This past week, in the wee hours of the morning, Savannah gave birth to 11 piglets. The whole process started around 2 am and ended around 10 am. I love pig births for a lot of reasons, mainly because we let our mama pigs be mama pigs. They farrow in our forest, with a simple two sided shelter-no restrictions. We do add a heat lamp and we do have bars for the piglets to run under should they need to. Pig births at The Farmstead are a beautiful return to the heritage of our pigs. I’m proud of how we breed our Tamworths. But this particular pig birth was special. This particular pig birth made my Grandmother come alive.
A little background: Obachan (which is Japanese for Grandmother) is 84. She has lived with my parents for the past 15 years. Unfortunately, for 10 of those years she has also been living with dementia. She has good days and bad days…mostly bad.
Due to my M♥M's terrible accident, Obachan is staying with Nick, Gizmo and I at The Farmstead. For the past week we’ve been her caregivers. There have not been many emotional or intellectual connections made, despite our best efforts. Truth be told, it’s been frustrating, you know she’s in there but there is no semblance of the Grandmother I grew up with.
But then there were piglets. I went home on my lunch break and there she was, zoned out on the couch. I went to the kitchen to make her some coffee and happened to look out the window, at Savannah and her babies. Everything looked well except for the tiny lifeless little piglet, alone in the middle of the field. Nick had just returned from the feed store with Gizmo so I yelled down to him that there was a dead piglet, he needed to go grab it. He handed Gizmo to me and went to the forest. Suddenly I heard him, “It’s alive!”
I sprang into action! I put Gizmo in her chair and busied myself getting milk together. I didn’t want to waste precious time mixing colostrum so instead I warmed up some of my pumped breast milk. While putting everything together Gizmo started fussing. Before I could grab her Obachan started to move! She got up from her spot on the couch and shifted to be in front of her. And then she started singing nursery rhymes to her…I haven’t heard her sing IN YEARS. Nevermind she was calling her Rachael (my name), she was interacting with her Great Granddaughter!
With Gizmo under control I finished getting the bottle together just in time for Nick to hand me the little piglet. I took her to the couch and sat next to Obachan. As the piglet started to warm up she started to squeal. LIFE! I jammed the bottle into her mouth and she started to suck…best feeling ever. And then Obachan realized there was something in my arms. “What is that?” she asked.
“It’s a baby pig!” I chirped, delighted she had asked me a question. And then we kept talking. She asked me how many months old the pig was and showed the appropriate shock when I told her she was probably only hours old. Seeing how connected Obachan was I handed her the piglet. Her face lit up. She kept singing nursery rhymes, she started rocking her, and she hugged her close. While the little pig was getting revived back to life, so too was my Obachan.
I had to leave and go back to work but I left Obachan there, sitting on the couch with her baby pig, still singing, still hugging her close.
Later that night Obachan was back to her now "normal" self, zoned out, oblivious to the little lives around her.
Kitchen Pig spent two nights with us, which we thoroughly enjoyed, even though her first night indoors our own daughter Gizmo slept her first 9 hour straight stretch and Kitchen Pig was up every hour :)
She has since successfully rejoined her litter and, if not for her adorable birthmark on her tail, is not distinguishable as any different than her littermates.
There is something about births, human and animal, that make us feel renewed and excited about life. But I will always think fondly of this particular birth. The birth that made my Obachan come alive.