I want to lay myself bare in front of someone. Not bare as in naked. I’m happy to keep my clothes on, but to be completely known. To be known without fear.
Maybe that’s only possible with someone new. Someone you’ve only just met. Before the judgements start, and before they know your whole life story. Maybe that’s a freedom that can only come from someone only knowing you in this context or in this space. Or is that the opposite of being truly known. But with knowledge comes shame. It’s why Adam and Eve covered themselves in the garden of Eden. They became aware of their nakedness, were ashamed, and covered themselves with leaves.
Why is nakedness, shame, knowledge and vulnerability so incredibly intertwined?
Being loved and cared for is precious and having people who love you because or in spite of your vulnarabilities is beautiful, but it’s also burdened. Is there a way of laying yourself bare without being vulnerable? Not really. Not when it’s your soul you’re talking about. The very core of you.
And why is it so hard to be vulnerable with people you know would just want to be there for you, who are eager to lift you up?
This is my problem. I don’t want anyone to think – or worse, to know- when I’m struggling. I don’t want anyone to be aware that things are hard. That money is too tight. That there’s no milk in the fridge. Or worse, that the coffee jar is completely empty. I don’t want anyone to know that I lie awake at night, terrified of doing the wrong thing, making the wrong decision.
I don’t want people to know this.
Because no one can really, truly help. Sure, in the short term, but then I feel indebted. And I have enough to deal with without feeling indebted too. And the ones that can’t help end up feeling helpless, leaving me feeling guilty. So I carry my burdens alone.
It takes all the will power I have to make it through each day. Some days. Not every day.
And so, to make sure that no one can see the weakness, the vulnerability, I build a wall all around me. It helps keep me strong, having a wall to lean against. It does help.
But it does get lonely in my room for one.
As much as I loved the baby showers I had with both of my daughters, and appreciated the effort that went in to them, I have since been introduced to a different way of celebrating the pending arrival, which has touched me and moved me so much, I secretly wish I’d had a blessingway too.
A blessingway is an old Navajo ceremony, which celebrates a woman’s rite of passage into motherhood, or motherhood again. While a babyshower focuses largely on the new baby, a blessingway is all about the mother to be, as evidenced in a number of ceremonial activities that take place.
I’ve attended blessingways in England, and in Australia, and have seen and heard them done in the United States, and there are many variations, but the basics of it remain the same – women come together to celebrate birth.
While at a traditional babyshower everyone brings a gift for the baby, at a blessingway, (while you can still bring a gift for the baby) the ‘gifts’ you bring can include a bead, a poem,a flower, a candle, and red string.
During the party, the host – normally a best friend or family member – will give the mother to be a strong piece of string, tied at one end. Then each guest will give her a bead, with a reason as to why they’ve chosen that specific bead for her. She will then string it into a necklace which she can wear, look at, or hold during labour, as she chooses.
Everyone can also bring a flower from their garden, or from somewhere special to them, which is threaded into a crown for the expectant mother to wear during the day, and to save as a memory of the day, should she wish.
People can take it in turns reading their poems and birth wishes – affirmations – or they can be put together somewhere for the mum to read leading up to and during her labour. My Australian friend had flags to put up in the room during her c-section. My British friends had them stuck on the wall by their birthpools during their home births.
The candle is lit during the ceremony, to guide the baby, and welcome him or her earthside, before being blown out again. If the mother is going to let people know when she’s in labour, they can take them home with them and light a candle for her when labour starts, or if she is unlikely to announce it, she can keep it at home and light the candles herself, as a reminder of the women standing with her in thought.
Finally, the culminating element of the ceremony, is when the host ties a red string around her wrist or ankle, and the mother then walks around the room, wrapping the string twice around each guest’s arm and leg, creating a tie between them all. The mother then walks around cutting the string, and everyone ties it off. There are two traditions here: some people leave it on until it falls off on it’s own – I had one stay on for almost six months! – or they can break it off once the baby is born. Often times, people will send them back to the mother, so that she can thread them into a pillow or similar for the little person.
And once the ceremony is completed, there’s cake!
A blessingway is a great alternative for anyone not overly fond of party games or being the center of attention for too long, and provides a more meaningful, and still fun afternoon with friends, celebrating the new life to come, but also celebrating mum!
Originally written for Zulily.co.uk