Susan & Susan
Susan has given birth! Rejoice!
First of all, Susan is my favorite creature on this farm after my kids and husband. She’s loving, smart, funny, and it turns out she’s a pretty darn good mama.
Susan is a pig.
Susan was born on this place last March during a very cold snap in our first litter of piglets. I was such a newbie farmer; I actually missed the wedding of one of my good friends from high school to stay at home and fuss over my sow and piglets. She was one of a litter of eight, pretty average, and just randomly ended up being one of the piglets we kept. As she matured a very distinct personality developed. She never seemed to be happy with wherever she was and accordingly has alerted us to all the weak points in our 30+ year old fencing. At some point last summer, I started calling her Susan. Later it was to my chagrin that my husband called her by name in the presence of my mother, also named Susan. That was really a bit awkward, but I decided to own it and told mom that that was her namesake, my favorite pig. My mother has a very unique sense of humor and seemed pretty unoffended by it. Mom even said that pigs were so intelligent that if she were an animal, that is one she wouldn’t mind being.
This past fall, Susan was bred and it was duly noted on the calendar. By late winter she was roughly the size of a sub-compact car. She got slower and slower walking across the field and had to take naps more frequently. Having been pregnant myself, I felt bad for her. She never seemed out of sorts or moody despite being a walking piglet piñata.
We waited. “Any day now” my husband told me. “Babe, come look at Susan. I think she’s about to have her pigs”, “The weather is getting bad-she’ll probably have them tonight” …
Finally last Tuesday, three weeks after the due date we imagined, she broke out, wandered to our woods, and built a nest. By the time we found her she was in full labor. Nervous Nellie that I am, I worried about coyotes and anything else that might attack my sow and her babies. So we spent the majority of the night outside, in the woods with her, intermittently going back to the house. At some point between 12pm and 1 am, she had the first piglet. When we checked on her at one, there was a dead piglet on the ground. Of course I assume that it’s because I wasn’t there to “help”. So the rest of the night I stayed with her as she delivered more babies living and dead. At daylight, we moved her out of the woods and into the pasture by the house. She had passed some afterbirth and seemed to be ok apart from being irate that I moved her kids. I gratefully got a nap and started doing all my other stuff.
By noon it was evident she was still in labor. By two I was panic stricken and the other Susan was called. My mom is a nurse and has experience raising pigs. She came over and tried like the rest of us to pull the stuck baby to no avail. Finally, we decided to just give her antibiotics and let her get it out on her own.
The rest of the week was spent fussing over a miserable mama hog, who despite having a dead piglet inside her, was nursing and caring for her six living babies pretty well. Lots of angst, scratching, and some antibiotic injections saw us through the next few days. At some point I even spoon-fed her yogurt. Saturday, she finally passed the oversized corpse and has since started getting better. I am still worried about toxicity but she improves every day and I believe my beloved Susan is finally out of the woods, so to speak.
My mom even sent me text messages asking how her namesake was. She must have been flattered after all.