Happy spring to one and all! Today felt very springlike up here in Alaska. The snow that has piled up over the past few weeks was soft and slushy, eaves and gutters dripped with snow melt, wooded areas were alive with calling birds and there was a palpable energy “springing” forth from all of the places and people I visited with today.
My midwife came by today and delivered a few things for the upcoming birth of Baby Wilder #3 who should be here within the next few days or weeks! We are now playing the waiting game. I’ve had some significant contractions, but nothing even close to consistent…just my body training for the real deal. It is pretty amazing what the female body does to keep the human race chugging along!
I’ve noticed with this pregnancy that I have been much more intrigued and interested in rituals. Since this is my third child, a baby shower is definitely not needed (we already have pretty much everything we “need” and more!) and not expected by friends and family. Some folks have “Baby Sprinkles” for second, third, etc. children, but I REALLY don’t want to accumulate much more in the ways of things for me or babies. So, in light of looking at alternative celebrations and avoiding getting unnecessary gifts, I decided to explore the idea of throwing a “Blessingway Ceremony.”
“Blessingway” or a “Mother Blessing” ceremony is based on a traditional Navajo ceremony to celebrate a mother’s transition into becoming a mother. They have recently gained popularity among people looking for an alternative to showers. I’m not sure what the Navajo ceremony entails, but they have become a kind of sacred ritual for many women. They often involve women gathering in a circle, barefoot, to create necklaces of beads for the pregnant woman to wear in labor, they massage the woman, decorate her body with henna or create a belly cast out of plaster, tell encouraging stories of labor and birth and create an all around soothing, supportive and loving atmosphere to help carry the woman through her last days or weeks of pregnancy. There is power in women gathering to support one another!
I love the idea of a Blessingway, but part of me was hesitant to be too “out there” for both myself and my friends. I’m a critical person through and through and sometimes ceremonies or rituals borrowed (perhaps even appropriated?) from other cultures can rub me the wrong way. I wanted to be authentic to myself and the women in my life. So what did I do? I invited my closest female friends to help me prepare for the impending arrival of my third child in a way that seemed most beneficial for me and my family, and everyone in attendance seemed to love it!
I invited a dozen women to my home to help deep clean and prepare frozen meals.
We drank champagne and ate cheesecake.
I hired a friend to lead everyone in a group art project and a fun, light-hearted Circle of Women.
For those that really wanted to bring a gift, I requested a favorite freezer meal or treat.
I asked my husband to spend the night at a hotel with Opal and Ava so I could sleep a whole night through without being awoken by children or snoring or anything other than my own bladder.
It was MARVELOUS.
It’s hard for us, as women, as mothers, and as people to ask for help. I think, after a couple of kids, I finally had the courage or the lack of pride or perhaps just pure exhaustion to step out of my comfort zone and ask my dear friends to come and help me out for an evening. The invitation said it all: “Come do some art, listen to loud music, eat, drink and help a mama out!”
We started the evening with an hour or two of cleaning and prepping food. I had a few lists: veggies to prep, proteins to prep, and my “dream cleaning” list. The cleaning list involved some very-much-needed-yet-seldom-accomplished tasks: clean window sills and tracks, clean windows, wipe down cupboards and appliances, clean the fridge, scrub tubs and showers–think spring cleaning type tasks. Food prep was pretty run of the mill: chop/dice/slice lots of veggies and cook up various meats! Food prep and clean up is always the most time consuming task for me, and it turns out that five people chopping and frying up meat makes it go very quickly.
We had plenty of wine, champagne (and of course non alcoholic drinks, too!) and music to keep everyone chugging along. The conversations were great and there was a lot of laughter and connection happening while everyone was being super productive. In the couple of days following the party I ended up making ten breakfast burritos and six big pans of food (each will probably provide two dinners). These combined with other freezer meals brought over by friends will keep us very well fed with healthy meals for a few weeks following the new babe! I am SO grateful.
After the hard work at the beginning of the party we ate some dinner and cheesecake, read goddess cards and affirmation cards (which were hilarious!). I received the Hindu goddess Lakshmi. She represents a bright future and encourages the receiver to let go of worry and fear–seems pretty fitting for a woman about to have a baby! I also chose one for Baby Wilder and received the Celtic goddess Maeve. She represents cycles and rhythms, which was fascinating to me because I’ve been more in tune with natural cycles and rhythms during this pregnancy. Perhaps this babe will be the ritualistic one in the family?
We finished off the night with some symbolic art. My girlfriend and fellow Farmgirl Annie just started an art business so I hired her to organize the creative aspects of the evening. We all gathered in a circle on the floor of my living room and created mandalas on pieces of fabric that I have yet to string together into a prayer flag of sorts. I am hoping to focus on these labors of love during my own labor. I love the meditative properties of mandalas and could stare at them forever (but hopefully “forever” is not what I will be feeling in labor! ha!). It is very cool to see how everyone’s personalities shined through in their own mandalas. Some include encouraging words like “You are Loved” and “Follow your heart.” What a lovely gift from some of my favorite people!
Annie also brought over a large candle to decorate with a bead from each woman. I will burn the candle when I’m in labor to remind me of the love and support of these strong women. I also gave each woman a smaller candle to burn in their own home while I’m in labor.
Finally, I kind of forced my girlfriends to give me some belly henna! I love body art, and they all (some reluctantly!) obliged in decorating my big belly with henna. It was the first time I’ve done henna in a long time and didn’t stick very well, but it was fun to have some belly art for a few days.
I ended up with many compliments about the party. Everyone was happy to help out and I had a few people say that it is way better to clean and prep for another person than for themselves! Instead of one person working for ten or twenty hours, we had ten people working for one or two hours and probably got even more accomplished! We have decided that we should do this for everyone once in awhile. Who knew cleaning could be fun?
So, the moral of this story is: it’s OK to ask for help! The people who love us most want to help us out in any way possible, but sometimes it’s hard to help out people in productive and meaningful ways if they aren’t given any direction. I was proud of myself for asking for help and my friends were proud of me and happy to lend any help they could.
I WILL have a new babe come my next post, and I can’t wait to introduce you all to the newest member of the Wilder family!
If you know someone expecting, consider hosting a “help a mama out” kind of party! It will most likely be a hit!
Until next time,
Sending peace, love and spring sunshine from Alaska,
Alex, the Rural Farmgirl