I am walking across the lake on the ice road it is the coldest night of the year the fur of my parka covering my face keeping out the cold wind keeping out the killing cold. Now i am leaving the ice road walking toward the lights of Dettah i can see them yellow near the horizon it is too cold to snow. Warm as an animal in its nest so warm inside the down and fur the world so cold around me i can see the Northern Lights can see them when I look through fur, shifting and racing across the sky, and i could probably hear them if i took down my hood but it is too cold and i don’t, so all i hear is the sound of my own breathing and the distant muffled howl of dogs. I feel so happy and safe the lake asleep beneath my feet the whole world frozen in just exactly the right spot. I am thinking about how perfect things are out here in the snow-lit dark, how soft the snow is under my boots and how full and safe i am. I have never been so warm. I am not alone. There is a baby growing in my belly a him or her i do not know or care just a baby child and i am looking for a den it is the coldest night of the year. I am very heavy i am thirty pounds heavier than i was before and slow as a bear that is going into hibernation while i think about the baby in my belly always moving and kicking and squirming and wanting to be out. I think about the things it will see and feel, the cold wind on its bare skin the way i will have to prevent that the way i will have to care and care and care for it until it is grown. Because i am very heavy, i lie down in the snow beside the ice road that leads to the south. I know i am important now, before i never went to a doctor not once but now i go every week now i am important now people ask me how i feel and have i got varicose veins? hemorrhoids? nausea? spotting? blurred vision? heartburn? leg cramps? backache? I am happy to report i have all of these ailments all things are exactly the way they should be and no one can ever say again that i am as healthy as a horse. Now i am important: now i am two.
It is the coldest night of the year i am on Great Slave Lake and i am happy i am not alone will never be alone again. I am safe like a she-bear who crawls into a den and gives birth and raises her cubs year after year again and again the future mapped out and stretching before me. I will never have to think again about why i was born or why i am here or what i should do with myself or my life because now i have a purpose, i have direction, it is the coldest night of this arctic winter and i am lying in the snow, the cold seeping gradually oh so gradually through the layers of wool and nylon and down and fur and i am very tired, wondering will it be normal will it live how can i be growing this baby when i don’t know how when i haven’t read a single book on growing babies, haven’t attended a single lecture on the construction of the fetal venous system, my god, i don’t know what i am doing can i possibly be getting this right?
I am breathing fast again getting worried flaking out reverting to my old and screwed-up self. I slow my breathing calm myself i am going to be a mother that is quite a job quite a responsibility i must get a hold of myself for the sake of the baby. I go to prenatal classes even after the second where they show us a film of a woman giving birth the place between her legs turning inside out her insides bulging out and out until a head emerges then a whole body, a baby and i am sick because she looks like a cow birthing a calf and i am not a cow or was not but this is what i am becoming my breasts and belly filling and hard my body taking over and soon it will be happening to me. I think after seeing the film that i can never make love again, not if that is what my body really is, the men are watching too the men will be watching the births how can they ever want to touch us again how can they want to touch cows, i think. But that is before i begin to understand, this place is helping me to understand the soft soft snow the black soft sky the dancing lights. They do not use anesthetic here, the births will all be natural, we are too far from civilization for that nonsense we are like animals here i am beginning to understand. I am getting better.
Four months ago i am at a party and i see my husband kissing another woman, Lexie from Pangnirtung, Lexie the hothouse plant. i don’t know why they all call her that i see them kissing and i am so angry i rush outside, i stride down to the beach and thrust my high-heeled shoes through the new ice into the lake and i am so mad, the water searing the ice slicing at my ankles, that i am going to drown myself or freeze to death out of spite but i don’t have the guts.
I wouldn’t do that now i wouldn’t even care that’s how much i’ve progressed i am a mother-to-be, i am happy lying here looking into the sky on the coldest night of the year.