The lovely alternative to a baby shower

01.12.09 | Posted in Parenting

I’m not your typical ‘let’s have a cupcake and stand around and make small talk’ type of girl, so needless to say the idea of a baby shower didn’t appeal. Not that I haven’t been to some beautiful ones, but it’s just not for me.

So my doula Bernadette (a doula is a birth support person) suggested a blessing way ceremony. Having never heard of one, she explained that it’s an ancient Native American Indian ritual that’s performed to guide a woman on her life-changing journey into motherhood, and welcome her new little soul into the world. “Sounds amazing” I said and promptly got organising, just as any self-respecting event planner would.

I gathered 15 or so of my closest girlfriends and female family members, as well as my best boyfriend Jake and my hubby (both of whom display more feminine traits than many of my girlfriends at times) and we started out with yummy food and drinks. The mood was subdued and expectant – there was a kind of calm over the house that night with the lights dimmed and music playing and everyone knew something special was about to unfold.

Cathy, who I’d asked to come and officiate part of the ceremony arrived, in her Native American Indian garb. She had feathers in her hair and love in her heart and instructed us all to enter ‘the circle’ from the west. Bernadette did her bit by smudging us with sage out on the balcony and when each of us returned inside, we picked up a musical instrument and joined Cathy in the beat she had started. There were drums and tambourines and sticks and other pieces and everyone joined in, gradually relaxing into the melodic rhythm and trying not to wonder what was coming next.

After a while Cathy set the tone, asking each of us to invite in our maternal ancestors that were no longer with us. So, I said “I’m Emma, daughter of Debbie, sister to Olivia, granddaughter to Betty. I also invite in my grandmother Shirley who has passed, and great grandmothers Mabel and Muriel”. We then talked about rituals and the part they play in our lives, and how the Native American Indians had it pretty right with their blessing ways. Many a woman had felt calm and in her power during their birth after experiencing this magical ceremony. Cathy read out some poems, we played some more drums and music, and then it was time for her to go.

One of the things that punctuates a blessing way is the forming of a necklace for a birthing mother to wear during labour. This necklace is created with the beads and jewels that her girlfriends bestow on her at the blessingway. One by one, we went around the circle and each person explained why they had chosen that bead for me. Some, like my mum’s, held a lot of significance. She had brought a bead that her mother had left her in her sewing kit when she passed away. My mum also brought a stork charm – her grandmother had given it to her when she fell pregnant with me. My mother in law’s bead came from Turkey, and my sister in law’s crystal bead was handpicked from her collection. As each person threaded on their bead, they shared a story or gave a blessing to me. My mum was particularly emotional as she shared the challenging births that she’d had with her three children, of which I was the first. My friend Susie who had experienced a homebirth with her first baby praised my courage for choosing the same way to birth and my other friends just wished me luck and best wishes. Rowan, in his typical last minute style, had taken a bead from one of my earrings rendering them unwearable ever again but it didn’t matter one bit – his words and intentions were beautiful.

When we had completed the necklace (which was the most exquisite collection of colours and energy) we each lit a candle and said one more blessing for the baby and for me. I finished by giving every person another candle with a note wrapped around it with some instructions. They were to call the person on their note and let them know when they heard that we’d gone into labour, asking them to light their candle and say a blessing for an easy birth. That way, everyone felt a part of the experience and when labour started, I had images of all my girlfriends standing over their lit candles and saying prayers for us. Just beautiful! I also wore my necklace in labour and felt the strength and love of my family and friends the whole time.

If you’re looking for an alternative to a baby shower, or just want to do a beautiful thing to celebrate your journey into motherhood, a blessing way is awesome – go for it!


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  1. Mardi Dean of Crunch Design

    Emma, I think we had the same Doula. Bernadette is a wonderful Doula and an incredible human being. We did a similar thing for my daughters naming day.
    We all sat in a circle and everyone threaded a bead onto string whilst saying a blessing. It was lovely.

  2. Renee

    What an absolutely beautiful, memorable and spiritual alternative! I can only imagine how uplifting and special not only the ceremony was but the thoughts of love, prayers and support you received during labour.

  3. Samantha McDonald

    What an amazing idea! As you know, Emma, I’m not exactly the ‘baby shower’ type either, but if I’d known about this idea, I probably would have done it! Hmmm… Number three is on its way now, so there’s always an opportunity…

  4. CAROL

    Thank you Emma for sharing this amazing ritual. Its so beautiful.
    I have a little friend whom I would love to organise a birthing or naming occassion & will certainly take heed from your wonderful rendition of your special Blessing Way Ceremony.
    Thank you.
    Love your Blog
    Best Wishes for Twenty10
    Carol xx

  5. Paul Jones

    Are guys allowed to comment here?

    Just wanted to thank you for sharing that beautiful story, Em. So refreshing when people try something different, out of the usual mould, religious or otherwise. After all, it’s all about “meaning,” isn’t it? The more meaning something has for you, the better. And yours had puh-lenty!