I’m not able to do as much doula work as I’d like nowadays, as a full time working single mum, parenting a teenager and school child with #ADHD I’m pretty busy. I still do one to one sessions and teach workshops when I can. But doula work is in your bones, the doula mindset I now use in my everyday life all the time, approaching difficult people as if they were in labour can work wonders. If someone has unpredictable behaviours, extreme emotions, confusing needs- you can do well by loving presence, deep listening, going barefoot, breathing slowly, mirroring calm. Finding a transcendent part of you that sees the sacred in our everyday transactions. looking at the environment you are in- can it be changed to reduce peoples anxieties? Lights turned down, think about the acoustics, the smell. This week my son has been very anxious and worried, he has ADHD and probably ASD and the change from school to holidays combined with his birthday had led to him needing to be within touching distance of me at all times at home, this can be very tiring and stressful and he was worried about bedtime and sleeping too. A friend of mine called round whilst he was spiralling into panic and took him into the garden, they talked about the plants and he suggested my son chew and smell a few herbs, that it helped him if he was anxious. I took my son back to bed and he lay smelling his leaf while we read a story and until he calmed down and fell asleep.
Last year after our dog died of old age and I decided to get two sibling girl cats. They have been lovely to watch, very close. I thought about getting them neutered but decided to let them have one litter of kittens. As a child we had lots of pets and I witnessed two litters of puppies be born and grow up, this shaped my own interest in physiological birth and was one of the reasons I became a doula. I thought it was important for my children to see the normality of the life cycle.
My son watched in interest as local male cats started to frequent our garden after the cats went into heat, one male in particular seemed to have a close bond with my two sisters. We even witnessed them mating one morning so could introduce the birds and bees conversation with my son naturally. We then observed our cats behaviour start to change, to eat more, to become more solitary, not as close with her sister she would hiss if she came too close, she started eating more and I told our son we needed to be gentle with her, not pick her up too much or scare her. The male cat still showed regularly in the garden.
Eventually as I went away for a weekend, I thought the kittens would be due in about a week. I wondered how she would manage with her first litter. One dog I had as a young adult had a litter of puppies (she was a rescue dog and already pregnant otherwise I would have had her neutered) and coped well with the birth, until disturbed by my then partner returning with our other dog and friends, after which she left a puppy in its sac and did not care for it as she had the previous puppies and I had to intervene.
After the weekend I returned to find cats, neither of which looked pregnant. I quickly searched the garden and house for kittens, finally finding them in a cupboard in my bedroom, six kittens, all well and healthy, no mess, she’d done it fine all on her own.
She’s been a great mother, breastfeeding the babies on demand, purring loudly, but not let her sister too close. One early morning I found the daddy cat in the room too, chirruping at the cat and watching his kittens. A week later I found both sister cats in with the kittens. I was glad to see them friendly again, and when I looked at the kittens, I noticed one smaller all black kitten, her sister had had a kitten herself, just one. They are now co-feeding all the kittens, mostly found all together in a big heap of furry cats and loud purring. I was worried about the mother with six kittens who was struggling to keep weight on, so this should help her manage the load.
My young experience of watching puppies feeding, I’m sure influenced my own determination to breastfeed, and helped give me determination when my first baby was sleepy after a long labour and diamorphine. Kept me going through the pain of a tongue tie for over a year when she self weaned. I always felt is was important to breastfeed anywhere and everywhere, not covering up, to normalise breastfeeding in society, as I’m sure hiding breastfeeding away means that people feel it is something to be ashamed of and also stops girls learning what it looks like to latch a baby on. You end up with attitudes like this (and this is a man whose wife did breastfeed!)
My son I fed till he also self weaned at nearly three and a half. Breastfeeding past a year is less common now in European countries, but historically was the norm and is usual in countries around the world today. In some countries breastmilk is also given to invalids and women commonly share breastfeeding with their sisters and friends like my cats
I personally have nursed a few other peoples babies, mainly when they have been having early breastfeeding difficulties and the baby was hungry and struggling to latch
Mothering can be very hard in today’s society, without the ‘village’ community, women trying to learn all the skills on their own without prior experience and without support, levels of postnatal depression are high, but it is often the bonds we make with other new mothers that are sustained friendships throughout our adult lives and get us through those sometimes dark early days, sleepless nights and the continued joys and sorrows of parenthood
Just like other animals, we humans are primed through evolution to birth our babies, breastfeed and live in community, supporting each other
Mother blessings- What are they, and why I think every Mum-to-be (not just hippies!) should have one..
“If birth were a temple
my body is religion, and this small form
twisting out of me,
reach birth’s vaulted
arching like my back over holy
crystal clear salt of amniotic
my womb–a blessing bowl
–Nane Ariadne Jordan”
What is a blessing way?
A ‘Blessing Way’, ‘Mother blessing’ or ‘Mother shower’ is an alternative to a baby shower. A gathering of a pregnant woman’s nearest and dearest (usually) women friends and family, that takes place as her impending baby’s birth draws near.
The term ‘Blessing way’ is derived from a Native American (Navajo) ceremony, during which a girl enacts the story of ‘Changing Woman’ (a creation story, describing how fertility entered the world). It has been used in the United States since the 1970’s by midwives like Jeannine Parvati Baker. I shall refer to them from here on as ‘Mother blessings’ out of respect for Native american culture.
A mother blessing differs from a baby shower in its focus on the spiritual ‘rite of passage’ that a woman makes as she becomes a mother and building a ‘web’ of support and love to sustain her through her birth and the early days with her baby.
A mother blessing is not based on any one religion or belief system and can be tailored to reflect each woman’s unique heritage, spirituality and desires.
Most mother blessings incorporate an element of ritual or ceremony, pampering and honouring the mother-to-be. It also usually includes, laughter, meaningful presents, the creation of a birth necklace, flowers, strengthening of a community to sustain you, wonderful memories, photographs and a feast!
Why have a mother blessing?
Many women have a baby shower, whilst this can be a fun event, many people feel uncomfortable with the commercial, gift giving aspects, they may want only particular products for their baby-to-be or feel thy would prefer to receive baby gifts after their baby has arrived.
A mother blessing reminds us of the sacred nature of pregnancy, the miracle of bearing life within your body and the importance of a network of women to support you.
Through sharing, in a circle, your ancestry and connection to each other you gain confidence in your ability to be a mother, and in your community to nurture you.
When we pamper you, by adorning you with flowers, maybe brushing your hair, massaging your hands and feet or placing them in a bowl of hot scented water, applying a beautiful henna tattoo to your belly or making a cast to remind you of your fullness, we help you to overcome the fears our media obsessed culture may have permeated into your mind, about birth, or the early days of parenthood.
Often each woman that attends will bring a bead with a personal significance, these can be shared in a circle as the beads are strung into a birth necklace which can be worn as you labour and remind you of all the love and strength that surrounds you.
Some women like to craft a patchwork quilt for the baby-to-be or other keepsake.
Positive birth stories, poems and readings are also often shared, and a web of red yard weaved between the circle which are tied onto your guests wrists, these are usually kept until you have had your baby, to remind your guests to send you love and support.
The feast should be made up of your favourite dishes brought by all to share.
Presents should be heartfelt and home made if possible or useful promises to help with meals or other support after your baby is born.
A mother blessing can be organised by yourself, your family or friends, it can be for a first baby or a sixth or an adopted child. Whilst it us usually women that attend, Men and children can easily be accommodated.
4 Reasons why everyone should consider having a ‘Mother blessing’ in pregnancy
Sharing and releasing fears
1 Pregnancy is a time when you should feel pampered, adored and beautiful, although towards the end of pregnancy you may feel tired, uncomfortable and fed up. Historically women during pregnancy and motherhood have been revered as creators, nurturers and goddesses. A mother blessing can help you connect to this ancient tradition and relax and enjoy those last few weeks of pregnancy
2 Feeling safe, nurtured, held, releases the hormone oxytocin which reduces stress levels and contributes to an easier birth and successful breastfeeding
3 Research has shown that social support, especially from friends and families has a significant effect on a first time mother’s mental health and chances of developing post-natal depression. Hearing from your loved ones about their connection to you, how you met, what they love about you and the ways they feel you will make a wonderful mother will help you prepare for the days when early motherhood can be difficult, feeding problems, sleepless nights and your changing role as a woman
4 Henna belly tattoos look great in your birth photos!
Did you have a mother blessing? Please tell us about it?
If you didn’t have one, do you like the sound of them? Would you like to have one next time?
Preparing for motherhood
Hormones in labour
A history of baby showers
Henna in pregnancy
Why I decided call this a mother blessing rather than a blessingway
Mother blessing facilitation by Magical birth