If you’re looking for a more spiritual alternative to a traditional baby shower, you may be interested in having a Mother’s Blessing. This ceremony focuses more on supporting the pregnant woman on her journey to motherhood than it does on gifts for the baby. But what is a Mother’s Blessing and how can you host one?
Keep reading to learn about the history of the Mother’s Blessing ceremony and how to plan one yourself. Plus, read about my personal experiences with Mother’s Blessings!
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What Is a Mother’s Blessing?
A Mother’s Blessing is a ceremony that celebrates a woman’s journey into motherhood. Unlike a baby shower, which focuses on gifts for the baby, a Mother’s Blessing is centered around supporting and empowering the mother-to-be.
The ceremony typically includes rituals such as creating a birth necklace, body art, and a circle of support where each attendee shares a memory, blessing, or piece of advice for the mother.
The purpose of the Mother’s Blessing is to create a positive and sacred space for the mother-to-be, to honor her and her journey, and to offer encouragement and love as she prepares for birth and motherhood. The ceremony is intended to bless the way for the expectant mother into childbirth and motherhood.
The Origins of the Mother’s Blessing
You may have also heard the Mother’s Blessing referred to as a “Blessingway”. The Blessingway has roots in Navajo culture, where it is part of a complex system of healing ceremonies meant to restore and maintain balance. (1)
Out of respect for the Navajo people and culture, I’ll use the term “Mother’s Blessing” in this article. While the ceremony we’re discussing may have been inspired by the purpose and spirit of the traditional Blessingway, the modern version looks very different. To call it a Blessingway would be appropriative. For this reason, I find it more respectful to use the term “Mother’s Blessing”.
Midwife, yoga teacher, and author, Jeannine Parvati Baker adapted the ceremony in the 1970s to create the Mother’s Blessing celebration we’re discussing here.
Today, the Mother’s Blessing provides an alternative to a traditional baby shower. It offers a more spiritual and intimate way to celebrate a woman’s journey into motherhood. The ceremony can also be adapted to celebrate other life transitions such as puberty, the adoption process, or menopause.
Planning a Mother’s Blessing
Are you organizing a Mother’s Blessing for yourself or someone else? You may want to consider the following elements as you plan.
Traditionally, the Mother’s Blessing has involved female friends and family members of the pregnant woman coming together to offer blessings, support, and wisdom. However, anyone of any gender identity can participate in the gathering. They just need to feel like a supportive individual to the pregnant person!
There are some activities common to many Mother’s Blessings, such as sharing birth stories and creating a birth necklace for the pregnant mother. However, you might choose to incorporate something entirely unique to the person you’re honoring through the ceremony.
Because this gathering involves all guests participating and sharing in some way, a circle is the most natural way for everyone to congregate. In this way, the Mother’s Blessing is a manifestation of the women’s circle, where women unite through ritual, often recognizing their connection to generations past and future.
Mother’s Blessing Activities & Traditions
Below are a few traditional activities often included in a Mother’s Blessing. If you’re planning a gathering for yourself or someone else, consider incorporating a few activities that feel most fitting for the guest of honor.
- birth stories – A Mother’s Blessing is the perfect time for the sharing of birth stories! You can either ask a few people to prepare to share their birth story ahead of the gathering or invite everyone to share during the ceremony. A birth story can be someone’s experience laboring and birthing a child, their own birth, or a birth they attended. There are many ways to share!
- circle of support – Perhaps the most common Mother’s Blessing tradition is present in the name – the sharing of blessings for the mother-to-be! Each person in the circle will offer a blessing for the pregnant woman. It can be a wish they write, one word, or a poem or lyric that feels fitting. It can be helpful for guests to bring their blessings written down and leave them with the mother so she can read them as she prepares for birth and look back on them after her baby is born.
- birth necklace – The creation of a birth necklace often accompanies the sharing of blessings. Each guest brings a bead, stone, or other object that can be incorporated into a necklace. The bead should have a symbolic meaning for the pregnant woman – it could remind the giver of her or represent a wish for birth or motherhood. After each guest shares their blessing, they will present their bead to the mother-to-be and describe its meaning. After the Mother’s Blessing, the pregnant woman can string the beads into a necklace to either wear or keep with her during childbirth, reminding her of the network of support she has surrounding her.
- body art – If your group likes to get creative, you may want to include some body art like creating a belly cast or painting one made before the gathering. You could also paint the expecting mother’s pregnant belly with meaningful symbols or just beautiful art!
- pamper the mother – If everyone (especially the mama-to-be) is comfortable, a Mother’s Blessing provides a great opportunity to pamper the pregnant woman you’re honoring. The group could wash her feet, give her a facial, brush her hair, or give her a massage – whatever would make her feel most relaxed and pampered!
See also: 5 Best Prenatal Yoga Mats
My Mother’s Blessing Experiences
I am fortunate to have attended two Mother’s Blessings – one I organized for a friend and one thrown for me!
Planning a Virtual Mother’s Blessing for a Friend
I first learned about Mother’s Blessings when a friend who was pregnant with her second child asked me to plan one for her in early 2021. Because we were in the midst of the first winter of the pandemic, she was physically separated from her circle of support and was feeling isolated. She had read about Mother’s Blessings and thought it could be an effective way to connect with her community.
I loved the idea and spent some time reading up on the ceremony. Then, I spoke with my friend over the phone to hear what she envisioned for the gathering.
See also: Why You Should Meditate During Pregnancy
Since the world was still social distancing, we decided to throw the Mother’s Blessing virtually on the video platform of the hour, Zoom. While this felt different than a traditional women’s circle, it allowed us to invite people from many different parts of my friend’s life, even though they lived all over the country.
I sent out an evite and asked everyone to send a bead and a blessing to my friend, making sure that it would arrive before the date of the gathering. I also reached out to three invitees selected by my friend and asked if they would be willing to share a birth story.
Support During an Isolated Pregnancy
During the Mother’s Blessing, I acted as MC and explained the purpose of the gathering and what we would be doing, as this was the first time many of us had attended an event of this type. We began with the three women who had been asked to share their birth stories. One was my friend’s mother, and it was so special to hear about my friend’s birth during this gathering celebrating her.
Next, we each took turns sharing how we knew the mama-to-be. We offered our blessing and spoke about the bead we had selected. My friend held each bead up to her camera so that we could all see them.
Finally, my friend thanked all of us for coming and for our blessings. She shared what the gathering meant to her and how supported it made her feel during a pregnancy where she had felt so isolated. I think we all left that virtual Mother’s Blessing feeling like we had experienced something really special.
My Intimate Mother’s Blessing
When I got pregnant with my baby, I asked my friend for whom I had thrown the virtual Mother’s Blessing to plan one for me, too.
Our original plan was to have a hybrid Mother’s Blessing, with some guests attending in person and others attending virtually. I wanted to experience the physical, literal women’s circle aspect of the Mother’s Blessing while still being able to invite people from different parts of my life who didn’t live in my city.
Unfortunately, just a few weeks before we had planned the Mother’s Blessing, my dad passed away from brain cancer. I was obviously grieving and feeling incredibly raw and heartbroken. As a result, I didn’t think that I would want to be the center of attention at a large event.
I spoke with my friend, who lives in another state, and we decided that she would still fly in to visit the weekend we had planned for the Mother’s Blessing. She’s one of my oldest friends, and I knew it would feel supportive to see her.
She emailed the people we had invited and shared what had happened. She let them know that we wouldn’t be having the Mother’s Blessing as planned but asked that they still send in a bead and a blessing if they were able.
Joy and Grief
As my friend’s visit got closer, I realized that, although I wasn’t up for a big event, I didn’t want to completely miss out on celebrating my path into motherhood in the way I had imagined. Since my dad received his diagnosis the day after we found out we were pregnant, the experiences of this pregnancy and my dad’s illness were intertwined for me, and I learned to dance with joy and grief, life and death throughout those nine months. I knew that there was still space for joy during this time, just in a quieter way than originally planned.
We ended up inviting a few of my closest and oldest friends to my home for a smaller-scale Mother’s Blessing. The way my loved ones showed up for me during this gathering will forever be written on my heart. One friend brought food to nourish us and flowers to decorate the space. Another guest brought a stunning flower crown for me to wear during the ceremony.
We began by snacking and chatting before gathering in my living room, sitting in a circle (it was a hot day; otherwise we would have been outside!). My friend who had organized the Mother’s Blessing opened the circle by thanking everyone for being there, explaining what the Mother’s Blessing was, and talking a little bit about what I was experiencing.
She invited everyone to share a birth story if they wanted to. Several people spoke about their own experiences of childbirth. Others shared about family members who had recently given birth. I talked about my memories of my youngest sister being born and how she was really the first baby I got to help take care of.
I loved hearing these candid birth stories. There were profound moments and deeply hilarious ones. Getting to hear my about my loved ones’ experiences with labor and childbirth helped demystify birth for me, and I believe we need more spaces to discuss this in our culture.
A Sacred Space
Next, the circle shared their blessings and the beads they had brought for me. First, I read the blessings that people from out of town had mailed to me, and we passed around the beads they had sent so everyone could see them. Then, each person present at the Mother’s Blessing shared their own blessing for me and described the significance of the bead they had chosen.
The blessings were so beautiful and meaningful to me. and because everyone at the gathering had also known my dad, they understood how deeply his death was impacting me and my journey toward motherhood, and many of their blessings mentioned my dad. It was such a beautiful representation of this interplay between grief and joy that I was walking through. We all laughed and cried together in that circle, and it was sacred to share that experience with these women that I love so much.
Finally, the circle invited my husband in and expressed some blessings for him and for our little family. I loved this because I think fathers and non-birthing parents often get overlooked in the preparation for birth and also in the time after the baby is born. Although their experience is different than the parent giving birth, it’s so important and deserves to be acknowledged and validated.
Although my Mother’s Blessing wasn’t what I had first envisioned, it ended up being exactly what I needed at that moment in my pregnancy and in my life. I will forever treasure this gathering and the way I felt loved and held during one of the most challenging moments of my life.
Overall, the Mother’s Blessing ceremony is a beautiful way to honor and support women as they prepare for one of life’s most profound experiences. What elements would you include when planning a Mother’s Blessing? Tell me in the comments!