I gave birth to my son, Waylon, the same year we started the farm.
Back then, I didn’t yet know to question the idea of doing it all. I just felt a quickening, an excitement, and took a leap.
We’d searched for land for two years, and while we’d meant to be more patient once we finally signed the deed, we couldn’t help ourselves — that summer and fall we put up a yurt, hired a neighbor to till a ½ acre, and sowed cover crops.
We were ready to start a farm.
Except, as summer came, I couldn’t farm. At least not in the way I’d imagined.
The closer I got to my due date, the less I could manage in the field. I couldn’t broadfork or prune one row of tomatoes without my back hurting. Eventually, my belly grew so big I could no longer haul 5 gallon buckets of water to the sheep without straining.
And the question came: if I can’t farm, can I call myself a farmer? If I can’t bend, plant, and prune, or feed the animals, what role do I have here?
I’d kept a vision of our farm in my mind for years, and now here it was, and I couldn’t participate in the way I’d imagined.
“You’re doing something I can’t,” Edge would reassure me. “You’re growing the most important thing on the farm.”
Later, I’d acknowledge that one pregnant summer doesn’t disqualify me from farming, though that first year made me question it.
After all, even once my body allowed me to return to physical work, I’d have a baby on the outside to take care of, and how would that affect my role on the farm?
I gave birth at the end of July, and my postpartum body required more time to heal than I’d anticipated (so long, visions of harvesting with a 2-week old babe!).
All the wonder in my newborn rubbed off on me, and instead of feeling upset at what I couldn’t do, I realized what I could:
I could write our CSA newsletters while Waylon nursed or slept. I could manage the farm website, CSA sign-ups, social media, and bookkeeping. I could walk the fields and take photos with him snuggled into the baby carrier.
If I attempted more physical work and found it was too much, I could rock Waylon in the yurt and rest with him. I could allow myself to simply be present with my child, which gave us both what we needed most: the time and love to stumble through the first year together.
Being a mom reshaped my relationship with farming.
And I’m grateful for it. The fields became a welcome respite when I needed time alone. Planting, cultivating, and harvesting helped me remember myself in the midst of young motherhood.
At the same time, I could no longer work myself to the bone. I had to stop to nurse my child, eat well, and give my body the same attention I gave to my son and the farm. Without my body, I couldn’t take care of either.
Looking back, there are a few things that helped me through the first year of farming and mothering.
4 Lessons for new farm moms:
Listen To Your Body
Your body is essential in farming and mothering — pay attention to what it tells you and take care of it. If you need to rest for 20 minutes, do it. Small acts of care throughout the day can save you from needing to take long chunks of time to recover.
Let go of pre-baby timelines
I thought I’d be back in the fields full-time within 2 weeks of giving birth (I’ve always been optimistic). Instead, it took me a month before easing into work — which really meant taking field walks with my baby. I didn’t fully return to farm labor until the next summer.
Giving birth is a monumental event. Whether you have a vaginal birth or a c-section, your body needs time to recover. Listen to it, tend to it. It will allow you to be so much stronger in the long run.
Find what you can do
Whether it’s cultivating for a morning instead of a whole day, harvesting and letting someone else carry it back to the wash station, or tending to the behind-the-scenes work of running a business, find the places you can contribute.
Having a baby inevitably changes one’s sense of self. Even if it looked different, having a connection to the work I did before a baby helped me figure out who I was in this new role.
There will inevitably be days that don’t go according to plan, but as a farmer, you already knew that. In the midst of changes and surprises, remember to breathe. Come back to your breath, ground into your body as a plant roots into soil.
Show up only where you are because that’s the only place you can be. And ultimately, even the challenges are easier when you’re present.
Are you a farm mama?
What have you learned? What challenges did you face? Let me know in the comments below.
Then read this next — To Young Farm Moms: Strength Is In The Softness