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HERd Management: You can’t fill from an empty cup

Krista Stauffer for Progressive Dairy Published on 01 April 2022

As I drove to the hospital, all I could think about was: What if she was gone before I could say goodbye? I could feel my baby girl fluttering around inside my stomach as I drove.

The memories flooded my mind and tears fell down my cheeks. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye. I wasn’t ready for her to leave.

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Thankfully, that wasn’t the day. She wasn’t done fighting.

My grandma’s health had been declining for a while now. It was fall after fall, constant trips and stays at the hospital. I took turns with relatives staying with her at the hospital during the day to make sure she wasn’t alone. She was in and out of the nursing home as we fought the state to get her in-home care or a permanent bed at the home. For over a year, this went on.

My grandma was a huge part of my world. She passed away at the beginning of 2020, shortly after we welcomed our youngest into the world. The day she passed away, the girls and I had been to visit. I smiled and I cried as she rocked Miss Taylee in her arms, smiling and talking about how she was still looking for a horse for my daughter, T, and couldn’t wait to watch her in her first rodeo. I had forgotten to grab the diaper bag before we left, so we had to end our visit sooner than we had planned. I hugged her, told her I loved her and said, “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

She passed away that night.

We had just come out of an incredibly stressful and overwhelming year on the farm. The year prior, we upgraded our manure-handling facilities and built a new slurry store on the farm, as well as purchasing a hay farm. All while working an incredibly stressful job as a one-on-one para, puking the entire nine months of my pregnancy and countless hospital trips due to health concerns for our baby girl who, after nine months of scares, was born healthy. Praise God.

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After she passed, I could feel the depression take over.

I had been pushing it aside. Powering through.

But I had let it go too far. I had been so focused on the farm and others I hadn’t been taking care of myself. I had pushed myself physically and mentally to the breaking point.

I was angry. I was emotional. I was exhausted.

At this point, I had quit blogging. I quit sharing our story online; I was missing writing deadlines, influencer deadlines, declining speaking engagements, missing meetings for the boards I was on, and it started to overflow into everyday life. The dishes weren’t getting done, my office was a disaster, laundry was piling up, and I was literally drowning.

Then the prices crashed due to COVID; we literally thought we were going to lose the farm. There was absolutely no way, after the year we just had, we were going to survive milk prices that low with feed prices that high.

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As if my depression could get any worse, it did. I should have asked for help. I should have accepted help. We had friends and family constantly asking if they could help us in any way. I just smiled and said we were fine. I wasn’t fine. I hated the farm. I hated this industry. I wanted out. I blamed the farm for everything – and it wasn’t until I realized I was associating the farm and everything I felt with my husband that I knew something had to change. I had started taking it out on him and our kids.

Enough was enough. I needed help. I needed God.

This entire time, I had pushed Him to the side. I wasn’t praying. I wasn’t reading my Bible. I wasn’t leaning on Him. I was trying to do all of this on my own.

I’d love to say I opened up my Bible and I felt normal again. I’d love to say I said a little prayer and all the world was right. I’d love to say I walked into church and felt the weight of the world lifted off my shoulders. It didn’t happen like that.

It took me getting to the root of my depression. It took me consistently reading and praying. It took me getting my house back in order and cleaning up the spaces that were let go and causing me anxiety. It took me sitting down for days on end getting my books caught up for the farm. It took me saying no to so many things so I could focus on my mental health and healing.

It took work. It took consistency. It took me taking time to actually grieve the loss of one of the most important people in my life. It took me handing the farm back over to God and letting go of all the worry and stress that comes with it. It took me realizing once again that if we are meant to farm, if we are meant to continue this way of life, it would all work out.

I haven’t been involved in farm chores for two years now. I rarely walk down the driveway to the barn. I honestly cannot remember the last time I fed calves or helped milk the cows. It took me this long to finally admit that out loud. It also took me stepping back to be able to heal and get myself back to a place where I can do those things again.

Farming will take everything you have. Every single second of every day. There is always something that needs to be done or some sort of crisis to handle. So many aspects of farming are completely out of your control. Taking time for yourself isn’t selfish. Taking a break doesn’t make you lazy. Working yourself into the ground isn’t a badge of honour. Go to your kid’s ball game, visit your grandma, make church a priority, dust off your Bible and know when to ask for help.

Give it to God and take care of yourself. As my grandma would say, you can’t fill from an empty cup. end mark

Krista Stauffer
  • Krista Stauffer

  • Dairy Producer
  • Washington
  • Email Krista Stauffer

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