Last night, I attended my first Blessingway. A Blessingway is a beautiful, moving ceremony for an expectant mother. Female friends and family members meet and create a safe, loving, and supportive environment for the mother. There’s no horror stories, gossip about others, or bragging about who had the longest/most painful labor. Instead, the environment is warm and loving and strives to help the mother gain confidence, power, and support.
Gathered in a generous ICAN member’s home, 20-25 women gathered to honor 9 women. Your typical Blessingway honors one mother at a time, but ICAN is anything but typical. On the front page of the website, ICAN defines itself as “ICAN of Atlanta is the Atlanta chapter of the International Cesarean Awareness Network, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve maternal-child health by preventing unnecessary cesareans through education, providing support for cesarean recovery, and promoting Vaginal Birth after Cesarean (VBAC). “
Let me be the first to tell you, it is so much more than that. I’ve attended other ICAN events. My doula mentor is co-leader of the Atlanta chapter. I have close friends, my doula sisters, who are also ICAN members. They all encouraged me to come to the meetings, check out the message board– even though I’ve never had a cesarean section. This group welcomes all with open arms; you do not have to have a scar to fit in and to be welcomed.
I’ve watched this group of women spring to action in order to help a mother with a critically ill infant. Donations of time, money, and childcare poured from women who have full-time jobs, women who are SAHMs, women who already have a million things going on. No one ever hesitated to lend a hand, a shoulder, or an ear. I cried when a member’s house caught fire and they lost most of their possessions. I cried again as people rallied to find clothes, shelter, and food for the family. They also made sure to include toys for the kids. A few of the women even baked or cooked and sent the food to the local fire department as a way to say thank you.
A month or so ago, an ICAN member who had moved out-of-state posted a seemingly simple question about Blessingway beads. That one post grew into the event last night. 9 gorgeous, glowing Mamas received beads from the other attendees. Each woman chose the beads from various stores across Atlanta and even some out of state! Everyone described the reasons why chose their beads and the meaning behind them. Many chose blue and green beads to represent water and the ocean. Some chose red for ICAN and two chose red coral. One of the event planners chose beads that resembled watermelon with the tongue-in-cheek reason of “it’s pushing a watermelon out of your vagina!”
I chose two different types: cloudy, glass seafoam green beads that reminded me of the crest of waves in the ocean. The green also reminded me of spring, baby leaves, and new beginnings. The other beads I chose were chunky squares of blue and purple, as well as some smaller round purple beads. I had played with them in my hands and decided they would be nice to hold and rub during labor. Once pictures get posted from the event, I will post some. I didn’t think to take any of my beads before hand!
A beautiful poem was read that reminded us of the path we are all walking on. It spoke of looking back and being able to see everything you’ve accomplished, all the struggles you’ve over come and the hills you’ve climbed. It described the future that lay ahead of us: how there are footprints that show us many different paths we can take. We were reminded that these footprints are not marking a trail for us to follow, but to show us where others have gone and to let us know we are not alone.
After tears were dried–20+ women and not crying? Yeah, right!–, a small glass jar filled with stones was passed around. We were instructed not to look at the stones in the jar, but to blindly reach in and feel the various stones until we found one that we wanted or felt drawn to.
I was one of the last people to draw my stone, and thus one of the last ones to speak about what my stone meant to me. When I first saw I had “pure” I drew a blank. Pure. Innocent. White. Those are the words I initially associated with my stone. As I listened to these strong, amazing women describe what fun, laughter, easy, peace, patience, acceptance, and empower meant to them, my idea of pure shifted and changed.
Pure. Not diluted. No extra elements. During labor, every woman deserves pure support. Pure peace. Pure love, pure joy. It is my hope that those 9 women (3 who weren’t physically present, but were there in spirit) have pure elements in their births. I want all fears, worries, anxieties, and negative energy to be banished from their birthing environment. Let the pure power of being a woman giving birth take over.
Mamas, each of you has strength, courage, and wisdom. Hold your beads and remember you’re surrounded by women who love you and believe in you. To quote Christopher Robin, “Promise me you’ll always remember you’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”