I would like to tell the story about how I came to offer mother blessings ceremonies and the journey that led me to do this in the hope that it may inspire others to do the same.
I’ve always had an intuitive sense of the lack of ceremony and rituals, and sense of everyday sacredness within our culture. And I’ve had a longing for it all my life.
I was raised a Catholic. I left this faith behind as a teenager as it didn’t feel right for me. I noticed that, after leaving the church, I was left with nothing in terms of spiritual life. As a culture, it seems to me that we have squashed our innate wonder and unique sense of spirituality and that it’s only allowed to fit in the neat boxes that belong to organised religion.
It took me many years to re-create a spiritual life that fitted my unique self, and becoming a doula was a big part of the process.
In 2013, during my first year as a doula, I attended a doula retreat. There I learnt the closing the bones ritual and attended a shamanic drumming workshop. After the retreat I had a deep longing to create more sacredness in my life. I found the return to normal life, especially with 2 small children to look after, full of drudgery and so lacking in the connection I had experienced during the retreat. A doula at the retreat had mentioned that I could create the sacred in my everyday life, but I didn’t know how to do this. My desire to create community ceremonies came from this longing, and to fulfil this need for myself and for my community.
When I completed my mentored doula journey in the Autumn of 2013, I didn’t want to celebrate with just a meal, but have a meaningful ceremony instead. I asked a couple of friends to help design such a ceremony for me. The ceremony, a small intimate affair with my doula and my doula mentor, and a doula friend, was perfect. I then used the same process to organise recognition ceremonies for other local doulas.
I started offering mother blessings in 2016 to local doulas because I felt that doulas gave a lot to their clients but rarely received the same attention themselves. I felt very strongly that they should be celebrated and nurtured by their community when expecting a baby themselves. You can read about such a gathering in this blog.
I was blessed to lead many beautiful blessing ceremonies, and sometimes even organised for the same group of women who came to the mother blessing come back after the birth to do a group closing the bones ceremony.
I had impostor syndrome, so I spent about 3 years doing mother blessings for free to doulas, friends and clients before I felt ready to offer it as a paying service. Even then, when I did get booked for my first paying mother blessing, I worried that my client would not find it good enough. However, she loved it, and she was very happy to pay for it.
I’m not someone who does things by half, and I poured my heart and soul into preparing for the ceremony, spending many hours researching activities, discussing options with my client, and preparing equipment to bring to the ceremony. All in all I think I spent well over 15h for this blessing between the prep and the blessing itself. I hadn’t realised how time consuming it would be and I put my price up afterwards. Luckily my first client was also self-employed and reminded me to make sure I charged her for the time I spent with her on emails and phone calls as well as the face to face meetings.
Soon I found myself doing a lot of mother blessings. I loved that, with each new experience, I would learn new things to add to my repertoire of options. One woman asked to have a collage activity to create a vision board for her birth, and I love it so much I have done it ever since.
I also learnt about the importance of offering options and let the person choose rather than imposing my kind of ceremony. There was a Christian doula who wanted to make sure nothing in the ceremony would clash with her religious beliefs. There was a client who wanted the full hippy ceremony complete with red fabric, red clothes, smudging and drumming, and painting her belly with henna. There was a client who loved the idea of the a very hippy affair for herself, but knew that her family members would be put off by it so we toned it down, replacing the smoke smudging by creating a bespoke auric spray, and having a very simple, low key decoration. There was a woman whose partner was very sensitive to smells, so instead of using smoke or sprays, she made little individual essential oil roll-on bottles for people to apply to their wrists at the beginning of the ceremony.
Last year I organised a ceremony for a pregnant friend, and her partner went off with the rest of the men had their own father blessing in a different location, then we all came together for a meal afterwards. I found this particularly lovely.
I also ran the biggest group I had ever run, with about 25 people in a building within a private woodland, with another doula friend to help me, and it was beautiful and very spiritual.
Now, with several years of experience behind me, running these ceremonies feel within my comfort zone, and I have so many options and ideas to offer that I can easily create a beautiful bespoke ceremony.
In 2021 I ran my first live workshop on how to run mother blessings for a group of doulas and midwives. I loved teaching it and I got incredible feedback from my students. Several said that they’d found it the best workshop I had ever taught, and that it was hard to believe that I was teaching it for the first time. Here is some of the things they said:
- “I loved the beautiful energy you created here”
- “The experiential learning was fabulous”
- “I particularly liked the circle energy, the flow, and the drumming, it was all beautiful”
I decided to teach people how to offer mother blessings because I want to encourage more sense of sacredness into the lives of pregnant women, more celebration centred towards them and more community building, as well as help put in place postpartum support in place by gathering pledges of support during the ceremony. I’ve just launched a new online course to spread this even further, and I’m delighted to report that I have students from all over the world booked on the course.https://sophiemessager.com/how-to-run-a-mother-blessing.
Today I charge clients but I also still do free ceremonies for friends. I did many of these in 2021. In one of them I remember driving a long distance and asking myself why I’d agreed to do this. However, the ceremony itself was so touching I was moved to tears (and so were all the other guests in the room including the mother’s mother, who told me afterwards that she had found in extraordinary). It made it so worthwhile and left the gathering with a very full heart.
What do I love about mother blessings? I love that it creates a sense of community and support around the expectant mother. It gives me joy. It make the mother feel very loved and special, and it makes everyone who attends feel this way too. I love that it helps put community support in place for after the birth too. I love that the feeling of belonging lasts beyond the ceremony. I love wearing the red thread on my wrist as a reminder until the baby has been born, and I love telling everyone to light their candle when we hear that labour has started. Most of all I love that I help bring a sense of wonder and sacredness back into people’s lives.
I love that it spills over into the rest of my life and how I often use some of the honouring activities (like washing someone’s feet and massaging their hands and feet, or telling someone what we love about them) as part of the birthday celebrations of my friends. I love that, with mother blessings, we can help start a cultural shift from a culture where all the attention is focused on the baby, towards one that is more mother centered.
Understanding what attending such a ceremony feels like isn’t something you can be told about. You have to be there to get it. Often, guests approach me at the end of the gathering to tell me how they had never taken part in something like this, and how much they loved it.I love giving people a positive experience that will remain with them for the rest of their lives.
How does this post make you feel? Does it resonate? Have you have a mother blessing, wished you had one, or taken part in one, or led one? Please comment below. I would love to hear what you think.