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Anne's Pregnancy Journal

33 weeks 4 days
~ Blessingway

What a week it has been!

Thursday kicked off a very full week. It started way too early! Matt was leaving for a diving trip in Turks & Caicos with his dad, and so Joe was picking him up for the airport at 4:30 AM. I, of course, woke up to make sure he was all set to go, and to see him off. Unfortunately, I had a really tough time getting back to sleep, so I only caught a few extra hours before I had to get up and start my day.

My friend Suzanne was coming in from Minneapolis so she could be here for Saturdayís Blessingway, so I spent the morning making sure things were in order in the house for a guest (which included having the plumber in to install the new shower fixture, and having the furnace guy in to install a humidifier on the furnace. Just as they were visiting, I left the house for a lovely visit with my midwives (otherwise known as a prenatal checkup). In case you were wondering, mother and baby are healthy, well, and happily growing!

After my prenatal, I headed up to Rachelís for a nice massage. Aaahhh. Ninety minutes of bliss! I know I fell asleep on the table. Iím so glad I decided that I deserve regular massages. I havenít been too uncomfortable, but the weight of the baby is definitely starting to have an effect on my back muscles. Now I just wish Iíd scheduled massages every week, instead of every other week! Well, I guess I do still need to work within some kind of budget . . .

Still blissed-out from my massage, I was sitting and chatting with Rachel when it occurred to me that I should check with Northwest about Suzanneís flight: due to arrive ahead of schedule. Eek! I got myself a bit more alert and hopped in the car for the trip to Philadelphia International Airport. Unfortunately, PHL ran true to form and had an early flight get into the gate late (they often donít have the gate ready even for on-time arrivals, much less early ones!) So, I sat on the shoulder of the exit ramp for the airport, filed my nails, listened to the radio, cleaned out the scraps of paper from my calendar, called my Aunt Betty, and generally waited to get the call that she was actually off the plane.

Iíve been participating in an integrative marketing telecourse over the past 6 weeks or so, and we had a call scheduled tonight at 8pm. Hmm. Suzanneís flight delay was going to at the very least make me late for that call Ė kind of a bummer; itís a really good course! Finally my phone rang with Suzanne telling me she was on her way to the curb. She hopped in the car, and promptly had eyes bug out at the belly. She really didnít know what to expect me to look like pregnant, and expressed surprise that I look like me, but pregnant. (I havenít really gained much extra body weight, so Iím mostly me plus a bulge.)

We started determining the eveningís schedule. The call was pretty much out by this point Ė I knew I couldnít and shouldnít try to multitask by driving while on the call via cell phone, so I made peace with missing the call. We moved on to talking about dinner. I figured it might just be easiest to order pizza. Suzanne was all up for that, but could we get it without cheese? HUH??? Apparently sheíd made the switch to vegan recently. Well, Iím pregnant, and I love my meat, cheese, eggs, etc., so, NO. Not ordering a pizza without cheese. We ended up at the neighborhood Italian restaurant, Rosauriís, where I knew she could get some pasta without meat or cheese.

I was a vegetarian for the better part of 3 years, and vegan or nearly so for much of that, so Iím not unfamiliar with how to cook/eat vegan. I just wasnít ready for that mental switch, especially since pregnancy turned me into Little Miss Meat-monger. We stopped at the grocery store on the way home for soymilk for the morning and decided to make a Trader Joeís run in the morning to make sure that other meals were covered. We got home, hung out on the couch for a while, until we both were totally zonked.

Suzanne runs marathons, so we made sure to plan running time into her visit schedule. I dropped her off at a local park with a running loop while I went to the chiropractor. After my adjustment, I joined her at the park for a walking lap Ė pregnant pace, please! We made our Trader Joeís run after showers, and by the time we got back to the house, I needed a nap! Beth was planning on coming over around 3 pm to start setting up for the Blessingway, but she was running a little late, which turned out to be a good thing. I was more tired than I thought, so I got a little extra rest in before she arrived.

Matt did keep his promise to clear his drum stuff out of the family room before he left for his trip, so the place was mostly ready for Beth. We three ladies moved stuff, draped stuff, tacked up sarongs, and generally set up a wonderful sacred space template in the rear of my family room. This got me pretty excited about the next day! Unfortunately, I was not really clear on what set up and cleaning up meant, so I had put off some of the other tidying and organizing Iíd wanted to do, so that was going to need to wait until morning. Yuck. Oh well! Iím learning how to go with the flow, right?

I had not done my ďhomeworkĒ for the Blessingway yet, which consisted of writing down my fears and concerns. Iíd thought I would want to do that right before bed, but it seemed like too much when I settled in to do it. That would have to wait until the next day, too. As it turned out, that was a good move. A lot of the little things Iíd been fretting about disappeared as I slept, leaving only the important stuff to write out.

When Saturday morning came, we were up for an early walk/run (I walked Suzanne to the nearest park, where she ran). I showered and got to doing some prep work on the house, clearing off the dining room table and trying to make space for the potluck dinner that would follow the ritual. I was feeling pretty crazed and pressed for time! I was also working more efficiently than usual. By the time Beth arrived, I was starting to feel a pretty wired; a past mentor would probably have called this ďritual tension.Ē

Some of the other women arrived on the early side, which was nice for doing things like putting the extra leaf in the table and doing other things requiring multiple bodies. At some point, I realized all the activity had quickly outstripped the cleansing effect of my shower, and I had gotten pretty ripe. * sigh * Add a second shower to my schedule! Finally I gave up on doing any additional cleaning or tidying and headed upstairs to wash, dress, do my homework, and rest. When I tried to do ďjust one more thing,Ē Beth wisely stopped me and sent me back upstairs.

For those of you who donít know what a Blessingway is, it is a mother blessing ritual. Traditional American baby showers are usually focused on things for the baby. The Blessingway is designed to help prepare the woman for her birth into motherhood, and to shower her with positive energy for this transformative process that is birth. There are many different formats for Blessingways, but they originated with the Navajo. If you are pregnant and have not had a Blessingway, you deserve one! (For more information see Mother Rising: The Blessingway Journey Into Motherhood at http://www.blessingwaybook.com, or just Google blessingway or mother blessing and have fun surfing!)

At some point after finishing my homework and delivering it to Beth, I flopped horizontal on my bed to rest for a bit before the ritual. I mustíve fallen asleep, because Beth had to knock on my door a few times before I heard her there. I was guided downstairs to my family room, but my home had been transformed. (We live in a split-level, so the bedrooms are upstairs, the living room/dining room/kitchen is on the main floor, and the family room is the lower level, with a finished basement below.) The dining room table was covered with food, and the air was sharp with sage smoke. (I did call our alarm and fire monitoring service to put us on test mode, knowing weíd be smudging and heavily burning incense!)

As I came down the last few stairs to my family room, I was met with a beautiful crown of flowers for my head. I felt full of beauty! After I was ritually cleansed with sage smoke, I finally noticed the room, full of some of my dearest friends and closest supporters. One friend had even arranged her trip back to the states from Geneva, Switzerland so that it included my Blessingway! (The only women missing were my midwives, which worried me a little bit, but Beth reassured me that they would be there when they could, and that they knew how to enter this space. They arrived shortly after we began.) I was welcomed and led to my place in the circle. Beth had built a beautiful multi-level altar in the middle of the circle, and I was facing the Hawaiian portion, where my dried leis from my July trip to Kauai joined a delicate jar of soil from the Royal Hawaiian Birthing Stones on Oahu. On one hand, I really wish I had taken some close-up photos of that altar before we took it apart later that night, but it just didnít seem right. Some things are not meant to be permanent.

The Blessingway ritual was beautiful, perfect, transforming. Beth had clearly poured a lot of love into planning it, and all the women there were completely engaged in the intention that had been set. (Because of the intensely personal nature of the process, Iíll just give an overview.) Each woman had been asked to bring a bead and good wishes for me and the baby, as well as her own fears. Each, in turn, placed her fears into a communal bowl, which would later contain the ashes of those fears as they were burned and released. Hedra, who has some Navajo heritage, offered to be the one to take the fears outside to be burned (the papers were bigger than we thought, and it wouldíve been a little too much for our low-ceilinged womb-space). She reported that she had never before seen a ritual burning happen more completely Ė even the ashes burned!

After releasing the fears, each woman spoke about why she chose the bead that she had brought, and what meaning she meant to confer through that gift. The beads were placed in a special wooden box, where they will be held to make a birthing/nursing necklace. Following that gifting came the pampering of the mother. I was laid down upon some towels where my hands, feet, scalp, and belly massaged while the women shared their wishes for baby or me. I was aware of tears falling from my eyes. I have struggled in the past with allowing myself to receive love and caring from others. This may have been the first time in my life that I was able to just allow and receive without indulging old feelings of being unworthy. I knew this ritual had been created with love, just for me. It would have been disrespectful NOT to let myself be loved and nurtured.

I was struck by the depth of love offered to me. As the women spoke, they also spoke of who I am for them, which I did not expect. I often move through my life with a nagging suspicion that I donít really make a difference, or that I donít have much to contribute to others. Based on their heartfelt sharing, Iím clearly mistaken in that suspicion. Their sharing also instilled in me a confidence in my ability to become a loving and capable Mother, which I supposed is part of the intention of a Blessingway!

Part of the ritual also involved the weaving of a string web, creating an interconnected community from the women in attendance. Each woman wrapped the string around her wrist, and before the web-weaving ceremony was complete, the string was cut and tied. Each woman will wear that string to hold good wishes for me and baby until she gets word that the baby has been born AND that mother and baby are safe and healthy (or until the string falls off, if that happens first.) Thereís even a phone tree set up for notification purposes!

I chose to tie my portion of string around my left ankle Ė it just felt like the right place for it. Iíll admit I was careful to allow some extra slack. I havenít had problems with swelling, but I wanted space, just in case. A few women who were not able to attend have agreed to have string mailed to them from the web to wear. I was privileged to be included in a friendís Blessingway in that manner two years ago, and Iím glad for that way to create extended community.

Hedra had created a powerful chant to close the ritual, and after opening the circle, we moved upstairs for the potluck portion. Even though the Blessingway was a women-only space, we welcomed Hedraís husband Will, and her twin daughters (nearly a year old now!) to the potluck. For once in my life, I didnít feel the need to play hostess; my community is capable of taking care of themselves! That allowed me to enjoy the conversations that were happening around the living room. I have often felt like I donít have many friends, or that my friends are too far flung to ever come together. How joyful to witness new connections and new communities forming!

Of course, the presence of babies always livens things up a bit, and everyone was enjoying playing with Rowan and Meriel. At one point, I was holding Rowan and laughing, and she sneezed. She sneezed big-time, and a three-inch string of green snot came flying out of her nose and then snapped back in again. OK, I know thatís a bit gross, but it did cause me to wonder about exposure to her cold germs (by Tuesday half the women at the Blessingway, myself included, had come down with Roís cold!)

Finally, the last woman had made her farewell for the evening, and those staying overnight were settling in for well-earned rest. I was so excited I didnít have to be the one to clean up! Others took care of all of that. Oh, what a treat!

I slept better than I can remember sleeping in a long, long time. Even though I still woke a couple of times during the night, I felt completely rested. The funny thing is, those times I woke, I had the awareness that those fears Iíd released were gone Ė REALLY gone, and I was at peace. When I woke in the morning, I still felt all warm and fuzzy, and I had a lingering sense of wonderment and utter peace that I canít remember ever having before. Talk about a powerful ritual!

My best friend for years and years and years, Stephanie, also stayed overnight to go to brunch the next morning, and my friend Sue, who had performed our wedding ceremony, stayed over at Jenniferís. We got ourselves up and moving and picked a place for brunch and had a lovely ladiesí morning-after. When we returned from brunch, we continued to pick over the leftover goodies from the potluck and chatted for quite some time. Eventually, all the excitement caught up with me. Sue went home, Stephanie and Suzanne went shopping, and I took a nap (helped along by the fact I puked up my brunch! Iíd taken my vitamins in anticipation of food arriving shortly, but service was slow, and my tummy didnít appreciate that.)

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I woke from my nap when Steph and Suz got back, we hung out some more, and Steph headed out. Suzanne and I had a little time to rest before we hit the road for Reading to hear my dadís flute ensemble perform a piece that he arranged. Right after Stephanie left, I noticed her iPod on the table. She finished up some other shopping before returning to pick it up.

In the meantime, Iíd begun reading over the letters the women wrote to the baby. They made me weep. I have not felt the need to confront my mortality the way some of my peers have. However, I found wonderful peace of mind reading those letters, knowing that if anything ever happened to me, my child would know me. My child would know me through those letters, and through the memory of me that my lovely circle of friends would hold and share. Rarely have I felt so completely known.

Soon it was time to get ready to leave for the recital, and Suzanne and I poured ourselves into the car for the 60-mile drive to Reading. Several months ago, my father had played a recording of the choral work that he had ultimately chosen to arrange, O Magnum Mysterium by Morten Lauridsen. I found it moving then, but I was unprepared for the response I would have to the flute arrangement. I was overwhelmed with pride for my father ďThatís my dad!Ē The man took a choral piece originally written for a 150-voice choir and arranged it for 10 piece flute ensemble. Of course, I was already primed for emotional tears, so I couldnít help tearing up at the luminous beauty of it. I donít know if my dad realizes how proud I am of him, but I do know that I will not forget that moment.

After the recital, I dragged Suzanne to my favorite childhood restaurant, where, thank goodness, they had veggie burgers. I scarfed down a big plate of chicken parmagiana before we took the nickel tour of my dadís house and headed back to Wilmington for much deserved rest. Our rest time extended into a lazy Monday, which culminated with a delightful visit with Suzanneís friend Renee (who is also pregnant) and Reneeís adorable daughter Emily. Somewhere around midnight Matt got home from his diving trip. Iíll hear all about it later!

Tuesday was another early morning to take Suzanne to PHL for her 8:30 flight. I perhaps had planned an overly ambitious day with a double session with a new client in the afternoon (thatís about 4 hours straight!) I had some time to see Beth briefly in the afternoon, which was a nice chance to thank her again for the Blessingway (Iíll be thanking her for a while). By the time I got home for the night, I was totally exhausted and feeling a bit run down, so I guess quality time with Matt will wait another day.

Today is Wednesday, and Iím run down because I caught Rowanís cold. I feel very fortunate not to have had to deal with much discomfort or illness during this pregnancy, but still, these sniffles are no fun! Iím choosing to rest and lay low today in hopes of keeping the sniffles to a minimum - and my immune system at a maximum.

Even for not feeling all that well, the Blessingway has left me with persistent warm fuzzies. Itís similar to the feeling I have after climbing out of a nice warm bath and into freshly washed flannel sheets, except that itís inside and out. No matter how busy this past week was, I know that the process set in motion by my friendsí love and care for me will carry me through my birthing and into my transition to motherhood.

I wish every woman could experience that kind of love and support during her pregnancy. I leave you with the Navajo blessing that Hedra closed her chant with:

In beauty it is begun.
In harmony it is sung.
All around us, it is blessed.
Changing Woman said it so.

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