Pregnancy – a time to be celebrated, honoured, adored and adorned!
I was privileged to attend a ‘baby shower’ for an Indian couple a few years ago and I was deeply moved by the incredible reverence and honour bestowed upon both the father and mother-to-be at this ceremony and celebration. The mother-to-be was joyfully decorated with henna and brought special foods to eat and drink. There was dancing and singing, laughter, music, plenty of prayer, chanting and moments of silence and reflection. It was a momentous occasion, lasting an entire day. This special event matched the enormity of birth and becoming a family.
In our mainstream western culture we do not give our mothers and fathers-to-be this beautiful and powerful preparation for birth and parenthood. Typical baby showers can be quite surface level with the greatest care given to matching invitations, party decor, fabulous cupcakes, a beautifully presented table of food and amazing gifts – all beautiful and joyful things! We tend to show our love through these kinds of details. There’s nothing wrong with a baby shower and they make women feel really special and pampered. But what if you wish for something different to this? What if you wish for a gathering that will help you to feel strong, beautiful and ready for birth and parenthood?
You may choose to give yourself or a pregnant friend a celebration like a “Mother and Baby Blessing” or a “Blessingway”. It may be a baby shower with one extra element of ceremony or bonding. It may be for both you and your partner – dads need honouring and support too!
One alternative or addition to a baby shower or a blessing is to invite a circle of friends to make beautiful birth art together. Enjoy an afternoon of creativity and fun making a positive, empowering and joyful memory together. If you have a doula you may wish to invite her too and she will help to establish a positive, welcoming and accepting mood. If you have a friend who understands you and your wishes for birth you may like them to help you organise this gathering and set the mood for the day.
• Sculpt mothers, babies, pregnant bellies with clay. Air hardening clay is available in craft stores.
• Create prayer flags for your birth with words and images. Squares of calico cloth and paint, fabric markers, scraps of material and embroidery thread are all you need.
• Make collages with positive affirmations, pretty papers, paint, drawings or magazine pictures,
• Paint mini canvases or a large positive affirmation banner
• Let them paint your belly
• Paint a belly cast together
• Make a keepsake book for mother and baby with positive wishes for both
• String a necklace from beads chosen for you by your friends
• Make a jar full of positive thoughts and quotes that you can turn to when you need a boost before and after birth
• Collect rocks and paint them with words, patterns and images of love, birth and life
• Allow your friends to pamper and adorn you with flowers, hair brushing, massage, and dress you with beautiful beads. Everyone could be pampered and adorned. (make sure any essential oils or herbs used are safe!)
Give your friends a candle to light when they hear that you are in labour. You may like to choose one person to let everyone know by text message. There is an incredible power in the shared lighting of a candle and shared awareness that a close friend is labouring. The candle seems to focus attention and allow us to “send” love, strength and well wishes to this mother and her baby in labour.
Making pregnancy and birth art is all about harnessing your creative spirit, unleashing your intuitive knowledge and tapping into collective memories to make a tangible record that we can turn to for strength, reassurance and inspiration. Just as our birth stories collect and share the memories of many so that the mother to be can take these into her mind and her memory as though they are her own; so does the sharing of art. These symbolic and deeply personal creations can feel as though they capture a little piece of each woman and her strengths, her love, her support and her conscious desire for this birth to be peaceful, welcoming, safe and beautiful. This is a powerful and wonderful gift.
If this all feels too extraordinary for your circle (and I do understand! It felt a little too extraordinary when I was pregnant but I would do it now without hesitation!) then why not invite friends for a cookup instead to help make meals for your freezer. Ask everyone to bring ingredients and a recipe. Shared cooking creates a positive and connected feeling amongst you and you will benefit from this practical as well as emotional expression of support after the birth of your baby. And you never know, after a shared cookup your friends may well feel ready to embrace something more!
Why does it matter?
“A New Birth Culture
Imagine if our culture told us that birth was one of the greatest things a woman might ever do. Imagine if the stories and images we were exposed to taught us that labour (and all birth) is an incredible and transformational experience, a rite of passage into motherhood. Our family and friends would celebrate and honour us. We would be surrounded by supportive and caring women as we embarked on this new experience.
Naturally, we might feel nervous and anxious about the momentous task ahead of us, but we would be well prepared. We would believe and trust that we could do this and have the reassurance of medical assistance to help us if we needed it. With a different perspective on birth right from the start, we would enter labour ready to work with our bodies to birth our babies. We would feel excited, curious and eager for birth and all of its unknowns.” ~ from the introduction to Birth Journeys – positive birth stories to encourage and inspire.
Holding a rich and meaningful blessingway or baby shower may be a wonderful and empowering step towards creating this vision of positive birth for yourself or a dear friend or sister.