For years leading up to this decision I've agonized about whether or not I could pull off farming and being a mother. We wanted a family, but I also didn't want to give up all of the work we've done building the farm. I wanted to know that I could grow a baby and still kick some ass in the fields.
We finally decided to take the plunge and go for it, and I'm happy to report that I've made it into my 6th month of pregnancy in tact and with the farm pretty much on track, which I count as a win. I've figured out a few strategies for farming pregnant that have worked for me, so I thought I'd share them here just in case there are other women farmers out there considering motherhood. This is the kind of logistical stuff that I would have liked to come across.
Timing the Pregnancy
I always knew that any baby of ours would have to have good timing in order to fit into the farm season. I figured a due date sometime November-January would be ideal, but we jumped the gun a little and ended up with a baby coming in mid-October. In hindsight though, I'm really happy that I'm not going through first trimester exhaustion during the peak planting season of late-April through June. I have never before felt that kind of tiredness! As it worked out, I've been feeling pretty strong and relatively energetic for the launch of the harvest season. We'll see how I feel when I'm huge in September though!
We had good luck timing our pregnancy because I started tracking my cycle using the Fertility Awareness Method. It's pretty easy to do, fun to know more about how your body works, and makes it possible to know almost exactly what days of the month to "try" based on your own body's signs. The Fertility Friday podcast is a great place to learn more, as is the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility. (And no, it's not the same thing as the bogus Rhythm Method.) All of this gave us a much better shot at succeeding in getting pregnant during the months we wanted to.
Get Past Start Up
Though we are still definitely in our business start up phase, I'm so grateful that we're done with our 2 year push of building the farm infrastructure. There's no way that I could have done 13+ hour days while being pregnant, I would have been destroyed. Though there's still a lot of work to do now, it's more manageable than building sheds and fences and all of the other pieces that had to fall into place. We also now have many awesome tools that we hadn't yet invested in a couple of years ago (BCS walking tractor, jang seeder, etc), which make a lot of jobs on the farm easier.
The other thing I'm really grateful for is that we're actually projecting to make a profit this year, which means I can hire extra help throughout the season as we need it. Of course that means I'll be taking home less of a paycheck, but it's a much better situation than it would have been the last couple of years, when we didn't get paid much of anything because we were investing all of our earnings back into the farm. Even early on in my pregnancy, there were tasks that felt like they were just too much for my changing body, like wheelbarrowing and spreading compost. Or if I could do them, I would be totally exhausted the next day. I'm going to continue to lean heavily on our crew this year for these types of tasks. Zack, Lauren and Brian, thank you for doing the heavy lifting, you are the best! And Gabe has been taking some evening and weekend shifts doing harder stuff like mowing, tilling and weed eating, which is huge!
Modify Tasks and Make Life Easier
My expectations for how much I can get done have definitely been adjusted this year. I work shorter shifts, morning and evening, and stay out of the heat of the day. I eat lots of snacks. I make tasks easier or lighter when I can, and save the heaviest ones for the crew. If I don't take a nap in the afternoon I'm totally useless for the rest of the day, so my strategy is to take a nap right after I come home for lunch, and then get a couple hours of office work in before going back out to the field for the evening. I'm also trying to prep a big dinner dish over the weekend that we can eat off of for the week, so we're not trying to make food after I get home at 8:30pm.
So all that said, I do still feel strong and able, just in a different way than most years. I've still been tilling and laying irrigation and transplanting and harvesting and everything else that goes on out there. It'll be interesting to see how those last few months pan out, but so far so good. And I hope that by sharing a little of my journey I can help other women figure out how motherhood can fit into their own farming lifestyle.
If you want to see your pregnant Five Foot Farmer in action come on down to our Saturday morning Farm Stand this summer, every week from 9:00am to 12:30pm at the farm!