When I was pregnant with my first baby, my girlfriends threw me a traditional baby shower. It was lovely in many ways – and I got more burp clothes and pacifiers than I knew what to do with. But I felt at the time that something was missing. The shower was more focused on cute gifts and silly baby poop jokes than a recognition of the deeply emotional and spiritual experience of bringing new life into the world.
A few years later, a different friend of mine was pregnant with her second baby, and instead of having a traditional baby shower, she had something called a Blessingway, which is basically a hippie-dippie baby shower where you focus on the spiritual aspects of pregnancy and birth. I tend to roll my eyes a bit at things like that, but I’m also kind of a hippie dippie chick myself, and I promptly fell in love with the whole thing.
The idea of a Blessingway or Mother Blessing originally comes from a Navajo rite of passage ceremony that celebrates new motherhood. The focus isn’t so much on the new baby, or lavishing the mom with expensive gifts, but rather on the woman’s passage into motherhood – and nurturing her through it.
One of the most lovely aspects of the Blessingways I’ve been too – and the one that I ended up having with my second child – is that a woman’s best girlfriends are gathered together in a small intimate group. Wisdom and laughter are shared and you feel like you’re being supported and loved in the best way. It’s so empowering.
When my friends and I have done Blessingways, we let the mother hand-pick the women who she feels most connected to in her life (i.e., she doesn’t have to invite her mother or mother-in-law if she doesn’t wish to) and we keep it very small – just a few women huddled together in a close-knit circle around the mom-to-be.
There are no real rules when it comes to Blessingways. You can decide how you want to do them, and which rituals and ideas you want to adopt. If you Google “Blessingways,” you’ll get a ton of ideas about how to throw one for your mama friend. You can take what you want and leave the rest behind, but here are some of the rituals my friends and I adopted and ended up loving:
1. Wreath/Flower Adorning
Pregnant women are goddesses, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. That’s why my friends and I adorned the mom-to-be with a floral wreath at the start of a Blessingway. I thought this was kind of hokey at first, but when it was my turn to be adorned, I felt pretty freaking fabulous. Every birthing mama deserves to be put on a pedestal and honored like the rockin’ goddess she is.
2. Bead Assembly
My friends and I came to each Blessingway with a favorite bead or two, and at the Blessingway, we assembled necklaces or bracelets for the mom-to-be. As we slid our beads onto the necklace/bracelet, we each said a little wish for the upcoming birth. When it came time for the birth, each mom-to-be wore their handmade jewelry while in labor. It was an awesome way to be reminded of these incredible women in our lives who stood by us through thick and thin and who were cheering us on as we birthed our little ones.
3. Cord Ceremony
At our Blessingways, we ceremoniously tied red yarn around our wrists. It was a way to connect to each other, and we each of us kept the yarn around our wrists for the weeks leading up to the mom’s birth — a great way to be reminded of her and to send her good vibes. Then, once we heard the baby had been born, we’d cut the string in celebration. Sort of silly, but also really cool when it actually happened.
4. Henna Belly Painting
Oh, this was my absolute favorite. Henna is messy AF and stains a whole lot, so keep that in mind. But it feels so nice to get your preggo belly painted by your besties. My friends would each take turns adding their piece to the collage, which was super fun. After the henna dries, you can take a shower and wash the first layer off, but still have the henna temporarily “tattooed” onto your belly for a few days, a sweet reminder of your beautiful circle of friends.
5. Birth Candle Distribution/Texting Chain
When my friends and I have done Blessingways, we’ve made sure that each woman present leaves with a candle. We then make a texting chain so that when the mom-to-be goes into labor, she texts the first woman on the list, and then each friend is texted in turn. We all light our candles to honor the laboring mama, and blow the candles out when the baby is born. It’s a little thing, but it was so meaningful to know that my mama friends were holding space for me in that way when I was in the throes of labor.
Besides all of those things (and again, you can do or not do any of them, or come up with your own ideas), there was a lot of bonding, girl talk, and exchanging of birth and postpartum stories. And a whole lot of showering the expectant mama with love, hugs, and kisses. I mean, it was the best kind of love-fest – something every pregnant mama should get.
Like everything else, Blessingways are not for everyone. Many moms-to-be want more traditional baby showers and I totally get that. But if you have any inclination to try something different – and if you want the opportunity to feel like a badass-feminist-guru-goddess for a day, try a Blessingway. You won’t regret it.