My most excellent sister-in-law, with lots of help from my (local) friends and family, threw me a blessingway this afternoon. I can't begin to explain how wonderful it was. But, you know me, I'm still going to try.
I was thrilled upon entering Larissa's home at the attendance. Here were people from all parts of my mama life - my own mother, my sisters, most of the members of my mama's group, all-but-one of the urban mamas, and even a new friend. My sister-in-law's little sister and two moms were there. There were cute babies galore. It was so wonderful to know that so many people had put so much thought into helping me prepare my way toward the birth.
Destiny had asked me to tell the story of Everett's birth, and wanted to commemorate my miscarriage, which I appreciated greatly. So I had prepared, thought of which things were most important to remember. It seemed vital that I talk about my lack of community and support (excepting my most excellent family), how this had led me to be less confident, more impatient, a little lost and disconnected in Everett's birth. How my impatience and inability to relax and let things happen had contributed to an outcome that wasn't my hope - slow slow slow progression, Pitocin, an epidural, two hours of pushing, a c-section. These weren't what I wanted, I didn't feel "fulfilled" in the birth. I was disappointed that my athletic, well-cared-for body had "failed" me. But looking back on it, I knew that much of my disappointment was because of my impatience and inexperience. Now that I'm doing it all again, I need to let go of that.
While thinking about my miscarriage, I suddenly realized that I had let the pain go. The miscarriage happened in the weeks leading up to the birth of Destiny's first child, my niece Nehalem. Her blessingway had happened the week before I found out there was no heartbeat; her baby shower, the day the bleeding began. I couldn't tell her right away, and the pain was huge, focused, concentrated on the contrast between her (rightful, deserved) happiness and my huge sense of loss.
So I talked about how the support I'd received had helped so much, helped me let go of the pain, and focus on the renewal of life that occurred so quickly. I found out I was pregnant with the lost baby on Mothers' Day. I could very well give birth to Truman on Mothers' Day only a year later. While I missed out on my excellent plan, I know that things happen for a reason, that this child I lost had to go for something beyond my understanding. And I had given it up.
We lit candles, and set them afloat in the tub in Larissa's garden as my sisters sang. It wasn't until I set my candle into the tub - a big white rose - that I felt the weight of the commemoration. It was the barest hint of a tear, and I could see the beauty of the ceremony for the soul of the not-and-inch-long baby, surely, Destiny and her mom said, in heaven.
We walked back into the house, washing our hands in rose water on the way in (and smelling wonderfully, I might add). Then came the blessing, pampering, chanting, and showering of amazing things that make up the soul of a blessingway. I expected to be a little uncomfortable getting all that pampering from others - but everyone was so generous and warm and supportive, I was just thrilled. People said the nicest, warmest things, I wish I'd had a video camera running. That I was strong, and generous, and my spirit had brought them all together, that this blessingway was my due after all my efforts to create a community like the ones all mamas could count on in centuries past.
Best of all was Destiny's explanation, which went something like, "up until the last few centuries, a mother who was about to give birth would be surrounded by her sisters, friends, daughters, mother and 'ladies', who would pamper her, caring for her home, her children, and her husband, feeding her, bathing her, decorating her for the birth journey ahead." I think that, without knowing it, we all long for the lost 'Red Tent' of pre-Christian times. We all need this embracing, loving, practical group of women to help us through the most sacred and basic of all life experiences - birth, the giving of life.
After my footbath was more pampering, hand massages from my sisters, foot massages from Destiny, Shetha feeding me grapes for a photo opp (pics as soon as I get them, promise), and then the long line of gifts. There were pictures and words for a collage that I can bring to the birth with me; inspirational messages in a little box; beads for a birthing necklace; and gifts of pampering. I was reminded to "be strong warrior mama!" and that "You are the light of your baby's life" and to "ride the waves" and "be the cashmere sweater." I was given a birth mantra, "Breathing in - relax your body. Breathing out - hips open like a flower." My sister in Panama sent a Biblically-inspired phrase, "Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. This moment of pain will bring you years of JOY!" My friend Calen's words were so beautiful, too: "Everything is created from moment to moment, always new. Like fireworks, this universe is a celebration and you are the spectator contemplating the eternal Fourth of July of your absolute splendor." What lovely mantras for birth.
All the words and beads and gifts I received were amazing, but I was thrilled and surprised when I discovered that the lovely 'tidepool' blanket Larissa has been blogging about was for Truman! And Shetha had somehow gotten my hint that I needed a wrap for him, and made me one, in this great purple-blue tie-dye fabric that will go great with the blanket I am knitting for him. And there were bath salts and massage lotions and soaps and everything I could ever want for my bath. I'll be bathing twice daily for the next four-to-six weeks, you can be sure. There were little gifts for Everett and Truman, sweet thoughtful things, and flowers and finally, my birthing necklace, strung by Destiny's 'other' mom while we chatted. (photos, again, to come)
The wrapping-up of the blessingway was a beautiful song Destiny wrote for her birth, sung to her daughter (which made me cry, it was so lovely and perfect), and some great chanting and mama-rific songs. We did a string ceremony for all the pregnant women present (there were four of us), and we all have a little gold-brown string around our wrists to remind us that we are doing this together. "In birth, we are protected." It was powerful, and awesome.
When I am ready to give birth, this experience will remain with me, and most of all the special phrases, and words, and the knowledge that I am supported by so many wonderful, creative, generous, experienced mamas. And the millions, billions of mamas who go before us. In this circle of life, this endless renewal, this brilliant explosion of maternal fireworks, we are all united, and remembering that will be my talisman.