The modern day celebration of the anticipated birth of a new baby -- otherwise known as a baby shower -- is often filled with friends, family, games, gifts, and refreshments. Much of the focus during a baby shower is on, well, the baby. Mom typicall receives an abundance of baby gifts while attendees oooh and awww at the itty bitty clothing and cute items. Sometimes, attendees participate in games that require wearing a diaper pin or guessing the circumference of mom's growing belly. Sometimes, activities are more reserved and open, while guests eat and mingle.
In previous eras, and in many other cultures still today, special celebrations prior to birth are centered more on the mother, and are designed to help prepare mom for birth and her transition into parenthood. Some in our culture are reviving this tradition by hosting a "mother blessing" or "blessingway." In these kinds of events, different than a baby shower, the focus is on mom. Attendees surround the pregnant mama in love and support, offering up symbolic gestures to honor and prepare her for upcoming labor and birth, and ultimately, her journey into parenthood. Activities in a blessingway may include preparing and reading/writing personal well-wishes for mom, creating birth "prayer" flags, a smudging ceremony, candle lighting, birth/parenthood poetry reading, creating a personalized blessingway necklace or bracelet, and pampering mom with activities like belly henna painting, foot washing, and massage.
If you're hosting or planning a baby shower and would like to incorporate more of a focus on the mother, consider mixing in some traditional blessingway activities into your shower. It doesn't have to be all or nothing! This practice will likely work better if your shower is all female, but it could also work with men attending.
- Signage. Place a sign at the entrance of the shower that explains a little about how this shower will be different -- that you are honoring baby and mom. Including things like "Please leave any scary stories or negativity at the door" or "Only positive stories and wishes for mama and baby" will encourage guests not to share anything but positive thoughts and experiences.
- Well wishes. Instead, or perhaps in addition to, a typical shower game, provide guests with a pen and paper and ask them to write a note to encourage mom in her labor or through the journey inro parenthood. Notes can be read aloud, or provide guests with an envelope so that only mom can read the messages. Private messages may encourage guests to write more openly and from the heart. Consider providing examples of birth and parenting affirmations by printing them out for guests to see, or purchasing an affirmation deck for mothers (available on Amazon).
- Henna painting. If mom-to-be is comfortable with this activity, purchase a henna kit and ask guests to draw designs on mom's tummy. Or, designate a particularly artsy guest to draw a beautiful design.
- Sharing circle. Asks guests to surround mom in a circle or semi-circle, and share positive stories about birth and parenting (they can be personal, about family members, or more general).
- Candle lighting. Gift each guest with a tealight candle. In a special ceremony, ask everyone to light the candle, signifying lighting the way for mom's journey. Consider reading a special pregnancy, birth, or parenting poem. Then inform the guests to take home their candle and light it again when they know mom is in labor. When their candle is lit, they can send warm and positive thoughts or prayers to the laboring mom. Mom will feel surrounded in love and support knowing that her circle is holding space for her.
- Birth flags. Lay out markers, paint, and pre-cut fabric or paper squares so that guests can put on their creative hats and make individual blessing/birth/prayer flags for mom. These can include pictures or words, or both. You may want to print out pictures to give guests some ideas to get started. Remind guests that no one has to be an artist to create a flag that will inspire mom. Mom will then take her flags, string them together, and hang them in her place of birth for a focal point, support, and encouragement throughout labor.