For most of my childhood and adolescent years, my family's dairy farm didn't have a veterinarian. As a result, checking cows for pregnancies was done much differently than we do it now.
My dad's method wasn't very exact: When a cow stopped coming in heat, we assumed she was pregnant. When her dry off date approached, my dad would check for a calf by bumping her side. If he was able to feel a calf, the cow was dried off. If there wasn't a calf, the cow would be milked until her production tapered off and then she would be sold. We were lucky to have pretty good fertility, so most of our cows passed the bump test.
Today, Glen and I use blood tests and ultrasound exams by our vet to determine whether cows are pregnant or open. But, like my dad, we still rely on the age-old technique of bumping. Before a cow is dried off, we double check to make sure she is still carrying a calf. Because you only have to make the mistake once of drying off a cow who is supposed to be pregnant and only finding out two months later that she lost the calf sometime after the last preg check.
Lots of times, Glen doesn't even have to bump a cow at dry-off, because he's felt the calf kicking when he leans his head into the cow's flank while prepping her for milking or attaching the milker.
One night last week, Lucy's calf was very active during milking.
"Dan, come here," Glen called.
"What is it, Dad?" Dan asked as he ran over.
"Put your hand right here," Glen instructed. "Do you feel that?"
"What is that?" Dan asked, a little concerned.
"That's Lucy's calf. It's kicking inside of her," Glen explained.
Dan thought that feeling Lucy's calf was the coolest thing ever.
The next night, Dan slipped into Lucy's stall and laid his hand flat against her big belly.
"Hey, Dad!" he yelled. "I can feel Lucy's calf again!"
Glen chuckled and said, "You're on the wrong side, Dan."
So Dan switched sides and tried to feel for her calf again.
The night after that, Glen and Dan showed Monika how to feel Lucy's calf kicking.
And the following night, Dan and Monika showed Grandpa what they had learned. Except that Monika was feeling for Lucy's calf way up by her ribs.
The whole experience led to many conversations about how big Lucy's calf was, what it looked like, and how soon it would come out. And, since we recently had a cow abort a set of twins at seven months gestation and another cow deliver a stillborn calf, there has been lots of concern about Lucy's calf coming out alive.
Dan turned his concern into a sentence for one of his spelling assignments. The word was hopeful. He said, "I am hopeful that Lucy's calf will come out alive."
We dried Lucy off yesterday, so the kids won't have another chance to feel Lucy's calf until it is born. Now all we can do is hope that the rest of her pregnancy goes well and she delivers a live, healthy calf.

* * * * *

Even though Dan isn't allowed to go into the dry cow pen to pet Lucy, that isn't stopping him from talking to her. Glen just found Dan sitting in the snow next to Lucy with only the fence between them.
"Whatcha doing, Dan?" Glen asked.
"Talking to Lucy," he replied.
"About what?" Glen asked.
"Her baby," Dan said.
It might be safe to say that, come April, all eyes will be on Lucy as we wait for her calf. I'll be crossing my fingers, holding my breath, and folding my hands together until then.