I had been looking forward to this day for so long but when I awoke I felt exhausted. My eyelids were heavy, my back was aching and all I could think about was getting another couple of hours of sleep *sigh*. I rolled over and saw my ‘almost 2’ year old sleeping peacefully next to me. Her little cherub face smiling faintly as she slept looking so sweet, completely innocent. Those freckles, her curls, it brought me to tears. Within seconds I had erased the memory of her keeping me up all night, poking me in the ribs with her feet, stealing my pillow and invading my personal space. ‘She’ll be a big sister soon’ I thought watching her little belly float up and down as she breathed. I placed my hands on my swelling belly and, as if on cue, felt a little kick from the baby growing inside me. “Morning Mama” I felt it say to me. Yes, I was about to become a mother of two. Rolling over my growing belly and exhausted body acutely reminded me there was indeed another soul’s body growing inside of mine and the time of it’s arrival here on earth was lingering.
Today was my Blessing Way day. A day where my closest circle of sisters living here with me in Bali would gather to honour me as a mother, to support my baby’s initiation into this world and bless my birthing experience. I was excited yet feeling a little apprehension. When women come together in circle like this you have nowhere to hide, ALL is seen and felt.
Honouring the Mother and the baby in the womb is a traditional ritual and ceremony dating back centuries across many cultures. Somehow in Western culture, like most things of a divine feminine nature, it has been reconfigured to be less about the sacredness of birth and the spiritual initiation of women into Motherhood and morphed into more of a social gathering known as a ‘Baby Shower’. People walk around with nappies on their heads, play games with plastic baby bottles, guessing due dates, sex and baby names whilst consuming an awful amount of sugar and purchasing more ‘essential baby gear’ from giant baby shops the size of a supermarket. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes these are just what the Mother-To-Be wants to experience but it certainly does not float my boat.
It was a sweltering hot tropical day in Bali as I pulled into my retreat centre on my motorbike carrying bags of fruit with a few coconuts hanging off the back. The sun belting down upon my skin leaving a trail of sticky sweat that all those who have visited the tropics know only too well. ‘How perfect it was to be holding this ceremony in my retreat centre’ I thought to myself unpacking my things off the bike, it was essentially my first ‘birth and baby’. I took a deep breath as I walked through the doors to my awaiting friend Dewi who was helping with the preparations. She reached out giving me a warm hug, reaching over my protruding belly. Dewi had arranged a crown of flowers and had it waiting for me. It was beautiful. As soon as she placed it upon my head I felt more like a woman about to be blessed and less hot, exhausted and fat pregnant lady. What a difference a crown makes, I felt like a queen.
Usually there are one or two women who ‘hold’ a Blessing Way, the leader/host if you will, and my friend Lindsey was this person for me. How to describe Lindsey? Full powered shamanic healer meets Disney princess! There is no one else like her. She has the sweetest singing voice you’ve ever heard, looks like a living Goddess, has the presence of an angel but can drink tequila and rock out on the guitar like it’s nobody’s business. Having Lindsey hold this space for me again (she did for my first baby too) was very, very special.
Lindsey arrived with her daughter Bells and they started setting up an altar with flower petals, crystals, feathers and all kinds of sacred objects. Another of my closest friends Georgie arrived shortly after giving me a huge squeeze and kiss on the cheek before getting down to business with Lindsey arranging flowers, lighting candles and making a mandala in the middle of where the circle would be held. I watched them in silence, taking in this moment. I felt the warm stickiness of Bali and smelt the incense wafting through the air as they started to sing. Their beautiful voices filling the space as they lovingly placed each flower in its place. I had a vision of them doing this together many times before. Tears welled in my eyes hearing their voices sing and watching them preparing an altar with the soul intention of blessing my little babe and me. How grateful I am to have friends like this.
All the women started to roll in one by one. It was not a big circle (I did not want that) but a super intimate gathering of my closest kin here in Bali. I watched as they all made their way up to the where the circle was in our yoga and meditation sala and I marvelled at who showed up to the invitation. Some of them had been ecstatic dancing that morning, some had been tending to their children, some had been working, some had been visiting friends, some had just flown in from New York (bless you Ezzie) but at the allocated time they chose to drop everything they were doing and be present at my Blessing Way, to honour one of their tribe, the Mother who was about to birth. I felt so grateful, so humbled and, if I am really honest, a little underserving.
Coconuts were cut and drained, candles lit, sage smudged and women gathered. Lindsey picked up her ukulele and started to sing, opening the circle with a prayer and a blessing. My heart burst open like a fire extinguisher and I felt the baby nestling deep within my womb taking in this moment, dancing to the music. One by one each woman shared her offerings with me. My whole body pulsed with electricity like that feeling you get before a date, or going on stage, or just before something big was going to happen. Nervous yet excited, anticipation and alertness, full body presence. I sat surrounded by women I loved, adored, respected. They each sang songs, recited poetry, offered stories, shared memories & shared their hard lessons learnt, read moving passages from powerful manuscripts and started chanting. Throughout the sharing they individually came up to where I was sitting to hug me, kiss my belly and offer up something for the birth. I breathed in deeply with the biggest smile on my tear-stained face as crystals, oracle cards, jewellery, feathers, sarongs, baby clothes, essential oils and other magical potions were placed before me at my feet. Smiling with every fibre of my being I received their blessings, wisdom and love with such intense gratitude in my heart I felt as though I could literally explode. How do you contain love like this? Being truly seen, revered and celebrated as a woman and as a mother? It was overwhelming and truly incredible. All I could do was cry and breathe. There were no words. Love is like that sometimes; completely indescribable. Tears flowed alongside the glorious sound of deep belly laughter, honest truths and a scared empowering energy that was felt between us all. I looked around at these women and absorbed each and every one of them. Their hair, cheekbones, the colour of their eyes, what they chose to wear that day. I could feel their agony and their ecstasy. The strong feminine power each one held within them was palpable alongside their subtle and beautiful insecurities. How honest and exquisite it was to be sitting here with them, being held by them, being loved by them.
I was asked to speak. In that moment my love for language had abandoned me, I found myself having nothing adequate to say that could convey what I was feeling. A humble ‘thank you’ was all I could stutter out of my mouth as the tears flowed down my face like waterfalls.
After the offerings were given a white candle was passed around and everyone carved a meaningful symbol into it. This large candle was given to me to set alight and burn when I go into labour to purify and light the journey ahead. Smaller candles were given to all the women to take home and light when I went into labour so our prayers would combine in the ethers and through all the realms I would be held and my baby safe.
Lindsey asked me to lie down as the women gathered closely around the perimeter of my body. As they sprinkled flower petals all over my body as the women shared what they love about me, their wishes for my birth, their happiness for my family and their blessings for my baby. I lay there feeling each delicate flower hit my skin, the sweet scent caressing my senses. I felt soaked in their blessings that were through into penetrating my heart. They touched me, massaged me, held me, anointed me with oils and wiped my tears. Love and support poured over me like I was swimming in the deep blue magnificent ocean, it never stopped flowing. I was so thirsty for this energy of complete surrender, to know I was safe and that these women had my back, no matter what. I knew if anything happened to me that my family would always be taken care of by these women as they loved my children like their own, I could feel it. I closed my eyes attempting bottle this immeasurable and pleasurable sensation of being wrapped in divine feminine love and truth. How healing it is, how confronting it is, how needed it is! Soaking it up like a biscuit and wanting to float in this bliss forever I felt the little being inside of me. How grateful I felt that this little being chose me to be a Mother. After so many old wounds in my womb; pain, sadness and miscarriages I was here surrounded by love, past all the struggles of my own journey and carrying life yet again. It truly is a miracle to hold and grow another little soul and body within my own.
It was in this moment that I had the sudden desire to share this feeling with all women everywhere. I prayed that all women feel this held, seen, loved and supported in all stages of their life. Not just through the journey of Motherhood and pregnancy but in every moment, all parts of them celebrated, touched, revered. I held this prayer so strong in my heart and made a deep intention to continue gathering women in sacred circle like this whenever anyone feels or needs this help, this love.
Coming up out of the flower bath felt like awakening from the most pleasurable dream I ever had, ‘surely that was not real’ I thought to myself. I looked around again, taking in this scene, the rainbow colour of the flowers spread everywhere was enough to make you believe in Magic. It was time to close the circle. We shared more prayers for all women and children everywhere and sent the energy we had cultivated, as a group out into the world, like fairy dust. We sealed the circle and closed the sacred space by tying white string around our wrists. This white string stays on wrist of each women until the mother goes into labour (or it falls off), tying each woman together in love and anchoring the energy created by the Blessing way. Overwhelming gratitude pulsated through me like waves and I felt the presence of the women who wanted to be with me on this day but could not. I felt my Mum (my hero), my sister, my daughter Ruby, my aunties and grandmothers and other women around the globe whom are so close to my heart. They too were carrying me through this ceremony, blessing my baby and our birth. Again that deep desire of wanting every woman to feel like this was stirring within me like a big boiling pot of water.
Lunch was prepared by my beautiful Balinese friends who had lovingly set up the table with candles and more flowers so intricately placed as only the Balinese can do. We ate delicious food, laughed and chatted like a gaggle of Goddesses. Time passed slowly yet I wanted to bathe in the energy of this support and love forever. One by one the women left to go back into their lives and finish out their days. Lindsey handed me a book that she had asked each woman to write in as a passing gift so I had a copy of all the poems and songs and blessings that were shared to read up until the birth. It was perfect and I did indeed feel blessed in every sense of the word.
I went to Australia and birthed my daughter Evie Willow into the world about 6 weeks later. My mum lit my white candle whilst I was in labour and had it burning on her altar for me in my family home that I grew up in. I had with me the book, crystals, oils, oracle cards and trinkets given to me by the women and I used all of these in my birth, especially in the days leading up to labour when I was deep in prayer for a safe journey for my baby as I knew she was so close to being earth side. There was a point when I was in active labour (about 10 hours in) and being slammed by never ending contractions one on top of the other. I had not wanted any pain relief during my labour and this particular moment in time was hard both physically and emotionally, I had reached a threshold, I was utterly shattered. I asked Pat my husband to play Lindseys album and as soon as I heard her voice I was taken back to that sweltering hot day in Bali and I could feel all the women around me again. They were whispering in my ear telling me how strong I was and how much they loved me. I could even smell the incense. In my birth I felt their blessings and their prayers flooding in to help me in my time of need. It gave me the strength and support I needed in that moment and my daughter was born about an hour later. The veils of life had opened; she had arrived gracefully and safely.
It was so beautiful to experience the sacredness of sisterhood, the magic of being a women and a mother and the power of prayers from my Blessing way that were carried all the way through the birth and beyond. How grateful I am to have had this experience and to continue living alongside such loving and supportive friends.
Photo cred goes to all the sisters present, thank you for capturing these moments and sending me these pics!
I would love to hear from you.
How did you celebrate your pregnancy and birth OR how have you helped celebrate the women in your tribe?
If you have any questions about how to host a Blessing Way or anything else let me know below.