Most baby mammals rely on their mothers to keep them alive; it's rare to see infants actually nurse their mother back to health. But that's just what happened to Emma the pig, a pregnant sow who arrived at Apricot Lane Farms in California on the brink of death but found strength in her calling to be a mother (video below).
"I like to think Emma was saved by us, but it's so obvious that she was saved by her calling," John Chester, who runs the farm, says in the video from OWN Network. "In her case, it was to be a mom... Some might say that the very thing that could threaten to take us down in life can, at times, be the one thing that keeps us alive."
Emma was malnourished and sickly upon her arrival at the farm, according to Shareably. Chester and his wife worried that she wouldn't survive very long, much less successfully give birth to piglets. But there was not much that they could do besides wait it out and give her the best care that they could.
Sure enough, the sick pig went into labor unexpectedly and gave birth to far more than the six piglets they were expecting -- she had a total of 17 babies, although only 13 survived.
The average sow litter is around 10 piglets, according to Reference.com, so one can imagine that giving birth to almost double that number would wear out even a healthy sow.
But Emma was far from healthy, and the labor took a toll on her body. She was completely exhausted and developed a fever. On top of that, her udders hardened and stopped producing milk, leaving Chester with no choice but to move her piglets away from her to try and give her a chance to recover on her own.
"Bottle feeding 13 piglets three to four times a day was not an easy option," Chester says in the video. "If Emma died, that was going to be our future."
But Emma refused to eat. Her fever went down, but she was so underweight already that Chester knew she wouldn't survive long unless she started eating again, and quickly.
So he decided to do something counterintuitive.
"What Emma might need was a reason to live … even if it might kill her," he explains in the clip.
So he went ahead and brought the piglets back into her pen. Miraculously, the sow stood up and ate from her trough, just moments later.
"If I hadn't seen this with my own eyes, I would have never believed it," Chester says.
Emma recovered rapidly, and like the good mother that she is, took excellent care of her piglets and nurtured them until they were ready to live their own lives.
Now that her offspring have moved on and moved out to have their own adventures, Emma, who has gained 200 pounds, has taken in a "beat-up little rooster" for a pet.