So I did something pretty cool this weekend: I hosted my first "Mother Blessing" ceremony. They go by many names, these ceremonies, but that's what we chose to call ours. It was just a short and sweet little ceremony, tacked onto the end of this mom's baby shower. After all the "regular" baby shower stuff was done, I asked the guests to come outside and make a circle. Pretty much everyone was confused, so I gave a little shpeal that went something like this:
I'm sure you've all heard the phrase, "It takes a village to raise a child," and I know you all must agree with that, as you've joined together today to celebrate and help provide for this new baby! Another saying you might have heard is, "When a child is born, so also is the mother. The woman exisited before, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new." And so I ask you: If a mother is just as new as her baby... Where is her village?
It's here. WE are this new mother's village, and we are here today to celebrate, honor and support her, as she prepares for the greatest journey of her life.
Then I went on to talk a little bit more about the logistics of the ceremony, and what exactly we'd be doing. One thing that kept coming up as I researched Mother Blessing Cermonies was to have each of the participants wash the mother's feet. I absolutely LOVE the symbolism of washing feet, but the idea just didn't sit right with me for this particular ceremony. Feet don't represent much to me when I think of my life as a mother. As mother's we use our hands. And so, I decided we should wash this mother's hands instead.
First, I read this aloud*:
[Mother's name]: sister, daughter, friend,
You are about to give birth not only to your baby but to an absolutely new part of yourself: mother.
We extend our hands out to you, as strong, loving, patient and wise women,
to hold you and to bless you as you become a mother.
As a mother, your hands will never stop serving.
They will cook, and clean, and turn pages in a thousand story books.
They’ll tie shoes and hold handle bars, wipe bottoms and noses and bloody knees.
They’ll give high-fives and rub in sunscreen and fight a thousand thumb wars.
They will clap at pee-wee basketball games and in rhythm with the Wiggles.
Your hands will be twinkling stars and itsy bitsy spiders, and the safe place to spit out the yucky bites.
More than any of that, your hands will provide comfort.
They will rock, rub, soothe, and magically heal.
They will tickle, and hug, and dry tears.
Your hands will be the hands to hold in the grocery store check-out, at the top of the slide, and on the
first day of school.
Your hands will be busy, and tired, and worn…and always sticky.
We wash your hands now in honor of them, as they take on a whole new purpose in your life.
In doing so, we, your village, offer our hands to both you and your baby.
May you feel held and supported by them as you labor to bring your baby into the world.
May you reach out for them in those first, hard, beautiful weeks of motherhood.
May you hold them in love and friendship and joy as we continue to walk this journey of life as women, and mothers, together.
*I wrote most of this reading myself. I did take a few lines from another mother's poem, which I found on a site that was written to help people plan these ceremonies. Since that was its purpose, I hope it's ok that I'm using them. Of course I can't find that same site again, or I'd link it here. If you recognize these words, please send me the link so I can give credit where it's due!
Each mother then took a turn dipping the mother's hands in a basin of water. As they did so, they each recited one line, cleansing the mother of something negative, and offering something positive in its place. For example:
"I wash away fear, and offer you strength."
"I wash away worry, and offer you peace."
"I wash away darkness, and offer you light."
Finally, when mother's hands were "clean" and her village's eyes were wet, we joined each of our hands together with hers, creating a Chain of Support with a spool of thread.
As the thread came to each woman, she said aloud her own name, and the names of the mothers whose strength and wisdom she carries with her. When it was my turn, I said, "I am Ali: mother of [my kids], daughter of Julie, grandaughter of Irene and Betty." As the thread made its way around the circle, the Chain of mothers who've gone before this one grew longer and longer. Her own mother, who has gone on to a life even more abundant than this, was represented in the chain by the color of the thread: yellow, like a sunflower.
When the circle was complete, I cut the thread so that each member of this mom's village may keep a piece of the Chain around her wrist, until the baby arrives safely earthside. Each time we look at it, we will think of her, and send all our love, prayers, wisdom and support her way.
What a truly special event this was for me, as a woman, mother, doula, friend and aunt. (Yep, that baby in-da-belly is my little neice or nephew!)
Congratulations to you ~ beautiful, wonderful, wise and blessed mama, and welcome to your brand new adventure of Self: Motherhood.
As we, your village, agreed in closing prayer,
"May you find everything in your heart,
and your heart,
What makes a good mom-friend? A whole lot of the same stuff that makes a good doula.
It's the ability and willingness to be REAL.
This job is hard, man. And with all that "Mommy Wars" crap that's going on out there nowadays, well, moms are making it even harder - on themselves, and on each other.
I've found that the friends I hold most dear in this stage of my life - the messy, loud, bodily fluid filled stage - are the ones who don't make me feel crazy or unorganized or less than. They make me feel understood and normal and REAL, because wouldn't you know it- their lives are messy and loud too! And the best part? They don't even try to hide it. Which means I don't have to either!
Sometimes I send pictures to them that look like this:
And they send one right back that looks like this:
And sometimes, that simple, "You and me both, sister." is all it takes for me to feel like I'm doing alright. Because my friend? She's AMAZING. If her house looks like mine, if her kid throws fits too, if she sometimes burns the crap out of her family's dinner and lets the laundry pile up until she simply cannot wear her jeans ONE more time... If she can do all those things and still be AMAZING, then maybe I can too. Maybe I'm not so bad at this, afterall. Maybe, I'm just REAL.
So here's what I propose. Let's stop the charade, ladies. I don't want to play "100 Days of Happy" or "100 Days of Bliss" because frankly, though every day with my babies has happy moments (for sure!), there's a whole lot of other "stuff" that goes on behind the scenes. I want to share my happy moments and I want to see yours too, but I also want every mom to know that it's ok if on day 27, all you have to take a picture of is the trail of muddy footprints on your carpet. Some days are like that.
(Even in Australia.)
Follow me on instagram @LifesLightDoulaAli, or on Facebook, and please join me as I celebrate #100DaysofBeingReal.
You are AMAZING, mamas. Even with a sink full of dishes.