Last weekend, I attended a mother blessing/blessingway* ceremony for a dear friend. I have mentioned her here before, because she is on a pregnancy-after-loss (PAL) journey after having given birth to a tiny boy after 16 weeks of pregnancy last July (my own Noah was born at 15 weeks in Nov., 2009). My friend’s baby had been due in January, the same time my own “rainbow baby” was born. So, I’ve spent the last year being a couple of months “ahead” of her on the very complicated and emotional path of pregnancy after loss. And, now she is preparing to give birth to her own new baby girl any day now. It felt very, very good to come together with friends to celebrate this strong mama, her journey, and her babies. I so clearly remember the feelings of “feeling the fear and doing it anyway” when it came to things like doing a belly cast, having pregnancy pictures taken, and, yes, having a blessingway—each of these commemorative events was tinged with a fear of possibly being a sad memory instead of a happy one. I remember worrying, “what if I look back at my blessingway and have to think, ‘but I was so happy.'” These thoughts aren’t necessarily rational or logical, but they featured prominently in my PAL experience. And, while I truly loved being pregnant and I was happy much of the time, I was so glad for it to be over and for PAL to be behind me. This is the feeling I had for my friend during her ceremony as well—pretty soon PAL will be over and you will be so glad to leave it behind and snuggle your new baby girl (I’m also very familiar with the companion fear of, “but what if my PAL journey ends with another loss? I’m not holding my new baby yet…”)
For many mother blessings, I pick out a quote or a poem or a reading to give to the mother. Considering how much writing I do in my life, it is kind of surprising to me that I usually choose to give women other people’s words rather than creating something new for them (I do say original things aloud to them during the gifting time, in which we each take turns kneeling before the mother and telling her what she means to us). After some looking for perfect quotes, I knew that for this friend, I needed to write something to her from my heart and not from someone else. So, on one of my womb labyrinth postcards, I wrote the following:
Nine months ago you entered into the long, challenging labyrinth of pregnancy after loss. You have walked with courage, strength, and grace. You have been SO BRAVE. And now you prepare to take the final step on the path—to greet the power and intensity of your birthing time. All of your love and hope and fear will become concentrated on the task of opening your body to welcome your precious new daughter into your arms and your life. She is coming. She is okay. And, sweet mama, so are you. This is a time of openness and surrender–in body, mind, heart, and soul. May you give birth with confidence, strength, bravery, vulnerability, and wild sweet joy and relief.
One of the special things about blessingways is the sense of connection with other women. The ritual space creates an opportunity to speak and share with each other with a depth that is often not reached during day to day interactions (and definitely not usually at baby showers!). This winter, my friends and I started having quarterly women’s retreats. One of my reasons for wanting to do so was to bring some of that sense of celebration and power from our Mother Blessing ceremonies more fully into our lives and to celebrate the fullness and completeness of women-in-themselves, not just of value while pregnant. For these same reasons, I decided to pursue a doctoral degree in women’s spirituality—while birth work is still important to me, I feel very “called” to celebrate, work with, acknowledge, and respect the full cycle of a woman’s life.
“We are mothers, sisters, family wrapped in different cloth,
standing under the same wide sky
and we’ve come to the very end of our silence
together we’ve found our voice
and it is loud
and it is beautiful
and it sings a love song for our children”
—Mothers Acting Up
*For a general description and explanation of mother blessings as well as musings on “connection,” see my friend Hope’s post.
*Out of respect for Native traditions, I continue to try to refer to these ceremonies as “mother blessings.” However, my local circle of women has been holding these ceremonies for each other for about 30 years and they have “historically” been referred to as “blessingways.” Blessingway remains the term that feels most right to me—most genuine, authentic, and, truly, is part of my own life’s “traditions,” so a lot of the time, I feel like it is okay for me to continue using the word, rather than trying to force myself to use mother blessing instead.