Birth is sacred. As infants, it is the first rite of passage we will face in this world. As mothers, it is the ultimate test of strength, patience, and acceptance. I am a strong advocate for home birth. For thousands of years, women birthed their babies without medical assistance. It was revered as a natural and safe process. It wasn't until recent years that the art of birthing became a medical procedure; one that doctors have deemed dangerous. True, there are high risk pregnancies that require the help of western medicine, and we are so lucky to have that resource available to us. But more times than not, we have the ability to do without it. Our bodies were designed to perform this great miracle, we have the power!
I have attended both home and hospital births, the contrast between the two is vast. One is intimate and warm, the other sterile and cold. One feels free, the other feels controlled. At home,the lights are low, candles are burning, food is cooking. In the hospital, machines are clicking, strangers abound, and you are only allowed to eat ice chips. Seriously?! Please know that I am not undermining any woman who chooses to birth their baby in the hospital. I understand the fear that has been instilled in woman over the years, has overridden our innate ability to trust in our bodies and ourselves. BUT this illusion needs to be unveiled. As women, we need to re-empower ourselves to take control of our bodies and our births. With a little bit of research, one will discover that home births are statistically safer than hospital births. A home birth can actually give clinical advantages to the baby (you can read more about that at Birth Unplugged). Equally as important is the spiritual and emotional peace and stability the family experiences from birthing their baby at home.
Significant to a home birth, is a good foundation of support from friends and family; not just during labor but through your pregnancy and afterbirth as well. We need to carry each other. As the cliche goes, it takes a village. One way to do this is to give the expecting mother a blessingway. A blessingway ceremony focuses on preparing the mother emotionally and spiritually for childbirth and motherhood, rather than supporting her with material gifts. It is a chance to honor and help to prepare her for birth through simple ritual and wisdom. It is a beautiful, personal, emotional celebration, one that every women should get a chance to participate in. There is a great book called Mother Rising that I highly recommend for anyone wanting to facilitate a blessingway.
If you have never scripted or conducted a circle before, it can be intimidating. It is best to remember that there is no wrong way to do it. Design your blessingway according to the individual needs of the mother. Some women are very touchy feeley and want their hair brushed and their feet rubbed...others, not so much. Although everyone in circle will have multiple opportunities to speak, I find it helpful to incorporate a couple of people into the scripted ceremony. For instance, you might have her sister read aloud a guided mediation and her best friend read a poem. It is important though to make sure that there is a script to follow and that there is a facilitator in place to make sure things stay on track. An average blessingway can last anywhere from 2-6 hours. The following is an example of the format I used for the last blessingway I hosted:
- *Call in directions and spirits
- *Opening words
- *Fear releasing ritual
- *Blessing for a baby girl
- *Invite group to informally share a funny or inspirational story about Circe (mother)
- *Circe reads mother to daughter letter
- *Presentation of beads to Ava (baby's big sister)
- *Pagan mother blessing
- *Presentation of nature gifts and blessings
- *Offer Circe a chance to speak
- *Weaving the Web
- *Thank you
- *Directional and spirit release
- *Opening of circle
- *Closing prayer
Food is huge part of the celebration. The best blessingways I have attended are the ones with the biggest feasts! Create a menu that is in alignment with the seasons, and try to use local and organic ingredients. It works well, after the menu is planned, to delegate the dishes to the attendees. This make everyone feel included and takes some of the workload off of the host. Alcohol is optional, but sometimes it is nice to offer to guests when they arrive as many are nervous about the unexpected and the idea of having to speak aloud in a group. A glass of wine can help take the edge off. And of course dessert goes without saying, the more the merrier!
It is up to us to help create a shift in birth consciousness. Through community and celebration, we can continue to support this vision.
Let us take care of our children, for they have a long way to go. Let us take care of our elders, for they have come a long way. Most importantly, let us take care of those of us in between, for we are doing the work. -African Prayer