Every now and then I'm a part of something that is so breathlessly gorgeous it leaves no room for cynicism.
On Sunday I had a Blessing Way. Every pregnant woman should have one. Apparently, it's taken from a Native American tradition, where women who have already given birth gather to give the mother-to-be blessings and wishes for the new baby's journey into the world.
We held ours down in Byron, of course - Brisbane is pretty squarely Baby Shower territory, if we're talking pre-baby rituals.
Although a Blessing Way is traditionally a woman-only ritual, we had two men at ours. Sweet Byron men - you wouldn't want the sort of men who stand in a huddle and snicker and talk about football. We also encouraged people to bring their children, so the whole thing was a lot more chaotic than the usual intense circle, which I liked. We had about fourteen people there, plus maybe twelve kids.
We gathered down at a grassy picnic spot, just behind the beach. Radha and Leigh organised the whole thing for us, so when we arrived there were cushions and blankets set out in a circle defined by flowers and boughs, and painting stuff in a separate area for the kids to make special pictures for the babies.
First, each person in the circle talked about their connection to us. It was a beautiful experience - Lovergirl kept dashing away tears, she's emotional like that - having our friends give their stories of how they met us and how they see our relationship. People who'd known us for a long time, some for a short time; people who knew me then met L, or knew L then met me through her; people who'd been there in the first heartstopping days of our relationship. And all of them had witnessed the long journey of us trying to get pregnant.
Next, each person gave us a bead and a blessing for the babies.
Bella gave us one bead for each of her four births. Lovergirl used to work with her partner Angus. Bella and Angus have two year old twins, so since we've been pregnant we've felt a special kinship with them.
Meredith and Alice have two little girls. They gave us two translucent beads and said, 'These reminded us of crystal balls. We can't see into the future of our children but we do know that your future now will be filled with indescribable love and purpose.'
Jaye and Ally had just the day before returned from Hawaii. They gave us a little string of shell beads. The beads are representative of the Hawaiian goddess of the volcano Pile (pronounced pi-lay), a powerful goddess of creativity and change
And on it went. Gill gave us three Chinese coins, 'for divining, and abundance, and in acknowledgment of their Chinese heritage.' Perri sent along a jarrah and a sandalwood bead, for grounding. Kimberley, our old dance teacher, brought along three silver beads from a Latin dance costume, for joy. Leigh's daughter Lucky, who's eight, gave us two pearl beads, 'because kids can be annoying sometimes but they turn into something beautiful.'
Finally, Leigh tied everyone in the circle together with two strands of cord - one for each umbilical cord. She'd chosen a blue cord for communication and a brown cord for grounding. Each person tied the cord around their wrist, so we were tied in a circle together. Then each person (with a pair of very blunt scissors) cut the cord and said, 'Let the circle be open but never broken'.
Now Radha and Leah organise a telephone tree and everybody leaves the cords on their wrist until I go into labour. Then everyone cuts the cords to symbolise a successful entering of the babies into the world. Also, each person commits to bringing around a meal in the first weeks following the birth - a very practical contribution to the intention to making the babies' transition into the world as smooth as possible.
Then we went down to the beach and people floated me around in the water. I had my eyes closed, and Lovergirl supported my head. That was quite an amazing experience. I thought they were floating me right out to sea but when I finally stood up the water was about knee high! This part was my special request because I had really wanted a waterbirth but it was one of the many visions I had to relinquish with the 'high risk birth' of having twins.
We finished up, of course, with tea and cake and I staggered home exhausted for my afternoon nap. In the afternoon, Lovergirl and Leah and Anya and I put together our Blessing Way mobile. It's hanging on the wall and every time I look at it I have a warm feeling, remembering all the gorgeous things people wish for us and our babies. I'll be taking it into the hospital!
I think what moved me the most about having a Blessing Way was the positivity of everyone who took part. I've noticed a strange competitiveness about how awful birth and childrearing is, among mothers. People seem keen to share terrible birth stories and talk about how our life is going to be hell from now on, with sleeplessness and cracked nipples and so on. My body is never going to be the same, with stretch marks and saggy belly and broadened hips.
At my Blessing Way, women talked about the power of their bodies, and the overwhelming love they felt for their children. Meredith read a poem:
We turn light into matter.
Plants do photosynthesis -
We do embryogenesis.
How do we do this magic?
No one knows.
Women take the light
in our lovers' eyes and
in ten moons give light
in the form of a baby.