolate field or a marmite crop. But an area of agriculture that is pretty specialised-pregnancy in agriculture. Not the cows or ewes pregnancy, the vet can help in that and farmers. crofters, smallholder are all steeped in personal experience in it. But pregnancy related issues for the women who work in agriculture.

This returns to two photos from the Spirit of Crofting video that was done for the Scottish Crofting Federation. Both appear fairly normal.

Bottle feeding a calf. Correct, but it was late May. Temperatures were well above normal and you won’t be able to know I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt underneath and sweating like a pig due to the heat. Why waterproofs then? When the vet had arrived the morning that the calf had taken unwell, she recommended removing the Mini Crofter from the byre due to the risk of transmitting the disease to him (not normally a problem of being around healthy cows but there are some illnesses/disease that we can get from cows, this in no ways means don’t go near them as you are more likely to pick up the who knows what from a work colleague then when you are around cows). But this then put me in a bit of an issue. I was in early pregnancy. The Crofter was away so I couldn’t designate the job. At the time I just worked with the vet on the calf and did a near full body scrub afterwards at the house. Could I find out any more about the risk of working with cattle while pregnant? No, not a jot. In the end, we rang the vet back and asked a ‘hypothetical pregnancy related question’. The vet was unsure and not confident to give further advice. So, being a theatre nurse, my ‘infection control’ understanding and dealing with high risk situations came into force. Personal protective equipment it was. Full waterproof jacket and trousers, wellies, and a bucket and brush of disinfectant at the door. A full wash down before leaving, the entire lot left in the shed before a full surgical scrub to the elbows performed back at the house. OK, a bit time consuming, but the added issue was I was overheating in the layers and dealing with severe nausea. So, to the right of the picture is a chair. Another one was placed in the shed, and the sofas were waiting for me at the house.

I’m not looking for someone to start playing a violin and give me sympathy. But I did find out that it wasn’t just the vet who couldn’t give advise; I asked the midwife, who in turn had to ask the Obstetric Consultants. And no one gave any definitive. It seems to be such a niche market; yes, women work in agriculture. But why so little information about those who are pregnant in it? There is a rise in vets being female, so the situation is not just one profession.

This second photo shows another pregnancy related problem. I was over the due date by this stage (41 weeks + 3). The lack of practical maternity clothing was an issue (and I’m not taking about a pair of comfy trousers, but the need for outdoor wear). The photo had been taken after using the Dexta tractor to pull out the Massey Ferguson tractor from being stuck in mud when it had gone to give hay to the cows. Yes, the ‘new’ tractor was great at doing the heavy lifting, but not being four wheel drive meant it can be pants on the soggy mud. Besides, it then showed the old wives tale of ‘starting-off-labour-driving-over-bumpy-roads’ and the crofting equivalent doesn’t work. So yes, while on the l’ve-eaten-too-many-bacon-rolls belly front, waterproofs and other winter necessities could be worn, the boiler suits were completely omitted and I’ve sure there is a business scope for designer maternity Crofting wear.

What can I recommend from these photos? Not everyone is able to have children, so regardless of how much you want the ground to swallow you up, grit your teeth and try and stay upright. There really isn’t any ‘convenient’ time to be having children while crofting. Any season has got its issues. People don’t ask about having chairs dotted around; but they would if you fainted or was sick. So to keep things quiet, get chairs. And lastly, people have stereotypes, don’t conform to them. They may be horrified you drove a tractor while past your due date, but hey, if that’s so much easier than a bunch of other jobs, go for it.

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