Birds of a Lesser Paradise
Simon and Schuster
“The Cow That Milked Herself”
“The Cow That Milked Herself” is from Megan Mayhew Bergman’s debut collection, Birds of a Lesser Paradise (Scribner, 2012) Her work has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and has appeared in the New York Times, Best American Short Stories 2011, New Stories from the South 2010, Narrative, Ploughshares, One Story, and elsewhere.
Bergman said this about writing her story: When you belong to a family of medical professionals, in my case veterinarians, everything is a science experiment, including pregnancy. When I was five months pregnant, I came to my in-law’s veterinary clinic. My husband was in veterinary school at the time, and his mother was battling an aggressive form of cancer. In a dark treatment room, my husband, as well as his father and mother, fired up the ultrasound machine (which was used for dogs and cats) and found my daughter’s heartbeat.
It was special to let my mother-in-law see the baby; we didn’t know how much time we had left with her. She did get to meet my daughter, but only once, and she passed away two weeks later.
When my husband’s family, now my family, gathered around me, I felt great joy, but also waves of anxiety. I felt supported by my family and friends, but I knew, as they found my daughter’s body in shades of gray on a screen, that certain worries and feelings were uniquely mine. “The Cow That Milked Herself” is an outgrowth of that moment – though the husband in the story should not be confused with my own veterinarian husband, who is kind, involved, and patient with being an abused muse.
Polly Rosenwaike writing in the New York Times, said: “At times while reading ‘Birds of a Lesser Paradise,’ I wished it would send us deeper into the woods, and more fiercely stalk the mysteries that elude us, disturb us, tear us apart. As a first expedition, though, it offers plenty of plumage for us to train our binoculars on, as well as bird calls that force us to stop and listen.”