There are a lot of things I wanted to do during my pregnancy: keep a daily diary, play lullabies to my belly every night, take daily photos of how my body's changing to make room for my daughter. But life doesn't stop when you're pregnant. In fact, being 40 and pregnant seems to speed it up. I have work to deal with, getting my home ready, and making sure I'm exercising and eating right (easy on a vegan diet). Many of my goals slipped into the realm of the occasional rather than the routine, and with just seven weeks to go, one thing I knew I wasn't going to let slip by: a proper baby blessing.
In our modern American culture, we have few traditions. Rites of passage are often marked by driver's licenses, drunken feats, sexual encounters. Without turning to religion, we really are left with few meaningful gatherings of community and ceremony. A wedding, perhaps. A graduation. A funeral.
Sure, many of us bring ritual into our daily lives, be it a morning cup of tea, a meditation or yoga practice, gardening. We find connection to the world around and within us in small ways. But, they're really big ways if you think about it. Rituals and tradition define us. They are the things we do to connect with the sacred, whatever that means to us.
As the months of my pregnancy slowly, and then quickly, passed by, it was easy to lose sight of the miracle it all is. My once mostly flat belly is now as round as a giant watermelon. We get closer every day to meeting our daughter, which is much more startling than even the thought of enduring the labor itself. Once she's here, then what? A baby blessing seemed like a healthy (make that necessary) way to find some surrender and grounding as the intensity of my pregnancy heats up. After all, I'm going to be a mommy soon. Is there a more important job in the universe?
The modern baby shower is certainly a ritual. Women (and some men) gather to play games, share stories and gifts, and spend some time together as adults before the baby arrives. Long before gift registries and petit fours, we also gathered to bless the mother-to-be and the baby. I wanted to share a traditional, ancient experience with my daughter and partner, so we called on a friend, Miranda Rondeau, for a Native American baby blessing way, as they're called. Miranda is a frame drummer and vocalist. Her music and voice are both as healing as they are incredibly pleasant to listen to.
A song for the baby. A song for the mother. Flower petals. Kindness. Community. It's a rather simple procedure, but one that goes much deeper than it seems. Miranda gathered the guests around us and handed out shakers and rattles for them to use as she began. All day the baby had been exceptionally quiet. But once that blessing for her started, she awoke almost instantly. Her movements were powerful. Visible. Her daddy and I both rested our hands on my belly as she seemed to dance along with the rhythm of the frame drum. We felt like one pulsing family.
Once the song for her was over and it was time for the blessing of the mother, the baby went back to being as quiet as she was before. I like to think that as I received my blessing from Miranda on the outside, inside the baby had a hand on my belly, blessing me. One pulsing family.
Guests were then asked to bless us, sharing flower petals, kind words, smiles. A tribe full of goodwill, support and love for our family in the making reminded me why we do this in the first place—keeping the human race going, that is.
There really is something magical and beautiful in being human. Never mind the nauseating stuff on the news. The jerk who cuts you off in traffic. The IRS. When it comes down to it, we all want to experience love and kindness and the joys of human expression. I felt all this as our baby blessing came to a close. I felt the connection to all my ancestors, to all the future generations as we travel along the mysterious and the magical lifeline. Just like the rhythm of the drumming has no real beginning or ending, neither does the human spirit.
We can't possibly know how our daughter's life will turn out. We wouldn't want to even if we could. But what we do know is that her life begins with a blessing, one of honor and respect. That much we can promise her.
This is the latest installment of the series, Vegan, 40, and Pregnant. Read the entire series:
Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger
Image: sacred pregnancy