A blessingway is a gathering to honor a pregnant woman. It is loosely based on the Navajo blessingway, which is a religious ceremony to celebrate various life passages, of which giving birth is only one. The natural childbirth community has adapted this idea to develop their own celebrations, which are very different from a traditional Navajo blessingway. Out of respect for the Navajo, some choose to use alternative terms for the gathering, such as "Mother Blessing."
A blessingway is different from a baby shower because the focus is on supporting the woman as she prepares to give birth. There are no gifts for the baby and no melted candy bars in diapers (I've always found that game disturbing). Sometimes the mood is one of a fun and lighthearted girl party and sometimes it is more spiritually-focused, depending on how the mother wants it to be.
I fell in love with the idea of blessingways when a mom planning a HBA2C on my natural childbirth forum told about hers. I later read the book Birthing from Within, which also discusses blessingways and gives ideas for activities to do at them. I would have loved to have one with my last pregnancy, but we moved here when I was about 3 months along and I didn't feel like I had formed friendships close enough with people here to invite them to something that seems so much more intimate than a traditional baby shower. I also assumed I couldn't throw a blessingway for myself, but needed to convince someone else to do it for me (I have since learned that self-hosted blessingways appear to be acceptable.)
With this baby, I will probably not have a traditional baby shower, since we already have everything we need for the baby. I think this is a perfect opportunity for a blessingway, and I have been looking into some various activities that could be included.
Some common blessingway activities, with links to pictures:
- Each guest is asked to bring a bead with some sort of meaning, and then the beads are strung on a necklace for the mother to wear during labor (see Rixa's necklaces she made from her son's blessingway. See also Busca's story about her necklace in Surrender, Part 2)
- Making a Quilt for the baby from squares made by each guest (See Rixa's quilt from her son. She also made one at the blessingway for her second daughter. )
- Sharing Poems or Positive Thoughts, which can be collected in a scrapbook for the mother to re-read later (A slideshow of Gina's scrapbook can be seen at the bottom of this post at Feminist Breeder)
- Making Flags (see this post and this one)
- Sharing Positive Birth Stories
- Honoring the pregnant woman by braiding or putting flowers in her hair, bathing or massaging her feet, making a belly cast, or painting her belly (see Rixa's blessingway for her son's birth, this post and this post for some pictures)
- Belly Dancing
- Making Birth Art
- connecting everyone's wrist with a string, then cutting the string and having each woman keep the string tied there until the baby is born and the umbilical cord is cut (a picture of this is found here, along with lots of other pictures)
- making a phone tree so that everyone can receive a call when the mother goes into labor, and they can all light a candle for her
- drinking herbal tea
- eating yummy food and enjoying the company of other women (great pictures here, here and here)
- Making hand-dipped candles for guests to take home and light when they get the call that labor has started
- Decorating a t-shirt or sarong with everyone's handprints and/or positive words for the mother to wear during labor to have their support with her