The girls were already pregnant when they came to live with us in Ireland. Although, we were present at conception. We visited the farm they were temporally staying at until we figured out where we were going to move to. This was our first experience of breeding and we didn’t know what to expect. I remember the girls all standing in the pen together, then Harvey (owner of the farm) brought in one of his stud males. Hercules was his name and he knew he was a stud muffin. He hummed calmly (obviously using some super alpaca chat up lines) then watched as the girls all sat for him. What a stud! The whole process was problem free as Hercules gave all the girls a ‘special’ cuddle. However, it was slightly awkward for a time as he became rather excited and his calm humming became louder and louder. I remember not being able to look at my teenage son as he stood in shock, wondering if we should leave them to it.
The girls were put to the test a week later – the pregnancy test. No, they didn’t pee on a stick and wait a few minutes. In the alpaca world, a pregnancy test is a very different experience indeed. The girls are introduced to the stud again. If the girls fall for his sultry hums and sit for him again, it is considered that she is not pregnant. I suppose it is possible that she wants a little more action but let’s go with a negative pregnancy result. If the mating was successful and the girls are indeed pregnant, she simply turns to the stud, looks in his direction and spits at him. Yep. She totally rejects him, he served his purpose and now she has no interest in him anymore.
So, the girls got a positive result. Hercules must have had a tough day being rejected by all the girls. But, the boy done good.
Alpacas are pregnant FOREVER, it’s the longest wait. It didn’t help that I got a little mixed up with the dates. We got estimated due dates at 11 months. So I kind of assumed 2 weeks either side. I know, I know, do the research! The thing is, I did, on reflection I think I blocked out the fact that pregnancy could go on for up to and over 12 months. Imagine being pregnant that long. I couldn’t drive my car at 6 months pregnancy, my bump was so big I couldn’t reach the pedals. I’d have looked like Harry Potters Aunt as she blew up like a balloon and floated away. Although, some might say I did!!
I was on bottom watch for a month. Looking for any potential signs of labour. Sitting with them for hours, willing them to give birth. I questioned whether they were pregnant and felt sick with the thought. It finally hit me that I needed to relax a bit. This could go on for quite some time. What will be will be…
I checked very briefly on the girls before I went to work on Thursday. Charlie was at home studying for his exams so I knew they would be in safe hands. I finished work at 12.45 and wondered whether I could fit in a grocery shop before I came home. I rang Charlie. Charlie explained that he had just checked on them. “Something might be happening with Mary” he explained. “She’s walking around with her tail up and looks like she can’t get comfortable”. “What’s her bottom looking like?” I asked. I’ve become obsessed with their bottoms I know. “No different” he said. The girls have presented like this a few times so we decided that I would have time to pop to the shops to get groceries and Stuart would be back home soon anyway. I wanted to get the shopping in so that I wouldn’t miss a thing if we had a birth this weekend. So off I rushed to the shops.
I was on my way back about 45 minutes later. My mobile rings. “It’s too late to make orders” I thought, “I’ve left the shop”. I pull over and answer. “Hi, I’m on my way home. Is everything okay?” I ask. “We have a cria” replied Stuart. I literally screamed. “Is everything okay” I blurted out excitedly. “Yep, just come home”.
That journey took a lifetime. I must have got stuck behind every tractor in Galway and with the odd sprinkling of lost tourists. I couldn’t believe that after all that bottom watching, I missed the main event. As I got closer to home, I began to think that it all probably worked out for the best. Poor Mary just wanted some peace to give birth as I would have been anxiously watching and counting hours throughout the whole process. The drive was good. It helped me realise I just need to let nature take its course and simply embrace what comes my way. Except this tractor, this tractor needs to do one and pull over!!!!
I finally made it home. I parked the car, jumped out the car and ran over to the field almost losing my shoe. As I got closer, I could see his little head popping up from the grass. Mary stood close by keeping him safe. My eyes filled with tears.. What a little miracle of life. Our first born on the farm. Purely beautiful in every possible way. Mary honestly looked proud. She was calm and happy for us to sit with them and admire her son. She did it, all on her own, and what a fabulous job she did. A first-time mum and a complete natural.
Agnes walked past, as if to say, time to watch my bottom…..
Mary and Reuben