Crippled with antenatal depression, unable to think clearly, and very much not in the mood to celebrate with a baby shower, I stumbled across ‘blessingway’ in my research and felt a faint warmth of hope wrap around me.
Here was an opportunity to relax with those close to me, be enveloped in love and support, and begin to heal.
Blessingways are based on a Navajo ceremony to celebrate the transition into motherhood. The ritual is ancient and North American Indians viewed it as the second blood rite for a women (her first being her first menstruation).
While there are key aspects to the traditional ceremony, it has been Westernised and adapted to suit the modern pregnant woman. To be respectful to the native origins of the Blessingway, the term ‘mother blessing’ is more appropriate .
What remains the same is the concept of a mother-to-be surrounding herself with women who will support her, and her acknowledging that she will receive this energy in return.
You can read the rest of this article written by The Motherhood Project author Ashlee Sturme, in the Autumn issue of Home Birth Matters, the magazine of Home Birth Aotearoa
More links for information and ideas on Mother Blessings:
A “Mother Blessing” is modeled after the “Blessingway” ceremony that is a sacred ritual of the Dine (Navajo). A traditional Navajo Blessingway is held for a women who is about to give birth as well as for men who are preparing to leave for war. It’s purpose is to bring the Navajo community together in support of the person making a significant life transition.
In the 1970’s, American midwives – led by Raven Lang, Jeannine Parvati Baker, and Nan Koehler – adapted the Navajo Blessingway into the modern ceremony that many pregnant women celebrate today. Out of respect for the sacred ritual of the Dine (Navajo), many people are starting to refer to the Blessingway ceremony given to a woman as a Mother Blessing, Birthing Way, Belly Blessings, or Alternative Baby Shower.
Modern culture has become focused on the baby-to-be and has lost sight of the mother about to be born. I felt this way during my own baby showers. The event was completely about my unborn baby, leaving me feeling like a vessel without a life of her own. I was present, but the party wasn’t for me. If only I could have removed my womb and sent it instead. Though, I would have missed out on all the yummy food.
A Mother Blessing is different than the typical baby shower. It’s purpose is to honor the mother-to-be by acknowledging the profound rite of passage labor and mothering brings. It also provides a safe space for the mama to express her deepest fears about labor and to receive words of encouragement and support. In short, the Mother Blessing is all about the mama. It is about empowering the mother-to-be. And of-course, gifts can still be a part of the event.
Mother Blessing has also been used with the termBlessingway. This is actually a Navajo term. Many people now use this term to mean a celebration of pregnancy and motherhood. The Navajo people actually do not approve of its use in this form, so many others use the term Mother Blessing or something similar. No matter what you call this ceremony, the meaning is the same – to celebrate becoming a parent.
Unlike your typical baby shower, there is no commercial gift giving emphasis. The guests are invited to spend time with the mother-to-be. The tone of the Mother Blessing is much more positive, you won’t find those horror stories of labors and early parenting that seem to be so common in a traditional baby shower. Other attendees like the fact that there aren’t the silly games also associated with baby showers.
Without the silly games, the ooos and ahhs over presents, what do you do?
Invitations can be very similar to any other invitation. Though you may want to specifically say that gifts are not requested. If you choose an activity that required the guest to bring something, this is where you would indicate such a request. Sometimes that is a quote, a candle, or a bead. The invitations should have a positive, woman centered theme.
Mama adornment. Give mama’s body some pampering. Brush out her hair. Place a crown of flowers on her head. Soak her feet. Massage her feet and hands. Adorn her belly with body paints or henna designs. Only choose what she’ll enjoy and what will make her feel like a queen.
Prayer flags. Give each person a piece of colorful fabric and have fabric markers on hand. Everyone can draw or write blessings on the fabric and then these can be strung up as a reminder for the mama of the support that surrounds her as she moves toward birth.
Birth necklace. Ask each person ahead of time to bring a single bead to represent their wishes or blessings for the mama. The beads can be presented to her one a time and the well wishes spoken as they are presented. String the beads together and you have a garland of blessings to be worn for strength during labor.
Telling stories. Go around the circle and invite each person to tell a story to build up some collective wisdom. Maybe ask for the story of how each person gave birth, or of how they were born, or how they met the mama, or of how they learned something important about parenting.
Candles for the birth. Have candles available and pass one out to each person. When mama goes into labor activate a calling tree or a group email to let everyone know. They can all light their candles to recall the blessing circle and the web of support woven by the assembled group.
How can I plan a unique (and fun!) mother’s blessing?
• Have each guest bring a favorite dish, so everyone has something to munch on.
• Give the mother-to-be an aromatherapy foot bath. Mix lavender essential oil and flower petals into warm water and clean her feet before the ceremony.
• Each guest can write a prayer or blessing on a piece of fabric. Later, it can be made into a quilt for mom or her little babe.
• Place a crown of flowers on the mom-to-be’s head. It will look simple, and sweet!
• Cast a mold of the mother’s belly that she can have as a keepsake.
• Bring a drum. Drums are known for their sacred healing abilities. Each guest can beat the drum as they share words of wisdom.
• Share positive birth stories. There’s nothing better to hear before going into labor than stories of welcoming babies into the world in safe and wonderful ways!
• Give henna tattoos. This ancient practice has taken place across many different cultures. Henna tattoos are done using a special blend of herbs and oils that will make mom feel beautiful before her birth. (Yes, they’re temporary!)
• Burn sage. Sage is known for its cleansing properties. Burning it nearby is thought to clear all negative thoughts and energy.
Braided Bracelet #1: Using one or more long pieces of embroidery floss or yarn, have women stand in a circle and braid the pieces of yarn together, wrapping them in one continuous piece around each woman’s wrist. When everyone has joined the circle, you may have each person say something supportive to the mother as each woman cuts her own bracelet and ties it onto her wrist. The women can wear the bracelets until the expecting mama gives birth as a showing of support. (Some women choose blue and red strings to symbolize the vessels of the umbilical cord, but you can use any colors that have meaning for the mother.)
Braided Bracelet #2: Alternatively, as each woman wraps the yarn around her wrist, she names her mother, grandmothers, and/or daughters (I am Dionna, daughter of Ruth, granddaughter of Genevieve and Irish).From: http://codenamemama.com/2011/10/26/mother-blessings/
A Mother Blessing involves a gathering of the mother-to-be’s most trusted friends and family, who sit in the power of a circle and share amongst one another. Traditionally it is a woman-only gathering and may include her mother, sisters, aunts, daughters, best of friends, mentors – anyone she respects, looks up to or values. It helps the woman to prepare herself for the birth, emotionally, spiritually and mentally, for the all important role of a new mother. She feels ‘held’ and supported by those she loves and respects – a great way to help her release any blockages she may be feeling and to allow her to embrace what’s to come. Hearing other women’s birth stories as you share around the circle can be surprising, exciting and heartwarming to hear. A Mother Blessing can be very affirming, empowering and uplifting.
- It doesn’t matter what religion (if any) the mother is – a Mother Blessing honours all belief systems.
- The guests can bring a plate of food to share (to follow in the theme of sharing), although you may like to provide all the food yourself if you are planning one – but don’t forget to include it on the invite if you wish for them to bring a plate to share.
Mother Blessings will vary in proceedings and rituals, there is no set order or agenda, so you can choose what you would like to do. Since I have not attended a Mother Blessing myself, I decided to ask some women who have had one planned for them, as well as those who have planned Mother Blessings for others, to find out what they and the other guests enjoyed the most.