Photo above by Danica Donnelly: Holly Palkowitsch of Eagan gave birth to her daughter, Wilhelmina, with her partner, Chris, by her...
Blessed with love
“This is my favorite, favorite thing to do,” said doula Sarah Longacre, owner of Blooma, as she invited Minneapolis mom-to-be Mia Como to take the center seat in the circle of women gathered for her Mother Blessing.
“It’s different than anything else we do at Blooma — and different than anything we do in the United States — to celebrate moms,” Longacre said.
The Mother Blessing, also called a Blessing Way, is a ritual with roots in Navajo tradition and has become a popular alternative to, if not a supplement to, the traditional American baby shower.
Second, third or fourth baby? A Blessing Way is a special way to celebrate a pregnancy and motherhood — without dragging your friends and family through yet another baby shower.
Instead of giving registry gifts, attendees of the Blessing Way give love, wisdom and support.
Each one is different
Every ceremony takes on its own tone and style, depending on the woman being celebrated, Longacre said.
Some Mother Blessings are brief, while others are long and elaborate. Some feel a little like a “girls night.” Others are more ritualistic and earthy with belly painting and meditation.
One thing that all Blessing Ways have in common is they occur during the last 30 days of pregnancy and offer a symbolic ushering in of motherhood — traditionally around the 9th or 10th full moon of gestation.
Como’s night was one of ritual and celebration, intimacy and sweetness, complete with candlelight, flowers, chocolate, lemonade and wine.
Wishes and wisdom
The ceremony started with an honoring of the many women who’d given birth before in the participant’s families.
Each woman took a turn to light a candle for her own ancestors and elders, announcing her lineage in a specific way: “I am ____, the great-granddaughter of ____, the granddaughter of ____, the daughter of ____ and the mother of ____.”
Those candles, which were kept burning throughout the ceremony, would also be lit for Mia during her birth, in the homes of her women friends and family members.
Later, the guests each took turns giving Mia a bead, which they’d been told in advance to bring. With each bead, each woman shared her advice, hopes, wishes and wisdom.
One friend presented a string of turquoise, Mia’s favorite; her former roommate — a pastry chef — gave her a cupcake-shaped bead.
Each story brought long laughs and free-flowing tears, leaving a feeling in the room of a life well lived and a strong support team for the next phase — parenthood.
Moving toward birth
The beads, which, in a sense, held both the history and the promise of support, were strung into a birth necklace for Como to wear or hold during labor.
The ceremony closed with a light yoga meditation and a simple lullaby for the baby: “I am opening up to the sweet surrender of the beautiful baby in my womb.”
The night ended with more laughter, snacks and wine, mingling and making plans.
Levon Oliver Como was born a few weeks later to Mia and her husband, Jessen. Longacre was the doula and made sure the birth necklace, as well as the strength and wisdom generated by the Blessing Way, were on hand, even as the family’s plans changed from a natural experience at a birth center to induction at the hospital.
“I kept that necklace close by me for my labor and Levon’s birth and felt the love, support and strength of those women surrounding me,” said Como said. “I was supported enough to feel like I could do anything, including cry and acknowledge my fear — when it began to creep in — and move beyond it when I was ready.”
Como said the Blessing Way was an extremely powerful and humbling experience for her.
“I don’t think I realized how lonely pregnancy feels until I stepped into that room filled with women whom I love and trust and who support me so strongly,” she said. “It was full of joy and memories and wishes that I didn’t realize would be so important until I heard them.”
A shared sentiment throughout Como’s ceremony, birth and the early days of Levon’s life was, “Forgive yourself.”
It’s a message many moms need to hear: It’s OK to make parenting mistakes and crucial to go easy on yourself when you do.
The Blessing Way was an exercise in acknowledging vulnerability and a first step toward asking for and accepting help as a new parent.
Of course, a hearts-and-flowers or earth-mama moon-dance style of Mother Blessing isn’t for everyone.
In fact, Longacre encourages individuality in planning each Mother Blessing, stressing that it’s important to create your own rituals and be guided by our own comfort levels and preferences.
Though Blooma provides a beautiful space and expert knowledge of the Mother Blessing tradition (guided ceremonies start at $300), many women host these ceremonies in their own homes.
Activities might include rock painting, love letters, maybe even Truth or Dare.
The point of a Mother Blessing is not to hone in on the latest baby monitor or nipple cream, but rather, to create a culture of love and support, not just during pregnancy and childbirth, but also throughout early parenthood and beyond.
Jen Wittes lives in St. Paul and is a mother of two. She’s helped many Twin Cities families in her work as a postpartum doula. Send questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. All photos are courtesy of Megan Crown Photography.
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