Attachment parenting in a disconnected world

Posts tagged ‘friends’

Bright Blessings to You, New Mother

I have been struggling with a bit of writer’s block this week, trying to pick the right topic for discussion.  I thought I would share something that’s becoming a local phenomenon where I live:  The Blessingway.

Having babies, going to war, same thing, right?

Not quite, but in Native American traditions, the preparations are similar.  Last weekend I gathered with a group of women for a version of the Blessingway ceremony.  My friend (let’s call her Margaret) is expecting a baby, her first, who will be born some time in the next few days.  Needless to say, anticipation is running high! The women who attended the Blessingway are all friends of the mother-to-be, and we came together to give her our blessings and share our hopes for her over the coming days, weeks and years.  We lit candles, read poems and wove a bracelet for each of us.  The time we spent was special, and hopefully Margaret drew strength from it.  Hopefully she will continue to do so. 

The blessingway tradition is not widely known about, and it contrasts with the usual kind of baby shower, giving soon-to-be mothers an opportunity to be a little introspective and to be made a fuss of.  Both of these things seem to vapourise as soon as baby arrives, so maybe it also serves as a kind of “last hurrah” to the woman as a single being, before she no longer has an “Inside Baby” as Margaret puts it! It’s a chance for the woman’s “Tribe” to celebrate who she is, and the amazing journey of motherhood she is about to embark upon.

I have now attended three blessingways, one of which was my own for the arrival of Alt.D2.  Each has been different, somehow reflecting the groups of women involved, but each time I have experienced a really strong sense of how spiritual we can be when we light a few candles and focus our thoughts.
“Are you doing witchcraft in there?”  Alt.Father’s question with one eyebrow raised… not quite, but it is a bit magical.
I sought a bit of help with the planning of Margaret’s blessingway from Shari Maser’s excellent book, full of ideas and suggestions of things to include.  For example, we each brought a bead with us, which were put together on a necklace for Margaret to wear or look at and be reminded that we were all thinking of her.  We passed a ball of yarn around, weaving bracelets which Margaret tied for us.  So now I have a piece of purple yarn wrapped round my wrist like a teenage friendship bracelet, and every time it catches my eye, I think of Margaret.  All the women present that evening are wearing the same kind of bracelet, and we’ll remove them only after the baby is born.

The practical preparations we make for birth are many: clothes, nappies, somewhere for the baby to sleep, plans for where it will be born… we put a lot of energy into that side of things.  A blessingway helps to remind all present that motherhood is about to begin.  And as Margaret said so succinctly, being somebody’s mum “is a very big thing – it’s massive”.  I agree totally – it is the hardest job I have ever done, but equally the most rewarding.

While we’re waiting for the baby to put in an appearance, here’s a poem that was read at Alt.D2’s blessingway, and at Margaret’s:

Bright Blessings to you, New Mother!!
“Sacred Mother
I hear you calling
Sacred Mother
I share your voice
Sacred Mother
I know your secrets
Sacred Mother
I’ve made my choice 

Blessed passage
Through the window
Blessed falling
From life’s great tree
My arms wait here
To receive you
Sacred Child
Blessed Be!”


The Tribe

The Alt.Family were fortunate this week to spend some time with our good friends at their farm community in beautiful Herefordshire.  Alt.Father was enthusiastically wheeling compost in the vegetable gardens, while Alt.D1 and her friend ran around in the sunshine kicking footballs, riding bikes, picking up stones and generally getting grubby.  Alt.D2 worked on her sitting-up skills, and for me it was a chance to catch up with a good friend who I don’t see nearly often enough.
I have heard it said that the friends you make while you are breastfeeding are often some of the closest.  This is apparently because of all the oxytocin and other love hormones going on in your body.  While these are supposed to be primarily for the benefit of your relationship with your baby, there are side-effects which reach out and intensify the other relationships you are forming at the time.  
When Alt.D1 was born, I began to appreciate how far away geographically Alt.Father and I actually are from our extended family.  Grandparents and great-grandparents are upwards of 2 hours travel, and the nearest siblings about the same distance away.  Our children would be growing up without Aunties and Uncles and cousins in the next street, or even the next county.  Although we have email and phone and skype, we would have to find our own way through the parenting minefield without the constant presence of the former generations of our family.  I can see how those distances might not seem far to some, but to us, it was and still is, far enough to make a difference.
As a mother, I found myself on the circuit of mum and baby groups, classes, coffee mornings and get-togethers.  Throughout my year long maternity leave, I was drawn to people with similar ideas about parenting, and from them I started to learn more about myself.  Although we were getting on with the parenting part of life, other things were taking a back burner.  Jobs around the house and garden that were impossible to tackle with a baby on your hip were filed under “A” for Another Time.  Alt.Father suggested that what was needed was something like an old style community, a tribe, where the mothers would get together to carry out the daily tasks while the big kids watched the little kids and everyone helped each other out… he might have been being a tad idealistic, but was he wrong?
In the rose-tinted past, before we created methods of communication that made it easier to be further apart from each other, families stayed local.  Sons and daughters learned from their parents and other elders in the community, and were often able to rely on friends and neighbours for support.  Do you know the names of your next-door neighbours?  How about the people either side of them?  Or the ones that live opposite?  I know my immediate neighbours, but not many more than those, and I am slightly ashamed to admit that. 
If you look to developing nations where tribal living is still commonplace, you can see the benefits.  You don’t hear of problems with breastfeeding.  Support and encouragement for that, as well as all the other aspects of being new parents (both mother and father of course – this is about so much more than just mothering, and not all about breastfeeding) is readily available.  I’m not saying it’s all great, but there must be a reason that our ancestors chose to live in tribes.
These days we are in a fortunate position that we are able to choose our own tribe.  Our neighbours might not be our first choice, but some of the mothers I have met in the first four years of my parenthood have somehow come together to make a new kind of community.  

A while ago I read an article by Teresa Pitman entitled “Finding Your Tribe”.  The author echoed Alt.Father’s words about old fashioned communities.  I got together with a group of local mothers, to talk about parenting, to carry out tasks and to offer each other some support.  A little tribe was forming, and it is in no small way thanks to those women that I made it through some of the difficult challenges I faced as a first time mother.
I have been thinking about the ways we reach out for new tribes in our modern daily life.  Whether it is through neighbours, toddler groups, or internet forums, mothers at least are drawn to each other.  Teresa Pitman says:

“We truly are social animals; we need to be with other people to feel good, whole, and happy. It’s worth the effort to create tribes, however small and imperfect they may be.”
Sadly, most of the families in the little tribe that Alt.D1 and I belonged to have moved on in one way or another.  But sitting with our babies on the grass in the sunshine in Herefordshire this week, as my friend worked on a decorating project, I was reminded of how it had felt in those days.  Our first-born babies were tiny little things, and it had been their arrival that had caused us to seek out likeminded people for support.

My friend and her family are now part of a bigger tribe in their farm community, emphasising to me the need of human beings to be part of something.  
No man is an island, and nor is any family.

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