Mother Blessings – What? Why? How?
June 2, 2019
As I start preparing a mother blessing for a lovely mum-to-be, my mind started drifting and I found myself thinking about how little known this ceremony still is and how lovely it would be if every mother could experience it.
As such, I thought I’d write a little bit about this wholesome way of celebrating and supporting pregnant women and their transition to motherhood, clarifying what it is, why have one, and what it involves.
What is a mother blessing then?
A mother blessing is a ceremony akin to a rite of passage, in that it creates a space in time to celebrate the woman who is carrying her child and who will soon welcome them earthside. It is an alternative to the baby-focused (and often more commercially-driven) baby shower.
A mother blessing has also been referred to as a blessingway, a term originating from the Navajo people where it’s used for prayers and rituals connected to peace, harmony, creating and healing. However, there’s been a fair amount of discussion around this term and how it can be perceived to be cultural appropriation (including by the Navajo people), so I prefer to refer to the specific ceremony of honouring the mother-to-be as a ‘mother blessing’.
Ceremonies to celebrate the transition from maiden to mother can be found in various places all over the world and throughout history, which only goes to show how universally recognised the need for marking and recognising this time in a woman’s life as a precious and important transition is.
I’ve mentioned that a mother blessing is different from the popular baby shower. A big difference between the two is that the former is focused on the woman and not so much on the baby. So much of pregnancy is (rightly so) spent preparing for and thinking of the baby. But at a mother blessing - instead of showering the mother with gifts for the baby, playing baby-themed silly games and sharing (more often than not horror) stories about birth and postpartum - the pregnant woman is the guest of honour, who is pampered, nurtured and showered with support and trust that she has everything she needs to birth her baby and to mother them.
But why have a mother blessing?
I’ve said plenty already about the supportive and nurturing nature of a mother blessing. It’s also worth mentioning that it tends to generate less pressure on the mother to play the hostess (as guests are invited to focus on her and in pampering and providing support for her rather than the other way round), and less pressure on the guests for providing brand new gifts that may not even be needed or useful for the mum and baby (and thus potentially creating waste and being more financially demanding).
But really, for me, the main reason to have a mother blessing is that it weaves around the woman a web of support that reminds her that she isn’t alone in this important (and sometimes daunting) time. It gathers around her those that love her and believe in her strength as a woman and as a mother-to-be. By doing this, in a way, a mother blessing reclaims the community and togetherness feel that is so valuable when going through a transition.
It is also a great opportunity to create a network of support for the postpartum period, with guests pledging the support they are able and willing to give once the baby arrives, such as a meal dropped off at the family's door, help around the house, doing some food shopping, etc.
What do you actually do at a mother blessing?
There are many different things that you can do at a mother blessing. Traditionally you would invite the women in the life of the mum-to-be who love her; friends, their mum, sister (blood and soul), etc. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be just for the women. It can of course be open to anyone that the mum-to-be wants to gather around her, so long as they remember that she and the love that everyone shares for her are the reasons they have been gathered together.
Once you have your guest list, and a date and place settled, you can be creative and have fun thinking about what kind of activities and ceremonies you all can share.
You could pamper the mum-to-be by offering her a massage or hand/foot rub, by giving her a flower crown, by brushing and plaiting her hair, etc.
You could also celebrate her bump and do bump-casting, bodypainting or henna tattoos.
Importantly, you would also organise a ceremony that creates the space for every guest to share with the mum their intentions for her, the birth, her baby, her motherhood, and any affirmations of support of and belief in her strength and power. It’s lovely to do that in a way that can be captured in something that she can take with her to her chosen place of birth; affirmations written in prayer flags (think Tibetan prayer flags or even bunting), or even a necklace made with individuals beads that each guest would bring to represent their wishes and intentions.
A mother blessing is also a beautiful opportunity to create a network of loved ones that will be thinking of the mum-to-be when she goes into labour. Often this is done by sending guests home with a candle each, and creating a “contact tree” that will be triggered when the mum-to-be chooses to let the first person know that things have started. This person would then either tell everyone else, or would tell a second person, who would in turn follow a chain to let everyone know. When each guest receives that call, they are encouraged and welcomed to light the candle and send thoughts to the birthing woman. In this way – together – they will be lighting the way for the baby to enter this world.
This chain of intentions and thoughts can also be materialised by weaving around each guest’s wrist a piece of string (often red), literally connecting them all and reminding them of the reason they are linked to each other; the pregnant woman in front of them and their love for her. The piece of string is then cut to create individual bracelets that are to be kept and worn until the baby is born.
Oh and food! There will often be yummy food to share and nourish everyone at a mother blessing!
The most important thing about how to create a mother blessing, is to focus on the mother-to-be. What she likes, what she feels comfortable with and – above all - what makes her feel loved, blessed, supported and empowered as she births her baby and is born a mother.
Still not sure about this mother blessing thing or how to organise one? Drop me a line! I'd be very happy to help :)