We were just recently blessed with a beautiful baby girl. She didn’t start out that way. She started out as morning sickness. Soon, she became a lump on her mother’s belly. Growing… We didn’t know… We didn’t know what she was, or who she was… Suddenly, a KICK. Then nothing…
Waiting… Then, another.
In between kicks, you wait. You wait for that reassurance that your baby is still there. I felt as if this is someone I should know, but didn’t. It was as if meeting a long-lost family member for the first time. You don’t know them, but you know you should.
Our people have a lullaby for the children, with different variations amongst the communities and families. In our community, ours goes something like this, “Bao— Bao—Bao—Bao,” softly using the voice from the throat, varying the tone and pitch with each “Bao.” After letting her presence be known, that’s when we started communicating with her in earnest telling her we loved her: “Shoo-why-mao.” We started singing the song. We use my dad’s version: “Bee—Bao—Bee—Bao.”
During quiet time in bed and if we knew that she was awake, I would ask Catherine to start rocking gently and sing our song. I would take my turn to sing to her with my mouth against Catherine’s belly. The big day was drawing nearer. Should we have stayed with the birth classes? We dropped out after a couple of classes. We figured we’d let nature take her course.
Light contractions and mother-in-law came in… Two days later, still nothing. Then, in the middle of the night, the water broke… Sneaking out, because we didn’t want to wake anybody in case it was a false alarm. In the car on the way to the hospital… “So do we have to run the lights???”
We waited in the room. We phoned friends and family in the morning. My mother happened to be passing through that day on a business trip. Thirteen hours later, Catherine was fully dilated. I put the outfit on, into the delivery room, set the stirrups, start pushing, more fluid… More pushing… Breathe.
Then it starts opening. I see a little dark patch of hair. Exhilaration. “I can’t believe this!” Then the head is out. She looks around. “One more push,” the nurse sternly says. Then, as fast as a heartbeat, they throw the baby on top of the mother. The baby starts crying. Her little fingers wrapped around my index finger. We start crying. She’s alright. Everything is where it should be. She’s beautiful.
Soon I tell Catherine to start singing the song. “Bee—Bao—Bee—Bao.”
I join in. The baby starts to quiet down. There’s recognition. The doctor takes her. She starts crying again.
I go out to announce the good news to the family. I come back in. She stops crying in my arms with our song. I take her out to introduce her to the family. She is going to be alright.
Five months later I wonder what the future holds for her. Will her “Creeness” be a distant memory for her? Will there be geese for her to pluck, boughs to collect? Will I say “We used to be from the land; this was ours”? Or will it be the driving force of her being. I do my best to speak Cree to her. I do my best. That’s all I can do.