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Blessingways - Gathering in Pregnancy

honoring pregnancy Nov 30, 2022

“This is the purpose of creative ritual – increasing balance in connection within ourselves, with each other, the world, and with the larger rhythms and energies that bring stability and light to our lives.”

—Renee Beck and Sydney Metrick, The Art of Ritual

Human history is rich with unique cultural traditions, intended to support families from pregnancy to postpartum. Exploring the history of childbirth worldwide, one can find a myriad of ceremonies, songs, plants, and other elements used to honor and celebrate an individual as they become a Mother or Parent.  

 

What is a blessingway?

If you’re engaged in the pregnancy community, you may have come across the term, ‘Blessingway’ on your Pinterest feed or at a childbirth class. However the term made its way to your awareness, if you’re reading this, the word spoke to something deep within you; a call to weave depth into your journey of bringing life into the world. We all know the process of gestation is so much more significant than our culture makes it out to be.

I invite you to honor that voice inside you by meeting it with openness and curiosity. The desire to be centered and surrounded by support is incredibly valid, as bringing life into the world is no easy task. 

Before I illustrate the myriad of benefits communal blessings offer expecting families, I must first make my intentions very clear. As I do not have a direct connection to the culture, I cannot speak to the full spectrum of importance a Blessingway ceremony offers those who traditionally practice them. To share from my very limited understanding, the idea of a Blessingway ceremony was born from Navajo tradition, intended to honor and celebrate the expecting parent’s initiation and bless the way before them. 

The concept of coming together to honor expecting parents beyond the limitations of a baby shower has grown in popularity - a beautiful thing. Weaving communal recognition, reverence and deeper meaning to the process of transition for a family is a vital remedy to soothe the isolation and depression so many new parents unnecessarily face. Through collaboration and communal connection, we can integrate better ways of being into the spaces where human culture is lacking, without appropriating traditions from other cultures. 

 

Why are we more attracted to a blessingway than a babyshower? 

The cultural traditions surrounding pregnancy many have witnessed in our culture involve baby showers and gender reveal parties. The focus of these gatherings weigh heavily on the baby and often offer little to no recognition of the Mother or expecting parent(s). Far too frequently, Mothers are left feeling exhausted after hosting such parties, as they require quite the output of energy to prepare for and clean up after.

In addition, baby showers and gender reveal parties are often wasteful, riddled with toxic disposable tableware and decorations. Gatherings such as these were born from the patriarchal narrative, where parenthood is stressful and isolating; rooted in capitalism and convenience. We never truly center the mother, even at their own party. 

 

What if there was a better way? 

The rise in Mothers longing for systems, communal structures and traditions that rightfully center them throughout the incredibly tender and vulnerable time of gestation is as valid as it is necessary. Perhaps a means of reducing the high rates of maternal mental health challenges in the United States would involve weaving connection, support and community into their lives through gatherings of similar intention as a Blessingway. 

 

Is a blessingway cultural appropriation? 

I want to discuss the idea of Blessingways as a form of cultural appropriation. Cultural appropriation is defined by “unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, etc. of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society.” As someone who is not affiliated with the Navajo people and understands very little about their culture, to put on a Blessingway gathering with traditional customs and practices I do not understand, would be just that. 

 

Return to your roots 

Tuning into the heart opens the door for us to creatively invite deeper significance to the pregnancy journey. If you prefer looking for inspiration elsewhere, I reccomend exploring your lineage as a first step. Diving into your own ancestral traditions surrounding pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum can be incredibly fulfilling. Though many of these traditions have fizzled out today, human history is rich with cultural practices, ideas and inspiration to support you in forging a better way for your family. 

Your desire to call in something better for yourself, a way of bringing life into a community in alignment with real, authentic love and support is important. Even if researching your unique ancestral traditions turns up scarce, you can weave deeper significance into your communal pregnancy experience simply by creating a gathering that feels best aligned with your desires for connection and recognition. 

 

Create the gathering for you 

Baby showers and gender reveal parties nourish the ‘stuff and things’ aspect of having a child. Receiving an abundance of gifts as an expression of love from those in your community isn’t a bad thing, but the time to bring in something more holistic, significant, and Mother centered is now. Our whole selves are made of many layers. Inviting every aspect of your being to your own celebration will allow for the experience to truly nourish the entire self. 

To create a gathering tethered to your unique desires, you must first uncover what those desires are. Pregnancy expresses herself so differently in everyone, as does the need for support. Some desire physical support such as foot baths and massages, while others prefer a space to share and process emotions. Let us invite our entire being to show up, so that we can receive in wholeness. Below I’ve listed the benefits intentional gatherings can offer to the emotional, physical, spiritual and mental aspects of our being. 

 

  • Emotional Support: Support circles comprised of the Mother’s most trusted community create an opportunity to express and explore the many challenges, wishes, fears, hopes and joys relating to their upcoming birth experience and transition into parenthood. This safe space allows for vulnerability, sacred witnessing, processing difficult emotions and genuine celebration over the miracle of pregnancy. The experience of birth is so expansive; unresolved fear, grief or other challenging emotions have the potential to rise to surface. If the woman or gestating person finds themselves to be carrying an intense emotion, processing and coming to terms with that energy before labor may greatly benefit their birth experience.

 

  • Physical Support: Touch is foundational to so many cultural traditions surrounding pregnancy and birth worldwide. Sharing a conversation in a Doctor’s office may look like prenatal care to some, while receiving a belly massage from a midwife may look like prenatal care to another. As the patriarchal forces sunk their teeth into childbirth culture in America, touch nearly became a lost art. The rise of birth doulas reintroduced touch, as well as the re-integration of community midwives in certain areas. As sovereign, supportive touch is once again welcomed into our culture, people will reawaken the ancient ways of birthing their ancestors once knew and shared with midwives. 

 

  • Spiritual: When gathering with community, incorporating a spiritual influence would create a ceremonial container, compared to the more surface level container of the average baby shower. Ceremonies invoke deeper reverence, presenting the invitation for deeper, more profound experiences of love, connection and joy to unfold. Ceremonies utilize the unique aspects of the celebrated individual’s beliefs to truly honor their initiation. For some, simple prayer, song or ancestral traditions can make the experience so much more meaningful.

 

  • Mental: Preparing the mind first is essential in optimizing the likelihood of a smooth unfoldment of labor. In pregnancy, we call upon different aspects of ourselves to make decisions, cultivate our birth team and prepare ourselves to welcome a child into the world the way we want to. These decisions do not come from the mind individually, rather, we strive to choose with a balance of intuition, education and love. Fear based media dramatizing the birth narrative pervades American culture, making it difficult for many to keep the mind aligned with the heart. Gathering with your community in pregnancy presents the opportunity for mental cleansing and confidence cultivation, supporting the heart and mind connection. In a communal gathering, this may look like sharing positive birth stories or creating birth affirmation artwork. 

 

Should partners participate?

You have the power to create the gathering most supportive to your unique needs. If so desired, non birthing partners can participitate by recieving from the community, holding space for the mother, or both. Many find it beneficial for partners to receive acknowledgement for their process as well, in the container of a gathering or elsewhere. Ultimately, if you prefer your partner doesn’t participate, they are responsible for cultivating the support they need, so they can be supportive to you. 

 

What are some ideas for activities? 

Pregnancy gatherings intended to honor the parent(s) are often filled with meaningful activities that leave the gestating person feeling supported and surrounded by love. There are endless ways to nourish and celebrate the new parent. Unique ancestral traditions to the gestating person, self created ritual ideas, or ideas derived from books and online forms can all be utilize in the creation of this ceremony. 

 

Mother Blessing & Intentional Gathering Ideas:

  • Wrapping beads and thread around everyones wrist, symbolizing the energetic web of support surrounding the parent in waiting. Once cut and tied, these bracelets are often worn until the baby has come earthside. 
  • Place a bowl of water before the honored birthing person. Each member can set a rose or rose petal into the water while speaking one word of affirmation. This blessed rose water can be used for pampering or transferred into a spray bottle for aromatherapy. 
  • Fire can be utilized to honor the parent by lighting candles with verbal affirmations, then re-lighting them once the parent goes into labor. Candles can also be created in a group activity, to be lit when the parent is in labor. 
  • Creating prayer flags resembling words or images of affirmation may be a wonderful gift for the expecting parent to bring home. Guests can also collaborate by painting one large canvas. 
  • Each member can bring a blessed item such as a flower, feather or rock for the birthing person to place on their altar.
  • Pampering the parent with belly casts, belly henna, foot soaks and massages may help them to feel nourished and supported. 
  • Allow the guests to go around the room, offering parenting wisdom, a song, poem or prayer for the parent(s) in waiting.
  • Rather than bringing baby gifts, offerings intended to support the parent’s postpartum healing show a desire to center the parent‘s wellness. Gift ideas include postpartum herbs and teas, epsom salts, essential oils, sitz baths, digestive supportive foods and treats such as prunes and candied ginger, herbal yoni sprays, nipple cream, reusable nursing pads, frozen healthy meals, or anything you intuitively feel may support them in this sacred time.  

 

How do I invite people to my gathering? 

For your invitations, it is important to be clear about the intention of the gathering. If you were invited to a baby shower, you’d likely bring a baby gift and expect to be fed and entertained with games and other, often humorous group activities. You’d put your social face on, and plan to enjoy ample conversation with the group. However, if you were invited to a ceremonial gathering, you would likely come with a reverent disposition, even if a ceremony was a new experience for you. Friends and family members are often excited to show up for a gestating family. As many in our culture haven’t been exposed to the reverent ways of supporting new parents, making your intentions clear is of utmost importance. If you’d like for your guests to provide food or materials for crafting, specify this on your invitation as well.

Invitation Example: 

“Dearest friends, we invite you to join us in celebrating and honoring the birth of Jonathan from man to father and Kara from maiden to mother. We are gathering to create sacred artwork, play with henna, bless water and hold sacred space for the many transformations occurring within their experience of bringing a child into the world. Please contact us if you'd like to bring songs or activities to share as this is a co-creative ceremony. Please bring a nutritious offering for our potluck dinner.”

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