By Lauren McClain
We throw baby showers to show support when someone we care for brings a baby into their family. Baby showers, as the name implies, have a strong focus on the baby, and on material offerings. Mother’s blessings offer a different way.
A mother’s blessing, or blessingway, is a gathering of women based on the traditional hoshooji (blessing ceremony) offered by the Navajo in North America. GeorGina Kelly, a mindful birthing midwife, tells us in Pathways, issue 53, “A Way of Blessing,” that this nine-day ceremony was a spiritual gathering of storytelling, grooming rituals, and surrender to the power of birth. It honored the pregnant woman’s strength and creative power.
Modern blessingway gatherings have a wide variety of activities, but all focus on the mother. Coming from the culture of baby showers, a mother’s blessing may be a difficult transition to make. We often have trouble accepting attention, honor, and spiritual gifts from our friends and family.
A mother’s blessing offers an opportunity for us to connect with each other as divine creative beings and with the mothers that have gone before us. It’s a way to acknowledge the life-changing and person-changing effect of having a baby and becoming a mother.
A blessingway is an opportunity to pledge your support for the new mother—emotional, physical, spiritual support. It shows we take this bringing-of-life very seriously and with great love.
Offering a ceremony in honor of the woman, Kelly says, acknowledges that pregnancy and birth are not just physiological events but cosmic ones. They’re “bardos—windows of opportunities for liberation and enlightenment…highly charged with potential for transformation.”
Too many women begin caring for their babies completely adrift—shocked by the change that has been wrought and wondering quietly if it’s this way for everyone. A mother-focused gathering, with a degree of gravity and intention, will help form bonds that support the mother through her birth and beyond.
Here are some ideas for blessing the mother, some blessingways:
Ask each guest to bring (or pick from a big bowl) a bead that symbolizes their wish for the mother. Offer the beads to the mother along with your wish, prayer, or intention for her birth and mothering. String the beads for a bracelet or from a stick as a decoration. She can wear it or look at it to remember the support her friends have offered.
Ask each guest to bring a dried herb or essential oil. Have a big tub of Epsom salts for them to pour their offering into. At the end of the gathering, everyone takes home a jar of woman-power foot or body soak.
Introduction & Story
Go around the circle and have each woman introduce herself by saying “I’m (name), daughter of (her mother), granddaughter of (her grandparents).” Saying their names is a way to honor those who came before us and the matrilineal nature of birth. They can also say something about how they feel about their children and/or a positive birth story or thought.
Provide paper or fabric flags and markers for guests to write on. Each person can write an affirmation for positive birthing or parenting. String these together to create a nice banner for the nursery or birth space.
Indoor ceremonies should have candles for the warmth and hygge they provide. Candles also make great favors for guests to take and light when she is in labor, or whenever they’re thinking about the new mom.
Bring a henna artist for the mom’s belly and participant’s hands. Or just use paint to decorate the mother’s belly with a meaningful design.
Notes for Postpartum
Provide pens and paper so that family and friends can write letters of support for mom to read postpartum.
Make bread together. Everyone gets their hands in, making it a communal, growing effort.
Offer a foot bath for the new mother with some calming aromatherapy and a foot massage.
Braid each other’s hair, and adorn the new mother with flowers or beads.
If the mix of people is right, put on some meaningful music and dance together! Belly dancing is especially good for women’s events and pregnancy!
Someone with a guitar? Raise your voices together and sing it all away!
Ask everyone to bring or submit a song for a labor playlist.
Abundance, new life, fertility, and love! Flowers are a great aspect of a fertility rite. Maybe make a crown of flowers for the mother’s hair.
If your group has the means or wants to contribute, set up a postpartum doula fund for the pregnant family. Maybe an “order dinner out” fund? Or everyone can sign up to bring a meal and/or come by for two hours one day, postpartum, to help and chat.
Lauren is a childbirth educator (Birth Boot Camp) and the author of the Breech Baby Handbook. She owns Better Birth Graphics, a shop full of practical, intuitive birth media for professionals. Her work has been published in Mothering, Holistic Parenting Magazine, Birth Issues, True Birth, Mama Birth, and elsewhere. She lives in Maryland with her family of five.