Belonging means to be accepted by those around you. I finally started to have an inkling what that meant as a new immigrant when I was pregnant. Many people began to be so nice to me, even total strangers, their faces became softer when they met me, something I did initially not relate to being pregnant. I just thought that people here were nicer in this part of the province, the north, as they all had come from somewhere else.
After my daughter’s birth, this trend continued and visitors arrived with gifts. I didn’t know what happened to me, all this attention and concern with us, where did that come from? I felt in the centre of attention, it felt as if in a warm bath. What had I done to deserve this? Slowly it seeped into my awareness what had opened the door. Giving birth was the Open Sesame to the cave of all mothers’ hearts. They remembered, they recalled, they softened.
Simply as a person, a woman, nice or not, there is no easy point of recognition with others, especially when she is a foreigner. Getting to know someone is work, it requires a reason to start it, and a clear goal. The intent is there: be nice, don’t say anything at all if you can’t say anything nice, we are polite, but more was needed to break the shell of my foreignness.
Canadians travel, they share stories of were they are from, and how they got where they are. Without it, there is no shared history. My history is not yours, there were no overlapping points, which made it so much harder for the home grown Canadians.
First Nation Canadians recount their family and tribe relationships when they meet, who are their father, mother, and their grandparents, cousins, from where they came, and where they are going. The drawing of the geno map divines the relation; relationship ensures that their children will be healthy and no blood relatives. Kidnappings were sometimes needed to ensure fresh blood in the tribe, and a new mother for children.
It made sense for me to travel to meet my young man, to have children in this far away, cold country. Three years of struggle followed to find some comfort in this foreign land, to build an existence, until my child was born.
I have no words enough for describing this most unrelenting, life-giving force I have experienced in my life: the creation from my own cells over nine month’s time and its final explosion, the birth of my child.
Birth is an overwhelming event, but almost as important was that the women around me mothered me, supported me, and understood me without words. After my child’s birth, I was beginning to understand other mothers on a sensory and emotional level. They shared their own sorrows and joys with me; we became a sisterhood of women with small children: Moms and Tots.
For six long years I felt the embrace of friendship and shared motherhood with a group of women, until a move was unavoidable and my family left for another province. Friendships had formed that proved to be unaffected by the ravages of distance, although our tots now have become the new Millennials. We became family in spirit, sisters in motherhood, and are preparing for sharing time into old age.