My assumption is that most of you are reading this with the same question…What is a blessingway? My answer to you – something that EVERY pregnant woman needs to fully prepare her for birth!
Although they have been around a lot longer then we have, many women are still in the dark about these important ceremonies. Having just come off my “high” from hosting one of these a few weeks ago, I am feeling the need to share new thoughts. Let’s start with a little history first and then we can talk about why they are a must in pregnancy.
Historically Speaking… Blessingways began as Native American ceremonies to honor and “bless” a woman on her journey to motherhood. Different in essence from a baby shower (which focuses on material needs), this deep-rooted tradition is centered around the woman and her spiritual needs through pregnancy, birth and motherhood. A Blessingway creates an intimate circle of support that will cradle her as she prepares to give birth to her child. Surrounded by the most important women in her life, a mom-to-be can explore the challenges and joys that lie before her, thereby gaining a sense of power, confidence, and support that will help her rise to motherhood (since this is probably the hardest, most unrelenting & yet gratifying job I have EVER had).
Ok, so why is this so important?? My friend said it best during the middle of her blessingway…”I have never been so excited to give birth in my whole life!” (This was coming from a woman pregnant with her 4th girl, so it’s not like she didn’t know the road ahead). Blessingways are kind of like birth itself though, you can try to explain it in words, but you can’t really understand until you’ve experienced it. They are about more than the rituals that are performed. Something happens when a group of women circle around an awaiting mother…there is this calming energy, a sacred cloud that forms around us all. I always came into mine thinking I was ready to give birth, but I left them FEELING & KNOWING that I was ready give birth. There is a big difference!
Now, I am a childbirth educator, so I’m not going to tell you that some sort of birth class isn’t important (knowledge is power and a better understanding of what your body is about to do for you). But again, that is the mental piece of preparing yourself. Blessingways are about the spiritual preparation and anyone who tells me that birth is not a spiritual experience must have slept through the whole thing (which is possible thanks to modern medicine, but that’s another post).
Now your intrigued…so what happens behind those closed ceremony doors? Well lots of things, actually, and it all depends on what the new mama & host feel like doing. Here are some things that are pretty routine at all of them:
– Sage smudging (not just an old hippie custom): sage is known for it’s ability to cleanse, so each ceremony is opened by cleaning the area and all negative thoughts from the attendees.
– Henna: I went full tilt and had a beautiful hennaed belly while laboring with my last child. Those not comfortable with this will often opt for for hand/foot paint – just as beautiful!
– Releasing Fears: this is a BIG ONE! Everyone carries a fear or two (or 10) with them during pregnancy…it is normal. I know it may sound silly & simple, but physically releasing your fears is honestly helpful. Something about this literal act has eased every person I have seen use it. In fact my oldest daughter uses this ritual for her bad dreams..ingenious!
– Positive Affirmations: sounds like the old Sat. Night Live skit, I know, but…these reinforce the fears that you just unloaded, buy welcoming into your journey positive thoughts and images. Silly? There have been hundreds, probably thousands, of studies published about the power of the mind & positive energy, so actually it’s evidence-based.
– Foot/Hand massage: do I need to explain? Who wouldn’t want a hand & foot soak/massage (pregnant or not)! Bonus, they usually involve essential oils and other added benefits.
– Birth Necklace: The tangible item that goes home with the mama. Made of gemstones that possess various properties, this is worn as a constant reminder of those who support and love her. Spiritual & mental prep is fundamental, but having something to physically touch is very helpful, both before, during and after the birth.
A few other things may take place too, like prayer readings (some of the most beautiful things I have ever heard by the way), candle sharing and music.
So now that you have a better visual…Host one for your next pregnant friend, your sister, niece, or daughter. You will certainly win the award for the best, most unique gift! And if you are the pregnant one…tell your friends that you want one, no…you NEED one. I promise you will not be disappointed!
About that friend of mine who was so excited to give birth…she did…2 days later, to a very healthy, very beautiful little girl. When I asked her what she thought of the blessingway and her most recent pregnancy journey, she asked where I had been 10 years ago (when she was having her first). That “high” I mentioned earlier is what I get out of it all. Sharing a new (really, old) tradition with other women, passing on as much knowledge and wisdom that you can to a new or experienced mother and being a part of her journey rewards you with a spiritual fulfillment you will revel in for weeks. Enjoy the ride!