Welcome to the Empowered Birth Week Blog Carnival
This post is part of the Empowered Birth Week Blog Carnival hosted by Child of the Nature Isle and Betsy Dewey. For this special event the carnival participants have shared their perspective on Empowered Birth. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
Women used to sit in circles, around fires, sewing or weaving together. They used to sit in sacred circles where their souls were fed by the nourishment of belonging. Some women still do, and we need to. Circles heal, uplift, and empower.
Particularly for women who are of a more global or earthy persuasion when it comes to religion, there aren’t necessarily too many opportunities to come together and fill their cups. We have to create them, and the blessingway is one way to provide that opportunity. That is not to say that women who subscribe to one particular religion can’t participate. On the contrary; women of all faiths need to be able to sit together in a circle and honor the spirit in all of us.
What is a Blessingway?
A blessingway is a circle of women. It is a spiritual gathering with the intention of blessing a mother and a child as they prepare to go through birth together. It has been taken from a Navajo tradition, but just like any ceremony, each one is different, evolving over time. After my blessingway, I felt so empowered to give birth. I really felt ready. I knew that the handful of women who were closest to me would light a candle and be holding me in their thoughts and prayers throughout the duration of my labor. It is unimaginable how helpful this is. Candles were lit and I had my birthing necklace next to me.
I recently hosted a blessingway for a dear friend. When I found out she was pregnant, I offered to give her a baby shower or a blessingway. Incidentally, whenever I’ve asked this question to a pregnant friend, they’ve always chosen the blessingway. Anyone can throw a baby shower, and most women will go through life never even knowing they could have had a blessingway. Although, maybe that’s about to change…
She jumped at the chance. She made a list of the women that she would feel very comfortable having at her spiritual gathering. I chose the prettiest evite I could find and described the gathering this way:
A Blessingway, also known as a Mother’s Blessing, originated from the Navajo people, although the practice of celebrating pregnancy and birth trancends almost all human cultures. Unlike the traditional baby shower, which is usually focused on the baby and baby gifts, a Blessingway is an opporunity for women to come together to offer support to the mother and to share positive energy to help prepare her for labor and childbith.
Please bring a small bead or trinket that symbolizes your wish for Stephanie during labor and birth. We will create a birthing necklace using the beads as we each share encouraging words, positive birth stories, poems, songs, etc.
In lieu of baby gifts, please consider a gift for Stephanie such as signing up to bring a prepared meal once the baby arrives. Also, if you have any ideas to add to the ceremony, just let me know!
Please feel free to contact me with any questions.
One of the ladies contacted me and offered to smudge everyone before we started. I was thrilled because this is something I always do, and I love to have others help in leading the ceremony. Smudging: burning dried sage and wafting it over everyone individually with a feather or wing. This is also a Native American tradition that has the intention of clearing any negativity one might have accumulated since one’s last smudging.
We then called a circle around Stephanie and her child by closing our eyes and having a prayer that grounded us, connected us to all, and brought the attention to blessing the two in the center of the circle. I brought out a large bowl of cornmeal with a few drops of lavender oil and we each took turns massaging Steph’s feet with it. This is a humbling act that is somehow also humbling to the recipient. It is heavenly.
You can have blessingways that are very quiet and pensive in nature, or the women can be more chatty and tell birth stories and give advice. There are no rules. It really depends on the spiritual nature of the women involved. I would love to try one outside or at night!
There is a beautiful song that I use at Blessingways. We play drums and sing: “We’ve all come to welcome you, welcome you to Earth. We’ve all come to welcome you, to celebrate your birth. And we are here to love you. We are here to love you. We are here to love you, to love you on this Earth.” I use a chanty, minor little tune.
I provided each woman with a cleared white candle in transparent glass to bless and then take home with her. Stephanie would then contact us when she went into labor and we would all light our candles until we got the good news.
The Birthing Necklace
Each woman brings a powerful bead or trinket to put on a necklace for the laboring woman to have during labor. The hostess, leader, whatever you call it, (after this last one, I got called a shaman, wow!) provides a beading thread. (Fishing line or dental floss work great.) Each lady passes the thread around and explains the intention behind her choice of beads as she places it on the string. The Birthing Necklace is one of my favorite parts of the blessingway. It is such a powerful piece that the honoree will have for the rest of her life. When I hold mine in my hand, the energy of it is truly awesome.
We ohmed at the end – three beautiful ohms directed completely at the vision of a healthy, happy birth. While we did this, we all placed our healing hands on Stephanie. If you’ve never had ten hands on you at once sending you healing energy, you’re honestly missing out.
We closed the circle and had some tea and goodies while everyone took turns adding a body part to a henna gecko on Steph’s ripe belly.
I was in a spiritual women’s singing group one time, back when I was pregnant with my first. It wasn’t a blessingway, but at one of our practices, the women (50 of them!) put me in the center of the circle. They each chose one word to offer for my baby and me. They physically whispered the word into their cupped hands. Then they went around the circle, each of them saying their word and then blowing it to us for us to receive. We received patience, beauty, wisdom, serenity, God, angels, compassion, surrender, laughter …
I was washed away in a river of blessings and my own uncontrollable tears. What a moment in time that was. One of the women afterward approached me and told me that she had seen the angel, Gabriel descend upon the two of us during the circle. My child was blessed.
Technically, I didn’t have a blessingway for my first child, but now in hind site, I see that I did. There are no right or wrong ways. Baby showers are still fun and they serve a purpose, but perhaps the blessingway will become as common an occurence. Every pregnancy needs to be blessed, and every woman needs to sit in a sacred circle from time to time. The blessingway, though honoring the pregnant woman and her child, is a powerful time of renewal for every woman who attends. And I suppose you have to experience it to understand it, but the emotional, psychological, and spiritual preparation that it provides is profound, tangible, and incommunicably important. Aside from learning how to give birth from midwives, there is nothing that I am aware of that prepares you to give birth, makes you feel ready, and gives you permission like the Blessingway. May it continue to be a tradition amongst women as long as there are women. Namaste.
We invite you to sit, relax and take time to read the excellent and empowering posts by the other carnival participants:
Empowered Birthing – Amy at Anktangle shares a simple list of things that support an empowered birth experience.
Little Miss Green’s Home, Water Birth Story – Mrs Green at Little Green Blog shares her (home, water) birth story. Even though it happened 10 years ago, the empowering feelings are the same to this day (and yep, it STILL makes her cry!). This post is also a tribute to her husband who was there mind, body and soul throughout.
Save Birth, Change The World – Toni Harman, mum and film-maker talks about the highs and lows of creating the ONE WORLD BIRTH film project dedicated to helping more women around the world have empowered births.
12 Steps to an Empowered Natural Birth – Terri at Child of the Nature Isle wants to talk to all pregnant women and tell them YES they can have an Empowered Birth! This is her personal 12 step guide.
The Blessingway: a sacred blessing for birth – The Blessingway is a sacred ceremonial circle of women gathered with the intention of blessing and preparing a pregnant woman and her child to give birth. Betsy Dewey describes the beauty and the how-to of a modern Blessingway.
Informed Birth is Empowered Birth – Darcel at The Mahogany Way Birth Cafe tells us why it’s important to take control and be responsible for our own births. She says Informed Birth is Empowered Birth.
Empowering Birth in the Trenches – Over at Belly Tales the Midwife explores what empowered birth looks like in an urban hospital with a vulnerable population.
An Empowered First Birth – Zoie at TouchstoneZ follows the path she took to her first homebirth and finds she may not have started out as the best candidate for an empowered birth.