posted in Pregnancy
In the decade since I began to write on the subject, I have seen increasing transparency about pregnancy and infant loss. But there still remains a lack of agreed upon rituals for mourning the loss of a pregnancy or an infant. This confusion can fold into the celebration of a rainbow pregnancy. (A rainbow pregnancy is a pregnancy that follows a loss). Women who are pregnant again following a loss may feel superstitious about celebrating. They may feel as though too much joy will invite jinx.
To this I add two things. The first, joy can be intermingled with grief in these circumstances. The second, I know you don’t believe me but I’ll state here for the record that there is no jinx in pregnancy.
Recently, a writer friend of mine came across an article about blessing ways. Blessing ways are one alternative to more traditional baby showers. Although the ceremony is in no way loss-specific, it does lend itself to loss and remembrance because it celebrates the strength and often non-linear journey to motherhood that many women experience. (Disclaimer: The blessing way is a Navajo ceremony and I am no expert. Quite probably, the blessing ways I have had were merely inspired by the Navajo tradition and I offer true and humble thanks for this cultural marker).
During a blessing way, women gather with their (usually female) friends and family to prepare herself for her coming birth. The celebration varies according to the women there — she may want her hair brushed, her body adorned with paint, beads, or flowers, or to hear joyous stories of birth and parenting from her loved ones. She may want to relax and get a message, share special food, to make a meaningful craft, or to light a candle.
The beauty of a blessing way is that it honors the mother and the child and the journey towards this union. The path can be long and arduous for many different reasons. A blessing way is one way to keep the focus on the mother as she journeys through her own process of self-definition, to pregnancy, to motherhood.
My post-loss blessing ways were everything to me. It celebrated a community of women. It honored all my children. It honored me. It was multi-faceted and candle-lit. The scent of burning sage crept into the room. Women read poems, or said words. They gave me beads and I made a necklace from them. They wrote on my arms with henna.
Blessing ways are a beautiful ceremony for any baby — to be clear, they are not loss-specific. But, also to be clear, they do lend themselves to post-loss pregnancies because they are wholly inclusive. At my post-loss blessing way, it was easy to talk about and remember my baby who had died and this allowed me to feel less divided. I could never forget him, but so too did I want to honor the baby who was coming. There is an elasticity to a blessing way that allows for just this kind of beautiful and crushing nuance.
Blessing ways are about the process of mothering and nurturing at any stage. They celebrate a journey more than they do a result. For more information on how to host a blessing way visit this link for information and ideas.
October is National Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month. This remembrance is an important way to honor the experiences of women and men who lose pregnancies or infants.
Cautiously expecting after baby loss? Try this support group
Have you ever been to a blessing way?