Here’s a little baby shower game for you: let’s list the very worst things about a traditional baby shower. Ready?
The relentlessly perky atmosphere?
The obligation to purchase a bushel of onesies no multipara needs?
Those mortifying traditional baby shower games?
Or maybe those are just my hangups. But I’m in my thirties now and have attended more than my fair share of baby showers, not a few of them for me. And that’s why I’ve been so grateful in recent years for the introduction of a mother’s blessing into my life.
I can’t claim credit, certainly. At the time our little local tradition got its start, I was laid low with morning sickness and could barely hobble to the first mother’s blessing. But in the last couple years, our chapter of Blessed is She has thrown many such jamborees, and they’re always such an uplifting event for me.
What is a Mother’s Blessing?
In these mother’s blessings, some elements of the baby shower remain: treats are (rightfully) still present, usually assembled by potluck. There’s often tea, and there might or might not be some attempt at decoration.
But here the similarities between baby showers and mother’s blessings end. At a mother’s blessing, there are no (or very few gifts) and, mercifully, no games. In stripping down the baby shower to its essentials, a mother’s blessing does away with many of the pressures of a traditional baby shower. Gone are the financial obligation, the baby registry, the suffocating dictatorship of “theme.”
The absence of these components can be liberating, making hosting much easier. As a hostess, I never find myself late-night searching Amazon for coral pink scalloped-edge napkins. As a guest, I skip the stress of assembling a gift bag of baby miscellany that is simultaneously cute, useful, and coordinated.
While a traditional baby shower can still be a welcome rite of passage for new mothers in need of supplies, abandoning the gift-giving focus makes mother’s blessings a better fit for women who already have all the baby clothes they’ll ever need but could use a little cheering in those endless last weeks of pregnancy.
Because here, the main event is prayerful encouragement.
What a Mother’s Blessing Can Look Like
The amount and flavor of formal prayer—usually at the conclusion of the mother’s blessing—varies according to the new mama’s personality, with varieties of prayer ranging from the laying on of hands to a fairly brisk closing prayer crowned with a Hail Mary. I could also see a group Rosary working well in this space, or the conclusion of a novena. The format becomes ultimately less important than the communal spiritual act of focusing with a singleness of attention on the needs of this particular mother and child.
As a guest, your job is simply this: loving on the expectant mother, arming her for the hard work of birth, be it unmedicated or surgical. You’re preparing, logistically and spiritually, your pregnant friend for the challenge of adding a new member of the family, whether her family is expanding from three to four or from eight to nine. You’re reminding her—and, if you’re a mother, reminding yourself—of the beauty of motherhood, but also of that eternal truth that something can be good and still be hard.
Sharing Wisdom and Stories
Balancing a plate on our knees as we cram on a couch, nestled on the floor with a cup of tea, we talk about our own experiences and we draw on the wisdom of ages.
Spontaneous intergenerational chatter breaks out. We talk about one woman’s home birth assisted by her husband, how another friend owns the group records for both longest and shortest births.
Of course, we complain about pregnancy symptoms!
We talk about how our babies got their names, and we guess what this new little one might be called if the mama is tight-lipped.
But what makes these gatherings so special is how we move beyond our own limited visions of motherhood.
Encouragement from Scripture and the Saints
Each woman comes equipped with a Scripture verse or or an encouraging passage. It’s dazzling to see all the sources these women pull from: Sigrid Undset and Dorothy Day, St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta and St. Pope John Paul II.
One woman often gives Laura Kelly Fanucci’s beautiful Prayers for Birth.
For awhile, a statue of St. Gerard embarked on a walkabout from expectant family to expectant family, though he has recently been lost where all good maternity jeans go, in some postpartum shuffle or another.
At the end of the mother’s blessing, the mama-of-honor leaves with a book of encouragement and a tummy probably overfull from sweet things. But she also leaves reassured that she is not the first to feel her own aches and uncertainties. She is reminded that she is joined in this pregnancy, in this good, hard fight, by other striving, struggling Catholic mothers. And, better, she’s accompanied by all the godly mothers of the Church Triumphant as we celebrate this new little soul.
Have you ever attended a Mother’s Blessing? What was your experience? Let’s share some ideas in the comments below!What is a Mother's Blessing? #BISblog // Click To Tweet
Katherine Grimm Bowers is a Catholic revert and former librarian. She lives in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia with her husband, John, and their children, where she homeschools her eldest, bakes a mean loaf of sourdough, and helps run her church’s chapter of Blessed is She. You can find out more about her here.