There is a native American ritual which has, in recent years, been adapted by those interested in natural birth to encompass the pregnant woman in the final month of her pregnancy. The ceremony is called a Blessingway; it is a celebration of the woman and serves to empower her in her journey to motherhood.
“Blessingway ceremonies create a sacred and safe environment where a mother-to-be can explore the challenges and joys that lie before her as she approaches birthing and mothering. Surrounded by the most important women in her life, she gains a sense of power, confidence, and support that will help her rise to motherhood”.
The Blessingway ceremony can be as short or as long as the woman desires and is often organised by the doula or a close female friend. The ritual involves the gathering of female friends who act to nurture the woman and care for her. This may take the form of brushing her hair, or massaging her feet. Some women will have henna patterns ‘tattooed’ onto their belly, to highlight the growing baby within. It is truly a celebration of the female form and brings the focus back to the woman when all the excitement has been directed at the arrival of the new baby. In some ways a Blessingway is a baby shower for the mother!
Each female brings a bead to the ritual. As each woman strings her bead onto a necklace, she tells the receiver why she has chosen the bead, strengthening the power it holds within the necklace. Some women may choose a bead which reminds them of the mother-to-be; some select a bead reminiscent of their past; others may take a bead from their own jewellery, or jewellery passed on to them from family. All the beads hold significance and the necklace acts as a reminder of this celebration of new life and impending motherhood. During labour, the woman can wear the necklace, or keep it nearby, to remind her that all of her friends are thinking of her and empowering her on this journey.
The Blessingway ceremony may be formal or informal but no matter what form it takes, it will be remembered by the mother-to-be for many years to come.
Cortlund, Y., B. Lucke, and D. Miller-Watelet, Mother Rising: The Blessingway Journey into Motherhood. 2006, Berkeley: Celestial Arts.