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A MOTHER’S BLESSING

“Just as a tree grows
best when rooted firmly in the earth, so can a pregnant mother feel strong and capable when supported by a
sisterhood of nurturing
friends.”

April Lussier

A Mother’s Blessing, or a Blessing Way, is an intimate gathering for a pregnant woman and her closest female friends and family members, to celebrate her transition into motherhood. Unlike a baby shower, which is often about showering the baby with gifts, a mother’s blessing is about honouring the mother; celebrating her and her journey. It is an opportunity to shower her with love and well wishes, but most importantly nourish her with support that will continue through her fourth trimester. 

WHAT TO EXPECT

Evolving from a traditional Navajo Ceremony, the spiritual intention behind this shared space is to honour the expectant mother, celebrate sisterhood and welcome a new baby to earth.

As the tradition has evolved, so have the activities involved, but would mostly include:

  • Offering words of support for the new mother and baby. 
  • Pampering the mother throughout the day.
  • Celebrating her body with belly painting.
  • Sharing positive birth experiences.
  • Providing a dish for the freezer to help during those weeks after birth. It may be the organiser of the ceremony invites guests to start a meal train in support of the new family post-birth. 
  • Crafting dreamcatchers together to hold the group’s hopes and wishes. 
  • Bringing an object of significance to add to the centre alter. Perhaps a crystal, flowers or a candle.
  • Weaving flower crowns together to wear throughout the ceremony and take home with them afterwards.
  • Writing or illustrating affirmations onto stones.

THE RED THREAD

One of the most significant rituals that takes place during a mother’s blessing is the tying of the red thread. A ball of hemp/string is passed around the group and tied around each of the women’s wrists. The thread joins all the women together, representing the lineage of ancestors that came before them; the matriarchal line. The thread will be worn in support of the pregnant mother, until her baby arrives earth-side, when the thread can be removed. 

THE BIRTHING NECKLACE

Each guest is asked to bring along a bead to be included on the birthing necklace. Each bead symbolises womanhood and transformation and represents the guests wishes for the mother and baby in labour and birth. During the ceremony the beads are strung together, the necklace to be hung in the birth space to give strength and focus during her labour. 

THE CANDLE

Another wonderful keepsake for the guests and symbol of support for the expectant mother is a blessingway candle. Each woman will be gifted a candle to take home with them at the end of the ceremony, which they will light when labour begins. They can leave the candle to burn throughout the duration of labour, sending their collective well wishes for both mother and baby.

There are many ways to mark the day and each ceremony is individual to the woman herself. Some women choose to only include some of these activities, whilst others incorporate many more. The magic of joining together to show up for the expectant mother is that you get to send her on her path to motherhood surrounded with the support of loving friends. 

Have you ever attended a mother’s blessing ceremony? Share your experiences in the comments.

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POSITIVE BIRTH STORIES: MY SECOND BIRTH

SECOND TIME MUM, UNASSISTED HOME BIRTH

Just as with my first pregnancy, my due date came and went. I always told myself not to hang all my hopes on that single date.. but as it passed I couldn’t help but feel impatient. At my 40 week appointment on 1st March 2017, my midwife booked me in for an induction for the 11th March with little discussion. Her reason for this was that “it gets booked up quick”, so better book me a slot. I was furious with how blasé she was. I had made it clear I did not want to be induced and to be booked in only 10 days past my due date, I just didn’t feel heard. 

At that same appointment I was told my baby was head down and partly engaged – which made the induction date seem even more unnecessary. I went home feeling frustrated. That induction date hung over my head for days. I wasn’t getting any niggles or signs of labour yet and was dreading the prospect of my labour being interfered with. 

We walked a lot over those next few days! I was dragging Jack (my partner) & Elba (my eldest daughter who was just over 2.5 years at the time) out for walks everyday and bouncing on my birth ball at every opportunity. 

I toyed with the idea of a home birth during my pregnancy, but we opted for another hospital birth this time because I really felt I had such a positive experience the first time; I’d felt safe and things had gone exactly how I’d wanted. Naively, I thought that by keeping the hospital as my choice of place to give birth, I’d be able to have a similar experience. Of course, no two births are the same!

GOING INTO LABOUR

On Sunday 5th March (40+4) I had a familiar, dull period-like pain coming and going all day. During the night the pains were coming more frequently and I was sure something was happening. It didn’t feel very established, so I took myself to bed to get some rest, assuming I’d be woken by labour at some point during the night. This wasn’t the case. I woke up in the morning to nothing! Any discomfort I was feeling had completely stopped. During that morning, I was pretty sure my waters were trickling. I popped a pad in and went about my day. We chose not to contact the hospital as I worried I’d be given a countdown to induction and didn’t want to be given a time limit for my birth to happen spontaneously.

We chose not to contact the hospital as I worried I’d be given a countdown to induction.

I walked with a friend that lunchtime. My waters were still very lightly trickling and I was feeling a lot of pressure in between my legs. Once I returned home, at about 3.30pm, the tightenings and period-like pains returned. I decided it was time to speak to the hospital. My mum drove down to be with Elba and we went in to be assessed at 5.30pm. At this point I was experiencing irregular contractions.

BEING ASSESSED

After arriving at the hospital my waters gushed. It was such an odd feeling and so unfamiliar. During my first labour my waters didn’t break until the last moment and I was already in the pool.

I was very briefly assessed by a student midwife around 6pm, who listened-in to baby and felt my tummy. She confirmed I was experiencing contractions, which I obviously already knew! She said she wouldn’t internally examine me because my waters had gone, so I was at higher risk of infection. I was a little surprised by this. Usually they are keen to perform VE’s to get an idea of how things are progressing (despite this being unreliable). Nevertheless, I was happy to not be poked and prodded too much during my visit!

The student midwife then told me I wasn’t in established labour because my contractions weren’t regular enough yet; to go home, take a bath and have something to eat. Then, of course, told me I’d have to come back in the morning for an induction if nothing had progressed further by then. I was adamant my baby would be here before the following morning! 

ARRIVING HOME

As we left my surges were getting stronger. Even by the time we reached the car park I was having to stop and breathe through them. We followed her advice and headed home anyway! The journey home was pretty horrendous. Labour came out of nowhere and every bump in the road exacerbated each contraction. We arrived home at 7pm. I was so relieved! 

My mum was in shock to see us home. She’d made some dinner, but I couldn’t stomach anything to eat. I stood in our front room, bent over the table, breathing through regular, strong surges. Mum suggested taking off my leggings and shoes, and getting a little more comfortable. I was adamant I’d be going back to hospital soon, so just took off my shoes and stayed fulled clothed. 

I stood in our front room, bent over the table, breathing through regular, strong surges.

As my contractions were getting stronger and closer together, I suddenly felt so disheartened. I felt I was not coping with my surges as well as my first labour. Little did I know how close I was to having my baby! Elba was sitting on the sofa just opposite from me at this point. I asked my mum to take her up to bed.

Jack spoke to the hospital again just after 7.30pm. We explained how my labour had progressed substantially since leaving the hospital. They kept firing questions at Jack, who was repeating them to me. I was not in the right frame of mind to be answering questions. I had zoned in; focusing on my body, my breath, the swaying of my hips. They asked Jack if we wanted an ambulance sent out or if we could make the 25 minute journey back to the hospital in the car. I just looked at him. I think my eyes said it all. At this point I had no idea how close together my contractions actually were, I just knew there was no way we were getting back to the hospital in time for our baby’s arrival. 

BABY’S ARRIVAL

I felt calm. Whilst mum took Elba to bed, Jack and I stood in the lounge swaying together. He took my weight as I hung from his shoulders. I felt the roar in my throat and the urge to bear down. When my mum returned I told her felt like I needed a poo, so she helped me into the downstairs toilet. As I pulled down my leggings, the pad I had placed in my pants to catch my waters had a little blood on it. The sight of blood made me feel uneasy. Mum asked Jack to grab some towels from the airing cupboard. I went to the toilet and we laughed as she wiped my bum for the first time since I was a toddler! It still makes me crease just thinking about it.

A second later I felt my baby crowning. 

I felt the roar in my throat and the urge to bear down.

I said “mum, I can feel the head… the head’s there”. 

She said “let me check”. 

I said “No need.. I can feel it!”, as I reached in-between my legs and cupped my hand over the top of the head. A feeling I will never forget. In fact, sometimes now when I place my hand on the top of her head, it takes me back to that moment and I can physically feel how much she has grown. 

I pushed with my next contraction and my baby’s head was born. The rest of her followed very quickly with the next contraction. Two pushes and she arrived earth-side at 8.05pm (an hour after arriving home from the hospital). Jack and my mum held the corners of a towel and created a hammock underneath me, catching her as she arrived.

IN A TANGLE

As I stepped forward, mum wrapped the towel around her. We didn’t know what sex our baby was, but I didn’t even think about checking to find out. I just instantly felt I wanted her skin on mine, but the umbilical cord was trailing between my legs to where she was behind me. I still had my leggings around my ankles so I had to untangle myself! Mum was right… maybe I should have taken them off! 

I stripped off my clothes and mum passed her to me through my legs. I brought her up to my chest… and then she cried. What an amazing sound to know that she was ok. Jack and my mum wrapped us both in towels as I sat and cuddled her. I beamed as I realised I had another beautiful daughter. 

THE THIRD STAGE

I sat naked, holding my little Wren for half an hour before the paramedics arrived. They checked us both over and allowed us to wait another half an hour for the placenta to be born. This didn’t seem to be happening naturally. I was eager to get her straight on my breast to encourage a physiological third stage. She took a couple of minutes to work it out. Perhaps she was a little shocked after her speedy arrival!

After an hour, they suggested going to the hospital for a managed third stage, which I accepted. By this stage I just wanted to get cleaned up and my bum was numb from sitting on the floor! Jack cut the cord, it was completely white! Amazing! We were put in the ambulance. Wren laid on my chest for the duration of the journey to hospital with her eyes wide, staring into mine. 

My birth didn’t go how I thought it was going to, but it was the most empowering experience of my life. To birth unassisted, calmly and in control, feels incredible! In hind sight, I should have given more thought into preparing and planning a home birth, but I am grateful I had a completely undisturbed birth and it was very telling for how in times like that, instinct takes over.

Do you have a positive birth experience that you would like to share?