What is a mother blessing?
You probably have heard of a baby shower, but have you heard of mother blessing? It is a celebration and honouring of a woman’s transition into motherhood. A mother blessing is a celebration that takes place during pregnancy and which is designed to celebrate and support the mother and her upcoming birth and postpartum period. Contrary to a baby shower, where all the focus and presents are on the baby, a mother blessing places the mother at the centre of the attention and support. It is a gathering, usually of women, coming together to celebrate the expectant mother, to honour her and give her loving attention, good wishes and support for the birth and the postpartum period.
I wrote about this in the past but I want to expand and explain the process a bit more, as I have gained a lot more experience in running these rituals.
What happens during a mother blessing?
There is no prescriptive recipe. It is about having a gathering to celebrate the mother in a way that feels good for her. The most important aspect is that she feels loved and nurtured, and that the event is tailored to her needs. I used to think that mother blessings where always a hippy affair, but I have come to realize that, whilst they are powerful and spiritual in nature, it is not the way they look like that makes them special but rather it is the intention behind it and how people come together to hold it.
Offering mother blessings through the years has taught me a lot. For example I organized one for a mother who is Christian, and she was worried that the event would involve spiritual aspects that would be incompatible with her religion. I reassured her that this wouldn’t be the case and that we would make sure that what happened was in line with her beliefs.
A mother blessing is a gathering a friends and family of the mother. Here are some simple logistical aspects to think about:
- Discuss the gathering with the mother
- Plan the structure of the gathering, with a beginning, middle and end
- Choose a venue and date
- Invite the guests
- Ask people to bring things to share such as reading a poem, or a singing a song, and meaningful gifts for the mother, and something to eat at the end
- Run the event
Here are some of the things I like to do to make a mother blessing special:
Setting up the space
I like to make the space special with colourful fabrics, flowers, candles, and lovely smells and sounds, like a sanctuary. Be guided by what the mother likes and tailor the level of woo accordingly.
Starting the ceremony
I like to have a simple ritual to mark the beginning of the ceremony, such as smudging or ringing a bell. Start the process with a short sharing circle, for example, having everyone introducing themselves saying their name, the name of their mother and maternal grandmother (in my case: I am Sophie, daughter of Michelle and granddaughter of Jacqueline).
If it feels right, singing a short circle song can be lovely too. For example, I like the song The river is flowing.
The ceremony itself
Here are some simple ritual activities to build into the ceremony can involve:
- Ask everyone to bring a bead to give to the mother. As each person presents her bead, they explain why they chose it, and what it represents. The beads get threaded on a string to make a necklace that the mother can wear or use like prayer beads during labour or the postpartum to remind herself of the circle of support around her.
- Pass some wool or string around the circle and have everyone wrap it a couple of times around one of their wrists. Once everyone is bound by the thread, pass scissors around to cut it and have everyone knot the thread around their wrist or ankle and keep it until the baby has been born.
- Gift a small candle (like a tealight) to everyone, and a bigger one to the mother. When the mother goes into labour, people will be notified (for example in a WhatsApp group) to light their candle and send love and good wishes for the birth.
- Have guests read texts, poems or sing songs (some lovely examples here)
- Do something nurturing for the mother, for example massaging her hands or feet.
- Have people bring or pledge some gifts for the mother for the postpartum. For example vouchers for postnatal massage or closing the bones ceremony, postnatal doula vouchers, food delivery, feel good products like postnatal herbal baths or massage oils, promise to come and clean her house/hold her baby whilst she sleeps etc.
- Have a final sharing circle at the end.
Finally, have some informal time afterwards to share food, some tea and cake (a groaning cake would be lovely) or a potluck meal. It is always lovely to have some informal chatting and eating time after the ceremony.
What are the advantages of having a mother blessing?
The main point of the mother blessing, besides making the mother feel loved and cherished, is to redirect the focus of the support towards the mother rather than the baby. Encouraging the mother to write a postnatal recovery plan, and/or using said plan to ask friends to provide pledges for the postartum is a good way to think ahead about what the mother might need after the birth (you can use my free postnatal recovery plan download as a template for this).
Beyond the mother herself I have found such ceremonies deeply moving for the facilitator and for all the people involved in the gathering. Western societies lack rituals to celebrate life transitions, and bringing this back into our culture is very powerful and meaningful. People often say that they had never taken part in something like this and how much they loved it, and wish they had one themselves.
I especially love to bring the whole process full circle, by bringing back the same group of people to honour the new mother a few weeks after the birth in a closing the bones ceremony.
In 2020 I have also participated in mother blessings over zoom. The process was the same e xcept that we sent cards and beads by post ahead of time. It was still very special and meaningful.
I am offering a new live online course on how to run mother blessings which starts next week.
Here is a short video showing snippet of mother blessings and workshop I have run in the past
(The Henna tattoo belly painting on the main picture, was designed by Jo Rogers as part of a mother blessing)