I always thought baby showers were the exclusive domain of the first time mother. A chance for her to feel loved and embarrassed in equal measure. A rite of passage akin to a hens night. Having a shower for a second, third or fourth child seemed gauche and somewhat presumptuous. It might not surprise you to read my thoughts have changed.
When Xavier was a week old my best friend arranged a small lunch with girlfriends in lieu of a shower and I am so glad she did. If not for that lunch, several friends would never have met Xavier. My eldest son, Isaac’s, shower was of the traditional kind, with the exception that I planned it myself. My sister, mother or friends would have arranged it but my nature didn’t allow that to happen. So I have never had to cringe at games featuring nappies full of chocolate or had to fake a smile as people guessed the girth of my belly. Indeed, the traditional baby shower has never really appealed to me.
I didn’t know about mother blessings until I read about them in Francesca Cox’s beautiful eBook – Celebrating Pregnancy Again. Many of the ideas have been borrowed from the Navajo tradition of blessingways. Out of respect for that tradition, I refer to a mother or baby blessing. The idea is to nourish the expectant mother with blessings and meaningful ritual. As soon as I learned about this tradition, it made so much more sense to me that the conventional shower. A dear friend was expecting her second daughter at around the time I became aware of mother blessings and I offered to host one for her. She too would probably have foregone another baby shower, but was happy with a “baby sprinkle” and a more unconventional approach. At her blessing, we strung words of hope and tied them onto a candle. We made a birthing necklace, where each guest strung a bead they had chosen onto a piece of leather. Guests wrote words of welcome onto prayer flags to be hung in the new baby’s room. I wrote words like “hope” and “joy” on rocks and asked guests to take what they needed as they left. I would have liked to also have done henna tattoos but as the blessing was held at a cafe, that proved too difficult. All in all, it was a beautiful morning.
I knew that this was the kind of celebration I wanted to welcome Elijah into the world. My sister and mother organised the blessing, with significant input from me – I let go a little, but my nature remains. Around 30 of my friends and family gathered at a beautiful local cafe. I was surprised and so very touched when a dear friend from Sydney arrived at the blessing. She too knows the pain of losing a child and the anxiety and hope of a subsequent pregnancy. To have her there was amazing.
My friends strung a necklace with gorgeous beads – each with a story and meaning attached. That necklace accompanied me into labour. Mum and Paulina had created crystal pendants which guests hung onto a branch with white and silver ribbon. Mum had found a beautiful branch for this purpose. Words of hope and welcome were written onto hearts to be later framed. Further prayers and words were written onto pieces of paper and placed into bunting. Each guest received a tea light candle holder that Paulina and I had made. On reflection, I wish that we had lit those candles at the blessing itself but I am happy to know that Xavier’s light travelled home with each of the guests. It was exactly the kind of baby shower I needed. It allowed me to include Xavier and welcome Elijah in a special and respectful way.
Ask guests to bring a bead in the invitation – for those that cannot attend they may want to send a bead. Many of my guests wrote what the bead represented within their cards, which I really treasured. It can take a while to string all the beads, so it’s a good idea to get this activity started early on in the blessing – we simply passed the necklace around so that people didn’t have to get up and could continue chatting. We used very thin leather. If the leather starts to get difficult to thread beads onto, place some glue on the very tip, let dry and then cut on an slight angle.
My mum scoured local scrub land for the perfect branch (there were a few branch auditions before we found the perfect one!). She stripped back some of the bark. We bought crystals from a local beading store (Bead Trimming and Craft Co) and made up hanging pendants. We use Swarovski lead crystals so that they would catch the light effectively. Guests then chose the pendant they liked and hung it on the branch with some silver and/or white ribbon.
For my friend’s shower, I bought a couple of packs of pre-cut craft tissue paper. I then sewed the tops over so that a ribbon could thread through the top. I supplied pens for people to write and draw on the flags. You could do something similar with fabric, or supply jewelled stickers etc. for more ornate flags.
For my shower, I made bunting that opened up at the back so that pieces of paper could be held in the flags themselves. I liked the idea of the bunting holding hidden messages of hope and welcome.
Guests did this throughout the blessing, with many choosing to do it as they left.
I bought a bag of pebbles from a local dollar store and wrote on the stones with permanent marker. I hair-sprayed over the top of the writing to ensure it adhered.
We found tea light candle holders for $1. We hot glue gunned on strips of hessian and ribbon around the holders.
For each activity we placed instructions and the meaning of the activity within white ornate frames. The ones we used are from Officeworks and are inexpensive.