There's nothing like a mother's love for her babies, and animals are no exception. While there are of course those who don't stick around as much, there are many animal mothers who prefer to lead by example and sacrifice themselves in ways that humans wouldn't dream of. The animal kingdom can sometimes be cruel, but these animal mothers show that love and concern are universal between many species.
Koalas only eat one thing, poisonous eucalyptus leaves. Even though these could prove fatal to us, koalas have special bacteria in their digestive tracts that stop the poison from harming them. The babies, or joeys as they're called, aren't born with this bacteria, and the mothers must resort to a disgusting method in order for the joeys to survive. The mothers begin by eating enough leaves for two, and then feeding the babies her own feces along with her milk. It sounds gross to us but it doesn't bother the mother or her 22 hours a day sleep cycle.
The alligator is the original composter, laying her eggs in rotten vegetables which produce heat - allowing her to hunt for food and not have to worry about sitting on the eggs. After the babies are finally born, the mother will literally carry them around in her mouth, and must teach them how to swim, hunt, and protect themselves from other predators. It might sound strange, but it's worked well since alligators haven't had the need to evolve in the past several million years.
Sadly for polar bears, the females are doomed to be single mothers since males don't stick around longer than it takes to mate with them. Once the two have done their thing, the females put on nearly 400 pounds of baby weight. This baby weight isn't a choice, if the female doesn't have enough food to produce that much extra poundage then her body will simply reabsorb the fetus. For the last two months, she must dig a den where she hibernates until the baby is born. Two years later the baby goes off into the world without so much as a thank you.
Many couples are often terrified at the prospect of having twins and having to double up on the number of items and work that goes into raising them. For cheetahs, twins would be considered a big break, since the average female will give birth to around six cubs. These cubs have absolutely no instincts, meaning the mother must both hunt and care for all of them entirely on her own. That will go for two years, after which the mother leaves the cubs alone to form a sibling group, with the boys staying together for life and the females going off on their own to find new mates.
Orangutans are very devoted mothers who rely totally on themselves in order to raise their children. Orangutans will nurse their young until they have grown to 6 or 7 years old. This, by the way, is the longest nursing period of any animal on Earth. In addition to her nonstop nursing, female orangutans spend their entire lives building nests from branches and other plants, building around 30,000 of them for her and her offspring.
Most of our mothers love to complain to us about how they carried us around for 9 months and then endured a long and painful birth just so we could come into the world. Next time they do, be sure to remind them that for elephant mothers, their 22 month gestation period is followed by a birth of a nearly 200-pound elephant baby. Once the babies are born they're blind and must be led around not only by their own mother, but by all the females in the herd who lend a helping hand.
Red-Knobbed Hornbills live in a very dangerous world, where their eggs are a prized feast for monitor lizards. So, to dissuade these creatures from eating their eggs, mother red-knobbed hornbills will carve a hole into trees and build a nest in there. But what about the entrance? The hornbill has a solution for that as well, they will literally use their own feces to build a wall and then spend the entire two months sitting in the dark, on her eggs. The smell and hunger won't bother her, she does it all for her babies.
Female elephant seals already start at an imposing 1,700 pounds, and their 11 month gestation period means they're going to put on so much weight that it's going to be hard for them to move. After she gives birth though, she'll lose an additional 600 pounds in a mere month just from nursing her cubs. That's no doubt enough to make Hollywood celebrity moms jealous of their ability to shed those post-pregnancy pounds.
We've all had our mothers complain about having to take care of us and our siblings, but her work pales in comparison to that of the octopus. An octopus mother will lay over 50,000 eggs and will protect them for the 40 days that it takes them to hatch. Not only that, but the mother must also blow currents of oxygen over all the eggs in order to keep them healthy. It's a lot of work, and the mother doesn't leave for anything, even to hunt. If she gets hungry, she'll just chow down on one of her eight arms.
Being a sea louse mother is probably the worst fate that anyone could suffer, and we should all be glad that our mothers don't have to go through this. Sea louse females are lured by a male into a burrow where it turns out he has trapped nearly 25 other pregnant females. As if that wasn't the worst, once the babies are ready to be born they will literally eat their mother from the inside out. Talk about the horrors of childbirth.