Last Sunday I experienced my first baby shower and blessingways event. I started off the morning a little bit anxious, I’ve done life sketching before but never in such an intimate sphere. I would be entering a circle of love and care but as a stranger, an outsider, there to witness and record. I had prepared my materials the night before to cut down on any clumsiness on the day, I had with me: 2x fine artline pens, 2x medium aquash brushes filled with premixed ink, a roll of pencils and 2x stacks of 216gsm paper (just in case I messed up).
To give you some background, I was a surprise organized by Lana for the Momma to be (we’ll call her M). Lana is a close friend of M, and she had contact me only days before for this customized live sketching session. I was to rock up and sketch the blessingways ceremony (conducted by Lana from the Parents Village) and if M was comfortable, squeeze in a few nude drawings as well. (Luckily, being an petite young woman worked in my favour this time!)
Oftentimes we come across a mat of flowers and talks of energy beads and label it as hippie, I’m guilty of this myself. But it’s not until one actually experiences one of these understated rituals themselves that they truly grasp the meaning of them. It was an experience that made me see not only the magnitude of a birth that was coming but also the circle of love and support the new mother had around her, but more importantly it was a ritual that would make her see this without any doubt.
It starts off with Lana setting the tone, expressing that this was a safe place where everyone was not only allowed to be honest and free with the emotions but would be accepted with love. Everyone present would not only be giving support but also receiving it in turn.
The first ritual utilizes Dr Masaru Emoto’s thought experiments with water. Where positive and negative thoughts are experienced by water and over time changes their molecular structure, one prominent among them is the rice experiment. It works quite simply, one separates a batch of cooked rice into three containers label love, hate and ignore, speaking loving and encouraging thoughts to the one labeled love, spewing angry and hateful messages to the one labeled hate and the last jar was to be ignored. By the end of two months the rice in the one labeled love still looked edible for something left out of the fridge for two months but the ones labeled hate and ignore were rife with mold. The most common way to cook rice is with 2 parts water making it around 66% water based; just as Humans are 60% water, and the brain and heart is 73%.
In this ritual, Lana presents a cup of water that is passed around the circle. Each person blesses the water with a loving quality they wish upon the unborn baby, which the mother drinks at its zenith.
My personal favourite was the bead ritual, where a string was passed around the circle and each of the women in the circle would recite qualities that they admire about M and think will help her in birthing the child, adding a bead for each quality. The necklace was then tied up and given to M, being something that she could hold onto during the birth, reminding her of the characteristicsinnate in her and the love and support of her friends present with her.
Although I was only present in the capacity as an artist, I was touched by this gentle yet strong show of friendship as everyone opened up about what they loved about each other and allowed themselves to be vulnerable. I had only known them for two hours but I feel so privileged to be there for such an intimate moment that could only be cultivated by the trial of time. As I scribbled onto paper hoping to record the connection, I was strongly reminded by my own circle of friends who are constantly with me whether present or not. I was reminded by how they were there in times of need and how their belief in the person I am carried me through.
If you're an expecting mother or know someone who will be, I highly recommend this blessing way service that The Parents Village provides. It's truly empowering to witness and I can only imagine that it is even more so to be involved in the circle.
To end this entry, I will be presenting the Inspiration of the Week, nominated by Lana: Frida Kahlo, a woman who coincidentally also sports a flower crown on her head.
Most of us know Frida Kahlo as the Mexican artist with the monobrow, which she depicted consistently in her self-portraits. As a child who first saw her paintings on a poster up in the art classroom wall, I was not impressed. I had a monobrow myself, which while I was not bothered by, it wasn’t my standard of beauty either and there was too much yellow in my opinion (I have an irrational dislike of the colour yellow, it probably won’t surprise you that when I first saw Van Gogh I wasn’t too impressed either lol, though it’s since become one of favourites). But as I revisited her story when I was older, I saw past the bold, cool glare that she is always challenging the audience with and I saw a character of great emotional complexity and sensitivity.
It reminds me of a small anecdote Carlos Fuentes once made on their first meeting of Frida Kahlo.
Right in the middle of the overture in an Opera production, played in The Palace of Fine Arts, New Mexico a noise invaded the theatre that silenced even the orchestra. When everyone’s attention turned to the balcony where the noise came from they were greeted by the regal entrance of Frida Kahlo bedecked in jewels, necklaces, rings, bracelets and everything in between, all jangling with their own tune. To the casual observers it was all too ostentatious, but if you knew her and her story, then maybe you would be able to guess that they were there to distract attention from the weakness of her body. Frida had survived polio as a child, she had survived a bus accident in her adolescence that left her pelvis fractured and speared by an iron handrail. But just as her gaze was always firm to hide the thoughts inside, she dressed and carried herself in a way that made transcend her physical world.