At a baby shower earlier this Spring we played common party games––cutting yarn at absurd lengths we thought matched the mother-to-be’s belly circumference and surrendering diaper pins to the observant who caught us saying the forbidden word baby. We oohed and aahed at the sweet onesies, snuggly pants and flowered socks the new baby girl would wear and practical necessities—blankets, stroller, bathtub, the new mother received. At was all very nice, welcome and predictable. But before the festivities ended, the mother-to-be’s mother, who was one of our hostesses, took the celebration in a different direction. She asked the guests to gather in a circle surrounding the guest of honor and to offer her a blessing, a prayer for the upcoming birth, and the journey of becoming a family.
We pulled our chairs around our pregnant friend on the floor and told her how much she meant to us. Some of us, her mother’s age, told her it had been such a joy to watch her grow up, to celebrate the confident woman she had become—a labor and delivery nurse––and the gifts she was offering to the world. Her peers laughed at the challenges they’d been through together and how they admired her determination. One young mother, who left her children at home to attend the shower, told her to make time for herself and her marriage in all the demands that would soon fill her life. Other mothers with grown children said that although some days with a baby seemed interminable, they looked back fondly on that special time with an infant, and wished her the ability to appreciate motherhood in the sleep-deprived moments. Some spoke of quiet time nursing their babies in the middle of the night, how precious it was to hold the sweet and holy being entrusted to them, and of how sometimes, especially when there were older siblings, this was the only time they had alone with the new baby. Many of us cried. All of us were moved. How often do we sit in a circle and tell someone what she means to us? And how often do we reflect on what our lives as friends and mothers have meant to us and speak the truth of our hearts with no other agenda than to bless another?
This kind of vulnerability and honesty could feel awkward, especially at a party, and being the center of such intense focus could be embarrassing. The mother-to-be handled all this with such grace, and much of that comes from her mother, a single-mom for many years, with an incredible faith in God and reliance on the Holy Spirit for provision. This mother had to be strong, and she had to be vulnerable, relying on God and allowing herself to ask for and receive help from those who held her and her children in their hearts. She knows the power of blessing, and she called upon us to bestow that gift upon her daughter.
In that circle we offered our prayers for a safe labor and delivery. But our offering and our tender words encompassed each woman in the room, no matter where she was on life’s journey, whether she was a mother or not. We blessed the mother-to-be and we blessed one another with our honesty and our words of thanksgiving. It was a moment of prayerful joy. It was worship. It was the best kind of party.