I'm reading a fun book called Blessingways: A Guide to Mother-Centered Baby Showers--Celebrating Pregnancy, Birth, and Motherhood. It explains some of the traditions developing for blessingways as they become more popular and I've attended a few baby showers that incorporated a few of these things. There's a wide range of suggestions and some you may not personally be comfortable with but others you may love. Like all things, if you're hosting an event for someone then find out what they would appreciate and plan accordingly! But here are some things that appealed to me from the book or things I've participated in and wanted to remember.
- Footbaths, manicures or pedicures, hand or foot massages (done at home or professionally.) A simple footbath can be warm water and a few drops of peppermint essential oil or any fun scented soap. Throw in some rose petals for extra decor! An inexpensive, easy and wonderful feeling option is rub Alba Un-Petroleum jelly (or Vaseline or another petroleum based cream) all over your feet or hands (or the guest of honor.) Follow up with a sugar scrub, which can be as simple as straight sugar or a fancier option, mix some sugar with a few drops of an essential oil. Then put a few drops of a soap or gel on their feet or hands, rub it in and rinse off. End with their favorite scented lotion. This is similar to the Mary Kay satin hands stuff, but much less expensive and with simple homemade ingredients! For a thoughtful gift you could purchase the Alba, create some scented sugar scrub in a jar, and buy a lotion for the mom. Put it all in a pretty bag or basket and bring it to the party for the hand or foot rub and send it home with the mom afterwards.
- Candles, obviously nice for decor but also as a blessingway favor. Explain to the guests that each can take home a candle (something as simple as a votive) and when they learn the mother is laboring they can light the candle to serve as a reminder to be praying for the mother as she births. A friend did this during one of my labors and shared it later in a letter to our child, it still touches me to know of her thoughts and prayers through that experience - they were much needed!
- Invite guests to bring a bead or purchase a variety of beads for guests to sort through as they arrive. Each person chooses one bead and the group takes turns stringing them onto a bracelet for the mother to wear in the last weeks or pregnancy and/or during her labor. With each bead the guest shares a thought, prayer, or well wish for the birth. As the mom wears the bracelet she is reminded of the love and prayers of the community surrounding her. I saw this done at a shower and it was a beautiful.
- If you are very talented, create a quilt for the mother with guests each sewing or decorating a square. Friends and family far away can participate if the squares are mailed out in advance and a seamstress can put it all together to present at the blessingway/shower.
- Create a photo album for the new mother. I had a surprise celebration with friends when my son came home from the NICU. A friend suggested I bring over the photos of those four months and she would help me scrapbook them. She had invited friends to come prepared with scrapbooking supplies and they each laid out pages for me and then wrote a note & signed it. I love and appreciate their service (or else that album may never have been completed!) and the pages serve as a beautiful reminder of the love that surrounded our family during that challenge. For a baby on the way you can lay out pages with spaces left for 4x6 photos to be printed and later added or you can simply have guests sign a page to be inserted into an album later.
- Have guests provided a thought, well wish, or prayer on a card. Hole punch the corner and tie them all with a ribbon or place on a small ring. This was done for my daughter's recent baptism and she LOVES to flip through and be reminded of those that gathered to love and support her. Guests can write words of affirmation to encourage the mother through her labor and she can bring the ring of notes to the hospital/birth center with her. This can be as simple as 3x5 cards and a string or more elaborate with decorated cards.
- The guests can stand in a circle with the mother in the center or as part of the circle. Pass around a spool of string and have each guest wrap it around their wrist then pass it to the next person. As each does so they share their wish or hope for the guest of honor's upcoming labor. When it's gone full circle have everyone snip the string and tie it around their wrist. This can be worn until the baby arrives or simply for the rest of the party to remind them to say a prayer for the new mom. Depending on the color of the string and your personal beliefs you can share your thoughts about the symbolism (they suggest red thread, for example) to represent the circle of love and life and the community weaving their support around the new family. Each guest can introduce themselves by saying their name, daughter of (their mother), daughter of (their grandmothers) to honor the tie of motherhood.
Many more ideas from some online sources:
* Send home a flower or potted plant as a guest favor, discussing the symbolism of growth and new life.
* Have guests decorate onesies for the new baby, one for each month of the baby's first year of life.
* Bring in an instructor and have everyone learn to bellydance, a fun reminder of the role dancing played to bring a baby down and out!
* Bake bread together, mixing and kneading by hand and watching it grow like her belly. 🙂
* Find out some of the mother's favorite songs or hymns and sing them with/to her.
* Have a tea party with mother's tea (it's not actually tea, it's an herbal infusion that you can make easily with red raspberry leaf, nettle, or any other herbs that mom may like.) Send the extra tea home with mom for after the birth (but check to verify the herbal blend is safe for pregnant and nursing moms.) Provide some herbal bath mix for the mom to use postpartum. You could create a beautiful gift with some candles, herbal bath mix, a favorite drink or some nursing mother's herbal tea, and a note reminding the mother to pause and nourish herself as she celebrates her new arrival.
* Paint the mother's belly or have an henna artist come. I've been to showers in the month of October when two expectant moms had their husbands paint their bellies as pumpkins. I've also attended a birth where the mother's beautiful henna belly was captured in incredible photos.
* Bring flowers to make a corsage or wreath for mom's hair.
* Have each guest bring a poem about the joys of motherhood!
* Create a memory box for mom to keep mementos, and have each guest bring a special token that symbolizes their wish for her birth. They can include a small note explaining the significance of their gift. The box can later be used to hold baby's treasures.
* Provide some small branches in a vase and various pretty paper leaves with ribbons. Have guests write their wish for her birth and hang the wish leaf on the tree.
* Have each guest bring a small stone or provide stones and permanent markers. Each guest can write a word or small saying to encourage the mother through her birth, collect them in a special basket or dish.
* Create a special music playlist for the mom by asking guests to bring a copy of a song for her (which can then be purchased for the mom through iTunes.) As she listens to each song she'll be reminded of the love from her circle of friends.
* If mom is comfortable creating a belly cast with friends she can do so (it dries quickly) and then have it decorated by her friends. Alternately she can have the cast done in advance and have it just decorated at the celebration.
* Go around the room having moms share birth stories that are positive, uplifting, encouraging, or funny! Focus on empowering the mother to have faith in her body's ability to birth.
A blessingway can be as simple and casual or as sacred and formal as you want. A baby shower is fun and helpful and practical and wonderful, but it is baby focused. The goal of a blessingway is to focus on the woman becoming a mother. Aspects of a blessingway can be incorporated into a baby shower with even a simple moment to express to the mother everyone's love and concern for her. That is the hope - that the mother will feel surrounded by love as she makes this enormous life transition, whether it is her first child or her sixth.