Ask anyone what you “must do” to get ready for a new baby and you’ll probably end up with a list that goes something like this:
- read some childbirth books
- take a class
- visit the hospital/order your home birth supplies
- pack a bag
- have a baby shower
- prep Baby’s nursery, clothes, and accessories
- figure out the car seat
Few people will tell you to have a Blessingway and yet it’s one of the single most valuable things you can do to get your head and your heart prepared to welcome your newborn earthside.
So, what is a Blessingway?
A Blessingway, or Mother Blessing, is a modern take on an ancient practice. Basically every culture has traditions tracing back thousands of years that honor the “birth” of a mother. However, our Western culture, particularly in America, has become very baby-centric. Prenatal and postpartum care focuses primarily on babies and, while we obviously want to ensure the health and safety of our children, we do mothers a huge disservice by treating them as though they are merely a means to an end. Mothers are not baby making assembly lines, machines that grow and produce new humans. Conception, pregnancy, and childbirth are sacred, person-changing events in women’s lives and as such, should be honored and treated with the reverence they deserve.
Enter the Blessingway
Birthing mothers in our culture crave community. They need to be mothered by women who have gone before them. More specifically put, a Blessingway is an event that gathers community around a birthing mother. It is an intimate gathering of trusted friends and family during which a mother is surrounded by encouragement, support, and love. She is held in a safe space where she can acknowledge her fears and where people who know her well can speak powerful love and truth to her heart. It is an event that focuses solely on the incredible transformation that she is about to embark upon in labor.
So, what do you actually do at a Blessingway?
Here are a few ideas, though scouring Pinterest will give you a kazillion more options (as Pinterest is wont to do):
- Have a potluck brunch with 10-15 of your closest friends and relatives, comfy clothing and foot soaks required. This is a good chance for someone to paint your toenails or massage those tired legs!
- Ask all invitees to bring a bead with them that symbolizes a strength, characteristic, or virtue that they see in you or think will serve you well in labor. String these beads on a necklace or strand to wear or hold during delivery.
- Have everyone write or decorate birth affirmations for you to hang up or look through in the last days of pregnancy. You can even take these to the hospital to focus on during contractions.
- Give each guest a candle to light once you go into labor. The knowledge of candles lit simultaneously will remind you that you are carried and held by your sisters.
- Have everyone share their best “Bad Mommy” story to remind you that perfect mothers don’t exist, but a good sense of humor makes a world of difference.
- Hire an artist to do henna on your belly or create a belly cast (these make amazing props for newborn pictures).
- Ask your guests to share a prayer, poem, quote, or affirmation as they lay a hand on your shoulder.
The variations are endless. Blessingways can be customized for any circumstance, religion, season, or culture. What’s important is that the mother feels honored, valued, seen, and held by her community. I think Pam England sums it up best in her book Birthing From Within:
All ceremonies symbolically destroy one world to create a new one. A Mother Blessing acknowledges the mother’s new status, and also helps her say goodbye to the world she is leaving behind.
-Birthing From Within p. 15
So, while you’re reading all the books and discovering how exactly that new stroller fits in your trunk, I encourage you to take the time and initiative to tell your sister, mother, best girls, aunts, whoever that you’d really really love a Blessingway instead of a Diaper Genie. I guarantee that you’ll feel better prepared for childbirth if you make your mental, spiritual, and emotional health a priority…and I think we can all agree that self care is an essential habit to get into for new mamas.