The Blessingway is a healing ceremony rooted in Navajo tradition. While not intended to cure illness, a Blessingway is a highly spiritual and private ceremony designed to avert misfortune, protect the home and even bless a pregnancy. A modern Blessingway has become a popular alternative to the traditional baby shower, that prepares a woman for transition to motherhood, rather than focusing on gifts for the baby.
A Blessingway is a time for the mother-to-be to gather with the women closest to her, toward the end of her pregnancy, and cultivate positive energy for her upcoming birth experience. It is typically a ceremony for women only, which can be led by a midwife or doula, but is also easy for friends or family of the expectant mother to plan and execute.
I have conducted many Blessingways for my friends, and was the joyful recipient of the Blessingway in the photos below. In my experience, the Blessingway ceremony helps the mother-to-be to feel more confident and supported as she goes into the powerful experience of giving birth. It is an empowering event that helps the pregnant woman prepare emotionally, mentally and spiritually, for her new role in life as a mother.
Here are five common activities to expect during a modern day Blessingway:
1. Creating a birth necklace
Each woman brings a special bead to the Blessingway. They sit in a circle and one by one, offer their bead to the expectant mother along with a blessing for her birth and experience as a mother.
The blessing can be in the form of a poem, a prayer, words of wisdom, or a simple wish. The beads are then strung together into a necklace or bracelet, so that the mother-to-be can wear or have nearby while she is in labor.
Women who are unable to be physically present for the Blessingway, such as a grandmother or close friend living far away, may want to send a bead and a blessing ahead of time.
The beads serve as a physical reminder of the support of trusted women in her life, so that she may call upon this strength during labor.
2. Connecting with the string ceremony
A spool of string or yarn is wrapped around each woman's wrist while everyone sits in a circle. The women then cut individual pieces of the string and tie it around their wrists into a bracelet, to wear until the expectant mother goes into labor. When labor begins, the attendants at the Blessingway are notified by phone or text. They then cut the string on their wrists and say a prayer for the woman's safe, easy and joyful birth. Until the birth, the women who wear the string bracelet is to keep the expectant woman in their thoughts and prayers.
3. Making birth art
An art project is a fun way to celebrate the upcoming birth experience. Simple craft materials can be used to create pictures, painted rocks, prayer flags, or other pieces of art with inspiring images and messages. In the days leading up to birth, the mother can look to these little pieces of art for faith and reassurance.
The group may want to collaborate and create a birthing vision board, or sew together squares for a quilt for the new baby.
The expectant mother can also place the art in her birthing space, where she can look at it during labor to help soothe her.
4. Pampering the mother
The Blessingway is a special time for the expectant mother to feel completely pampered and nurtured, filling her emotional cup to the brim so that she is as rejuvenated, relaxed and rejoiced as possible, before going into her labor.
She can sit in a decorated chair while her feet are bathed in a large bowl of warm water and fragrant flowers. Her friends can massage her shoulders, hands and feet, braid flowers into her hair and paint her toes.
Some pregnant women prefer not be massaged, so it is always best to do whatever will make the expectant mother feel most honored and adored.
5. Decorating the belly
Body paint or henna can be used to adorn the woman's belly, helping her feel celebrated and beautiful. Some women also enjoy creating a belly cast, a plaster cast of her pregnant torso, which can be decorated and displayed as art after it dries.
The Blessingway usually ends with sharing nourishing food and drink, and can also include welcoming the father into the circle. Singing, belly dancing and sharing birth stories, are other fun activities to include in the celebration.
As a parting gift, Blessingway attendants may be given a candle to light when they receive the notification that labor has begun.
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