This past weekend I had the honor of attending and hosting my first celebration of motherhood for a dear friend. The event included several ceremonial activities followed by the sharing of a meal that highlighted several nourishing postpartum recipes. Each guest was asked to bring flowers and greenery from their yards and a plate of food to share.
Upon arriving, the mother to be's feet were cleansed in a lavender epsom salt bath with plumeria petals. Next, each guest was given a cup of ceremonial hot chocolate to sip on together as a blessing candle was passed. The guests took turns blessing the mother to be with kind, encouraging and most of all supportive and loving words. Finally each guest contributed by making a portion of a beautiful haiku lei (flower crown) as a symbol of the community of women that surround the mother to be with love and support as she moves into her next phase of motherhood- mother of 2 boys! It was a beautiful day filled with love and community.
I had never heard of a celebration of motherhood until reading the book "The First 40 Days - The Essential Art of Nourishing the New Mother" by Heng Ou. It was recommended to me a friend, Robin Deem of Caligirl Cooking and I will recommend it for years to come. The book discusses the challenges of postpartum in our modern world and how traditional practices, though unfamiliar to most, offer support the mother needs to build strength postpartum both physically, mentally and emotionally.
In chapter 3 "Gathering", Ou lays out a 3rd trimester checklist including items like stocking your pantry and freezer, creating your nest and assembling your helping hands. Then she goes into two items I completely missed in my second pregnancy- honoring yourself and fortifying your relationship. The later calls for another post, but the idea of honoring yourself struck a chord with me. Even in 2nd, 3rd and subsequent pregnancies we often still focus on the baby! I know I did, only taking a 3 trips to a float tank the whole pregnancy for self care time. They were heavenly, but they didn't honor me, I was motivated to do it for the benefits to my baby.
Ou notes "contemporary society, is notably lacking in ceremonies or rituals in which significant passages in life are honored." What a true statement! Whether its the first or fourth time, the passage into motherhood or a new stage of motherhood is something to be honored and an opportunity to bring the mothers' community together to honor her. Labor and birth are some of the most beautiful, humbling, raw, scary and miraculous moments of a women's life. Entering this last stage of pregnancy with the knowledge that she has support, love, kindness and blessings from her community can bolster a mother to move forward with confidence, peace, and assurance that although we may not physically be with her, we are there in heart during her labor and delivery. Once baby arrives, she will be surrounded by a community of women to literally hold her hand or make her food, or watch her older children so she can heal, restore and be nourished physically, emotionally and mentally in those early days postpartum.
A celebration of motherhood is a beautiful alternative to a baby shower that shifts the attention to the mother in the most beautiful way. Every mother deserves a day of honoring.
If you would like more details about organizing a Celebration of Motherhood please contact Windward Maternal Wellness and we can offer ideas, recipes, and support in planning a beautiful day for the special mother-to-be in your life.
Hilary Valentine, Owner of Windward Maternal Wellness
I was born and raised in Massachusetts but I have called Oahu my home for the past 14 years. I live with my family in Kailua, including my husband, Jason, my daughters, Victoria and Gwendolyn and my parents, Nanette and Geoff. This blog is intended to shine light on both my work as a women's health occupational therapist and postpartum doula, my personal views on lifestyle topics such as parenting and women's health as well as a resource for education on topics relevant to the clients I serve. I welcome any and all comments and feedback! Mahalo!