My Glorious Blessingway
By Erika Hobba
After I attended a lovely blessingway of a friend early in my pregnancy, I was inspired to have one myself. I felt this would be my last baby, so celebrating with some kind of ritual seemed appropriate. To celebrate with the gentle company of women was highly relevant as this pregnancy had taken me on an inspiring journey of reclaiming “women’s business”.
The whole process, from writing invitations to writing thank you cards afterwards, was a ritual for me where I endeavoured to increase richness and awareness. I was very mindful of including my daughter Rose in the process as a way of giving her the natural experience of being part of the continuum of womens (and girl’s) community and culture. Rose drew and coloured the pictures for my invitations and we planned the whole event together.
I had set the date of my blessingway to be two weeks before my “due date”, giving me plenty of time to retreat afterwards in preparation for birth. I set myself the goal of having most of my “nest” built by the blessingway, so cupboards and shelves were sorted and cleaned, chair-covers made, mending done and baby’s clothes and birthing gear all organised. Ahh! The pleasure as I ticked off the jobs one by one…
I’m not sure how pleasurable it was for Jasper and Rose as their mother turned into a “keep-the-house-tidy, Darlings” vigilante.
My blessingway was held in the early evening. I organised my husband Bruce to take our son Jasper camping on our property, nearby but separate; a boy’s night out with camp fire and sausages as the fireflies flew about them.
After we all arrived and were comfortably settled, we began the ceremony. There was a lovely vibrancy to the gathering – a feeling of joy and expectation as well as an underlying gravity. I felt bright and full of love and energy. The basic format was to begin with the “ceremony” or “circle” with Georgina as “mistress of ceremonies”. This allowed me to be free of the responsibility of coordinating the event.
We sat in a circle on the floor of the lounge room, cushions and mattresses arranged comfortably. In the middle was the “elemental bowl” with symbols of the five Chinese elements – earth, fire, air, water, metal and wood (metal and wood are highly representative of my connection with my blacksmithing family and traditional woodworker husband).
Georgina began by introducing herself and explaining briefly what a blessingway or birthingway was all about – a tradition across cultures, somewhat lost to the western world or replaced by the more consumer–oriented “baby shower”. She explained that it was about community and preparing the mother for the birth of her baby. It was important for the mother to surrender to the love and generosity of her friends as a symbol of the surrender necessary in birth. For me it was also very much a reclaiming of tradition, that of women being together and the very powerful emotional stirring that this can bring to all involved. Most of my friends in the circle were unfamiliar with blessingway ceremonies so this introduction was important.
The women were then invited to introduce themselves and explain their connection to me. This was a lovely process, giving a sense of history as my longer term friends explained our connection, and a sense of more recent growth and change with my newer friends. Within this time I also acknowledged the importance in my life of my midwife for my first two children and the respect I felt for my current midwife, neither of whom were present at the blessingway.
I had asked my midwife if she would provide a reading for the blessingway and this opened the way for the presentation of beads and blessings from each woman. As we went around the group each woman threaded her bead on a string as she voiced her blessing to me. Very beautiful words were expressed and I felt filled with gratitude. Some of the beads had been handmade, others with a story behind them, an old necklace that had broken; all with special significance and memories.
I had a keen sense of how each woman was affected by being part of the gathering. Some were quiet and poised with an element of vulnerability, perhaps from the unusual raw experience of being so intimately with women. In others I felt a sense of awe, passion, groundedness, joy and overall emotional “movement” and awareness.
The giving of a piece of fabric for the baby’s quilt and the blessing for the baby followed. This was preceded by a lovely reading by my friend Wanda about mothering. Some of the fabric was new, bright with colour. Some chosen by daughters of the women. Some from travels overseas in years past or hand-painted, symbolic in colour or image. Another piece was from a favorite dress worn before becoming a mother. It shall be a delight and a challenge to piece such an eclectic range of fabrics!
The final part of the circle was the wrapping of yarn around our wrists, representing the life cord of the baby and our ties with each other as part of my special circle of friends and community. At the end of the ceremony, the yarn tying us together was cut and wrapped around our wrists to be worn by each woman until the baby was born. It would serve as a reminder of the blessings to the baby and the birth. This was a lovely closing ritual, offering a sense of completeness to the ceremony.
By this time we were ready to break our “fast”. The ceremony had taken about one and a half hours and the children were becoming a little restless. It was interesting though, how they seemed to absorb the energy of the evening and were all so peaceful.
Healthy, delicious food was quickly brought to the table, each woman having brought their offering to share and celebrate. We all sat around the table together, mothers attending their children; very peaceful and happy; gentle conversation and laughter.
The evening was coming to a close. Amanda and Emma read stories to Rose curled between them, and then when ready for sleep Rose came to me to be cuddled. My lovely friends began to make moves to depart – warm goodbyes.
And so, while my darling girl lay asleep on the couch, I tidied the house a little, winding down gently from the beautiful evening. It had been a long satisfying day. As my precious mystery child moved inside me, I looked forward with joy to his or her imminent birth.
In the days since my blessingway I have indeed felt nourished by the love and words of blessing from friends. I am filled with the joy knowing that we all felt touched by the power and beauty of friendship amongst women. In rejoicing being together, there was a sense of reclaiming the richness of women’s spirit, in whatever stage of girlhood, womanhood and motherhood we are in.
Erika Hobba lives at Mt Glorious near Brisbane, with her husband Bruce Teakle and three children Jasper, Rose and baby Luka. Erika’s passions are motherhood, family and community life, and choice for women in pregnancy and birth.