My dear friend Elizabeth graciously offered to host a birth blessing for me last weekend. It was such a wonderful way to get excited about this little blessing that has managed to squeeze her way under my ribs and to spiritually prepare for my upcoming labor and delivery. I loved having the chance to gather with many of my friends one last time before I enter into the cave of newbornland. We reminisced about past labor stories, contemplated the joy (and sometimes the agony!) of newborns, and most importantly prayed for this life-changing event that is about to take place.
So, are you ready to host a birth blessing for your friend who recently announced that she has a bun in the oven? I've got you covered. Here's what you need to know.
There are three basic elements to a birth blessing: prayer, food, and friends.
Let's start with prayer, since it's the most important one. BTW, you can totally incorporate these things into a baby shower and completely cover a first-time mom both physically and spiritually!
After we all gathered in my friends living room everyone was given a bead and a slip of paper to spend a few minutes writing down their prayers for mom and baby... which happened to be me in this particular situation.
Then we began the formal prayer portion of the blessing, which is a blessing that has been approved by the Catholic Church for laity, so don't worry you're not doing anything crazy, new-agey here. It goes like this:
All: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Leader: Sisters, let us bless the Lord Jesus, who in the womb of the Virgin Mary became one of us. Blessed be God now and forever.
All: Blessed be God now and forever.
Leader: God, the Lord of life, by His will brings every human being into existence and He rules and sustains the life of every one of us. Our faith tells us of God's particular care over those born of a Christian marriage, since through the sacrament of baptism they will receive the gift of sharing in the divine life itself. The reason for the blessing of a mother-to-be is that she may wait her hour of delivery in faith and hope and, as the partner of God's own love, may already cherish with her maternal love the child in her womb.
Reading of the Word of God
Leader: Sisters let us listen to the words of the Holy Gospel according to Luke.
(At this point a volunteer reads Luke 1:39-45)
Leader: Christ the Lord, the blessed fruit of Mary's womb, by the mystery of His incarnation filled the world with His grace and goodness. Let us therefore raise our voices to praise Him and give Him our intentions.
(At this point each person reads aloud the prayers that they have written down for the expecting mother. After they have said their prayer, they add the bead that they have been praying with to a clear elastic string and pass the beads to the next person. The string of beads is later made into a bracelet for the mom to take with her to wear during labor, to reminder her that she has several sisters in Christ who are praying for her!)
After each woman has prayed over the mother and her baby the service concludes as follows:
Prayer of Blessing
All: Lord God, Creator of the human race, your Son, through the working of the Holy Spirit, was born of a woman, so that He might pay the age-old debt of sin and save us by His redemption. Receive with kindness the prayer of your servant N., as she asks for the birth of a healthy child. Grant that she may safely deliver her child to be numbered among Your family, to serve You in all things, and to gain eternal life. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen
All: Hail Holy Queen
Leader: May God, who chose to make known and to send the blessing of eternal salvation through the motherhood of the Blessed Virgin, bless us and keep us in His care, now and forever. Amen
Before the slips were gathered for me to take home I asked the women to write on the back of them what prayer intentions they had for me, so that I could take them with me to labor... you know to make labor pains a little more worth it :).
Finally, each guest was given a candle to take home with the instructions to light it when I go into labor, which will remind them to pray for us!
To make sure everyone knows I'm in labor the host of the party gathered everyone's cell phone number and she'll send out one quick mass text message when the time comes! (Assuming we remember to text her on our way to the delivery. I don't think I'll forget this detail, I need those prayers!)
The second element to a great birth blessing is yummy food. We had an afternoon tea, with breads, scones, fruit, cookies, coffee, and tea. It was all so delicious!
My talented friend Ali even made some adorable baby carriage cookies.
And our third element is of course friends!
As I said, it was wonderful to get to spend some time with these ladies before I hunker down at home for a few postpartum weeks of 45 minute nursing sessions, sleep deprived nights, and potentially showerless days.
If you host a birth blessing, please let me know how it goes! I'd love to see this spring up more and more in Catholic circles, it's truly an awesome and worthwhile event!