This mom is bringing back an Innu tradition, by giving birth in a tent to connect with her roots
Thea Penashue hopes the process will become more common for Innu women
Thea Penashue will be giving birth to her second child in a traditional Innu way which hasn't been done in decades — in a tent.
"I'm looking forward to being able to connect with who I am as an Innu person, being able to connect with my culture and also the people who were born in tents in the past," she said.
The tent, located outside of the Labrador Health Centre in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, will be fitted with the bare minimum in supplies, but with a full medical staff on board to help Penashue through the process.
She said she didn't want a hospital bed in the tent, choosing instead to keep things traditional, with a mattress laid atop some boughs.
Her mother was born in the same way 56 years ago, Penashue said.
But it's all a part of a bigger picture. Penashue, along with the Innu Round Table, hope to make the practice more common and have been pushing for a midwifery program for three years.
In total, the Innu Round Table has received roughly $150,000 in funding for the creation of the program.
"I hope that this is something we could, maybe in the future, keep going, so that other Innu women know that they could do this too," said Penashue.
"Maybe in the future it will be a norm, to have their babies in this way again."
The Innu Round Table hopes to implement a midwifery program that will put at least one Innu midwife in the area to deliver Innu children.
Interviews have been completed to find a consultant to help put the wheels in motion, said June Fry, Innu child health co-ordinator.
"What I would actually love to see is a peer program where they learn hands-on, they don't have to go away to a university or college," said Fry.
"So they become midwives through learning it through someone teaching it to them, and they learn it at their own pace, at their own level."
Fry said there are many stories where Innu women in labour cannot properly explain how they are feeling in English when there is no interpreter available. Having an Innu-speaking midwife would be most ideal for the communities, she said, adding she hopes it will expand into Natuashish and Sheshatshiu.
Gisela Becker, the provincial midwifery consultant, has been a midwife for 36 years.
Becker said she has seen births in a variety of settings, but none in a tent.
"I think it's a great opportunity for the Innu Round Table Secretariat and the Innu people to reclaim birth in their traditions," said Becker.
With files from Janice Goudie