This post is long overdue, but I find it absolutely necessary to share my spin on the Navajo ritual that is a BlessingWay. For a couple of reasons. One is that as women we need to practice more rituals. The other is that as women of color we need to practice more rituals.
I first learned what a BlessingWay was during my most recent pregnancy and instantly knew this is what I'd be doing to prepare myself spiritually and mentally for childbirth and as a way to celebrate this "few chances" in a lifetime event of being pregnant.
Why a BlessingWay and not a baby shower? For the record, I also attended a more contemporary baby shower that was thrown for me by my family 2 weeks prior to my blessingway. I actually put together my own blessingway because it just felt like something that would help center me in preparation for the big day. I promised myself it would not only be an intimate gathering, but that I also would not go crazy with the planning process. So, here's what my planning looked like:
1. Pick a date- a Saturday in April when folks were free.
2. Decide who I really wanted to share this time and space with: I decided on my doula, mother, 3 sisters, and my good SisterFriend.
3. Invite said guests via email. Here's what my email said:
Women in My Life,
I would like you to help me prepare for the birth of my daughter by participating in what is known as a BlessingWay. In many indigenous cultures sacred ceremonies are held among only the women in a family, village or tribe where the life-bearing woman is "showered" with kind, encouraging words, reminders of her strength and a whole lot of positive womanly energy to help prepare her for what is to be a life-changing event. The BlessingWay was carried out by Native Americans as a rite of passage into motherhood.
As you all know, I am planning to birth Zuva at home 8 years after having had a very medicalized birth with Negasi. Needless to say things will be a lot different this time, and I am seeking your strength and reassurance that I can and will guide this young Queen Earthside with relative ease, centeredness, good health, safety and the guidances of my ancestors. I'm calling on you because I consider you my near and dear (Sisters)friends.
I am asking that you bring with you nothing but a relaxed mind, positive intentions, and a small inexpensive votive candle, which I'll light throughout my labor. We'll spend the time eating, imbibing and chatting it up all to help me mentally and spiritually prepare for what is to come.
I've invited a henna artist who will surely paint my belly and whom I'd like you to have design some part of your body as a gift from me to you. You can view some of her designs here to give yourselves an idea of what you might want to have done.
This is a child-friendly, elder-friendly, breastfeeding-friendly, err-body-friendly, gathering at my place on Saturday, April 23rd from 2-6 PM. If there are any changes with the time I will let you know.
Please reply to this email letting me know if you can make it. :)
Extremely grateful for you all and expressing that to you in advance.
4. As you can tell from reading, I also hired a wonderful NYC-based henna artist who I located on Thumbtack (really great resource for scouting out and hiring all sorts of professionals) and negotiated an extremely reasonable rate for a private 2-hour session at my home.
Flash forward to the day of the blessingway. All but one person arrive at my humble Bronx abode. (She overslept. Bless her heart.) Sisters and mom eat. I keep offering wine. They keep accepting. I get to use my new stemless wine glasses. It feels like something special is happening. Enter Rani, the phenomenal henna artist. Everybody gets what are to me the most beautiful henna tattoos on their arms, hands or feet, and I get the ultimate masterpiece done on my big round belly. Rani shared with me that henna design on a pregnant woman's belly is a symbol of good luck for the birth in Bangladeshi culture. Just what I needed.
While the henna and the wine were lovely, the cornerstone of this gathering was my request for a small candle from each of the woman present because I'd use it during my labor sort of like guiding lights if ever I became doubtful, scared, worried, tired. I collected the candles from everyone. And then I passed around a stack of post-it notes and asked each person to write as many or as few positive birth affirmations or a helpful, strengthening note they felt might help me through my labor if read. I told them to walk through my apartment and place their notes wherever they deemed suitable, and I would only read them during labor as I paced the apartment. Notes were everywhere--in my closet, on hallway walls, on the bathroom mirror, even in the fridge.
Then, we simply talked. There were some tears. It was love.