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Amy’s Blessingway

Guys, I love Blessingways. I love them so much, but sometimes it feels like zero other people even know what a Blessingway is. In my extremely unbiased opinion (cough, cough) I think our American culture does a really wonderful job of preparing families for new babies with things, but not preparing them emotionally or mentally for the changes that come with a newborn. Baby showers are absolutely amazing and totally necessary, but birth is so much more than an opportunity to collect clever onesies and stock up on diapers. We do mothers a huge disservice when we only prioritize things for their baby and neglect their mental and emotional health.

 

Enter the Blessingway.

 

Blessingways, or Mother Blessings, trace their lineage back to traditions of the Dine Navajo people. A Blessingway differs from a traditional baby shower in that the focus is solely on preparing the mother-to-be mentally, emotionally, and spiritually for labor, birth, and welcoming a new soul into the world.

 

I had the privilege of helping host a Blessingway for a dear friend and doula client the other day, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to show off what the morning looked like and what we did!

 

It was such a beautiful day. The mother-to-be, Amy, hosted in her home and we had a delicious brunch with a small group of her close friends. I think it’s important to remember to keep your guest list short. It’s best for the vibe to be intimate, so make sure you’ve got a group of people who feel comfortable being a little vulnerable together. By vulnerable, I mean a group of pals who feels safe to you, who are okay with speaking truth to your heart, praying together, things like that.

 

At Amy’s Blessingway, conversation was joyful and uplifting. We spent a lot of time talking about our own shared labor experiences and got on our soapboxes about how women are far more capable to birth than our culture believes. We talked about the funny parts of our birth stories and bonded over our shared identities as mothers.

 

Amy asked that everyone bring a card with a scripture or quote that would be an encouragement to her as she prepares for baby. Blessingways are not necessarily religious, but the definitely lend themselves to many different faith traditions. The beauty of a Blessingway is that you can customize it to include whatever speaks most to your heart. Birth affirmations, scriptures, quotes, mantras, and prayers all work well here.

 

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We were also asked to bring a bead to Amy’s Blessingway. Beads are a common Blessingway tradition. I’ve had clients string them into necklaces to wear during labor or just put them on a string to hold or look at while they’re laboring. Beads can be a tangible way to count your way through contractions or could be a visual to focus on during labor. When each person gave Amy their bead, we explained why we chose that particular bead and what it symbolized. This is such a beautiful opportunity to speak truth to the heart of a mama and to remind her how strong and capable she is.

 

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Amy’s dear friend, Karolann, explaining her gift beads.

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A Blessingway can be as elaborate or simple as you’d like. Some folks like to include henna art for the expecting mama and her guests. Amy was gifted some beautiful henna belly art before her Blessingway by Kera Marie of Traditions HennaI mean, can you even believe how gorgeous this is? She incorporated the handprints of Amy’s other kids and even Amy’s favorite animal, an octopus…gold stars if you can spot him!

 

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After we finished up all the activities, attendees were given a candle to light when Amy was laboring and a blue string to tie around our wrists to remind us to pray for her. It was a truly lovely and special morning.

 

Ultimately, throwing a Blessingway is just such a beautiful way to hold space for expectant mothers and honor their journey toward birth. Blessingways can also be very healing for mothers delivering babies during or after difficult circumstances like the loss of a baby or another family member, a deployment, or after a difficult previous birth. These ceremonies are also wonderful for preparing mamas for VBACs or even a scheduled c-section. The options are endless! If you’re interested in hosting a Blessingway for a friend or having one for yourself, I do offer Blessingway services. Feel free to hit me up and we’ll plan an event customized to your personality and birth. Happy Blessing, everyone!

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Why You Need a Blessingway

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.