Hands of Henna, Milwaukee

Anita Filips Reed

BlessingWays: An Old Tradition Is New Again

Belly Casting and Belly Decorating with Mehndi Are Often Done at a BlessingWays

A BlessingWay is one of the traditional sacred healing ceremonies of the Navajo, associated with pregnancy. The BlessingWay has recently returned to become a meaningful celebration in modern times. Unlike the traditional baby shower, the ritual doesn’t include playing games and giving gifts for the baby. The idea behind the BlessingWay is to surround the mom-to-be with support and encouragement as she counts her days down to the birth.

BlessingWays are performed late in the pregnancy and give the mother-to-be the strength for the deeply spiritual rite of passage she is about to encounter during her birth. Although society seems to have trivialized birth so that baby showers are often commercially bent without much reference to the sacredness of the birth experience, women can choose to gather instead to honor the work of the mother and recognize birth as the transforming experience it is. The intention is always to create an atmosphere of reverence and love. Since BlessingWays are part of the creative process that is birth, anything can happen. BlessingWays are joyful celebrations.

Creating a BlessingWay

The activities you choose to have during the BlessingWay really depends on what the mother-to-be would like to do. From sage burning to blessing the home to giving foot baths, a BlessingWay truly can be personalized to cater to the expectant woman. Often times, hand-made gifts and poems are presented to the expectant mother.

In order to celebrate a BlessingWay with a pregnant woman, or even a new mother, her friends will gather together. Generally speaking, small numbers of the woman’s closest friends and family work best at keeping the spiritual nature of the BlessingWay intact.

Each participant should bring with her an item or items that will offer the woman a reminder of a particular idea or affirmation as she goes through her labor and early weeks home with the newborn. It works well if each participant somehow presents the mother-to-be with her item and gives a brief description of its symbolism. Some ideas for items to bring may be:

  • Candles-to symbolize the light the new baby will bring into her life.
  • Rose-to symbolize the opening of the mother’s body so her little one can be born.
  • Key-to symbolize the opening of the mother’s heart and soul to the power of motherhood.
  • Stone-to symbolize our connection to the earth and the mother inside all women.
  • Water-to symbolize the fluidity of life and the ability of water to cleanse our bodies and spirits.
  • Woven grapevine-to symbolize the interconnectedness of us all and the ability we have to bend and not break through the bending.

After the presentation of the gifts, each participant can then offer positive images of birth and mothering, and affirmations.

Some examples of affirmations are:

  • Trust your instincts-you know what is best for you and your baby.
  • The potential you have to take care of this new little one is inside you, unlock that and be at peace.
  • You are a strong and capable woman.
  • Babies come out!
  • Birth is as safe as life gets-Harriette Hartigan
  • Embrace life.
  • You can do it!
  • All birth from the beginning of time is labor. You are continuing the only process life really cares about.
  • Let go.
  • Trust your body!
  • You are not alone.

After this, the mother can be treated to a variety of little pleasures. Perhaps brushing her hair, giving a hand or foot massage, drawing mehndi birth symbols on her belly, or creating a belly cast and decorating it. These are just a few ideas that may help get a BlessingWay started.

Other Ideas for Activities:

  • Have a prayer circle in which each mother present speaks a blessing on the woman and baby and a blessing for the birth. Have each one write the blessing down so that it could be a keepsake for the mom and baby. Write a song with the blessings, or lay hands on the woman as you give the blessings. (Christian tradition)
  • Have a sign up sheet for bringing meals after the baby, or a labor prayer chain too.
  • Make a circle around the mother, circles are a power shape, and twine each person’s wrists with a piece of beautiful yarn. Before cutting the yarn and tying the smaller pieces to your wrists as a symbol of your support for her during labor (you would only remove the leather once she had given birth) each person tells the mother something from the heart. (Scottish tradition)
  • Have each woman bring a bead, a seed, a flower, and a candle. Use these items to make a throne for the mother-to-be, and then ritually cleanse her feet massaging them with oil and soaking in an herbal footbath. Meanwhile, braid the mother’s hair with the flowers. Each woman can give the mother her seed and tell her their wishes for the growth of her family. The candles are to be lit during labor to give the mother strength. And the beads are strung into a necklace for the mother wear during labor. Each bead represents a wish for the mother-to-be during labor (be sure to write down the wishes so that the mother can identify them by the beads when she is laboring).
  • Eat from a communal cup, share a meal.

Well-Rounded Maternity Center is available as a location for hosting a BlessingWay. What better place for such an important pregnancy ceremony than a birth center? If you would like to speak to our staff about arranging and/or hosting a BlessingWay, give us a call at 414-744-7001.