Becoming a mother is perhaps the biggest life event that can happen to a woman – so how shall we celebrate and mark the occasion? Veronika Robinson, celebrant and author of The Blessingway, tells us more about a beautiful ceremony that might just be a much better alternative than a baby shower.
Rituals and ceremonies are intrinsic to human evolution. When we move from one stage of life to another, we look for ways to mark the event. Major life events, or rites of passage such as graduation, moving house, starting a new job, or getting married are celebrated widely regardless of religious beliefs. These celebrations have a very important role: they mark the transition from one chapter of life to another.
Becoming a mother is also a major life event, but for some reason it’s not typically celebrated in our culture – although it should be.
Becoming a mother – a rite of passage
Becoming a mother is quite possibly the biggest life event that can happen to a woman: it’s a momentous occasion that will turn every new mum’s world upside down. It seems odd, therefore, that we only tend to celebrate it with a baby shower, which focuses mainly on gifts for the baby. But it turns out there is a type of ceremony that is all about celebrating and honouring a new mum: the mother blessing.
As celebrant and author Veronika Robinson tells us, a mother blessing is designed to be had during pregnancy, about a month before baby is due. Unlike a baby shower, the focus of a mother blessing is on the mother and about her journey into motherhood. Whether it’s her first baby or her tenth doesn’t really matter; it’s about celebrating the change she’s going through to become a mother.
The origin of this celebration comes from the Navajo Indian blessingway ceremony, which is about blessing the way for anyone who is going through a rite of passage. Originally a blessingway is not restricted to celebrating new mums – it’s about blessing someone’s way who is going through any rite of passage. In this case that rite of passage is becoming a mother – so we will call it a mother blessing.
As Veronika explains, a mother blessing is about women coming together to really support the new mum on her journey – something that’s quite lacking in our culture. It’s not a commercial event, but participants are invited to bring the mother other kinds of gifts: the gift of food, the gift of promising time to help with housework after the baby is born, or the gift of a bead. But no expensive gifts.
A mother blessing is a very special celebration full of connection and meaning. “One of the things that happens is a bond is created in that space of supporting a woman for birth” says Veronika. “We have set the intention that we want the best possible birth, we encourage her to talk about what her birth plans are, the whole feeling of it, how does she want to feel when she’s giving birth. And to align with her vision. That’s clearly something that just doesn’t happen at a baby shower, which is all about bringing presents for the baby; whereas this is very much a mind-body-soul focused ceremony.”
Crossing the line
When you become a mother you’re crossing a line and opening a new chapter. It’s not just the sleepless nights and the mountain of nappies that will be new, but your whole life will change, together with your identity – and there are many women who struggle with this. They’re really clinging onto their life before the baby, and they don’t understand, because there was nothing to mark the transition, that they can’t go back to their old life; this is a new territory.
Having a mother blessing could however help you with this transition. Such a ceremony has a very important function: it helps draw a line between your “old life” and the life that is ahead of you.
As a celebrant, Veronika talks about the hero’s journey: “When we create a ceremony it’s based on the idea that we start a separation: we’re leaving the world we’re familiar with, in the case of a mother blessing ceremony the woman is leaving the world that she’s used to, and she crosses the threshold. That’s the middle of the ceremony, affirming and giving her rituals. And then she has to incorporate that experience, and she’s gonna go out into the world a new woman. The very nature of ceremony is to allow that transition to embed into the psyche. For most women who had a blessing ceremony, because they’ve had that crossing of the threshold, then that journey into motherhood is very different. It’s been honoured.”
There’s a very powerful energy happening in such a ceremony, which can be deeply moving. “You treat a woman like a goddess for a few hours; it doesn’t happen very often!” says Veronika. “Imagine if you’re in a room, or some sort of lovely place that’s been made into a sacred space. The lights are dimmed, there are candles on, there’s beautiful music playing, many nice scents, essential oils or incense, women singing; all of those things create a really rich atmosphere. And for some women it is life-changing.”
Examples of rituals you can do
The mother blessing is a very personal ceremony, so make sure you only invite people that you feel closest to. The women you invite don’t need to be mothers; they just need to be people that you feel close to, that you feel would support you. And although it’s traditionally women, you can absolutely invite men if you like. It’s completely down to you.
Veronika shares with us how she opens the ceremony: “I will open the ceremony by going around the circle of women, starting with myself, and introducing myself by ‘my name is Veronika, I’m the daughter of Angelikah, and the granddaughter of Liselotta and Minnie’. And so each woman goes around introducing themselves as the daughter and granddaughter; and that’s an incredibly powerful thing. I’ve never had a blessing ceremony where someone hasn’t started crying in the process. They might be crying because they don’t have a good relationship with their mothers, maybe because they’re deceased, or maybe because they just recognise the power of that ancestress soul line. Our ancestresses play such an important part in our lives, even if we’re not conscious of it. They are in everything we do.”
Rituals might include bathing your feet in water that has herbs in it, or rose petals. It might be changing your hair style, or making a flower crown. It could be creating a plaster cast of your belly, or doing illustrations on it with non-toxic paint or henna. It could be all the women putting their hands on your belly to say welcome to the baby and wish a beautiful, safe and easy birth; this is very tactile, but for those who are open to that it can be really powerful.
One of Veronika’s favourite rituals is the giving of a bead. Each of the women who are sitting in a circle have brought a bead, ideally made from natural material rather than plastic, so any wood, or glass, or felt for example; and the idea is that when you’re in labour you thread those beads, and bringing the energy of all those women into your space to support and love you. When the women bring those beads to the ceremony they would say something they wish you in birth or in parenting, they might write a note or a poem, or just simply give you the bead. You don’t have to wait till birth to thread them, you can do it at the ceremony if you like.
Another ritual is the red thread, where you have a ball of red hemp or some yarn. It starts with the mother holding the ball of thread and then she throws it to someone in the circle, and they wrap the thread around their wrist a few times and throw it to another woman, until everybody is wrapped up. Then the thread is cut between each of the women, and they’re wearing the thread that they’ve got until they hear that the mother has given birth. So it’s a constant reminder every time they look at their wrist, about the mother, and her journey into motherhood.
Oftentimes participants create a phone tree, says Veronika: “When the mum goes into labour, each of those women is contacted and they light a candle while she’s in labour. Their whole being is focused on wishing her the best – and you can’t underestimate the power of that, knowing that you’ve got, whether it’s three women or ten women, all lighting a candle and being fully present for you.”
And then of course it’s the practical things, so anyone who is on the phone tree is likely to create a meal to bring around after the birth, or create some sort of rota where somebody comes and maybe does the washing, or if there are other children then takes them out to play, or does something to help the woman, so she can just fully be with her baby. That kind of practical help is also invaluable.
After the ceremony there’s always feasting. Everyone is bringing some food to share, and that’s a lovely way to close the celebration.
Personalise your mother blessing to suit your needs
The way you want your mother blessing to be depends entirely on you. “You can be a high-flying corporate CEO, but there’s nothing to stop you from setting up your living room with lots of cushions, candles, or little images of fertility symbols” says Veronika. “You can create an altar with these symbols, or you can have positive images and affirmations around. It doesn’t matter so much what your job or lifestyle is, it’s about what your intention for birth and becoming a mother is, and what you can do to create that.”
If you’re very shy, or don’t feel comfortable having people in your home, you could have a blessing ceremony in a different way. You could contact the women that are closest to you, and ask them to send you a bead. And then you can just thread the beads privately.
The main thing is to recognise that you can adapt the ceremony to suit your needs and wishes. It’s all flexible. The only thing Veronika says you can’t do without is the intention of positive energy: “That’s the whole purpose of it, to bless the woman’s way. And you can’t bless someone if you’re in a negative state, or thinking negative thoughts.”
Personalise your mother blessing ceremony and do what’s meaningful to you – and create a beautiful beginning into your motherhood journey. A group of women coming together to support you, honour you and show their love can be very comforting. It’s a powerful reminder that you’re not alone on this journey.
Thank you Veronika for your insights.