Mother blessings, or blessing ways, are a Navaho tradition that acknowledges the transition of a woman into a mother. It’s a sacred ceremony that celebrates and blesses this rite of passage. The purpose is to support a woman emotionally and mentally for birth and beyond. I first heard about mother blessings in my postpartum doula training, which is fitting since the focus of that work is honoring and supporting the mother, not just the baby.
When I got pregnant, I decided to blend the traditional baby shower with a mother blessing, choosing the elements that felt meaningful to me. I was very conscientious about cultural misappropriation, so I made sure that a big focus of the ceremony was educating guests on the history of mother blessings and the meaning behind each element. I also chose May 8, 2021 as my date because it was American Indian Day which felt like another way to honor the heritage.
Since my mother blessing took place during COVID times, I decided to host it virtually. That’s important because I had to adapt a few elements of the ceremony accordingly. I’ve made note of those below.
Labor necklace. I asked each guest to select a bead for me. During the mother blessing, each person shared a sentiment that the bead represented, things like strength, groundedness, my paternal grandmother who I was very close to, etc. I used those beads to create a labor necklace that I wore during labor.
Flowers. I wore a flower crown during my mother blessing which felt so feminine and ethereal. The crown also changed my appearance, which symbolically represented the transformation from woman to mother.
Henna. Typically, the mother receives henna or some other belly paint during the ceremony, but since mine took place virtually, I decided to get henna on my belly the day before. I didn’t know exactly what design I wanted, so I told the artist that I felt so at one with Mother Nature during my pregnancy — the divine gift of creation — so she gave me the tree of life. It felt so empowering!
Red cord. We sent red pieces of thread along with the invitations. They represent the umbilical cord, a web of life that connects us all. We asked my guests to wear the thread around their wrists for the remainder of my pregnancy and to send me positive energy when they looked at it. Once I delivered, they could cut the cord to represent the cutting of the umbilical cord. Again, since my ceremony was virtual, we mailed the thread in advance; if your ceremony is taking place in person, you could
Meaningful readings. I asked my cousin to close my mother blessing with the poem “A prayer for one who comes to choose this life” by Danelia Wild. I don’t think there was a dry eye after she finished!
Nursery tour. Let me be clear, a nursery tour is NOT part of a traditional mother blessing, but I decided to include one. Because of COVID and the fact that so many of my friends live all over the country, I knew not many people would actually get to see my nursery. Specifically, I wanted to point out a couple of decorations that were significant to me, including my paternal grandmother’s rocking chair and a collection of framed photos of our baby’s great-grandmothers. I truly believe that our loved ones are always with us, and I wanted my daughter to feel the love and strength of her ancestors. (And she NEVER is fussy in her nursery; I don’t think that’s a coincidence.)
Depending on what feels sacred and supportive to you, other elements include prayer, singing, lighting a birth candle, burning sage, pampering the mother (for instance washing the feet or a mani/pedi). If we had all been in person, I would’ve loved to sit in a circle with a cup of tea to hear memories, wisdom and advice from my guests.