The upcoming birth of a baby heralds much excitment and many cultures have traditions to celebrate this.
You will have heard of, and possibly have attended, a baby shower where, generally, female friends and relatives of the mother shower her with gifts for her baby. Other cultures focus on the needs of the mother during the later stages of her pregnancy, her transition into motherhood and her preparation for birth.
One such tradition which is becoming an increasingly popular alternative to a baby shower is a Blessingway.
A Blessingway - or Mother Blessing - draws from a traditional Navajo ceremony. The ceremony is (usually) a gathering of women - a ‘women’s circle’ - that involves a variety of rituals to honour the pregnant woman, providing love and positive energy to encourage and support her preparation for birth, and allow her to receive all the positive female energy being offered. The ceremony is designed to reflect the wishes of the mother. It can incorporate any religious or cultural beliefs of the pregnant woman, and includes a range of rituals which can be interpreted and utilised differently from person to person.
Guests are typically asked to bring a candle, a bead (to contribute to a ‘birthing necklace’) and a piece of wisdom: a blessing or poem or some positive practical advice to share about birth, motherhood or being a woman.
There is something very powerful about a women’s circle, where the mother-to-be can share her fears and dreams in a supporting and loving environment. Our society attaches a great deal of fear to childbirth - a Blessingway is the antidote to fear, and can help a birthing woman release her fears and feel strong and confident for her birth.
A Blessingway can help a pregnant woman:
- to be present
- to let go of her fears and to let go of all the scary and unhelpful stories that have been projected on her from family, friends and those ‘friendly’ strangers in supermarkets!
- to really focus on this birth and to separate this birth from stories of her previous birth/s
A Blessingway says “we believe in you”. It forms a community, a connection. It has the potential to strengthen the mother, which strengthens the child, which strengthens the community...
I was lucky to have my amazing friend/ mentor/ doula teacher Denise Love facilitate a Blessingway ceremony for me in 2005 when I was pregnant with my second child.
The ceremony was transformative for me. We were asked to introduce ourselves as “daughter of..”/“mother of..” and shared stories of any special women in our lives who had mentored us in some way, acknowledging those special women who had helped us to become the person who we are today and inviting their ‘energy’ into the room.
I had my feet washed in lavender water (to represent washing away my fears), my belly painted, candles lit and wisdom shared, and a birthing necklace was made from the beads that the guests brought.
At the end we all tied a piece of red thread around our wrists, representing the intention to keep the ‘circle’ connected after the ceremony. The thread was wrapped around each woman attending the ceremony, and was then cut so that each woman could tie a piece of the thread around her wrist. The intent of the thread was to keep the pregnant woman in the thoughts of the guests after the ceremony, so that they could send her their positive thoughts for her birth. They committed to get in touch when the string fell off. Most turned up with meals when this happened after my baby was born.
I felt so loved, supported and empowered. I felt stronger through this connection with the women before me and I felt so connected with my baby. There was an amazing energy that was created in the room that night, and I did not sleep afterwards - I felt so positive and so ready to birth my baby.
It was an incredible spiritual experience and, of everything I had done, it was the best preparation for my birth.
From that point on I unconditionally believed in myself.
It was very special.
Recently I melted down the leftover candle bits to make a new candle. I put it away with a story about the night - one day I will give it and my birthing necklace to my daughter. It feels very sacred.
hunterdoula facilitates Blessingway ceremonies in The Hunter area: