Like most women, you probably already know what a baby shower is.
Chances are you have either attended one or had one planned for you in the weeks leading up to an impending birth.
However, there is a beautiful pre-birth tradition which is becoming more popular as word spreads. It's called a blessingway, which is also known as a Mother Blessing.
A blessingway is an old Navajo (native American) ceremony, which celebrates a woman's rite of passage into motherhood.
The westernised version of this is the ‘Mother Blessing' which is the term I will use out of respect of the Navajo tradition, especially having read that the Navajo people don't approve of the name being used this way (I have used it in the title as it is more widely known as a blessingway). Unlike a traditional baby shower, where gifts are purchased for the baby, a Mother Blessing is all about nurturing the mother-to-be and celebrating motherhood.
As with most special events in modern society, baby showers have become very commercialised. If you were to ask someone to describe what happens at a baby shower, the answer would probably be along the lines of, ‘where women get together and give gifts for the baby'. There is also so much focus on the new arrival and excitement of meeting the baby, and very little focusing on the mother.
A Mother Blessing is all about nurturing the mother, and filling her cup so it overflows with love and confidence as she awaits the impending birth of her baby. A woman who is given lots of love has more love to give in return — and there is nothing like a circle of loving women to get that delicious hormone, oxytocin, (the hormone of love and bonding) flowing!
A Mother Blessing is a beautiful and unique way to honour a mother-to-be, spending time with her, sharing stories, debriefing fears and to instill confidence and strength.
What Happens at a Mother Blessing?
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.
A Mother Blessing 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.
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.
What is it Like to Have a Mother Blessing?
Kym had a Mother Blessing organised for her by her best friend, who was also her Doula.
“It was a beautiful afternoon and really helped me face some issues i had about the birth. During the afternoon [after the Mother Blessing], my two daughters brushed my hair and placed flowers in that guests had brought. My doula made a bracelet for baby out of beads that each guest bought and they also bought me a candle each that I lit during labour. I had my feet bathed and massaged. We discussed our hopes and dreams for our family and we prayed about my concerns for the birth. I had been skeptical about the event but it was so inspiring, and put all the family into such a positive place for the labour and birth. It also gave me the confidence to have a lotus birth, which I felt this daughter was asking for.”
Georgia says her Mother Blessing was wonderful:
“All my mama friends brought me a bead and said a little blessing for me and my upcoming labour. I made a bracelet from these which I wore while I was in labour (you can see it in her birth film here). Everyone told me their experiences from their births (my nana surprised me by telling me she'd had 4 vbacs [vaginal birth after caesarean] in the 1950's!), then while everyone chatted, we all worked on a square for a quilt for my son. He now has a quilt sewn by all these amazing women who supported me. It was really beautiful!”
Some Ideas for Planning a Mother Blessing
Helen, who has been involved in four Mother Blessings and has helped to plan others, found that the activities that everyone seem to enjoy the most include:
1. Bead Ceremony
This is a nice way to get everyone — not just those who can actually make it to the event — involved in supporting the mother-to-be. In one case I managed to get hold of the email addresses of a friend who had friends and family scattered all over Australia and the world. Most of them sent in a bead and a note, which meant so much to the mother as she read them. It gives a really nice feeling for the mother to be to feel that she's surrounded by so much love from those around her, with a physical reminder of their presence to have with them at their birth. These beads can then be made into a necklace for the mother-to-be to wear during labour, as per below:
2. Cord Ceremony
Binding everyone's wrists with a single cord of red wool or some other yarn. Everyone then keeps the string around their wrists until they hear that birth is underway ” then they all cut the cord as a symbol of unity. Plus the cord is a nice way to remind others to be thinking of the prospective mother.
3. Flowers and/or Henna
A crown of flowers made for the mother always makes her feel special, and henna [body art, typically on the belly and/or hands] (if you can get someone who does it) is always good fun for the mother and other guests. There are loads of traditions associated with “mother” henna.
Always bliss for a pregnant mama. Head, shoulder, hand and foot massage (maybe not hand if she's getting henna done!) needs no explanation. All these things are done to make the mother feel nurtured, protected, surrounded by love, and supported.
Something else to mention that isn't so much a blessingway tradition but is a popular idea to incorporate: the meal roster! If you can have everyone commit to a meal or two, it can be such a wonderful gesture. The idea is to try to cover at least two weeks, where the new parents won't have to worry about at least one meal of the day!
Bella threw a Mother Blessing for her sister for her last pregnancy.
We all brought a meal to put in her freezer and a bead for her to make into a necklace (actually she made it into a mobile that she attached to her birth pool). We all gathered at one point and as we gave her our bead we told her why we had picked what we had for her. Then we held onto a ball of red yarn and threw it back and forth around a circle to each other and as we threw the yarn we said to the mother what we wanted for her, for her birth. Before we let go of the yarn we wrapped it once around our wrists. At the end we cut the yarn around our wrists and threaded onto it a small red bead my sister gave us and tied them on our wrists. We kept our bracelets on until after the birth. After that we gave her a foot and hand rub and shoulder massage. We also painted her belly with henna “ it was gorgeous!
Gabrielle has attended several Mother Blessings.
Some beautiful experiences i've shared at blessingways are the sharing of birth stories around the circle “ positive stories of the journey of the women in the circle, as well as crafting blanket patchwork pieces for the mother to use with her new baby, singing sacred circle songs, meditations, bellydancing another thing women can do is introduce themselves with their maternal line of ancestors, for example, I am Gabrielle, daughter of Catherine, granddaughter of Patricia, great granddaughter of etc etc it's a nice way to honour those women who have gone before us.
More Mother Blessing Ideas
You can search on the internet for more ideas, but here are some extras to get you started:
- Some women make an agreement to the mother at Mother Blessings to light a candle (even say a prayer as well) in the mother's honour, as soon as they hear that labour has begun.
- Traditionally, a blessing is done in the form of a prayer or poem. It's a lovely idea for the guests to bring a poem or prayer they have found or personally written, to share with the mother-to-be. Someone could be in charge of collecting the blessings and collating them in a book/journal/scrapbook or other special place.
- Bellydancing! Contrary to what most of us may understandably assume “ bellydancing was originally done by women, for women. It is a beautifully feminine art and perfect for your Mother Blessing.
- A plaster belly cast is a fun idea for a Mother Blessing which is also a great keepsake. It can be messy, but guests and the mother-to-be will probably enjoy it even more!
- Mothering the mother “ brushing her hair, washing her feet in warm water (essential oils are a nice touch “ but first check they are safe for late pregnancy) or painting her toenails is a lovely way to nurture her.
If you'd like a Mother Blessing, or for someone to plan one for you, then there is plenty of information online “ you can share this article with your friends and family and search for other information. if you're not confident doing it on your own, some women have started businesses to run them for you, some of them are also doulas.
A Mother Blessing can be a completely healing and loving time for a mother-to-be, at a time when we need to nurture our mothers more than ever. Enjoy and spread the word!