Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Blessingway, Mother Blessings, and Alternatives to Baby Showers

In our culture there are so few ways to honor the mother to be. We make an attempt during baby showers, but for the most part this turns into a simple showering of gifts for the baby and does nothing for the mother in terms of the rite of passage she is about to go through. This sacred time in the mother's life deserves more than gifts of car seats and baby wipes.

While baby showers can be more commercial in focus, the Blessingway serves up a refreshingly sharp contrast. There's no booty of pink and blue gifts. The Blessingway is about the woman we know best - our friend and sister, the mother-to-be.

And while society seems eager to chuck aside the mother in favor of holding a cherubic gurgling baby, a Blessingway provides the mother with memories of a true show of support from her Loved ones.

~ The Basics of a Blessingway ~

Take into account that this is to be an extra meaningful celebration honoring the woman entering into motherhood and/or welcoming a new life, not necessarily a party for the baby.

~ Attendees: preferably keep it small 6-15 guests. Don't invite anyone out of mere courtesy, but make sure the guests are people who really mean something to you and contribute positively to either your birthing, life, or parenting experiences and is supportive of your philosophies. These people often include your mother, sisters, or other close female relatives, best friends, midwife and/or doula, people you would feel free to share your deepest thoughts and cry with. This isn't the time to invite Aunt Edna who you only see at funerals, weddings, and the like.

~ Location: Preferably at one of the guest's home, or your own, that has a calm, peaceful, and relaxed feel about it. If this is not an option, a park or some other serene setting can work.

~ Atmosphere: The atmosphere should be something akin to a candlelight dinner. Consider playing relaxing music, like a massage CD, or the honoree's favorite album. Also burning scented candles, incense or essential oils can immediately trigger a wonderful response by the guests and leave them with a sensory memory of the occasion . Turn off all the phones and pagers.

~ Food: Typically a Blessingway consists of food with some meaning behind it. For instance you can request that each guest brings a dish that reminds them of their mother or comfort food. Or you can have everyone bring a dish that represents the mother's favorite food groups.

~ Blessingway 'Rituals' ~

You want to make sure that whatever you do at a Blessingway, it serves to strengthen and uplift the mother-to-be. Some women are very open to the suggestions below, others like to do something a little more mainstream, such as a day at the spa or going to a 'paint-your-own-pottery' place. Be open to customizing activities to suit the mother's definition of being uplifted.

~ Request that each guest bring a special bead to string on a necklace or bracelet for the mother to wear until and through labor. A nice way to approach this ritual is by sitting in a circle and passing the cord, each guest adding a bead, or beads for each number of children they have, then the mother can add a final bead after the birth to represent her own child. The necklace or bracelet symbolizes the strength of our shared experiences as mothers and women.

~ Similarly a ball of beautiful string (hemp is durable and works well) is used to connect each woman's wrist to one another's in the circle - a web of womanhood. When the cord connects all of you, explains that this unites you all as sisters and represents the circle of sisters and the circle of life. Then you cut the cord, leaving enough length to tie the ends into a bracelet. Explain that though it appears we were then separate, the bracelet reminded us as women, we were all cut from the same ball of yarn. You may suggest that the women wear the bracelet until the birth as a reminder of the strength a group of women can hold for a birthing mother.

~ Candles. Either making them as a group or giving them as a 'party favor'. The reason being is that all the guests will be asked to light the candle when they are notified that the mother is in labor and will leave it lit until the baby arrives.

~ Smudging. Taken from the Navajo origins of the Blessingway, if the Blessingway is taking place in the Honoree's home a bundle of dried sage is often lit, then the flame burned out and the sage is allowed to slowly burn down. This is to symbolize a cleansing of the woman's home, either for a homebirth or for the arrival home from the birthplace, purifying of her soul and blessing for the birth and baby.

~ Belly Casting is another ritual that can be very fun. Either to have the guests cast the mothers belly and chest, or to have the cast already done and ready for the guests to paint or decorate.

~ Painting the mother's belly with henna. Themes to consider for henna painting and cast decorating: Personal heritage, the Mother’s religion or faith, celestial, nature; trees, leaves, vines, flowers, seasons, water, animals, fairies, abstract art

~ Foot washing symbolize readiness for a journey or new beginning, and hand washing will clean away fears. The feet or hands should be dried and can be smoothed and massaged with cornmeal, or anointed with oils. The midwife or mother is usually the one to honor the mother with these aspects, but it can provide a wonderful time for guests to bestow quite words of love and encouragement.

~ Hair brushing and braiding is another way to nurture and pamper the mother. If there is a brush that is, for example, an heirloom this can act as a way to connect the mother to her female ancestors. Adorning her hair with flowers can also help connect her to Mother Earth.

~ Song. Such a wonderful way to invite a loving spirit. Many women like to have each guest sing a lullaby their mother used to sing or one they have used with their own children. If all the guests are familiar with one particular song, say a lullaby, spiritual or hymn, this can also be sung together as a group.

~ Sending away your troubles and fears by having guests voice them, write them on paper, and then burn them from a bowl and sending them away.

~ Storytelling. Either of each woman's personal birth stories (but beware if you think horror stories will be passed around. Remember you are strengthening and uplifting the mother!), or stories of how each guest knows the mother or inspirational stories of each guests relationship to the mother - how they met her, what drew them to her, why she was important to them. This can be done during the hair brushing or foot washing or during candle lighting. This can also take the form of poetry reading or reciting an inspiration story or fable, and either have just one read or invite the guests to bring a poem or story of their own to read.

~ Quilting. Probably one of the oldest form of female rituals. It's very meaningful to ask in the invitation for each guest to bring a customized quilt square that tells of a certain quality the mother possesses. Either assemble the quilt at the Blessingway, or assign a friend to complete the quilt and present it to the mother and baby after the birth. This will become an heirloom that tells a story about the mother.

~ Keepsake Journal. This can be passed around during the foot washing or hair brushing for the guests to write down inspiration thoughts or poems. After the birth the mother can write of the baby's birth story.

~ Compile a 'nurture basket'. In the invitation, instead of baby gifts, instruct the guests to bring a gift that would uplift, inspire, or nurture the mother. This can be gift certificate for a massage or restaurant, bath goodies, books or journals, framed quotes, drawings or photos, luxurious robes or pajamas, teas or chocolates, etc.

~ Be respectful of the mother's religious preference, if any. If all the guests are of the same religious background, these aspects should be incorporated into the Blessingway.

Make sure to take pictures of the event!

Resource Guide:

1) Blessingways: A Guide to Mother-Centered Baby Showers--Celebrating Pregnancy, Birth, and Motherhood by Shari Maser

2) Mother Rising: The Blessingway Journey into Motherhood by Yana Cortlund, Barb Lucke, Donna Miller Watelet, and Pam England

3) Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin

4) “Mothering Magazine – Natural Family Living.” In print and online, visit for more info

Additional Reading:

1) Mother Blessings: Honoring Women Becoming Mothers by Anna Stewart

2) Birthing from Within: An Extra-Ordinary Guide to Childbirth Preparation

by Pam England, Rob Horowitz


Provided by Brevard BirthNetwork at the meeting on October 18, 2008 in Port St John, FL.

For more information on Brevard BirthNetwork, visit:

Also, if you have given birth in the last three years, please visit to share your pregnancy care experience – give feedback now.