Blessingways: Why they should be on the top of your pregnancy To-Do list

blessingway mama

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!

 

Vegetarian…why you should welcome it into your house (you wanna read this one!)

You may have been reading a lot about the war on Monsanto lately, or hearing about it on the radio, or skimming past it on Facebook…it’s everywhere.  Let me preface, that while we are most definitely against GMO, this is not the topic of today’s discussion.  All this news has, however, led me to ponder even more about my family’s diet.  I say more, because you already know that I am a label reading mother that spends many weekly hours planning and preparing healthy, non-genetically mutated food for my children.
So where am I going then? Here’s a little hint…

vegetarian-food

Yep…the Vegetarian Diet.

For most of my twenties I was a proud veggie – refusing meat, stuffing my face with way too much pasta, but sleeping well at night.  Then I started to date a very cute & very fit athlete.  He re-introduced me to my love of competitive exercise and I found myself back in the racing circuit, looking for 2 a day workouts.  And while he did eat healthy, he was an occasional meat-eater.  It wasn’t necessarily the peer pressure, but I began searching for additional foods that supported my new routine.  Soon, chicken and fish were on my plate, but I stood strong on NO meat.
(Fast forward to a marriage and my third pregnancy.)  Standing at a summer cookout, burgers sizzling on the grill…I caved.  It was like those cartoons where the smell makes its way across the screen, up the person’s nostrils and they float in air to it, like they were fish caught on a rod.  I, for one, am racking it up to pregnancy…my daughter must have needed more protein, right?  How after all these years did meat suddenly becoming appetizing?  Either way, I slowly added meat back in and now here I am, eating it close to once a week (all grass-fed, of course).

I like to believe that timing is everything and things happen for a reason.  So, thank you Monsanto, for causing such a stir in the media that, once again, the importance of what we eat and where it comes from has been brought back to my attention.  Here we are, working our way back to a more plant based diet and actually excited about it!

Vegetarian, Vegan…what’s the scoop
Vegan: NO animal products (meat, poultry, fish, eggs). Not even honey! Anything that comes from an animal (whether it was harmed or not) is a No No.
Vegetarian: NO meat, NO poultry, NO fish.  Mainly fruits,veggies, legumes, grains, seed & nuts.
Lactovegetarian: See vegetarian, but you MAY enjoy dairy!
Ovolactovegetarian: See lactovegetarian, but you MAY also enjoy eggs!
*most vegetarians in the US follow this one

Why you should go veg or at least more veg than you are now
1. Vegetarian diets lower your risk of the following:
Heart Disease
Certain Cancers (Colorectal, Breast, Ovarian)
Diabetes
Obesity
Hypertension (HIgh Blood Pressure)
Why, because they are typically lower in fat and higher in fiber (unless of course you eat              cheese and white bread for every meal).

2. Vegetarian diets can be simple, inexpensive and easy to prepare.
-between cookbooks & Pinterest, veggie recipes are a no brainer.
-no animal products means no keeping up with which salmon is the safe one to eat
-rice, veggies, fruit & beans are a whole lot cheaper than filet mignon
-you can grow your meals without needing a pasture and a license

3. Vegetarian foods DO offer a diet full of enough nutrition
Even pregnant…a vegetarian diet is safe (its always beneficial to talk to your provider about what your needs are during pregnancy, making sure your vitamin intake is sufficient)
Protein does not have to come from an animal source.  Nut butters, kale, spinach, tofu, quinoa, sprouted-grain bread…the list goes on (and its all yummy).

4. Athletes can’t survive on a vegetarian diet – NICE TRY!
      Yes, I did believe this in my younger years, but I obviously didn’t do my homework.  There are lots of professional athletes and endurance athletes (I’m talking ultra marathoners and extreme cyclists) that not only survive on a veggie diet, but compete and win!  See above list of food examples.  (www.mindbodygreen is a good resource)

5. You may actually FEEL BETTER.
-Stomach problems gone or lessened (thank the Fiber for this)
-Feel lighter and cleaner (overall)
-Skin clear
-Headaches gone or lessened
-Allergies improved or disappeared (Dairy & Gluten are the most likely culprits)
-More Energy, Better Sleep
-Hair & Nails stronger, healthier
These are the comments made by newly converted vegetarians & individuals who improved their diets with a more veg foods.

6. Lessen your exposure to environmental toxins
One of the reasons you should buy local & grass-fed meat is to avoid hormones.  Many commerical farms feed their chickens, cows, pigs…hormones or steroids to speed up growth and milk production.  Yes, its true.  Which means that you, in turn, are consuming these same hormones and steroids (hello increase cancer risk, among other things!)

So now what do you think?  Any of these reasons sound good enough to you?

I won’t promise you that I’m not going to eat my (grass-fed local) burger at the next cookout, but I will tell you that the kale and quinoa will be a’flowin at our house this summer.  So I invite you to join me…add more vegetarian options to your repertoire and let us know how your body has thanked you.  I’ll keep you posted on our end too!