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
I’m a mean mama. I love you so much, that sometimes a mean mama is the best I can be for you.
There are so many things in this world that I wish to protect you from, to keep you from, to keep from you that sometimes it means that what you want in the now I have to say no to because I want to keep you safe.
Yes, I want to keep you from predators and yes, I want to keep you from people whose love for you may be more about themselves than you. And yes, I want to keep your body safe and your belly full and your learning continual and your development appropriate, but I also want to keep your mind.
I want your thoughts to be of adventures and mysteries, I want your dreams to be of fairies and ballerinas, or trucks and superheroes if you wish. I want your biggest dilemmas to be whether you should bring the red spade or the blue spade to the beach, if your new friend in the park will l be there again tomorrow or not or whether you will walk or take a scooter.
I want to wash copious amounts of muddy trousers and scrub grass stains out of the knees, to have to carry a spare set of wellie boots for when yours are full of puddles. I want beach toys and wooden food and glitter to litter my floors and to be sweeping up sandpit sand for years to come.
I want equal wardrobe space for fancy dress as for clothes, and to be ‘persuaded’ to take a fireman, fairy, pirate or princess with me on every milk run.
There are many years ahead where you will worry about your appearance. There are tears that you will cry over boys and lovers and friends come and gone.
There may be a time for you to care about what’s popular, what’s hot, what’s happening in the world around you, but that time is not now.
Now is the time for a clean fresh face, and a wardrobe that allows you the movement and freedom of childhood without trying to make you into a mini-woman. Now is the time to enjoy fanciful stories and childish movies. Now is the time to live to the fullest and enjoy a kind of freedom you will never again experience, a kind of life you will only appreciate years after its gone.
My girls, a time will come where you will wear make-up and listen to music with themes that don’t belong to childhood. A time will come where your choice of outfit might make me cringe and your choice of entertainment might leave me questioning where I went wrong. I know it will because it came for me, as it does for everyone.
Even Peter Pan grew up eventually…
But innocence lost is lost forever. Childhood left behind is a street with only one direction. There’s no turning back time.
I will do my best to keep you young, to hold on to your youthful days, to be the buffer against words like sexualisation and objectification, and a torrent of marketing that tries to tell you what “stuff” you need to be popular, or beautiful, or loved. I will cocoon you, so that the subjects and realities of teenage years or adulthood become known to you then, and not a day before.
I will be your fortress even when you wonder why you can’t do the things other kids are allowed to and I will be you shield till such a time as your decisions are made by your desires for your life, not those of your peers, or characters in TV shows and magazines.
At times you may hate me, but in time I believe you will see that it was always about what was best for you and one day as you watch your own daughters hurtle with frightening velocity from infancy you will understand that sometimes “you’re being mean mama” is just another form of my deep and undying and eternal love.
I’m sitting in the soft play tapping away on my keyboard, while my children play off somewhere inside a myriad of tunnels and ball pits and slides. I hear the occasional sound of a voice I recognise, a shout of glee or a call to come back, but I can’t see them.
I’m sitting here alternating between my thoughts, and the book I’m trying to read, and now this, the thoughts I need to put down on proverbial paper.
There are other parents crawling around this plastic paradise, having lunch or spending time together. I seem to be the only one here not engaging with my kids, which is a nice change, but don’t judge me.
I’m here for a few minutes of peace. A few moments to put my thoughts together to organise my mind. I’m here because I worked till 1am and was up with a hungry toddler at 5am. I’m here because yesterday we spent the day stomping around the woods, playing in a mud kitchen and digging for buried treasure.
I’m here because its been raining for days, and I want us to rest our sore throats rather than jumping in puddles, being wind swept on the beach, and I’m here because I’d rather not take a rest day by sticking them in front of the TV.
I’m here because moving out of a house that was no longer right for us was a mentally, emotionally and physically exhausting experience, and two weeks later its finally knocked my wind out. I’m here because I’m overwhelmed with concern about our future and while my mind is trying to process how we are going to survive as a family with just one income when my husbands contract ends next month and I’d rather not spend my day snapping at my babies because my mind is preoccupied.
I’m here because this is the best choice I could come up with for today, and no, I’m not married to my gadgets and my screens and with being so connected to the world that I’m not connected to the best parts of my world.
Its the exact opposite… today looking after MY need to give MY brain space is the best thing I can do for them. Its easy to judge what you see and think that you know what you see, but today, like every day, I’m doing the best I can for my family.
There’s still washing drying on the line, and a bread rising on the counter. Dinner will be fresh and healthy and made from scratch, and before I head back to work tonight, I’ll kiss each of my daughters and ask them what their favourite moment of the day was. I’ll still look in their eyes and remind them how deeply they are loved and wanted.
Like most everyone else, I’m just trying to do my best for the people I love most in this world and for this morning, that involves leaving them to their own entertainment in a place designed for it, while I empty my mind onto a screen, so don’t judge me. Sometimes what we think is a whole pictures, is only a tile on the greater mosaic of life.
Parenting is a cacophony of emotions. When you’re not thoroughly worn out from sleepless nights, exhausted from good parenting days, or simply just trying to make it through, there’s always something to worry about. Someone you know lost a child, someone in your area had a child go missing, someone who knows someone who was a really good parent ended up with a junkie-teen. Just like people love to share a terrible birth story, and tend to shun those who had wonderful birth stories, everyone loves to share the bad stories about what happened to someone else, or how another child turned out, and it doesn’t really matter – to some extent – how they were parented, it’s normally the mother’s fault.
Welcome to the February 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting Fears
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared stories and wisdom about parenting fears.
It’s the fear of these things that make parents so susceptible to marketing, spending (often wasting) money on the latest gadgets and basically living our lives doing everything we can to prevent something bad, and encourage something good happening to the little people entrusted to us.
The scary thing though? Like most of us, I know this, but I still have three particular fears where my two little girls are concerned:
In no particular order, there’s the fear of death, kidnapping and failure.
Most of us know someone who has lost a baby – born or unborn – or a child. I never knew how ‘common’ infant loss was till I became a mother myself. And then, because Ameli’s birth was such an amazing, enriching and empowering experience, I was terrified when Aviya’s turn came. For months I really worried, almost believed that I would never get to hold her alive. I was so worried something was going to go wrong in her birth. I mean, what are the chances that I could be so blessed, twice.
And now, even though I am a confident second time mother, and even though I am confident and relatively experienced in my use of homoeopathic and herbal remedies over conventional medicines for most of the girls’ minor ailments, when Aviya, specifically, gets ill, this niggely, horrible voice in the back of my head forces me to question myself, reminding me of that ‘feeling’. It takes a lot of pulling myself together to trust my intuition as much with this lovely second child of mine.
While many of us know someone who has been touched by the loss of a child, very few of us – me included – knows personally someone who has had a child kidnapped. And yet, it’s probably one of the biggest fears a parent faces. I can’t imagine how parents who have lost a child this way go on. I can’t imagine the horror. And yet, the statistics on ‘stranger danger‘ and someone doing something to our children are so different to what our fears justify.
If you’re a parent who lives in the shadow of this fear, I highly recommend Sue Palmer’s book, Toxic Childhood (US Link). It highlights how rare something like a stranger kidnapping really is, but how, because we see the lost and forlorn little face, and the obviously heartbroken parents in our living room, on repeat, day after day after day, it imprints on our brains to the point that we start almost identifying each replay as a new occurrence. (I actually recommend this book for a ton of other reasons too, it doesn’t make you feel guilty, but does encourage you to see a lot of reality in parenting and child raising. It’s one of my top three parenting book recommendations!)
Failure. Failure is a big one, and we all get it from the day our babies are conceived. Didn’t have a natural birth? Will I be able to bond with my child? Didn’t breastfeed? You and your child will probably both die of cancer. Didn’t babywear? Your poor child will lag behind in literacy for, like, ever. Didn’t co-sleep? Poor kid will have intimacy issues for the rest of their lives. You sent them to nursery school for four hours a week? Oh, the drama. Didn’t send them to a Montessori/Steiner/Waldorf/Forest school? What kind of parent are you!?
Pretty much everything we do is wrong to someone. Praise your kids? Wrong. Don’t praise your kids? Wrong. Send them to school? Wrong. Keep them at home? Wrong . Feed them grass-fed meat? Wrong. Feed them no meat? Wrong. Make everything from scratch? Did you sprout the grains first? Well… did you?
I think a lot of parenting and enjoying parenting comes down to three things:
Let go – of the things you can’t control.
Be realistic – in accordance to what’s real, your circumstances and what you can really do
Trust your instinct – listen to your child, listen to the voice inside you, and when you’re confident in your choices, no one can make you feel judged. And when you’re not confident, do your own research.
If you can – if I can – let go of things I don’t control, be realistic about my limitations and abilities, circumstances and finances, and trust that everything I do is for the best of my children and our family, the fears are a lot easier to quell, and motherhood is a much more fulfilling, enjoyable ride.
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants (list will be final around 5pm PST February 11):
The theme for this month’s Carnival of Natural Parenting was Sibling Revelry, as opposed to sibling rivalry. It’s a subject I’ve thought about since before deciding to add to our family after Ameli, and in the hope to avoid or lessen rivalry, I chose to continue nursing through pregnancy, and tandem breastfeed.
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get my submission for the carnival in on time, but I wanted to share the beautiful sister moments between my daughters anyway. Kind of a celebration of the moments that make it all worth it.
Before you were born
I waited for you
Mine. My Sister, always true
Carried away in make-believe
Come with me, I’ll lead you through
Today I was blessed to be able to play host for The Big Latch On in Farnham, with the support of wonderful mamas who came together to beat the world record for mother’s breastfeeding at the same time.
On the 1 – 7th of August every year, to raise awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding and the need for global support, the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action organises World Breastfeeding Week. World Breastfeeding Week celebrated in 120 countries and marks the signing of the WHO/UNICEF document Innocenti Declaration, which lists the benefits of breastfeeding, plus global and governmental goals.
To mark this occasion on Friday 2nd and Saturday 3rd August 2013 at 10:30am thousands of breastfeeding women and their babies or children across the world will gather in their own communities to take part in the Big Latch On, a synchronized breastfeeding event in multiple locations.
The first Big Latch On took place in Aotearoa New Zealand in 2005 and was introduced to Portland, Oregon in 2010 by Joanne Edwards. It has now taken off globally and in 2012 8862 children were counted breastfeeding as part of the Global Big Latch On.
In 2012 the Farnham, Surrey Big Latch On event had 12 mothers nursing 13 babies. This year we had 24 mothers nursing 25 babies (we had one tandem feeding dyad at each event).
Just this week I had someone on Twitter ask me why I felt the need to have a breastfeeding picture on my profile, and said that it offended them. I replied to her that that was exactly WHY I had a breastfeeding picture – so that it will become normal to see a woman breastfeeding, and will no longer be offensive. I simply can’t imagine any of the older siblings at the event today ever turning around and saying they find breastfeeding offensive: they’re growing up with it as normal. Mothers! We’re changing the world, we’re changing the future. We’re doing great!While I was running around trying to keep an eye on my toddler while at the same time making sure everyone knew what was going on and all the official bits of the Big Latch On were adhered to, I did stop at one point, and just watch. We were a community. A community of mothers and women. I didn’t know everyone who attended today, but it didn’t matter, because we were there for a common aim, and with a common goal.
I love breastfeeding events. They unite us at a base, fundamental, instinctive level. Breastfeeding events are a celebration, a peaceful demonstration, a communal drinking at the wellspring. Breastfeeding events buzz with excitement, with energy at the knowledge of making a difference, and with taking a stand, drawing our line in the sand, enjoying our right and our freedom, as women, and as mothers.
Do we rally in anger? Do we shout and condemn, and criticise? Every mother in this group has walked a path. It hasn’t been natural and easy for everyone. It’s come at a cost to some. It’s come at tears for others, it’s come as the most natural thing in the world to others still. It’s been an active, conscious decision to others. Everyone has a story to tell about how and why they are here.
Today we feed our babies, we raise our hands, and we are counted.
A huge thanks to Paula from La Leche League Farnham and Krishna from IPEN for being our witnesses today. Another huge thanks to Sara for helping me with the lucky draw and to Wendy and the Natural Birth and Beyond Team for the helium and balloons.
I want to give a very special thank you to a group of businesses that never shy away from supporting the events and competitions I offer through this blog and today at the Big Latch On. Your prizes were loved today: