This week I have seen so much love poured out on a dear friend as I attended her blessingway and then felt overwhelmed by the love poured out on me at mine! It's only been a few days but I couldn't wait to share about my mine and I hope every mother gets to experience something special like this.
What is a blessingway?
In short, it is traditionally a Navajo ceremony + ritual which celebrated a woman's rite of passage into motherhood. There are all sorts of ceremony rituals to include like prayers and offerings (which is more like the traditional Navajo ceremony), henna belly painting and specific poems (which stem from the more recent blessingways as we venture farther away from the Navajo culture) and most venture to add their own. Recently it has more often been called "A Mother's Blessing" out of respect to the Navajo tradition; since obviously we do not celebrate it in the same way.
I first heard of this tradition when I was invited to a sweet friends. (You can read about her's here: Our Urban Cottage.) (Make sure to look around, she wrote a beautiful blog about her most recent birth!) Before going I was completely unsure as to what it was and half assumed it was just a fun girl hang where we bless our friend who was about to be a mother of two --- and essentially it is, but there is way more intention involved!
How do you host or plan a blessingway?
Hosting and planning a blessingway or A Mother's Blessing is such an honor but can also take a lot of time. What the three of us in our friend community found is when it comes to the ceremony it's actually hard to delegate things. Because it is super intentional and only you can know what you want to be said it's almost easier to let the mother plan it with a close friend or sister. It truly is akin to the intentionality of a wedding ceremony. As far as all the logistics like food and location or things needed like candles and decor- delegate!
location, location, location
This year I'd have to say has been one of the hardest years I've walked through. For all sorts of reasons. The main one being that at the very end of 2014 someone who was like a mama to me passed. I envisioned way more time spent with her and it truly truly has wrecked me in all sorts of ways walking through this year without her. She was a beautiful woman inside and out and had a way of making every person that met her feel accepted. Her hugs are out of this world and she oozed the love of Jesus. Aside from my husband and sweet baby boy I have never felt such tangible unconditional love. All this to say, I spoke with her husband and asked if we could have my blessingway at their home and he said of course "she would have wanted you to". #allthetears
So this is where we had mine, but you can host one anywhere (preferably in a home), just keep in mind that you want it to be a space you feel comfortable and safe.
food, decor, etc.
This is completely up to you and friends. During the blessing ceremony you don't really want food + drink involved because it's best if the guests are fully present. This is why we had everyone take off their shoes and put their phones in a basket! BUT everyone loves h'ordeuvres so it is always fun to eat either before or after. And of course the best girl bonding is over food, right? Yum.
Decor is also one of those give or take things, I loved at my friend Merrill's (mentioned above) she had made birth affirmation flags that she hung in the ceremony room. I knew I wanted pretty flowers and lots of lavender because that's my favorite and what makes me feel calm. I've also been making a birth playlist on spotify (feel free to see it here) full of beautiful instrumental music, so I just played this at the blessingway but any sort of spa-esque pandora station will do as well! (Just make sure you or someone has a paid account so you don't hear a Geico Ad a mid blessings ha. Last SMALL detail I added was diffusing Serenity oil (from Doterra) and Geranium because on most days this pregnancy is so uncomfortable all I want is a hot bath in these oils, so I though it only appropriate. :)
Like I said before, there are all sorts of rituals you can include -- some more traditional than others. I want to simply share what mine was like and then share some links to some really helpful blogs.
statement of intention
"Today we gather in gratitude. We are grateful for the new life we are about to welcome into this world. We are grateful for the presence of Felicia in our lives. We also gather in preparation. We intend to prepare Felicia, giving her strength, support and clarity in Mind Body and Soul for herself, for her birthing and for her baby."
After a friend read this semi-traditional statement of intention she had everyone go around and say their name along with something that they loved about themselves while they lit a candler. I LOVED this. It set the tone of self-love and women-empowerment for the rest of the time we were together.
Because this entire ritual is for mothers it is so important to honor the mothers that go before you. Having my blessing in the space we did AND having my mom there was just the best. I also loved that at Merrill's she shared her maternal lineage dating back to the 1600s! The following poem was read at all three of our blessingways by our mamas.
Close your eyes and breathe deep.
Breathe in peace, breathe out pain
Imagine your feet, toes curling into dirt
Think of yourself as rooted, think of your place in the earth
How did you come to be here?
Through generations of women named
A maternal lineage
Think of their birth stories,
What you know, what you believe to be true
Realize that their births carry deep wisdom
Each birth is a powerful experience, each birth traces down to you.
Just as you pass this knowledge onto your baby
Understand that your birth is your own
It will be different from all others, like the swirls in your thumb
Your birth will have a unique pattern, unfolding with each contraction
Rising and falling like a newborn’s chest
This birth belongs to you.
This birth is the end and a beginning
May this blessing of birth come to you without fear
May this blessing of birth come to you with great understanding
My this blessing of birth make your heart soar
May this blessing of birth bring shouts of delight to your lips
birthing without fear
"Next, let us help Merrill release her fears surrounding birth. Giving birth is a releasing process. The process of letting go of fear is one of the most powerful parts of a blessingway. By Merrill releasing her fears, that space can be filled with new openness and love."
This is a HUGE part of a blessingway (I think). And everyone does it differently. Assuming you have only intentionally invited people you feel safe with, this is a time to get comfortable with being vulnerable. Before the ceremony spend time in prayer or meditation and really be honest with yourself. What are you fearful for in your birth? Write those fears down so you can share them at your blessing.
My friend who led me through this during the ceremony had me write each fear down on a piece of paper, she prayed over me, had me breath deep and imagine myself releasing the fears as I exhales. Then we burned the fears! It was a great symbolic release of the fears I had and I felt encouraged and supported!
“A woman in birth is at once her most powerful
and most vulnerable.
But any woman who has birthed unhindered understands
that we are stranger than we know.”
- Marcie Macari
Hopefully the women surrounding you have all been present and a part of your ceremony up until this point, but here is where they really get to be involved! Each guest was instructed to write down a birth affirmation on a piece of paper. Then they went up to the mother and read it to her and placed it beside her chair so she can have them all to read during labor. This is where my love-tank was overflowing. Each friend had such kind words to say. And at Lauren's each guest painted their hand after and placed it on her belly. It was so sweet and I loved that she made the ritual of painting the mamas belling her own.
Taking time to bless your baby during this time is so important. I know for me, releasing fears, being filled with love got me even more in tune with how much I loved sweet baby Ezra growing in my womb. Another friend had previously prepared a blessing read and prayed it over me after she read the following poem.
May Ezra know the welcome of open arms and hearts
May Ezra know he or she is loved by many and by one
May Ezra know the circle of friendship that gives
and receives love in all its forms
May Ezra know and be known in the heart of another
May Ezra know the heart that is this earth,
reach for the stars and call it home
And in the end
May Ezra find everything in his or her heart
and his or her heart in everything.
by Danelia Wild
My husband is just the greatest (in my biased opinion), he has been so involved in this entire pregnancy and is/was so involved in Harper's birth and little two years of life. I'm blessed to be so loved by someone who takes such interest in these sorts of things. He is also a writer, so I asked him to write something to be read at my blessingway and here's what he wrote. Another friend read this over me and closed us in prayer.
"You will go in a second time
To that sacred place
With the resolve of all women
Throughout history who have
Collectively shown our eyes light.
As you enter-
May you know that old strength
Fortifying your own.
Amid pizza cravings
and subsequent heartburn,
Lost sleep and compressed bladder,
Those eyes within develop
The cocooning embrace
And soon the introduction.
As you enter-
May you know the safety of embrace
Your womb now gives our Ezra.
You will go in a second time
And know a travailing wonder
of which, men can only groan incoherently
And write stupid poems.
Then, seeing those alien eyes-
Yours and mine
May you know transcendent joy
of a new breath on earth."
- Tyler Dougherty
Because a blessingway is mostly centered around your friends gathering around you to bless you spiritually, material gifts aren't a main theme at a blessingway. But as this becomes more popular in the birth world and as it replaces the need for cheesy games at a baby shower, gifts can totally become a part! I received a few cards and gifts which of course are happily received as there are definitely last minute things that come up when having a second baby! If this is your first, I'd say either have a separate baby shower or combine it together and skip all the cheesy games!
Because gifts are my love language to give and to recieve I was excited to do something "untraditional" and I wanted to gift each of the women that attending something. One of my closest friends, Lauren Ellis happens to have her own jewelry shop called Ellis Fine Jewelry. Her and I teamed up and made necklaces for each person (she did all the making, really but I picked out the stones!). The stones were opalite to signify a dream she had about my birth and she made a unique one for each woman including me! This was my special touch on the traditions, you make it your own!
I read somewhere that the entire Blessingway ceremony is a template for childbirth. The beginning rituals are like nesting and early labor. The grooming and washing [and releasing fear] like active labor. The gift giving [and birth affirmations] like giving birth and the closing songs/prayers, delivery of the placenta and postpartum. I think this is a beautiful template for planning your own blessingway, or Mother's Blessing as I should say. I did find the following blogs very helpful: Mother Rising, Talk Birth, and Twin Cities.
All in all, make it your own. Whatever your beliefs. Mine was more "christian-ey" than most and a lot are more "new age" as some might say. Whatever you do, do it with intention and sacredness. As my friend Lauren E. said, all of us are born. We have a tendency to forget how important and brave birth is because that's how we all got here. So take the time to honor the sacredness of bringing life into this world!