Having a child, whether it’s your first or your fifth, is a momentous occasion. It’s the exhilarating start of a new chapter in your life. If it’s your first child, it is the moment you move from maiden to mother. This wonderful time in your life should be celebrated.
I’ve always felt that the ‘traditional’ western idea of a Baby Shower is shallow, hollow and a simple reflection of the materialistic world that we live in. At a baby shower, the mother-to-be is ‘showered’ with gifts for the new baby. Sure, this can be a great way to get all of the things you want for your baby without breaking the bank, but what do you get from a baby shower? What part of a baby shower celebrates you as a woman; as a mother?
Baby showers perpetuate, and are a reflection of, all that is wrong with society’s view on women. Believe it or not, we aren’t all shallow creatures who care primarily about stuff. Furthermore, baby showers are primarily focused on the baby and what the baby needs, and this theme is continued throughout the woman’s pregnancy and birth. Every decision is made taking into consideration what is best for baby, and rarely what is best for mum. Now, I am not saying that caring for the baby is wrong; obviously the baby’s safety and well-being is of utmost importance. But trying to overlook the wishes and needs of the woman carrying that baby? That’s wrong. Too many women suffer terrible treatment during their pregnancies and birthings – unnecessary and degrading cervical checks, needless interventions, endless scare-mongering and the like, all contributing to making the woman feel as though her body is incapable of doing it’s job. And believe it or not, mind over matter has a lot to do with how a woman’s birth experience turns out. The link between mind and body is not a floofy, hippie notion. It’s scientific fact.
So, what can you do to mark the passing from maiden to mother? You can ‘throw’ a blessingway. A blessingway is a traditional Native American rite of passage in which the expectant mother is celebrated, indulged and honoured. It is the second of the traditional ‘blood rites’, the first being the first menstruation. You may not wish to have a blessingway in the traditional sense, but you can certainly use the idea of one to create a celebratory occasion to mark the journey into motherhood.
Beading Ceremony – each woman attending the blessingway brings a special bead. You all sit in a circle, and each woman tells the group in turn about their own birth story (if they have one to tell). A blessing for the mother-to-be and the baby is then given by each woman, along with the bead which is either placed into a bowl for stringing later, or strung onto a thread there and then. The necklace is then given to the mother-to-be to wear during her birthing. This will remind her that her female friends and family will be with her in spirit when she gives birth. It will remind her of the millions of women in the world who are giving birth at the same time as she.
Belly Art – this can be done with henna or body paints, whichever you prefer. Get an artistically talented member of the group to decorate the pregnant belly of the mother-to-be as a celebration of her beautiful, fruitful female body. The other women at the blessingway can have their hands and feet decorated with the henna or body paint also, as a way of bringing everybody together.
Pampering – treat the pregnant mother to a luxurious massage, a facial, pedicure, manicure etc. Get as many ladies as possible pampering the mummy at the same time. Indulge her and make her feel special.
Celebratory Feast – have each woman attending the blessingway bring a small dish of food to be shared amongst the group. It doesn’t have to be anything complex; just the simple act of bringing and sharing food can be a wonderful way to connect as a group.
Music and Dancing – now; this one certainly isn’t for everyone, but it can be a lot of fun. Belly dancing in particular is great fun and is very good for pregnant women as it helps relax the pelvic joints ready for labour, as well as strengthening the stomach muscles. You don’t even have to do a ‘proper’ dance; just have a musically talented guest play a rhythm on a drum for everyone to groove to in whatever way they want to.
Flowers – flowers are the ultimate symbol of abundance and fertility. Have each guest bring a bunch – hand picked wild flower are beautiful and free – and fashion a crown of flowers for the mother-to-be to wear during her blessingway. Afterwards, the crown can be pressed for the mother to frame as a keepsake.
Pledge your Support – the best gift you can give a new mum is your time. Oh, and food. At the blessingway, pledge to help the new mum in the way that she needs you to help. This could be bringing a lasagne or a pasta bake for her and her family to eat in the days after her birth. It could be watching her older children for a couple hours so she can take a nap with her newborn. It could be spending an afternoon fending off well-meaning visitors for her and ensuring she has a hot cup of tea next to her at all times. It could simply be pushing the hoover around or doing the dishes.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to buy gifts for the newborn baby; it’s only natural – after all, those little tiny ‘first outfits’ are completely irresistible, and there are lots of presents you could buy that would come in really handy – a good woven wrap, for example, or a copy of a book such as The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. Just remember that there is more to the mother-to-be than her pregnant belly.