Have you ever heard of something called a blessingway? Have you ever been to one? I'm sure that if you have attended or thrown a blessingway before, you know just how amazing and special this sort of ceremony/party truly is! Traditionally, a blessing way is a Native American ceremony held for the soon to be birthing woman. In today's culture, the blessingway has held onto a lot of the same sentiments as the original Native American ceremony, but now there are many different activities that you can incorporate into your very on unique blessingway ceremony. The term "blessingway" comes from the intended purpose of the ceremony itself! Blessing the woman into her birth experience and new journey of motherhood. The blessingway is to send her off on her new journey full of encouragement, prayers, blessings and empowerment from her circle of closest friends.
(Just a side note, these photos are from 2 different recent blessingways that I hosted. Some of the photography is mine, and some is from my friend Tamara who is crazy talented and only shoots on film. Each of her photos has a link to her website in the caption! Thank you, Tamara for taking photos at the last blessingway and for letting me use them here!)
I know that in North American culture, it is very common to throw an expectant mother a certain party called a baby shower. These are great, especially for first time moms in need of all the essential baby gear that people are expected to give the mom to be. Baby showers are usually full of half a million gifts, silly (but often times cute) party games, fun stories from other seasoned mamas, cake, food, punch and lots of laughing, talking, belly touching and love. Baby showers are great and definitely have their place in the world :-) Blessingways are quite different though. As I somewhat already explained, blessingways are more of a ceremony. The pregnant woman is to be celebrated, honored, blessed, filled to the brim with strength, power, confidence, calm, peace, and love. It's a time to remind her and all the other women in attendance that we are all connected. That women are powerful and so essential to this wonderful process of bringing new life into the world. The blessingway guests remind the mama-to-be that they are all unified by their womanhood and sisterhood, that they are all connected to each other, and send their combined support and strength to the mama-to-be as she very soon faces the amazing journey of labor and motherhood.
Even though games and gifts aren't a real focus of a blessingway, the person hosting the blessingway has a number of empowering activities to lead the group of women in and small gifts of sentiment for mama or baby are always welcome. For the blessingways that I have hosted I always ask everyone to bring a side or snack to share with everyone in attendance. Food is ALWAYS a good idea! :-) Generally, healthy and homemade food is the best. At the last bessingway I just hosted last week, I asked everyone to bring a salad and OH MY GOODNESS, that was seriously some of the best food I have ever eaten.
One of the most popular part of a blessingway ceremony is making a Birth Necklace for the mama-to-be. When the invitations are sent out, each guest is asked to bring just one or sometimes a number of beads. These beads are supposed to be picked out with the mother in mind. During the Birth Necklace ceremony, everyone is gathered in a circle and each guest shares with everyone else their bead, why they picked it for the mama-to-be, and also shared a word of encouragement, a prayer or mantra to go with the bead. Once everyone as shared their bead and has said their prayer/ encouraging words for the mother, the beads are strung together to make the Birth Necklace. This necklace should be worn until the day of labor, and even some women choose to wear their necklace through the whole labor, gathering strength from each bead, remembering what it represents, remembering their circle of support!
Another very powerful activity to do is the bracelet ceremony. With this, all the women gather in a circle, and with one long piece of yarn/ribbon/whatever they wrap it around all their wrists so that they are all connected. This is to symbolize their unity and connection to one another as women. Once everyone is connected to the circle, the host may say another blessing over the mama-to-be and comment on the great circle of women and the power that we all share. The possibilities are endless really! Then, the string is cut in between each woman and the bracelet is tied around their wrists. All the guests, host and mama-to-be are to wear this bracelet as a reminder of the mama being celebrated. Each time they look at their bracelet, they are to remember the unity of women to support the mama-to-be and should send a prayer or thought of strength to the mama :-) How awesome is that?!
As a sort of thank you gift to all the guests, the host can provide candles for everyone to take home with them. With each candle you can included instructions for its purpose and use. Once mama is in labor, one person will notify all the other women in her "circle of strength" (all the ladies who attended the blessingway), and then each woman will cut off their bracelet, tie it around the candle and light the candle. This act is to show their solidarity of support and love for the laboring mama. The mama can also have a birthing candle of her own that can be lit once labor begins. For this last blessingway, I am the mama's doula and will be there for the birth of the baby, so it is easy for me to be the one to send out the notification to the ladies to light their candle. But anyone who will be at the birth can send out the notification if a doula will not be present.
I could go on and on about all the amazing and sacred aspects of a blessingway but really, the host should get creative with the mama being celebrated to really make it unique to her and meet her needs and desires. There are SO many different ideas that you can incorporate into a blessingway! Henna, flower crowns, pedicure for mama, essential oil massage, hair bushing, songs, prayers, belly mapping, decorating and hanging birth affirmation flags.... so many possibilities! You can even make a blessingway a lovely religious ceremony for women who believe in God. A lot of prayers and reading of scriptures would be a great idea!
It is intended that the mama to be leaves bursting full of love, strength, confidence, and belief in the ability of her body to birth her baby. All the guests should feel empowered to support and encourage her :-) Blessingways are one of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed and I wish everyone has the opportunity to attend one and also have one thrown for them! As part of my doula services I do offer a blessingway package deal and would be more than happy to help you plan your perfect blessingway, for yourself or a friend! I prefer to host blessingways in English, but if you would like one in German, I have another doula colleague in Dresden who offers the same blessingway package :-)
I hope you enjoyed reading about the special and sacred ceremony that is a blessingway!