And what happened when we experienced this pregnancy tradition first hand.
Not a day goes by at Well Rounded without some discussion of pregnancy, birth, babies and all the other lovely things that go alongside. And yet, when my co-founder Kaity and managing editor Charlene became pregnant (and due just a week apart!), I was at a loss of how to honor them.
I had so many ideas, and yet none seemed to truly fit. Until I came across an Instagram post that literally stopped me in my tracks: a glowing pregnant woman, on the verge of welcoming her baby into the world, being celebrated by her mama community in the most sacred, honest and beautiful way. It was called a Mother Blessing.
It was clear from the images that this was no dainty baby shower. There was song, prayer, affirmations, love and humor. Oh and flowers. So many flowers! What better way to transition a mom-to-be into motherhood, especially the second time around?
Upon further inspection, it turned out I actually knew the glowing pregnant woman in the photo: Erica Livingston, one half of the incredible doula duo Birdsong Brooklyn. And not just because she and her other half Laura Interlandi are two of the most respected doulas in New York City. Erica was also one of the very first Bump Envy profiles on Well Rounded. It was Kismet! And so, together with Birdsong Brooklyn, I started planning Kaity and Charlene's Mother Blessing.
What it is:
I'll admit: I still had no idea what a Mother Blessing really was until the ladies of Birdsong schooled me about this beautiful tradition, which existed long before I “discovered" it on Instagram. In fact, today's Mother Blessing was derived from some of the first people of North America, specifically the Navajo people, who are credited for the term and practice of the Blessingway. The practice of a Mother Blessing, in some form or another, can be found in many places throughout history, and in many cultures all over the world.
The ladies of Birdsong perform Mother Blessings quite often, both privately and in groups, but they are committed to appreciating these traditions, rather than appropriating them. They even donate a portion of all Mother Blessing profits towards the Indigenous Environmental Network. We had extensive discussions about this prior and the ladies reiterated their position by saying: “We are two white women with a passion for women's wisdom and we are trying to learn and grow in the areas of social justice, and specifically here honoring that these practices are not ours ancestrally." In an ongoing effort to deepen their understanding and allyship, Erica and Laura are attending the Decolonize Birth Conference in Brooklyn hosted by Ancient Song.
Why you should do it:
In the chaos of pregnancy, there's a lot of attention paid to that little human you're planning for, and not always as much paid to the lady that's growing said little human. A Mother Blessing is a place to leave the concerns of baby behind, and instead, focus on the inner workings of mama.
Laura put the case for holding a Mother Blessing best: “Because women deserve to be honored and held. Because these people are a bearers of life and nothing short of miraculous! Because, now more than ever we must value ourselves and support one another. Because we have seen, time and again, that even a small amount of attention and support can clear the way for a smooth and empowered transition to motherhood."
Who you should include:
When it came to filling the room, Erica and Laura advised me to think about women with whom our pregnant gals would feel comfortable, women that loved and respected the guests of honor, and would offer them a safe space to share their excitement -- and fears -- about the process to come. Most importantly, these women should be able to leave their own experiences at the door, focusing only on supporting the journey of the woman (or in our case women) being blessed.
How you can prep:
A Mother Blessing can be a simple gathering of friends in a living room, or a more ornate ceremony filled with rich decor and props. Ours fell somewhere in between. Carriage House Birth invited us to hold our special event in their warm, cozy Brooklyn space, and floral guru Tara Keleher of Mixed Company NYC filled the room with lush flower arrangements. She even treated each guest to a magical floral crown! Of course, you can't have a party for pregnant women without food, so we brought in some of our fave dishes from one of our fave Brooklyn eats, Gather. And because we didn't want to spend the entire ceremony tethered to our phones, we hired professional photographer Ren'ee Kahn Bresler to snap shots of the entire event.
What actually goes down:
The ceremony that Birdsong constructs is about 2 hours long, with a half hour buffer either side for arrival, settling and wrap up. Once everyone was gathered, Laura and Erica created a sacred space through song, calling circle, sharing and activities that drew forth the mamas' intentions and desires for the birth and mothering journey.
The ceremony was light yet serious; emotional yet funny. With their backgrounds as performers and writers Erica and Laura create original prayers, meditations and music for their Mother Blessings. It was filled with a mix of song and meditation, as well as personal connections, and advice and offerings from each mama present. And of course, we fit in little pampering for our guests of honor!
We also planned some interactive activities as a physical representation of blessings and intention-setting. These included a flower crown DIY, where each mama guest contributed a meaningful bloom to a floral crown for each guest of honor, crafted on site by Mixed Company NYC, and constructing a “talisman" out of beads from each guest for Kaity and Charlene to hang during birth or postpartum.
Laura and Erica closed the ceremony with a web of support -- a simple activity of tossing a single thread of yarn around the room, and asking each mama to tie a string around her wrist to keep our guests of honor in mind. Many of us held onto those strings until the babies arrived several weeks later.
The Crunch Factor:
I know, I know. I was a little worried about this too. But Birdsong's founders assured me that Mother Blessings are for everyone and anyone, whether you're planning for a Freebirth or a C-section, whether you're a first-time mom or a 6th-time mom: “Maybe you have been to a ton of these. Maybe you are totally freaked out by stuff like this and are secretly worried you're going to be converted to some odd birth cult. Maybe you have a bunch of kids. Maybe you are super single and childfree and loving it. All good! The magic of joining together to show up for these expectant mama's is that we get to leave our own stories at the door and just be present and have fun. Come as you are and know that you will feel welcome and cared for."
Check out more of our beautiful Mother Blessing photos here.
And if you feel moved by the Mother Blessing tradition and want to honor those that created them, you can make a donation to the Indigenous Environmental Network here.