I had the great honor to attend a mother blessing today for a special friend who is preparing for the arrival of a much longed for baby. For those unfamiliar, a mother blessing is a gathering of close friends before a baby arrives, it is similar to a shower in that the guest of honor is pregnant and gifts are given but this is pretty much where the similarities end. The focus of a mother blessing is on the mother, not the baby. It is a day set aside for her friends to honor her, pamper her and share their love and admiration for her. Of COURSE there are a few gifts for the baby but the majority of gifts are things for the mama- chocolates, herbal teas, bath salts, notes of encouragement to read during labor, etc. The gifts are not piled on a table for the mother to open and hold up for the crowd to admire. Instead each person kneels before her, sharing the gifts they chose especially for her and tells her why each item was selected and, more importantly, why she is special in their lives. There are usually tears and always, always joy and celebration of friendship. I am always moved by these ceremonies and each one I’ve been to I had, what I felt was, a moment of pure connection with the mama-to-be. Today was no different.
After gifts were given, songs were sung and food was enjoyed we all participated in giving M a henna tattoo on her very baby-full belly. Our hostess started the process with a beautiful flower which each of us then added to. When it was my turn I found myself, once again, kneeling at my friends feet. This time however I was closer and painting the henna onto her skin. I commented to her that this was extremely personal, we both giggled and I finished my work. After everyone had finished the henna it was time to go but I know, from past experiences, that I will carry this feeling of connection with me for days. But I also know this feeling will fade and I find myself asking, “Why do we need a ceremony to feel connected?”
The moment of connection I experienced today wasn’t because of the ceremony or ritual of the events. The skin to skin contact, eye contact, sharing our selves, listening to our friend’s joys and fears without the need to hold back our protect ourselves. All of these things, not the ritual but the root of the place where the ritual was born, converged to bring out the connection that we all have if we are brave enough to open ourselves up to it. And make no mistake, it takes courage. Opening ourselves up means that we risk rejection. Accepting another person’s joy means we also risk sharing their pain. But when we refuse to be open and accepting isolation isn’t merely a risk, it’s a guarantee. I choose the risk of connection.