Inspired by the Navajo tradition of celebrating a woman’s transition into motherhood, a blessingway is a holistic alternative to a baby shower. Here Jodi Wilson explores the meaning behind this uplifting ceremony.
A pregnant woman feels unlike anyone else on earth. And perhaps only a woman, perhaps only a mother, can truly understand this. The knowledge that a new being is growing inside of you creates immense joy and happiness.
But a big belly has become so commonplace in our society that many of us have forgotten how significant the experience is for the expectant mother. Sometimes even the mother forgets the enormity of her journey, or she simply dismisses it.
A blessingway, also known as a Mother Blessing or Birth Blessing, recognises and honours the journey of pregnancy and the transition of birth as a momentous occasion in a woman’s life. It is a celebration of pregnancy and birth as a sacred and unique journey where the collective energy of loving women can help guide the mother through birth.
Inspired by the earth-based ways of a Native American culture (Navajo), the ceremony involves women coming together to share wisdom, inspiration, and offers of support to the expectant mother. It is a gathering of old and young, mothers and maidens.
Ritual is an integral part of our lives and, although women come together today to share, laugh and create, it is often over coffee or a chance meeting at the park (with the kids in tow). A blessingway provides the opportunity to connect with the women around you in a sacred space—free of distraction. There is so much joy when women connect to celebrate their femininity and to adorn the newest mother with love. The subtle acknowledgement of a tribe is profound.
Today, many of us tend to live individual, excluded lives where the extended family doesn’t play an integral role. A blessingway harks back to times when a pregnant woman was nurtured and guided through pregnancy, inspired by stories and fables of the women who had birthed before her.
I was 32-weeks pregnant when I had my blessingway. I remember standing in the circle, hands on my belly, feeling soft and loved. I was amazed by the women that stood around me—the young and the old. They each shared with me a piece of advice for my impending birth and although I became overwhelmed by the words they gave, it wasn’t until weeks later that certain things came flooding back. From my very first contraction, I heard ‘just go with the flow’ —advice given to me from a midwife and friend. These words stayed with me throughout my labour.
The ceremony begins with the women standing in a circle, closing their eyes and feeling the ground beneath their feet. This grounding practice often includes the awareness of the breath, the awareness of the body and the awareness of the connection that the pregnancy has created.
A blessingway doesn’t have to be incense-fuelled and earth-mother inspired. It is about celebrating in a way that honours your lifestyle and your beliefs. The ceremony can be as simple or as involved as you like. The essence of the ritual is recognition of the mother and the support network she has created.
Women are asked to share stories to encourage the expectant mother—to bless her with inspiration and remind her that she is a powerful woman with the natural ability to birth her baby. It is about instilling in her faith, love, and strength, as well as sending loving and welcoming messages to the unborn baby—affirming a safe passage for its arrival.
Paul and Sian decided to have a blessingway with both men and women present. They felt it was important to acknowledge the support that Paul was receiving from their male friends and family as he journeyed towards fatherhood.
‘Having a blessingway was a way of validating the love and support of everyone that had a connection with our pregnancy. We wanted to acknowledge that our pregnancy was affecting everyone around us,’ says Sian.
The ceremony was held when Sian was 34-weeks pregnant and she believes that the ceremony helped shift her focus from the pregnancy to the impending birth. In retrospect, both Sian and Paul believe it was a significant part of the pregnancy and helped guide them towards the birth of their daughter and their birth as parents.
Guests were asked to bring a natural object that was significant to them. As part of the ceremony, the object was given to Paul and Sian as an offering for their unborn baby. They were given beads, stones, feathers, and leaves and later created a collage of the items.
A common practice at a blessingway is the creation of a ‘blessing bracelet’. Each person present has a piece of string or a handmade bracelet tied around their right wrist. The bracelets stay on the wrist, ensuring that the collective energy of the group remains until the baby has arrived safely. Accompanying this, some women ask their guests to bring a bead that is of significance to them. The beads are presented to the mother and joined to form a bracelet that the mother wears during pregnancy and birth.
Candles can be lit to bring abundance, happiness, and health to the unborn baby. The expectant mother is pampered—her hair is braided and decorated with fresh blooms. She is reminded that she is a blissful and bountiful expectant mother, surrounded by women who love, support, and believe in her. Her feet are bathed in a milky, rosehip-infused bath. She receives every piece of wisdom, every touch and every gift with gratitude and love. A celebration feast follows the ceremony where laughter and stories are shared.
Blessingways emphasise the importance of ritual and celebration in our life. For a woman to birth her baby knowing she is supported by her family and friends is immensely comforting and inspiring. In the fog of labour, I remember glancing at my bracelet; the words that were shared during the ceremony resonated within me. I thought of my mum and the wonderful births she experienced. I understood at that moment the importance of the ceremony.
My blessingway became a significant part of my pregnancy and I believe it ultimately contributed to the beautiful birth I experienced.
Published in Kindred, Issue 27, Sept ’08