Introduction

This book is for people of First Nations background who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy.  It has cultural stories and information in each chapter. In addition, there is information in this chapter about teachings and customs related to pregnancy.

Bringing Culture Into My Life

Some people haven’t received traditional teachings or knowledge. One woman explained, “It’s a real shame that I haven’t received teachings. I’m Ojibwa. I’m on a journey of bringing the Ojibwa culture into my life as well as my daughter’s.”

Teachings

Each community has its own teachings and customs about women, pregnancy, and childbirth. The knowledge keepers, Elders, grandmothers, and grandfathers, may have this information. Many people find learning about these traditions and cultural teachings comforting and helpful during pregnancy. Talk to people you trust and who make  you feel comfortable, about the knowledge in your community.

Building a Bond

There is not just one thing that is done to create a mother/baby bond, but rather a series of teachings that begin from adolescence. For instance, there is a rite of passage for young girls where they choose to give up something for a year (i.e. I know someone who gave up raspberries for a year), which has to do with being able to sacrifice, so that when these young girls grow up they are able to put their babies first. There is another that says expectant women should not stand in a doorway, but rather on one side or the other. Another belief says that if you plan to do something, follow through, rather than changing your mind and turning around, for fear that labour will not progress.

I suppose our teachings are more about compromise and building a bond by creating the most ideal environment for baby while they are inside. So it’s more about learning to nurture, and this bond starts early.

Here are some teachings that you may hear:

  • Have a good mind. Be peaceful. This will help your baby to be calm. There is help available to achieve this.
  • Sing songs, tell stories, and talk to your baby. Your baby will feel your love.
  • Caress your belly. Your baby will sense your touch.
  • Food is medicine. Eat well to help your baby grow strong. Cravings are normal. It is fine to eat less healthy food or sweet things sometimes. Be careful not to eat too many of these foods to make sure you and your baby get the nutrients you need.
  • Keep your body strong. Get up early. Exercise and stay active.
  • Get plenty of rest. This is good for you and your baby.
  • Attend ceremonies that are safe. This will introduce your baby to community customs.
  • Stand near the drum. Your baby will hear the heartbeat of Mother Earth and hear the songs.

Knowledge Carriers

You have to find those people who are knowledge carriers. There may be a knowledge carrier in your family or community. If you are living in an urban setting there are many resources available. Aboriginal organizations such as Friendship Centres, Aboriginal Health Access Centres, etc. may be able to connect you to a knowledge keeper.

For information and support:

Because teachings are specific to a community and sometimes even a season, ask knowledge keepers in order to learn about teachings and to understand the spirit and intent of a teaching. Talk to Elders to learn about teachings and customs in your community. Other sources of information about traditional teachings for pregnancy and parenting include:

Aboriginal Healthy Babies Healthy Children

Information for all parents, and additional support for parents who need it. 1-800-267-8097

www.children.gov.on.ca/htdocs/English/topics/earlychildhood/health/index.aspx

National Council of Aboriginal Midwives
1-514-807-3668 (choose language then press 6 in main menu)
www.indigenousmidwifery.ca

Ontario Federation of Indian
Friendship Centres
www.ofifc.org