Saturday, August 7, 2010

My Mother Blessing

Last Saturday, I had a Mother Blessing "Ceremony". If you are wondering what the heck that is, I am here to tell you!
The Blessingway is a traditional ceremony or celebration from the Navajo culture. The purpose of a Blessingway is to show support, and give blessings, to someone who is about to go through a major life change (e.g., a man going to war, or a woman about to have a baby).  The traditional Blessingway includes a song performed by a trained Navajo medicine man. It is an extremely spiritual experience. Out of respect to the Navajo culture, those who wish to have a Blessingway-type ceremony before the birth of a child, but will not be including the traditional song, often refer to the celebration as a Mother Blessing. However, this event is still meant to be a highly spiritual celebration, full of only positive emotion and complete harmony. The purpose is to give the mother the emotional strength and confidence that she needs, in order to have a happy and healthy birth experience. It is also meant to bless the home where the birth will take place, and fill it with happiness and joy.
                Most of the rituals performed at the Mother Blessing are meant to pamper and honor the mother. Hair brushing, feet washing, the burning of sacred herbs, and singing are traditional Blessingway activities. Often, more modern Mother Blessings include artsy activities, or earthy rituals that are meant to remind the mother and guests of the ancient and spiritual nature of mothering. [The description I provided on my invitations.]
One of the most popular activities of the Mother Blessing is the bead ceremony. Usually, guests are asked to bring a bead and a "blessing" for the mother. Sometime during the Ceremony, a string is passed around and the guests each string their bead.  The mother then has a bracelet or necklace to wear or hold during labor, that is supposed to remind her of the women who love and support her. I decided that instead of having all my guests bring a bead, I would provide clay and have my guests each -make- a bead.  That was the main activity I wanted to do...then I had to figure out what else I wanted to do. There are a lot of different things that can be done at a Mother Blessing Ceremony. I had a huge list at first, and I had to only pick a few things. If we were to do every good idea, it would take all day! I got a lot more ideas for what I wanted to do at my ceremony from this site.

I planned on having a special introduction ceremony right at the beginning, but my guests all straggled in at different times. So, I waited until about half an hour after my ceremony started to do the introductions. In the meantime, I asked my guests to cozy up to the yogurt bar (instead of traditional party snacks, I provided yogurt, granola and assorted fruit...yummy!) and also to write me a poem or "blessing" to give me confidence in my ability to birth my baby. I told them I planned on reading their contributions when I was in early labor. I probably should have warned my guests that I would be asking them to write poetry! In the end, however, I received some of the most beautiful words of love and inspiration I could ever ask for! Most wrote letters. Some wrote scriptures. Some poems. All wrote words that have -already- inspired me. And I look forward to reading those messages again when I am preparing to meet my new little one!

Once I was sure that all the people that were coming were actually there (I didn't ask for an RSVP, but eventually about 50% of my invited guests showed up), we did the formal introductions. For the intros, I had a mortar and pestle with dried corn in it. As we each introduced ourselves, we were to grind the corn and give our names, as well as a mini-genealogy ("I am ___, granddaughter of ___ and ___, daughter of ___, mother of ___..."). Grinding the corn is a way to remember that women used to gather together to socialize while they were doing their daily chores. Let me tell you....grinding corn is -not- easy. ESPECIALLY when you are trying to remember what your grandmothers' names are!!! You know, it's hard even when trying to remember what your -own- name is!

Then we had a wrist binding ceremony. (I think that was next...after some more yogurt, and cleaning up spilled juice!) For the wrist binding ceremony, everyone sits in a circle and we pass around one skein of yarn. Each person wraps the yarn around their wrist before passing it to the next person. Then the yarn is cut and everyone ties their piece around their wrist. This is symbolic of how are are all connected in a sisterhood of women/mothers, even though we are separate individuals. The guests were then asked to wear their yarn bracelet on their wrist until they hear that my baby was born, after which they can then cut the bracelet off. This part is symbolic of the umbilical cord being cut. It is really nice to think of all these women who are "connected" to me, through their bracelets, giving me support through labor/birth, and then all together cutting the cord that connected woman to child for 9 months.

Continuing with the theme of a sisterhood of women, I described how there are lots of cultures that have rituals/activities/ceremonies that show support to pregnant women. The Mother Blessing, of course, comes from the Navajo tradition. But, belly dancing and hula dancing are also traditional ways that older women show younger women how to birth well. And, being a very religious woman, I then chose to read the first five verses of Titus, chapter 2. I told my guests that being examples is part of God's plan for us. Titus 2 tells us how we can be examples to others (especially those younger than us). The scripture specifically calls to the "aged women" to teach the younger women how to be good wives and mothers. It is really a wonderful scripture, and I feel blessed thinking about all the women who have been examples to me!

About this time in my Ceremony, most of my guest were needing to leave (not because they had been hanging out at my house for hours, but because all but two or three of my guests had other obligations that popped up last minute. So much for sending out invites nearly 4 weeks before the party!) So, we quickly moved to the table, where I had put all the clay and tools, and we were able to make beads. There were so many beautiful beads made!!! We all spent the rest of the time working with clay, talking, finishing poems and eating goodies. And my guests all drifted away to their other responsibilities.

The one ceremony that I had to cut out (because we ended the party nearly an hour earlier than planned) was the hair brushing/braiding ceremony. The grandmother (my mom) is supposed to brush the mother's hair and braid it, in a beautiful and loving ceremony reminding all of the days gone by when the mother was a girl. My mom used to braid my hair A LOT when I was younger, and so I was pretty excited for this part...and a little bummed that it didn't happen during the Ceremony. But, my mom was the last person to go (actually, we left together to go to her house, where I would meet back up with the Hubby and Bug). So, I had her braid my hair before we left. It was very sweet, even though there were no more guests left to witness the ceremony, I felt nostalgic and loved as my mother pulled my hair back into pigtail french braids, just like she has done many times before!

All in all, it was a very enjoyable day. It wasn't quite what I was expecting. But it was nice to be surrounded by women who care about me! I look forward to having a Mother Blessing Ceremony with future pregnancies. And I would definitely encourage other women to do the same!


TopHat said...

I think it's awesome that you got a mother's blessing! Yay for you!

Sara, Nick, and kids said...

ah how fun. heard from a few people that it was really nice. good for you :)

mimihalley said...

I have kind of grown attached to wearing this string around my wrist. I can't help but think of you and your baby and then think of me and my baby and get all excited every time. :) Thank you for sharing these new ideas with me. And I'm glad you liked the poem!!