I’m finally getting to blog about Jessica’s blessingway! I can’t believe it’s been over a month since it happened, time obviously got away from me.
On Saturday, March 11th, I helped organize a beautiful milestone in the life of one of my newest friends, who like me, is also pregnant! Well.. not anymore since her beautiful baby girl was born last week on April 12th. Jessica was 5 weeks pregnant when she told me the news (shhh! it was a secret) and I followed suit just over a month later so it’s been really amazing to have a friend who’s also pregnant share in the journey.
If you don’t know what a Blessingway is, you’re not alone. I had only an idea of what it was when Jessica suggested it to me. But now after researching and actually experiencing one, I really don’t know why these aren’t common place.
So like most people, you probably already know what a baby shower is. You’ve probably either had one planned for you or attended one, or at least had it described to you. However, there is another beautiful pre-birth tradition that not many people know about and it’s called a Blessingway, also known as a Mother Blessing.
A Mother Blessing has evolved from a traditional Native American Blessingway ceremony to a modern gathering that celebrates a woman’s transition into motherhood. Unlike the traditional baby shower where gifts are given to the mother-to-be for the baby, the purpose of the Mother Blessing is to nurture, support, and encourage the mother-to-be while affirming that she will have a beautiful birth experience.
I absolutely love this concept. If you were to ask someone to describe a baby shower, the response you’d most likely get is “where a bunch of women get together and bring gifts for the baby.” There is so much excitement surrounding the impending arrival of the baby (and rightfully so!) but very little on supporting the mother through her birth experience. It’s a beautiful way to honour a mother-to-be, to spend time with other women, sharing stories, conquering fears, and helping the mother to feel confident in her body’s ability to give birth.
So what happens at a Mother Blessing?
A Mother Blessing involves a collection of the mother-to-be’s closest friends and family. It’s traditionally women only and includes her mother, grandmother, aunts, sisters, friends – anyone who has a positive influence in her life, the people she most admires and looks up to. During the gathering, the women sit in the power of a circle and help the mother-to-be prepare for the birth emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically. She feels supported by the women around her and able to embrace what’s to come.
One of the great things about Mother Blessings is that they can vary in rituals and activities so you can tailor it to what the mother-to-be is comfortable with. There are so many options which I’ll go over later.
At Jessica’s Mother Blessing, we started by introducing ourselves to the circle by our maternal line of ancestors. For example, I would say, “I am Stella-Marie, daughter of Elizabeth, grand-daughter of Kathleen.” And of course if you are a mother yourself, you can say, “mother of so-and-so.” Not everyone will know each other so it’s a great way to learn names, but also a wonderful tribute to the women in each of our own families, past and present. Next, the ladies shared their positive birth stories whether it was their own or someone else’s. Obviously this was completely optional. In our case, we had a few mamas with kids in tow who shared their beautiful stories. It was so heartwarming to hear what other women went through, more than a few tears were shed! As a mother-to-be myself, I felt very uplifted by the strength these women possessed, and I felt a new sense of empowerment in my own ability to give birth.
Next, we proceeded with the cording ceremony. Starting with the mother-to-be, each woman wrapped a piece of rainbow yarn a couple times around their wrist or ankle while either saying or thinking well wishes and/or positive thoughts for the mother, until everyone was connected by the string. Then, again starting with the mother, she cut her piece on either end and tied it in a knot, followed by everyone else around the circle. The cording ceremony is the binding of everyone’s wrists with a cord of red wool or yarn, or really any colour of your choosing. It’s traditionally red in colour, however I chose a rainbow yarn to symbolize Jessica’s rainbow baby. Everyone keeps the yarn around their wrists until we hear that Jessica is in labour and once baby is born, we all cut the cord as a symbol of unity. It’s a beautiful way to send positive energy to the mother while she’s in labour.
The guests were previously instructed to bring with them a bead of special meaning and to write a private letter to Jessica. As they arrived, the letters were collected in a box for Jessica to read later and the beads were collected in a small bowl for the circle. Everyone had a votive candle in front of them and after collecting their bead from the bowl, we each lit our candle and expressed to Jessica why we chose the bead. Again, lots of tears! Afterwards, everyone blew out their candle and kept it with them to bring home (sort of like a party favour). Because the hospital doesn’t allow burning candles, we decided everyone would take a candle home to burn when we were notified that Jessica was in labour. Yet another way to send positive energy to the mother during birth. Later, the beads are made into a necklace or bracelet for Jessica to wear while in labour.
The bead ceremony is a great way to get everyone involved in helping to support the mother, even if they can’t be there physically. I asked Jessica’s sister if the ladies in their family could also choose a bead and write a letter that would travel with her sister so that Jessica would feel the support of all the women in her life.
That’s really all there is to it! You can really make it anything you want it to be. Because so many of the women weren’t familiar with a Mother Blessing and had either already purchased or wanted to purchase a baby gift, we decided to combine the Baby Shower and Mother Blessing in one. The party began with all the guests bringing food to share (which was delicious!) and a gift that they placed on the gift table. I was lucky enough to find two incredible ladies who did Henna for Jessica and the rest of the guests – super fun! This was originally part of the Mother Blessing but I thought it would be best to start it at the beginning so that it would have time to dry.
After some socializing, Jessica opened her gifts and then we ended the festivities with the Mother Blessing. A couple other small details I didn’t mention before was the flower crown that I made for her. It came out really pretty, I actually surprised myself, and it’s not expensive to make at all. All you need is a little creativity (let’s be real… Pinterest). I bought a couple bouquets of baby’s breath at the grocery store, some flower wire and ribbon from Michael’s, and I had some twine laying around the house that I added in as well. I also picked up a cute pink box from Michael’s to hold Jessica’s letters that was on sale.
If you don’t have all the supplies readily available for a Mother Blessing, it could potentially get a little pricey if you really wanted to go all out. But you really don’t have to. Luckily, my doula (Jessica and I share the same doula) has been around the block when it comes to Mother Blessings and she provided all the pillows and the tapestry for the middle of the circle. In the center of the tapestry I added a beautiful bouquet of daisies, the birth flower of the little one! I also downloaded some relaxing music to set the mood. I played it from my phone and connected it to a Bluetooth speaker and it worked out really well! You could also sprinkle petals or crystals around the center of the circle to enhance your centrepiece.
All the little touches really made the gathering special and everyone involved mentioned to me later that they enjoyed it. So naturally, I’m having a Mother Blessing at my baby shower as well!
At this point, you might be thinking, “Is this a religious/spiritual thing?” Yes and no. A Mother Blessing does not discriminate and honours all belief systems. But by the end of the gathering, there really is a special energy surrounding all the women and bonding them together. Like I mentioned before, there are so many other rituals and activities you can do and I’ve listed a few below:
- Massage – neck, shoulder, hands, feet. Sometimes it could involve washing the mother’s hands and/or feet in a bowl of water with pregnancy-safe essential oils and flowers.
- A plaster belly cast
- Meal roster – have everyone bring a meal or two that the mother-to-be can freeze and re-heat at home. The idea is to have enough food for two weeks so mom and dad don’t have to think about cooking during the first weeks with their new little one.
- A birthing candle for mothers who are planning on giving birth at home and can light the candle while in labour.
- Poems, prayers, mantras, special quotes to say or read to the mother-to-be while in the circle.
- Birth flags – a collection of cloth or paper banners for guests to paint with encouraging words. The mother can string these into a banner that she can hang at home to remind her of her strength and confidence leading up to the birth.
- Gifts for a birth altar
There are so many ways to make a Mother Blessing special and so many ideas that you can find on the internet. The goal is to have the mother-to-be end the ceremony feeling supported, empowered, and full of love.