Having a baby is a huge deal. I've had two kids already, both were home-births. I'm just about to have a third baby, and this one will be a home-birth too. Even though I've done this twice already, it has been 7 years since the last one and I've had so much anxiety throughout this pregnancy that I didn't want to even think about the birth for a majority of the time. That apprehension and well, downright fear of this birth is one of the reasons I decided to have a Blessingway. My wonderful friend Jenny helped me to do it and I wanted to share the experience.
Realizing that I can go on and on (it's a mom thing ok, we finally get an adult to talk to and we'll talk your ear off, LOL) please feel free to skip down a few paragraphs past the background story to get to what happened at the Blessingway.
What is a Blessingway? The really short easy answer is a Blessingway is like a Baby Shower but instead of focusing on the baby, the focus is on the mother and supporting her in the upcoming birth/labor. So a party! I love planning and figuring out parties and this was a whole new playing field. But as time went on I discovered that I wanted more than a party. I needed more than a party. I discovered that a Blessingway isn't about having a one night event, it's about bringing together a group of people you love and care about to have them support and care about you and your birth. It's about opening up and allowing yourself to be pampered and all but also allowing yourself to be vulnerable. So while we had a one night event, the purpose was to create a community and support group that I could communicate with up through the birth. So I made a facebook group where both myself and the members could post and share for more than just the Blessingway event. This was especially important for me since a majority of those I wanted to include live too far away to come to the party part of the Blessingway but I wanted them to still be able to participate.
What do you do at a Blessingway? When I first heard the idea of a Blessingway, it intrigued me and I read up multiple articles and ate up whatever pinterest would feed me. (I'll freely admit I'm a pinterest junkie) Most of these articles will start out by sharing how the term Blessingway comes from a Navajo ceremony which celebrates a woman's rite of passage into motherhood; a ritual created to spiritually support and empower the new mother. It is also often referred to as a Mothers Blessing Ceremony. Outside of that concept there are a myriad of ideas as to what to actually do at a Blessingway since there are many different ways for a woman to feel supported and/or empowered. The sense that comes from a majority of the ideas out there is more along the lines of a calm spiritual experience than a party, and for many women it's a welcome change from the melted candy in the diaper games that are done at Baby Showers. Most Blessingways have some way of pampering the mom, be it a pedicure, brushing her hair, a nice massage, flower crowns, or doing a belly cast. Then there is a few things the guest do to "bless" the mom, such as reading poems they wrote for her or writing positive affirmations/prayers on flags or stones for the mother to keep or tying a cord around their wrist as a bracelet to keep until she's had the baby so they will have the mom in their thoughts whenever they see the bracelet. The list of ideas stretched on and on which is nice because you can tailor it to your own taste and comfort.
Who do you invite to a Blessingway? I have to be honest that this is where I ran into some problems with my Blessingway. A Blessingway is something new and different, and I worried about people not coming because of that. Terms like blessing, ceremony, prayer, ritual - I worried about those offending people and turning people off, especially some of my friends and family. I felt fine and comfortable inviting tons of people to my baby shower (yes you can totally still have one even if you do a Blessingway and even if it's not your first baby, you always need more diapers and they can be a lot of fun) but I really was unsure of who to invite to my Blessingway. For me I almost looked at who to invite to my Blessingway as who I would be comfortable having at the birth, so it was a pretty big deal. While most people are happy to come to a party where they play silly games, having an event where you might openly talk about labor is a bit of a different story. And a Blessingway is all about positive thoughts and so many people share horror stories about labor. I haven't had a ton of open support with my decision to have a home-birth and heap on top of that all the anxiety I had been going through for months it's no wonder I didn't want to really open up to the world. It can be hard to say you're scared of something, to be vulnerable and ask for help and while most people probably didn't see this "party" as me opening up and being vulnerable, that's what it boiled down to in a lot of ways. In today's world, the "mommy wars" are real, and there's so many judgements and craziness out there with regards to how you have a baby and what you do with said baby compared to the rest of the world that I got to a point where I wanted to just become a hermit and hide. Sure I have friends who would totally get into the hippie new age feel of a Blessingway, who would love participating if I did some type of prayer circle or would be open to talk of goddesses and Heavenly Mother. But some of them aren't super close friends so I didn't feel completely comfortable having them at my Blessingway. And then there's those who I knew would be so uncomfortable with even the type of food I wanted to have that even if they are family I just figured it was better to have them participate in the Baby Shower instead. But it was very hard for me to allow myself to have a special thing where only some were invited. Yes I overthink things a lot and worry about others approval a lot, but I like to see it as I care about other people and I'm still growing and learning to care about myself also. This all came to a head when the majority of those invited were not able to come. I felt like I had opened up myself just to be let down but even though the attendance at the Blessingway was small, it still happened and I still felt loved and empowered. And there were those who lived far away that still participated and so the underlying reason to have the Blessingway was fulfilled and I am very grateful for those who did participate and the whole experience has helped me in many ways.
So how did we do My Blessingway? On to the fun stuff. I really felt like I wanted an India theme to my Blessingway. A lot of Blessingways I looked at had a very Celtic, fairy type feel to them and that is totally up my alley and all but for this I wanted something really new and different. I was inspired by bright colors and pom poms, and by Tiger Lily's headdress in Pan which is inspired by Peruvian headdresses.
Yep, I really wanted pom poms so my friend Jenny and her kids made a whole bunch that we used for decorations and I made a pom pom headdress for myself.
I also wanted Indian food, even though I had only tried some maybe once in my life before, but it just so happened that Jenny knew how to make some! I also happened to have some tapestries and fabric that had an India feel to it and I really wanted to do henna which is an India tradition. The first friend I had lined up to do henna on my belly got mono so she could not make it. The second friend was not able to come to the party so she did my belly the night before. This turned out to be a good idea since it took awhile to do the henna design on my belly partially since the baby was moving like crazy while she was trying to put the henna on.
I also used some fun pictures and affirmations that inspire me for decoration and hung up a photo of myself in silhouette.
Those who were invited to participate in the Blessingway, regardless of coming or not, were asked to bring or send a bead that could be put together as a necklace and to send a note of encouragement. When guest came we had a spot where they could wash their hands in some lavender water as a way to wash off the day and step into the event. Guest picked a cord to tie around a candle, and we tied one for those who couldn't come, and I have that candle to light during labor.
The notes of encouragement were written on flags to hang up in the room I'm having the baby in and those who came to the party also wrote short positive thoughts on rocks that I have now placed all around the house so I'm constantly seeing them.
I made a music playlist on YouTube and that added a wonderful aspect to the mood. I got some extra henna from my friend that did my belly and I did some designs on the wrist of a few guest. I didn't have time at the Blessingway but the day after I did my own hand with some henna too. I love how the baby footprint above the lotus flower on my hand turned out. After the party while things got cleaned up I did some henna on the kids too.
I got a foot soak with epsom salt and lavender, and we had little bags of this for each guest as a favor. I also found little elephant beads that we tied to each bag as an additional present from me and that tied into the India theme well.
The Indian food was amazing! I bought some plain Naan and garlic Naan from a local restaurant along with some Gulab Jamun, a dessert that's like doughnut holes soaked in a sweet syrup. Jenny was super woman, making basmati rice, two chicken dishes ( I think one is called Chicken Tikka Masala) and another dish with squash and a bunch of other amazing tasting stuff. My midwife brought a soup called Saag Shorba from another Indian restaurant and everyone really loved it. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law came and brought fruit with a great dip made from sour cream and maple sugar. We all ate so much our bellies hurt.
We strung all the beads and charms on a cord and it was fun to see what people gave me and how they matched the person so I can easily remember who they came from.
The last thing we did was probably the most ceremonial: I had written down my fears with regards to the birth and I got to burn them and while they burned I read the positive thought rocks. The juxtaposition of having those fears burning next to the candle covered in cords representing all those who support me, which I'll burn during the labor was very powerful. Now that it's been a few days and I've digested the whole experience I can say that it all had a very big effect on me and I have been feeling better now than most of the whole pregnancy.
|I AM NOT AFRAID - next to the ashes of my fears|
Overall this was an amazing experience! It was a lot of fun and I am so grateful to all those that helped out, came out and participated in any way. I especially want to thank Jenny for not only being willing to host the Blessingway at her house but also being so supportive this entire pregnancy. A Blessingway is different but I would highly recommend them!