Sometimes a pig has a litter of eight. And they frolic and play and thrive.
And then a second mom has a hard time of it. And things don't go as well. She has four little pigs. But only one makes it through the night. And now he's nursing as an only child.
Alas ... sometimes things go as bad as they can. An entire litter is born stillborn. You have no way of knowing why.
You are relieved in a sense that you didn't fail them. That it wasn't the cold weather or not having a separate pen that did them in but simply that they are born ... dead. But you still feel intense sadness. Sadness that this growing belly that you've been watching for weeks resulted in death. And sadness that you couldn't do anything about it.
And if this part is not bad enough, you are given a front row seat as the mom appears to be grieving. She continues to lay on her "nest" and we aren't really sure why. Until we investigate further and there is one more little lost pig that she has buried deep under the hay. Her body is telling her to nurse. But there is nothing to nurse.
Today I wander out to the pigs for a moment. I watch helplessly as that first litter of eight tries to mingle with grieving mom. She nudges them away. "You aren't my babies. I'm waiting for my babies to nurse. There under this hay somewhere. They will start anytime."
And they won't.
Because they aren't.
I pick up that last little baby piglet found deep under the hay who never even breathed outside of the womb, and I don't even bother getting gloves or a bag or anything. I simply carry it all the way back to the garage, and find my eyes starting to moisten. I'm gasping a bit when I finally find JB and he takes the pig from me. And then I start crying. Sobbing actually. JB disposes of the pig, and then wraps his arms around me and let's me cry.
I'm telling him it's silly, and he's telling me it isn't. And I realize that I'm not just crying for a pig and her barren womb and her apparent grief.
I realize at some point that I'm crying for me and the years I spent dreaming of babies while I watched all my friends have them. I'm actually somehow relating to this pig as her friend's children circle around her. Yes, it's a child. But it's not my child.
I'm crying for all the women I know who have grieved what she is grieving now. I'm actually feeling the pain of my infertility and what it felt like to watch other women have what I wanted so badly.
And I'm crying and smiling all at the same time for how beautiful this life is I get to live.
I've greatly enjoyed learning along with our current WWOOFer, Leah. She's a beautiful young writer from the east coast who decided to take a break from the big city and her full-time job to work on farms for a year. And while many of her friends are taking vacations to see the world, she decided that she wanted to see America. (How mature and cool is that?!) (And may I go totally off-topic to say how much I hope my own children will choose to do this someday?!)
Leah was actually the one who stumbled upon the loss when it first occurred, and while the kids and I were at church, she tended the litter as it was born, already dead. Leah's a decade and a half younger than me. (Oh gosh. I feel twenty-five. But I so am not. I have realized that twenty-five was my favorite age, and that somehow, in my mind, I still am twenty-five, until I say my age out loud and it comes out ... thirty-nine.) Anyways, back on track here. Leah's a vegetarian. And we are raising meat. We don't see the world exactly the same. But while I know we can't possibly be processing this the same, we sort of are. We are learning from each other. And from the animals. Together. And I find it so encouraging to have the opportunity to learn and meet new people and share these experiences.
We want to give our animals the very best life we can and treat them with incredible respect and kindness. JB always says, "I only want them to have one bad day."
And I realize that's what is bothering me. This mom is having more than one bad day. I can't possibly know what an animal feels and whether her grieving feels anything like mine. Maybe her's is purely physical. Or just instinctual. But things still haven't gone the way they were supposed to go.
I can't fix it. I want to. I want to give her piglets or bring her piglets back to life or do something to make her not seem so .... sad.
But instead I am learning. I am learning that what I am witnessing with these animals is a bit bigger than I originally thought. I care for them. And watching them live reminds me of scenes from my own life as we all live it together. Truly I don't have the answers.
I have my faith.
I have my family.
I have my farm.
And I have the beautiful people who float in and out of this life to share pieces of it with me. Friends and family and strangers that are as much of part of this great big world as I am.
It's funny. This post seems deeper than what I intended it to be. I really didn't intend whatsoever to get this deep about pigs.
I suppose this post breaks my "vow" to not write about anything sad right now.
But I guess what I can't really explain with words is that this experience wasn't really sad. I know I cried. But in some ways, it ranks as an incredibly clear and important piece of growing for me. I felt like I was growing as a person and a farmer and a friend. I feel like it sort of helped me to understand this farm and this life a bit more. JB told me that he was sort of glad I was crying. That he wants us to always value these animals we have brought here to help us live.
And I think I do. A little bit more.
And that part of this story feels very .... happy.