As if being pregnant and navigating the mysteries of childbirth aren't enough, a global pandemic has thrown so many obstacles to your journey. I see you. This is so hard. Birth plans are in a constant state of evolution, as are hospital policies. Many pregnancy traditions, like a babymoon or baby shower, just can't happen while we are supposed to be keeping a safe distance and avoid gatherings. The idea of opening a bunch of presents in front of your family and friends may not be your cup of tea and it doesn't really get to the heart of the occasion: you want to feel close and supported by your loved ones during this time, you want to bask their love and guidance.
While a baby shower focuses on special foods, fun and games, and showering the mother-to-be with gifts, perhaps what is needed during this time is something more grounding and mother-centered, that honors your birth as a rite of passage. If we're being honest, what most women really want is to have the wisdom, love, and support of our village. The celebration and presents are fun, but perhaps there is more that we should be asking from our village.
When we honor birth as a transformative process that requires us to confront the unknown and uncontrollable and dig deep to find our instinctual selves, it makes sense to gather our community. The wise elders who have gone before us, those who are walking alongside of us, and those who may come behind us all have something to bring as we prepare for parenthood.
Many natural birth communities have begun to utilize Mother Blessings or Blessingway Ceremonies, adapted from Navajo rituals for awakening to the natural order. These ceremonies focus on the feminine power of motherhood and creating a circle of support for the woman on her birthing journey and transformation into a mother. I've put together some ideas that could make a celebration of motherhood meaningful for you over a video call.
Gather Your Village
Perhaps you can enlist the support of a friend or family member to put organize your blessingway and act as the host. If you do not feel comfortable asking a friend or family member, perhaps your doula includes this in her services or would be willing to add it to her services for a fee.
Most often a mother blessing is celebrated with women or those identifying as feminine. Invite Grandmothers, mothers, sisters, cousins, friends, your doula, and anyone who you feel is an important part of your birthing and parenting journey. This is not necessarily an occasion to invite a wide array of people. Keep the list more intimate and centered on those who are in your inner-circle and centered on loving and supporting you unconditionally.
Make it Sacred
You'll want to have ritual to set the time apart and officially begin. As part of your preparations, your host can mail each participant a candle and as the ceremony is starting the host may ask the participants to take their shoes off and light the candle. These candles can then be saved for your birthing time, when the participants can light it in solidarity with your journey and as a reminder to hold you in prayer or with good intention.
Read a poem or meditation to begin the ceremony. The poem below is a great example. Use this or perhaps a friend or loved one would like to write something for you or find another poem of their choice.
written by Bridget Sabo, for her sister’s Blessingway
[new mom’s name], sister, daughter, friend,
You are about to give birth not only to your baby but to another role for yourself: mother.
We extend our hands out to you, as strong, loving, patient and wise women,
to hold you and to bless you as you become a mother.
Hands are a mother’s primary tool.
They caress, clean, lift, tie, cook.
They can tell a fever with a touch.
They braid hair and bandage scrapes.
They offer comfort, peace, refuge.
We offer our hands now to both you and your baby.
May you feel held and supported by them as you labor to bring your baby into the world.
May you reach out for them in those first, hard, beautiful weeks of motherhood.
May you hold them in love and friendship and joy as we continue to walk this journey of life as women together.
While on Zoom there is no circle, so the host will have to facilitate an introduction. Each participant can share how they are connected to you. As you move around the group making introductions the participants can also share a special prayer, blessing, or quote that they would like to impart to you.
Some women like to have their guests to bring a bead that will be made into a birthing necklace that can be worn during birth as a tangible reminder of their love and support. They can share the bead at this moment, saying what it means to them and why they chose it for you, and then send it to you or the host after the blessing.
Prayer Flags or Birth Affirmations are often made as women connect and socialize during a blessingway. You can choose to include this in your ceremony by having a social time, or you can ask your participants to make something for you and mail it to you. If you would like something more uniform in appearance, you may have the host provide them with the fabric for a flag or cards for the affirmations. Given the time and their own resources, your village might come up with some really beautiful pieces! Take a look at this tutorial for inspiration.
Sharing Your Journey
This is really individual and customizable, but you may want to take a moment to share your thoughts, feelings, needs, questions, plans with your loved ones and to thank them for being a support for you.
In Lieu of Gifts
Gifts are not a central part of the mother blessing and do not need to be opened during the blessing. If any gifting occurs, it tends to focus more on the mother and her needs. Perhaps your host can coordinate a sign-up to deliver meals to you or offer gift cards for ordering in. Maybe they will gift you with postpartum support or items for her postpartum recovery like herbs for a sitz bath. Many of your friends and family will want to purchase something for you from your baby registry and that's something they can still do independently or for a more traditional shower. Because this is not a traditional baby shower, they may need guidance about gifting.
Once the events of the ceremony are finished, the host can close the ceremony by reading another poem or meditation, such as the one I have included below. The final step would be to have everyone blow out their candle and log off.
Nothing could have prepared your heart to open like this.
From beyond the skies and the stars This echo arrived inside of you and started to pulse with life Each beat a tiny act of growth, Traversing all our ancient shapes, On its way home to itself.
Once it began, you were no longer your own. A new, more courageous you, offering itself In a new way to a presence you can sense But you have not seen or known.
It has made you feel alone In a way you never knew before; Everyone else sees only from the outside What you feel and feed With every fiber of your being.
Never have you traveled farther inward Where words and thoughts become half-light unable to reach the fund of brightness Strengthening inside the night of your womb.
Like some primeval moon, Your soul brightens The tides of essence That flow to your child.
You know your life has changed forever, For in all the days and years to come, Distance will never be able to cut you off From the one you now carry For nine months under your heart.
May you be blessed with quiet confidence That destiny will guide you and mind you.
May the emerging spirit of your child Imbibe encouragement and joy From the continuous music of your heart, So that it can grow with ease, Respectant of wonder and welcome when its form is fully filled
And it makes it journey out To see you and settle at last Relieved and glad in your arms.
Once you have decided what elements you would like to include in your mother blessing, you or your host can ask the attendees to prepare appropriately. If you would like them to share a blessing or quote, you'll want to ask them to have it prepared ahead of time. If you would like to make a birthing necklace, they will need to have mailed the bead in ahead of time or you can ask them to share about it and why they chose it during the ceremony and ask them to mail it afterwards. Any items like birth affirmations or prayer flags can be mailed after the ceremony. It is recommended that you supply your guests with the base for the flags or cards for birthing affirmations with instructions ahead of time.