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 on what I wrote then, to explain the process as a more general one, as I have gained a lot more experience in running them and I have seen a wider range of options that I want to share.
What happens during a mother blessing?
There is no prescriptive recipe for a mother blessing, just like there isn’t one for a baby shower. It is about having a gathering around the mother in a way that feels good for her. The most important aspect is that the mother feels loved and nurtured, and that the event is tailored to her needs. I used to think that mother blessings where always a hippy and spiritual affair, and I have come to realize that, whilst they are usually powerful and spiritual in nature, it is not the way they look or feel to the outsider that makes their power, but rather it is the intention behind 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 boils down to organising a gathering a friends of the mother being celebrated. 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 guests
- Ask people to bring things to share such as reading a poem, or a singing a song, and meaningful gifts for the mother.
- Run the event
As I mentioned before there is no prescriptive way of running such a event, but here are some of the things I like to do:
Setting up the space
I like to make the space special with colourful fabrics, lovely scents and candles, 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 for the mother, singing a short circle song as a group can be lovely too. For example, I like the song The river is flowing.
The ceremony itself
Some simple ritual activities to built into the ceremony can involve:
- Ask everyone to bring a bead, to give to the mother as a reminder of the support of her sisters during her birth. As each person presents her bead, explain why they chose it. Provide some thread to make all these beads into 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 keep the thread around their wrist until the baby has been born
- Gift a small tealight candle 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 to the mother.
- Have guest read texts, poems or sing songs of their choosing (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.
After most gatherings I’ve been to, we had some informal time, involving some tea and cake (a groaning cake would be lovely!) or some food to share. Sometimes we had a pot luck meal afterwards. 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 is a good way to think ahead about what the mother might need during the postpartum (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 myself and for all the people involved in it, not just for the mother. Western societies lack rituals to celebrate life transitions, and bringing this back into our culture is very powerful and meaningful. 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. This will be the subject of another post!
In 2020 I have also participated in mother blessings over zoom. The process was the same except that we sent cards and beads by post ahead of time. It was still very special and meaningful.
(The Henna tattoo belly painting on the main picture, was designed by Jo Rogers as part of a mother blessing)