I have attended many baby showers in my day. Some have been great fun, and provided a wonderful opportunity to connect with women that I see infrequently. Many are light-hearted celebrations of the new mother and the coming child. But I often sense a lack of depth to all this light-heartedness. Silly games, sugar-laden food and lots of small talk. Usually, there is an undue focus on the material, with everyone gushing over the baby paraphernalia as each gift is unwrapped, the goal seeming to be a fully-fitted nursery at the conclusion. And to that extreme, in some socioeconomic circles, baby showers are not intimate events with family and friends, but strive to be the cultural event of the year, and become statements of status!
Image from BabyLifestyles.com
What’s wrong with having a light-hearted celebration? Nothing at all. As a matter of fact, in our fast-paced world, we need to take more time to break from the regular and break out the fun. However I think we are missing a real opportunity if that is the extent of a baby shower. I guess my inner anthropologist comes out to play when I find myself contemplating after these events…now what was that all about? Was it merely an opportunity to have a party and to “shower” the new mother or new parents with gifts? Was this the best way to truly support the new parents? Having a child is a pretty big deal in and of itself. So why do these events often feel so superficial? I hazard a guess that modern baby showers have evolved into events of play and material support only, and have lost some of their original intent and meaning. They have become so secularized as to have lost a sense of the sacred. We are a culture that has sanitized two of our most sacred life events – our births and our deaths. The mother-to-be (whether first-time or no) is preparing to step into the threshold of life and death. She must enter the underworld in order to bring back her gift. This is a sacred journey for which many new mothers are ill prepared.
We are a culture that has sanitized two of our most sacred life events – our births and our deaths.
When we gather a circle of women around a pregnant woman, and we do not make room for the sacred, we have lost a wonderful opportunity to share wisdom and deeply connect with one another. More importantly, we have lost the opportunity to truly help the mother-to-be prepare for the impending birth experience on all levels, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. All we have done is to help prepare the nursery with things.
At these modern showers, it is even frowned upon to enter into deeper conversations about what is coming, let alone allowing women to share their own birth stories. “How are you feeling?” “Are you excited?” “Are you ready?” is the closest most of us get to eliciting from a woman about to give birth how she is really feeling, and what she really feels she needs. Sharing birth stories at a shower are frowned upon, because there is concern that they might cause undue anxiety, especially for first time mothers -- as if her ignorance will spare her any difficulty. We are allowed to talk about the joy, but not the trauma and our fears. We create an oxytocin-filled fluffy, pastel bubble. And it’s a really nice place to be. But how are we served?
We create an oxytocin-filled fluffy, pastel bubble. And it’s a really nice place to be. But how are we served?
What if we could find relevant, contemporary ways to truly bring women’s wisdom forward at these critical times? How can we honor our bodies that perform miracles, rather than make them the butt of a joke? How can we deeply connect with one another, and through this connection, provide the mother with the support, power, and courage needed for her journey? I think it comes with intention, attention and a desire to serve life.
I am privileged to be in circles of women that truly understand these needs. This last year, the beautiful Leah was pregnant and we took the opportunity at the annual Sophia Unfolds women’s retreat that we facilitate, to offer a special ceremony and blessing for Leah, her child to come, and her family. It was powerful ceremony that was co-created on the spot by the circle of women in attendance. I asked Leah if she could provide a few words regarding her experience. Here is what she had to say:
“I was overcome with emotion being given the opportunity, through the ceremony, to feel the sheer power of the love, recognition and support for what is truly unfolding. I can't express enough gratitude for being gifted that experience. It felt so healing to me to have the gift of bringing forth light and the light coming through acknowledged and respected as the sacred miracle it truly is. And it brings up all kinds of juicy questions in me, such as, how did we move so far away from sacred in this space? How did the focus turn to the material aspects, almost completely disregarding, the phenomenal transformation and transition, the miracle we experience as women? How did we become so separated from our own divinity?” –Leah Myers
(drawing also by Leah Myers, coloring by Mara Evenstar)
We deeply hold that with intention, we can bring deep meaning back into the most important events and transitions of our lives, and have co-created the organization, Conscious Rites, to provide inclusive and relevant Rites of Passage programs, ceremonies and rituals. A birth is an immense life passage for both mother and babe. It is a risky business that literally changes their physical forms, and impacts all levels of Being. The father, and all others with deep interest and investment also need to be seen in ways that honors the significance of this event in their lives. My hope is that the next time a “blessed event” touches you, or someone close to you; that you make room for the sacred; that you attune to the immensity of what is occurring; and that your light-hearted play be enriched with a Joy of Fullness and Connection to the great web of Life.
By Mara Evenstar