Monday, January 25, 2010

The Blessingway

"Just as a tree grows best when anchored firmly in the earth, so can a pregnant mother feel strong and capable when supported by a sisterhood of nurturing friends."
-April Lussier

I think every baby should have a shower. There. I said it. In Upstate, NY, it's not common to have baby showers for any but your first child. Doesn't matter if your subsequent children are a different gender or different time of year. Only if you're lucky (meaning have really close friends or family who think every new baby is worth partying for) will you get a second shower to help you collect your newly needed items.

When I've heard of women having showers for subsequent children, I've also heard complaining on the guests' part. Why does she need another shower? She must already have everything she needs. I gave her a lot last time! These comments make me uncomfortable to think about having a shower for my second child. Good grief, I wouldn't want someone feeling obligated or unhappy to give my child something!

I guess I look at things differently. For one, it's not like you need to give a gift when someone has multiple children. I think a home cooked meal, a nice note of encouragement and support, or a coupon for a free afternoon's worth of house cleaning would THRILL any expectant mother! Secondly, when did our focus for showers move from the coming baby to ourselves and our pocket books? The point of a shower shouldn't be simply to get gifts--instead, it should be to celebrate a new life, a beautiful birthing, and a changed family.

I love the Blessingway model of celebration, and think it's a beautiful compliment or alternative to our standard baby showers. Started by the Navajo Native Americans, a blessingway is like a shower, but it focuses on the mother instead of the baby. While blessingways were ceremonies designated for all sorts of different life passages in the Native American culture, the most common one still held today is for pregnancy/birthing.Women who are close to the expecting mother all come together in the days before her birthing to bless her with encouragement, prayer, support, and love. There may be prayer, singing, foot washing, or special readings at a blessingway, holding firm to the traditional feeling of a ceremony. Belly casting, bead giving, and henna painting are all common activities with the purpose of empowering the mother for birthing and to celebrate her pregnancy.

In my research, I've found that many doulas and a few midwives offer blessingway services. They'll help you organize a blessingway and come run it to ensure smooth flowing from one activity to the next and a positive environment for the participants. Even for people who have never experienced a blessingway before, though, there is plenty of information available on the Internet to help you plan your own celebration.

The basics of a blessingway: http://www.naturalbirthandbabycare.com/blessingway.html
The blessingway's Navajo history: http://www.hanksville.org/voyage/navajo/BlessingWay.php3
Outline of a blessingway ceremony: http://www.birthbeads.com/Blessingway.html

Unfortuntately, I don't know anyone who has either thrown or been the recipient of a blessingway before. I'd love to hear first hand the effects on a mother-to-be from behind upheld in this very spiritual and joyful way in the days before her birthing!

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