My Mama Blessing
On the 14th of May I woke up very EXCITED. After organising parties for other members of my family over the last few weeks and generally being super busy, today was the day when a little party was being thrown for me. This felt like a massive treat in itself J
You will have heard about Baby Showers – I was given a lovely one by my best pals when I was pregnant with my first baby 5 years ago. We played lots of funny games – I particularly remember sucking ice cubes to find jelly babies in the middle and sniffing chocolate in nappies to identify the type of ‘poo’- it was a little like a hen do sans alcohol for me! This time round however I was being gifted a Mama Blessing which has similarities to a baby shower but also some very big differences.
Since having George 5 years ago I have gone on to be a Hypnobirthing teacher and have met some truly amazing people who work in the birthing world. Two of these people are Steph Grainger, a local Doula and Hypnobirthing teacher and Grace Albon, an artist who I taught in the run up to her own birth. They have teamed up and set up their own enterprise creating beautiful bespoke Mama Blessings for expectant mums. As an expectant mum myself I jumped at the opportunity of having a gathering organised for me.
My husband made a swift getaway with our 2 children, leaving me with a peaceful few child-free hours. I had invited my close female friends and family and we gathered at my house for the afternoon. Steph created a very natural and relaxed atmosphere by giving everyone the chance to have a natter and a drink or two before she started the blessing as none of my guests knew exactly what to expect. Had I turned into a total ‘Earth Mother’ and was I going to get them to do some crazy chanting while I stood naked in the middle absorbing their ‘birth vibes’?!
When it was time to begin, we sat in a circle in my living room. Steph had asked me what I was comfortable with beforehand so I was totally at ease with everything her and Grace had prepared. The first thing I was presented with was a stunning flower garland for my head made from Irises intertwined with other flowers. Me being me had manage to mis-measure my head (!) and had somehow added a few centimetres to the measurement so my sister had to do some creative twisting with a hairband but then it stayed in place nicely! I had asked Steph to include Irises in the garland as this was my Gran’s name so it made it all the more beautiful. I felt like Maid Marion and loved wearing it :)
Steph has asked all my guests to bring a bead with them which reminded them of me in some way. She asked each person individually to explain why they had chosen that bead and then each one was threaded in turn onto a necklace. This was a really beautiful experience because as much as I felt a little self conscious with everyone talking about me; my friends and family said some absolutely wonderful and personal sentiments and I was made to feel very special. I was so touched by the effort they had gone to. Once all the beads had been threaded, I was given the necklace as a ‘birthing necklace’ to draw strength from during my birth. I don’t necessarily have to wear it during labour but I will definitely have it near me to remind me of all those who are thinking of me and rooting for me. The beads and charms I was given are beautiful and I will treasure the necklace.
The next thing we did was to pass round a red ball of wool. Each person in the circle had to wrap it around their wrist a couple of times before passing it to the next person. Steph was linking us all together as one. We all held hands and everyone was asked to send their positive energy to me. She explained that we would each cut the thread and tie the ends up around our wrists. Everyone would then wear their red bracelet until I had given birth and every time they saw they red thread they could think of me. It felt like a ‘circle of trust’ in which we were all part and it was a very comforting feeling to know I had so many people thinking of me and looking out for me. I am still wearing my red bracelet 3 weeks on and I know most (!) of my friends are too!
The final thing we did in our circle was to light candles. Grace had decorated tea light holders with the most beautiful designs depicting woodland themes such as toadstools, acorns and woodland creatures (I had asked for a woodland theme as I liked the idea of keeping it very ‘nature’ based and I have a bit of obsession with owls and foxes!). Each of my guests was given a tea light which they all lit from each other and as the light made it’s way round the circle I was given a pillar candle, also with a decorated holder and my candle was the last to be lit from everyone else’s. Once again Steph was asking everyone to channel their positive energy to me. This felt very powerful. I now have my candle sitting on my mantelpiece and I light it when I am relaxing and preparing for my birth. I am planning a home birth so it will be lit when I go into labour. My guests were all asked to take their candle home and light it whenever they wanted to and every time to think of me. Some women choose to tell their friends and family when they go into labour so they can all light their candles too but I prefer to keep my labours quiet and announce the birth once the baby has made an appearance.
This ended the ‘circle time’ and everyone wandered through to the conservatory where I had prepared an afternoon tea for people to munch on. Grace and Steph had not quite finished with the activities yet but they were done in a more informal way. Grace had prepared wooden hearts decorated with woodland images and each guest was asked to write a positive birth statement on a heart for me to read and use in the run up to my birth and during my labour. My friends picked some fantastic ones which are really ‘me’. They include such statements as: ‘I trust that my baby and my body know what to do’ and ‘I listen to my body and go with the flow’. These are birthing sentiments I totally agree with and it is so lovely to have them written out for me. Grace took these hearts away and arranged and framed them. They currently have pride of place in my conservatory and I make sure to take note of them every time I am there. I am sure I will also use them during my labour and birth.
The last thing my friends were asked to do was make a pledge with something they were going to do for me after the birth. Grace had hung some twine up with gorgeous little owl and fox pegs and each guest was asked to write their pledge and then attach it to the string – it looked amazing! I was so touched by all the pledges my friends and family made – from helping look after my 5 and 3 year old to making me a cake or dinner. This will be SO appreciated after the birth as any help is just amazing when you have a newborn baby. Would have been great if someone had offered to clean my bathroom though ;-)
Two other amazing things were also done for me at the blessing. Grace had asked me to ‘cast’ my bump a couple of weeks beforehand using a specialist kit. This had been great fun as my husband and children had done it and it had turned into a hilarious family activity. My children had ‘dunked’ the Plaster of Paris strips in water and my husband has basically wrapped them round my tummy. I just had to sit still and was completely at their mercy! It was great fun and we all ended up in the bath afterwards getting the excess plaster off! I had then dropped off the cast to Grace and she had painted a stunning oil picture of a family of foxes in a woodland setting onto it. It is totally beautiful and I currently have it proudly displayed in my living room. It is a wonderful and unique memento of my pregnancy made all the more special by the fact my children helped make it.
The final thing Grace did for me on the day was a ‘belly painting’. I had originally been quite shy about this being done as having my stretch marks in full view had felt a little out of my comfort zone. However, on the day I felt really at ease with it as it felt such a ‘safe’ space. Grace painted a curled up baby fox on my tummy which complemented theme of the day perfectly and my children thought was amazing when they arrived home.
As you can tell from my enthusiastic write up, I had such a wonderful afternoon. No naked dancing or chanting was required and lots of my friends commented on how it had not been exactly what they expected and a whole lot more ‘normal’! Steph is THE most down to earth person I know and Grace is so talented that their combined efforts meant it did not feel ‘far out’ or hippyish’ it was just beautifully personal and incredibly special. I did indeed feel very ‘blessed’.
It was a very nurturing and strengthening experience – it made me feel loved and cared for and I know I will draw on my blessing when I am in labour and take great comfort from the women in my life who gave me so much on that sunny afternoon in May.
I was also lucky enough to have my blessing photographed by the incredibly talented Sarah of Lilybud Photography. She captured the afternoon beautifully as you can see from the photos throughout this blog and she was completely lovely and discreet. It is wonderful to have these photos as mementos of the day I was made to feel so special. My beautiful flower garland was created by The Flower Shed who you can check out on facebook.