How to Plan a Blessingway
Why a blessing way? What is a blessingway? Blessingway for a first birth, or a second+ birth? Do you have questions about planning something meaningful for a special mom-to-be in your life?
The first rule of planning, and hosting, a blessingway, is that there really are no real rules. Ideally, this wouldn't be the time to bring out embarrassing games and stories about the conception, like with most traditional baby showers. The blessingway is for the mother and should empower the mother. It is perfectly fine to ask her what she would like and not like.
If you search “blessingway” most of the photos you’ll see are intricately spiritual in nature with the “Red Tent” personification and Navajo influences. Both are different perspectives, but focusing on the same end result. This solidifies the point that, there are no rules. A blessingway originated within the Navajo tribes and used for various rites of passage, life changes, and events that could benefit from blessings, love, and peace within the community. A mother blessing specifically brings positive light to the time around the birth of a child. The “Red Tent” movement was derived from a narrative about one of the Jewish characters in the Bible, Dinah, and the author’s fictitious idea of what her pregnancy would have been like (the author makes no claims that she was trying to write a Biblically accurate book, by the way). The movement has brought forth many red tent events for women, despite how historically inaccurate the book may be. Above all, it is the idea that women need uplifted and surrounded by positive energy during this amazing life event (no matter if it’s the 1st or 10th baby).
I love blending modern methods into ancient traditions. The goal is to make the mother feel empowered about her journey and supported for birth. That is very different for each mother and the blessingway should be a very personal experience. It doesn't have to follow any set of standards and doesn't have to be Navajo in its appeal or Red Tent in design. The Navajo, and all other “ancient traditions” incorporated cultural beliefs into their blessingways, and that's what we should be doing also. Just keep that in mind that just because groups may portray the idea that you have to do “A” or “B” because of ancient tradition, doesn’t mean something different is any less of a blessingway. If it makes the mother feel supported and empowered for birth, then it is perfect.
When planning a blessingway, I like to start by figuring out a location and time length. Some blessingways are a whole day, a whole afternoon, or just an hour or two. Knowing how long you have will help you find the best way to focus on pampering mom.
Here is a basic outline for starting out:
- Get a list of mom’s closest girls (it is traditionally a female ceremony… but again, doesn't have to be). This doesn't have to be anyone and everyone, and it shouldn't be. It shouldn't be anyone that makes her feel uncomfortable or "put on a happy face" sort of thing. She should feel comfortable and loved by these people. Sometimes this includes her midwife, doula…etc., that's up to her. This isn’t the same as a traditional baby shower where she might invite everyone else to enjoy the celebration, but is specifically for *her.* It is for people that will provide her with positive energy for the birth she is planning. Especially for home and natural births, this is an important part to consider.Get their contact info. and decide how you want to invite them (formally, informally…etc…. this is just a much a part of the ceremony as anything else).
Each invitee should be instructed to do something, one thing, many things. Totally depends on what you want them to do and what you plan to do at the blessingway… some ideas are:
- Select a bead (or make one, or find one…etc.) and provide this request in the invitation. The beads are often a significant part of the ceremony and used on necklaces, bracelets, keepsakes…etc. that are worn or hung throughout pregnancy, and especially labor, to remind mom of her support. I “hosted” a blessingway for a long time friend once that couldn’t have all her closest gals together. She lived in a distant state, and I sent out an invitation to have her gals mail me their beads and then I packaged a bracelet with a blessing journal. Her mother sent a lovely heirloom scripture locket with lovely verses written inside, and her dad carved a special bead that symbolized many things they enjoyed together. The beads should represent the person selecting the bead as a reminder to the mother of this person. It isn't necessarily what that person thinks of the mother - but as a representation of that person being with the mother throughout pregnancy/birth…etc. Of course it can be general, or specific to the mom. No limits! It is a good idea to remind them that beads with larger holes are desirable as many times hemp cord is used to string these beads, and small holes don't work very well.
- I like to have dad select a bead, also, and present that in a special box or something - even though dad isn't typically present. Or tell him to do it after the blessingway in person. But generally it gives her one extra special thing, because dad should be her rock in this birth.
- Have each person prepare a blessing. This blessing can be put in a book, or a keepsake box, or a scrapbook or whatever. The person will read this (or simply say it) as they present their bead. It can be a poem, a thought, a Bible verse, a mantra… anything that gives the mother motivation, love, support…etc.
- Some moms do extra gifts and combine their blessingway with a more traditional babyshower… This is probably one of the parts of a blessingway that is very unique, in that a babyshower is showering the baby with gifts, but a blessingway is specifica to motivate and encourage mom with her best supporters. Doing gifts and/or beads specific to the mother is ideal, but you can combine this with babyshower gifts also.
- Sometimes the attendees select a bead for mom & baby and the baby beads are smaller and makes a baby bracelet (which is a lovely idea for those planning home births who would like a keepsake similar to a hospital bracelet. I’m fond of name on rice charms for this, myself).
These are basic ideas, and can include any, all, or something totally different. Ask mom what she would like!
OK, for the actual ceremony, there are many more options. Do you want just an hour? A few hours? A whole afternoon? Consider childcare…etc., for people because not all moms want kids present. Some moms are totally fine with this and really want their little ones to be present. Moms wishes for children present should go on the invitation in a very kind way and then plan the ceremony around that desire so that babies and things aren't getting upset that their mommies are gone, or people don't have to leave early because of it. Maybe dads can hangout and watch kids somewhere else while all this occurs. It is lovely when we consider the children and babies even if they aren’t a part of the ceremony. Mom will know her group of closest friends and if she wants specific people to be there, how she would prefer to handle the thought.
Now, make an outline of activities that will fit in your timeframe.
A quick outline for the blessingway might look like this:
- Each attendee should bring a small snack to share… even a potlock (depending on the timeframe) and everyone eats and chats…etc., as they arrive (or you can save this for afterwards).
- Set the mood… use candles… dim the lights… do a "red tent ceremony"
- Some blessingway facilitators like to use smudge sticks (herbal combinations that are burned similar to incense) while saying a blessing. Historically, these were used to dispel evil spirits and such; however, many of these herbs do have medicinal healing qualities (or, maybe you want to dispel evil spirits?) It is important to note that White Sage is commonly used in ceremonial smudge sticks, but is on the watch list of herbs. Be contentious if buying this herb so we don’t deplete our resources, especially with the uptick of herbal remedy use and especially essential oil use. Lavender would be a lovely alternative. Traditionally, you burn the smudge stick and use a feather to waft the smoke over the mother (and invitees if you like) to cleanse and bless and heal. Do this as you wish, or research further for more traditional details of how to smudge.
- As people are eating, you might want to have mom sit down with her plate and do a simple pedicure. This can just be a big bowl of warm water, with floating flower petals or fruit, and a light coconut oil massage. Or, you can hire your local nail technician for an on-site full spa treatment. (If you’re really doing it up, do it for the whole group and add in a manicure).
- Some herbal tea would be lovely to serve. Get these from a quality herbal or natural food store. The boxed kinds aren’t always the best – know your source. Herbal teas are nourishing and soothing, but not when they’re laden with pesticides. Some common teas (for the foot bath or to sip on) are Red Raspberry, chamomile, or a combination of many other options. You can use one, blend your own mixture, or contact your local herbal shop (or etsy) for a special mix. You could also just serve some fresh lemonade, water, or cocoa. It can be as simple or as elaborate as you wish.
- If mom plans to call people when she starts labor (this is really important to ask, because once people get the call, questions start coming in and this can bring stress on the birthing mother, a no no for progression, especially if the group isn’t completely comfortable with home birth). So, if mom plans to call people, you can get a candle for each attendee. Everyone takes a candle home with them and lights it when they get the call and lets it burn throughout labor. It is lit with a larger candle during the ceremony and they all burn during the blessingway, and then put out until the labor….etc…. There are a lot of different ways to do this. For one where the mom didn’t want to call people, we just had one large candle that we burned that she could burn throughout labor as a reminder of her support group
- A piece of yarn, string…etc. is great to have to “bind” everyone together. Sitting in a circle is common to create a continuum of support. Start the ceremony by wrapping the yarn around each person’s wrist, or weaving in and out of each individual. Start with the mother, and end with the mother. This symbolizes the connection each person has.
- As the host, you may choose to read a special blessing to the group and explain “As you participate in the blessing presentation, we will separate your tie from the circle.” They can tie this to their wrist, ankle, or keep with them as a reminder of mom. When they see the bracelet, they can say a little blessing throughout the rest of mom’s pregnancy. At one blessingway, we used these bracelets to put around a candle that the mother would keep. Play with the ideas, and make them work for the mother’s wishes.
- Then, go around the circle and have each person present their bead with their blessing. It is lovely if they write their blessing down, or write it in a blessing journal (sort of like a guest book) so mom can keep this and read them as she needs support or for years to come. Choosing a journal large enough to hold many memories can allow mom to use this as her pregnancy and/or parenting journal full of things her baby says and does – a lovely keepsake.
- String the beads (etsy.com is a wonderful place to find beads and charms of all kinds) on a bracelet or necklace. Hemp rope is fine for this, or whatever you wish. A simple keepsake box can be used if mom doesn’t wish to wear her beads.
- Spend any other time laughing, chatting, and keeping things positive. (No horror birth stories here, please. We want to empower the mother).
So, you can see, there are a lot of options. These are common basics for about a 2 hour ceremony. Some other ideas are belly painting, belly casting, Henna art (being very cautious of what you’re actually buying as many companies sell harmful lookalikes). Etsy.com is a great place for blessingway items; even full blessingway kits of herbs and such. Many birth professionals offer blessingway facilitation services if you’d like help planning and hosting the ceremony.