My mother’s obstetrician was not a bad fellow actually, like every other male in that business he thought he understood women and had the theories to go along with. Like women need men’s theories ?
In that time he had a theory about women, tension and child birth. Something about a woman’s inability to just blithely give birth. He would carry on about Native American women giving birth back in the day.
We have all seen the depiction of the Indian maiden just squatting and letting the infant come forth. Either behind a bush or in the company of other women amongst the tribe. Whatever the situation warranted.
Spring planting, village moving to better hunting or just on the trail; it made no difference to them. The perception is that they did it without a whimper or a care about anything else. No lamazz here. No Demoral to dull the contractions
The theory is that it all had to do with a good diet of meat, fresh veggies, hard work and that old indomidable spirit that all Native Americans possess. The most important factor, of course, was no tension.
Well that all sounds nice and plausible, however, young Running Fawn never had to worry about the outdoors. Why? She lived in it. One flip of the teepee flap and there she was. She was part of it. There was nothing contingent upon her getting out of the house like waiting for the cable guy or the plumber or the wash to finish. Her kitchen and laundry were outside anyway and with all that fresh O2 to take in she was energized for the day’s chores.
The work out was constant. No need to worry about cellulite, your gym fees, watching the carbs. Fetching water, skinning, firewood, setting up camp, breaking down camp. Her pelvic muscles must have been like steel! True she had her problem days but no Arapaho mother ever had to dig cereal from the dvd player!
But I do wonder if Native American women ever wondered how motherhood crept up on them. You moms know what I mean here. Like you wake up one day and the tribe is up by two?
If the women of the tribe were so phlegmatic about babies, one reason was because the father was always there and took over the boys education by the age of seven. No board meetings for him or PTA for moms ( now that’s a tension builder). Junior learned how to hunt and fish and use a bow and arrow (good to know when the Crow blew into town). Imagine Cub Scouts today with that? All those release forms and lawsuits! Can you imagine a Native American child with safety glasses on and an insurance form demanding it? Besides, can you picture an Indian dad having to twist his kid’s arm to go hunting? You can't get your kid today to put down the X-Box controller long enough to go outside and get the mail!
Speaking of diet the average Indian woman had more meat in a day that we can afford all week. Not one bit of it was USDA approved, recalled, tainted with some God-awfull thing we all see today. Granted there were lean times but so also for the lodge beside you.The whole tribe suffered with no room for envy or self pity or therapy.
If a man today goes off with his buddies to hunt, there is enough tension back home to sink a ship. They usually come back trophyless, overtired and sore. Yet, somehow the wife is convinced her husband had a grand old time while leaving her home with the kids.
Not so in the tribe, the hunt was the whole thing! It meant survival and the excitement and expectations back at camp would reach a fever pitch till the party returned. No stories about the one that got away but rather long and imbellished tales of the one turning on the spit..
Dad returning from Micky-Dees with a paper sack, or mom whipping out the Visa as she calls in a Domino's order just doesn’t cut it. Life was one long traveling barbeque.
The women of the tribe knew they were married to real men. Strong and protective yet bound by tradition, passion and family. Roles may have been defined but the Native American woman was more liberated than today’s female executive. Men were too, not like the indistinct, feminized and politically correct couch potatoes of today.
The perils of living in the wild were part of the lifestyle also. Ever try to cross a busy city street or negotiate Boston's Big Dig ? It strikes terror in some and OCD in others. We don’t even allow our children out anymore to play. When Running Fawn said “Go play”, her kids literally had miles to explore and they knew the lay of the land! No “play dates” or fenced in parks with helmeted kids, padded knees on bikes no faster than you can spit. No lifeguards or “floaties” at the creek (everyone learned how to swim well and early). Lacrosse was without pads and took up a whole field. Try a street hockey game today and the cops show up to tell you you're blocking traffic and Child Services visits you because Johnny wasn't wearing a helmet! For kids today it is more 'rules' and not much 'fun'.
Indian mothers never had to deal with balancing a budget or a late mortgage payment. The super market was always open with no “twelve items or less”lines. She may have been (as some “educated” Europeans said) an uncivilized savage but she was a carefree one and wouldn’t know tension if she fell over it.
When she wasn’t busy having babies or tenderizing meat she was engaged in activities we now call “hobbies”. Basket weaving, pottery, beadwork, sewing were essential to the homefront and Running Fawn never once felt marginalized. Trust me, she ran hearth and home. Even the Big Chief couldn't say 'boo' without Running Fawn's permission.
There were other things that made sense and kept Native American women relaxed. Sex for one thing was as natural and unsterilized as Nature intended. Following the moon’s cycle and/or “alternative sexual practices” kept children to a minimum. No second guessing about yourself or your man and all the phobias and inhibitions we hold today. No Freud, Kinsey, Dr. Phil or Berman and Berman, stories of past abuses and "why can I not orgasm?". Sex was sweet, passionate and as one on one as could be.
Spirituality was foremost to the Native female. Native Americans had and still have more spirituality in their pinkies than all of Christianity. To them everything had a soul, the Earth, the rocks and trees.
Note: I think it is telling that today we only now realize how precious and finite our world is, Native Americans (and all native tribes, worldwide) knew this over a thousand years ago..
After all, the land had only been there millions of years before them. Every morning the blessed mother would rise before dawn and walk in prayer to The Great Spirit asking for health and long life to her unborn. I don’t know about you, but nine months of no tension, prayer, excersise and clean living was a good garrantee of a good birth.
That’s not to say there were never “unfortunate” events, or children born with “problems”. But the Native American had the fortitude, wisdom and, most important, the compassion to make the “ultimate” decision. No pro-choice or pro life here.
The fact is they had no choice.
An aberrant birth meant a drag on the family, the tribe and survival. But a life worth living was a gift given by The Great Spirit and was wanted and needed and loved unconditionally. Today, whole segments of society and government grapple with this issue of divorce, fatherlessness, unwanted children and abortion. All to the detriment of our society.
Perhaps their entire attitude towards children should give us food for thought. Children were not supposed to be anything but happy. Spoiled and happy. They had nothing to play with except that which they made themselves. No need for time outs or loss of priveledges. Punishment was shame from elders or lack of respect. Until the age of training they were indulged and pampered and faced the next phases of life armed with self respect, emotional security and an awareness of what was expected of them and the pride of one’s accomplishments.
Today a child is nagged, politically corrected, padded, medicated, therapied and stripped of their individuality. Then they spend their adult lives at two hundred dollars an hour telling a therapist why they hate themselves. From the day they are born children are formatted and fitted into a gauntlet of learning or quelled into submissiveness to fit some state sponsored mold. They live in houses too small, streets too crowded or playgrounds with more rules than fun.
There were many advantages of being a Native American mother. You never had to housebreak a dog, fix the toaster, tell the plumber that the leak is here not there, attend parent teacher meetings or find shoes on sale for four kids. No Indian mother faced DSS for a smack her kid definitely needed. Divorce was simple. Dad came home from the scouting party to find his things outside the lodge but both parents knew their respective children were still their respective responsibility. No chasing for child support there or shame in the tribe would befall you.
But without a doubt no Indian mother from birthing to death ever had to utter the phrase “Don’t slam the (BANG!)..door!”