I thought I was a good mother. After learning of the extraordinary feats of some other mothers, however, I gained a whole new respect for another mothering world — the four (and more) legged one.
Elephants have a 22 month long pregnancy and then give birth to the world’s largest babies — around 250 pounds. Human mothers just can’t compete with that. Our son was two weeks past his due date, and after the first week of being overdue in hot, humid late May it did begin to feel as though he had been in there nearly two years. The fact that I quite possibly could have been mistaken for an elephant made it all the more special.
Alligator mothers can determine the sex of their babies. They create a nest of organic matter that acts as an incubator, and the temperature of the nest helps determine if their offspring will be a boy or a girl. Nests that are constructed with leaves, for example, are warmer than those made with wet marsh and produce more males. Cooler nests produce females.
But it doesn’t stop there. When her eggs hatch, mama gator loads her children into her mouth and carries them to the water to take care of them.
I have never carried my young with my mouth, much less in my mouth, but I have used my spit to groom their hair, clean their faces, and to get an unidentifiable stain off the hood of my car.
Female orangutans have to wait eight years between births and infant orangutans are completely dependent on their mother for their first two years of life. During the first four months of a baby orangutan’s life, it will never break physical contact with its mother, clinging to her belly the whole time.
I actually did try this one — keeping them completely dependent on me — but our son didn’t take too keenly to the idea of me actually moving to college with him. His sister is three years younger, so I still have two years to convince her that I should move with her when it’s time for her to leave the nest. Sigh. Yes, I am very grateful that my children are independent and don’t cling to my belly. But I’m still not giving up on the college thing.
When Greater Hornbills lay eggs, they find a hollowed-out tree and then the mother seals herself inside with the eggs while the father returns every day to bring food for her. She sits inside a dark nest all day, surviving only on what her mate brings her to eat.
The hornbill, I can relate to. When I was pregnant, my husband brought me food, too. Captain D’s fish with our son; bagels and cream cheese with our daughter. That explains the elephant issue, I suppose.
Octopus mothers lay anywhere between 50,000 and 200,000 eggs. During the time she is protecting and caring for her eggs, she doesn’t hunt and sometimes ends of ingesting her own arms for sustenance.
I have nothing to say to that.
I really hate bugs, but the female earwig does deserve a shout out. She cares for her eggs, keeps them warm, cleans them and protects them from predators. The poor thing barely has time to eat. She helps them hatch and continues to protect them for months. And if anything happens to mom during this time ... if she just plumb gives out … well, her children eat her.
Let’s take a moment to think about that one.
I thought I was a good mother, giving birth and raising two beautiful children. Sure, there have been times … oh, there have been many times … when I have been tested. And I am sure there will be more. But I love it. All of it. Being a mother has been educational, incredible, enlightening, heartwarming, fun, difficult, interesting, beautiful, sweet, challenging, dirty, heartbreaking, rewarding, and … exhausting.
In fact, I think I may take a nap. But it’s just a nap …
So please don’t let my children eat me.
Contact columnist Mandy Flynn at firstname.lastname@example.org.