Honoring the mother a woman is becoming
Embracing pregnancy as a Solo Mom isn’t an easy path. The work, the worry, and the weariness all belong to you. One minute you are overwhelmed with love for the being dancing inside you, and the next you can barely keep your eyes open as you wash the dinner dishes. In the rush to prepare, work, and rest as much as you can, you may not be giving yourself a chance to gather friends, pause, and reflect on the fact that you are becoming a mother.
Your office mates may have chipped in to get you a car seat or Diaper Genie and toasted you with apple juice and a cupcake, but did anyone really honor you?
Baby showers focus on the baby. Guests play games to guess the birth date, give cute little onesies, and try to identify baby food while blindfolded. It’s designed for the new mom to get supplies for and welcome the baby.
Blessingways focus on the mother. Guests share wishes for the mother, make things to give the mother strength and support, and listen to her dreams and her fears. Blessingways honor the mother a woman is becoming and are meant to be customized for each woman. Some women want a small, intimate circle. Others invite extended family and the neighbors for a larger event.
Women of all ages, backgrounds, and cultures seem to intuitively know how to be present at a blessingway. One woman I worked with was worried that her religious neighbor and elderly aunt would think the whole thing was weird, and she was happy to see them embrace the rituals and deeply enjoy the afternoon. Women know how to be together in all kinds of scenarios; we’ve been working in groups for eons.
The elements of a blessingway are simple:
- Open the ceremony by welcoming guests
- Honor, nurture, and acknowledge the mother-to-be
- Lead the women in shared activities
- Feast with plenty of food and drink
- Complete the ceremony with closing remarks
To organize a blessingway for yourself or another Solo Mom, there needs to be some discussion about intention, as it will focus and inform the ceremony. Ask the pregnant woman to consider these questions:
What do you need from your community as you become a mother? Do you need to share your fears, feel your strength, or ask for help?
Whom do you want to invite? Usually women invite their closest friends and family, not their whole e-mail list. It’s also fine if the invitees do not all know one another. Start the blessingway by having each person introduce herself and share how she knows the mother.
When and where? Blessingways often are done around the eighth month in the mother-to-be’s home when she is starting to focus on birth and beyond. It helps her to have the blessingway fresh in her heart as she goes into labor.
One of the best parts of a blessingway is making a tangible memento for the mother-to-be to keep. These are some of my favorite to make together:
- Necklace or bracelet. Each guest brings a bead that has significance for the mother.
- Blessing basket. Bring something that symbolizes good mother qualities to put in the basket or bowl.
- “Seeds of change” garden. Each person brings flower seeds to plant in a family garden (or guests can also plant a tree, with each person putting a paper blessing in the hole).
- Birth banners. Decorate a banner or flag with your wishes for the new mother.
- Circle of hands. Along the top of the baby’s room or on a piece of furniture, each guest makes a handprint to show her love and support.
While you are involved in the activity, go around and have each guest share a memory about the mother-to-be that demonstrates her qualities as a mother.
Don’t forget the feasting part! Sharing food is a custom that all people share. Add a birthday cake and sparkling cider.
A blessingway provides a safe and loving space for the mother-to-be to sink into her circle of support and feel cherished and held. To help create that sacred space, ask guests to turn off cell phones, sit in silence for a few minutes, and breathe. Have someone open the circle with a poem or prayer, and remind everyone that you have gathered to welcome a new being to the world and to welcome a new mother to your community. Light a candle, and feel the lineage of all the women who have come before you in the cycle of birth. One way to make introductions is to share that lineage by introducing yourself with your name and mentioning that you are the daughter of ____, and granddaughter of ____ and ____. This is a simple and beautiful way to honor your family who came before you.
There isn’t a wrong way to do a blessingway. You can bring in your culture and customs or make new ones. The most important part is to go slow, allow the mother-to-be to share her feelings and to close the circle knowing she feels the love and support of her friends and family as she brings her child into the world.
If you want more information on all the ways to honor women becoming mothers, please check out my book, Mother Blessings: Honoring Women Becoming Mothers (WovenWord Press, 2006), and the support you can get through your blessingway can also help you plan your birth, your way.
Many blessings, my Sisters!
Are you expecting? Check out our closed Facebook group ESME Pregnancy for connection and support.
Anna Stewart is ESME’s Kids with Special Needs Resource Guide and the Solo Mom of a daughter and two sons on the brink of adulthood. She’s a champion for the rights of people living with disabilities and those who love them.
Please feel free to contact us with any comments or questions.