I’ve posted before how some beads I received at a blessingway ceremony before my son’s birth were great reminders for strength, peace and openness during labor, but the topic came up again here in India. A friend here is pregnant with twins and there was discussion at a group dinner (it was awesome by the way to meet others in my situation) about a baby shower for her. However, tradition here dictates that generally there are no baby showers. Yes, some are starting to have them, but in general, many do not buy for baby, in fear of the evil eye. Bad luck, call it what you will, but every culture has beliefs, and it isn’t my place to do what I pick and choose for my family for others, even if they are in similar situations (married to an Indian). The fact is I never had a baby shower either!
Blessingways are also found in Native American culture and the blessingway ceremonies and ideas are found through many cultures as a way to help the new mom welcome baby and the transition to motherhood. While many say you “should” only have a baby shower the first time, a blessingway can be there for baby #1 or baby #12. This photo wouldn’t pin, but I love the idea of five friends knitting a blanket for the mom-to-be. Of course I can’t knit!
To bridge the gap, the idea of a blessingway came about. Like a blessingway, the idea of a Godh Bharai comes into play. Basically this is a time to pamper the mom-to-be. Traditionally there would be sweets, jewelry, support, teasing, but it is a spiritual ceremony. The mom-to-be is pampered with a hairdo and henna. Perhaps she is even wearing a new outfit. Of course, this would happen after the baby (in this case babies!) are viable, so after the 7th month. An auspicious day would also be chosen to celebrate.
But the fact is even married to an Indian, doesn’t make someone a Hindu/Indian/etc, so for some NOT doing a baby shower is the compromise between cultures. To partake in some fo the Godh Bharai allows the woman to be focused upon and relax.
My group of friends back in Phoenix introduced me to a blessingway, and to be honest, I didn’t know what it was and brought a gift to my first one. Oops! Luckily, my faux pas was never mentioned and we all were able to relax and focus on the mom-to-be.
What happens at a blessingway?
Blessingways vary from group to group and from even person to person, but it often includes the closest of friends.
I’ve been to them in living rooms and in the beautiful outdoors.
There is generally a way to connect everyone to the mom, so introductions are done. A friend would introduce herself and how she knows the mom-to-be, and may trace her maternal lineage back – to show how motherhood has mattered and to remember who and where we came from. Moms matter
Blessings and introductions
During the introductions, the moms may light a candle (that they brought along or the host may have picked up) or a web may be made with string that is tied from wrist to wrist as introductions are done. At the end, the thread is cut and each person keeps it tied to their wrist for as long as they see fit. I generally keep mine on until after baby is born. But, one time I felt the strong need to keep wearing it – it allowed me to keep a place in my mind for that mom – whether she needed it or not, I don’t know, but it felt right.
If there are candles, often the guests will all light their candle from a candle that the mother-to-be is given. The guests then take their candles home and may light the candle when they hear the mom is in labor, as a way to show support and think of the dear friend.
Blessings at the blessingway
Moms need support, and so do moms to be. A mom may have fear of birth, or the mom may have no support after birth and is stressed. The blessings at a blessingway are positive thoughts, affirmations or just words of encouragement that guests give to the mother. These are often done through a bead ceremony or through written stones.
I was lucky enough (blessed perhaps) to have two bead ceremonies before my VBAC with my son. One was through the local ICAN meeting (International Cecarian Awareness Network) and the other was with some very close friends. Both times I was given beads that were laced together to give me something to focus on during birth. I did call for those beads during my labor and was able to remember all the strength I was gifted during these ceremonies.
One friend’s blessingway had written stones. Each guests wrote a word (some do more) on the stone to give to the mom. It was then placed into a beautiful bowl for the mom-to-be to keep with her. Of course if the mom isn’t having a homebirth, taking along a glass bowl of rocks may not be entirely practical
Blessingways are also a great way for an adoptive mother to bond and have strength from friends and family during this time of new motherhood transition.
More ways to celebrate mother hood
Pregnancy is a sacred time for many. The celebration and relaxation for the mom can include some pampering or other memorable times. It may include henna tattoos or belly casts or massages.
Henna tattoos are often done during the Indian ceremonies, but this is one thing that has made it across the pond to the US blessingways. Quite a few friends have had this done and it is a time to either bring in a professional, or have friends work on them to make a unique design. I was shy and forced my husband to do henna for me
Belly cast kits are available every where these days – and they really can make mama feel special. Often the mom will either be cast at the blessingway end OR bring a dried cast for friends to help paint and design.
There is no right or wrong way to have a blessingway. It can be a special time for a mom-to-be. To many it feels more personal than a baby shower. There’s no competition, there’s no dreading of the 100 pieces of NB and 0-3 month clothing. There’s no feeling bad because you may not appreciate things you know you should appreciate. Nothing wrong with baby showers, but this is an alternative that can be chosen. And, with the cultural bridge, it may just be a good option for those of us living in India and still want that special day before baby is born.
Maybe the blessingway for adoption may not include a belly cast or belly tattoo
Have you been to a blessingway ceremony?
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