I had no idea I was having a “Blessingway” the first time around. I just knew a traditional shower seemed to be lacking something in the way of honoring my first child. All I knew was that coming together to play games such as “name that candy bar in the dirty diaper” did not sound like a suitable way to bring in new life along with the opulent over focus on presents. It didn’t feel like me. I thought there had to be a deeper, more meaningful way to create ceremony. Some way to create a tribe of support and to bring mindfulness to welcome this new life that felt so big. So I got curious and found a bracelet ceremony. Something that would connect all the amazing women in my life to my child, my birth. This meant tying string around our wrists that represented our interconnection with the lineage of mothers that had come before to bless my baby girl growing inside. I asked one of my best friends to help who had grown up closely tied to a Native American community. She presented a blessing poem that we all cut up in verses and recited once tied together.
It was stunning to bring a sacred form of ritual into the experience of celebrating birth. What’s more, was the profound effect of the blessingway on everyone – not just myself. It was overwhelming, the heartwarming outpouring of that happened afterwards. Those women had come expecting a shower and found themselves participating in a meaningful ritual. Even years later I had mamas asking for the blessing we used in the ceremony to honor their own journeys into motherhood. Clearly, there was something special that had been missing for people.
While I did have Martha Stewart looking appetizer sticks with cucumber sandwiches, we also had life affirmations in the form of art and everyone came together to decorate a belly cast I had done. Candles were made and handed out to light when labor took place. It had a special “something” that honored what was most important – the pending birth and the way in which we all met that.
For a Friend
While this was clearly a departure from the traditional shower, I still had no idea that it was a Blessingway until my friend asked me to plan hers over three years later. When she described what a Blessingway was, I nearly fell over – this way of honoring had a name, of course it did! In Navajo terms it was a place for a women’s tribe to surround and support her. This was a ceremony that had intention to truly welcome life into the world as a village of people that would also be there during labor and after birth if need be.
I took the opportunity to embrace this Navajo tradition and created a circle of support with sage and did the very same bracelet ceremony I had done with my daughter with my own poem I had written as a gift. We also sat and shared in story as we passed beads to my mama friend as another form of blessing her birth.
Now quite pregnant myself with my second child, I took the opportunity to drink in what provided a sense of meaning for my dear friend, and take in what felt most honoring for myself.
A Village Welcoming
While I have about a fingernail of my DNA that is Native American, this wasn’t about mimicking native culture for me. It wasn’t about appropriating another set of beliefs; it was about creating something truly spiritual that resonated, that gave honor. Something that took the idea of celebrating life and made it a real ritual, something that created intentional space and called it just THAT.
The Blessingway for my baby boy combined all the elements I loved and allowed for one of the most magical days of my life. It was simple; I took the advice of my friends and didn’t make it about food or socializing as much as about ceremony. The invite made intentions clear that the only present required was their presence and that we would start off in ceremony by bringing a flower and a bead.
As people entered the house they were welcomed and their flower added to the flower crown that was being created for me. Then, they stepped out back where I was, surrounded my most beloved friends and the midwives that would attend my birth. My favorite yoga music in the background and the afternoon sun casting a golden glow on all of us, I soaked in the love as they co-created a design with henna on my bare belly.
After everyone had arrived we moved to the lawn where we circled, purified with sage and sat in a moment of unity. We then wove thread in the form of a bracelet around each other’s wrists while the same dear friend, and now godmother to my first, recited a most beautiful poem from the Native American culture she participated in growing up. I was then asked to sit at the center while everyone placed their hands on me as a way to touch into the power of what was happening in the moment – to literally feel the support and love of those who had come to be a part of this sacred gathering. I was asked if I had anything to say at which point I managed to get out in-between tears how grateful I was. After all, this moment was bigger than just my baby and me; it was about the larger experience in these moments, what some people define as spirituality. It involved something larger than self, something numinous and collective that lies both within but that penetrates and interconnects. It was that.
Then came the gifting of beads I was to put in the form of necklace to take with me into my birth experience. Like each woman, each bead had a story. Some of them were purchased with meaning behind them, bloodstone for my birthstone, turquoise for my intended water birth or just “this one is so you!” Some were old beads with histories being passed down – like the turtle my friend gave me from her honeymoon, or the Om symbol that one of my friends dug out of her twenties. One came from her boyfriend’s deceased father who had once used the bead in ceremony himself. The tapestry of intention was stunning – what a rich sharing as I sat appreciating each of these beautiful women and the expression of their soul in their moment of gifting.
I tend to follow a more Buddhist path, not that I am particularly Buddhist, but we wrapped up with a singing bowl and tingshas, a more meditative vibe, that took us into being with each other more casually. With decadent desserts we sat around and just seemed to bask in appreciation of the space that had been created for each other while they wrote down sayings they wanted me to take into birth on “flags” I would string together.
It was so simple, a shared, strong purpose…a circle that would be there in this moment, birth and beyond – a tribe of women. I am over 40 weeks pregnant now writing this, ready to give birth any moment. I look back in awe of what I can only describe as what felt like pure magic. In this moment, it still holds such power. This power I take with me as I prepare for labor. The women that came together that day including the three that co-created the experience I am forever grateful for. I was showered with a love I can still feel, visceral, real love that I will be eternally grateful for as my son enters the world, blessed. I hope to take strength from those flags now hung on my wall and the beads I will hold onto with each surge while I give birth. I will carry those women into my sacred journey along with the lineage of all women who have gone before me just as the Blessingway intended.