Having been recently pregnant myself, I (Lara) was feeling very sympathetic towards Mama Cass earlier this week. She just had that “Good grief can I please not be full of babies anymore” look about her.
Since she came to us already bred and her previous owner didn’t know when the deed was done, we have been in a waiting game, just sort of watching with awe as she kept expanding. (The pictures really don’t do her justice.) Around Monday I started to notice that her teats seemed to be filling out and hanging lower, but I wasn’t sure, and even if she was starting to “bag up”, it could still be a week or more. Still, we started getting excited. We were also keeping an eye on her… unmentionables… as there are some pretty clear signs that sows display in that arena when they’re about to go into labor as well. Honestly, I found the whole process really fascinating and I was enjoying observing her. She was also being a really good sport about us feeling her belly up and looking under her tail, especially considering her condition. (When I was that pregnant, I wasn’t nearly so gracious and mellow.)
And then, early Thursday morning, Steve went out to do chores and Ta-Da! Babies! 5 slick black piglets, shiny and new. I think we’d both been sort of hoping it would happen when we could be around to see, but I don’t blame Mama Cass one bit for wanting her privacy. She had even run off Boyfriend (her boar), who stayed camped out in the woods for a day before he reappeared. She seems tired (no kidding), but the babies are healthy and active and seem to be nursing well. 5 is a small litter, especially for an experienced mother, but we’re grateful that they were all born alive and seem to be thriving.
It’s wonderful to have babies on the farm, especially after the wet, gray spring we’ve had and the loss of the two goats. I heard somewhere once that birth is “the most everyday of miracles”, and even with a new(ish) baby of our own we are still a little in awe of this springtime renewal of the cycles of life. There’s so much hope there, so much optimism. It may sound strange to take a pig as a role model, but watching Mama Cass relax into her role as the tender of her brood with such ease and peacefulness inspires me to slow down and maybe not fret so much about motherhood. She’s calm. She’s taking it slow. The piglets are already starting to climb all over her and venture out of the hut, already testing out their squeals, but she’s serene. She’s a natural. It’s really very beautiful. Mothering is certainly not easy work (especially when you’re nursing 5 babies with very sharp teeth), but you can see watching her that it sure is good work.