Anna Stewart: Mother Blessings: Honoring Women Becoming Mothers

I met Anna at a Birth Lodge when I was expecting my son Andrew in 1995. We became fast friends and she has always had a place in my heart. Her passion for healing birth and helping women connected us, and the fact that we both love to write and document this thing called life layers the depths of our friendship.
I attended her workshop, Motherhands when I was expecting my son Benjamin five years ago, and it was a wonderful way to set aside a few hours from my busy life to focus on the baby and my intentions around his birth.
I saw her at a park a few years ago and she told me that she was working on a book about Mother Blessings. Here is the Amazon Link.
Mother Blessings: Honoring Women Becoming Mothers
Motherhands Web Site
It is always challenging to plan your own party around birth and the sacred milestones of life, (at least for me it was), but because of my friendship with Anna and her understanding of how important these celebrations are, I planned my own Blessing Way before Ben was born in 2002. We held this party on Labor Day, and Paul and I were very blessed to have Rico and Jeaninne Parvati Baker join us for this wonderful Ceremony.
I documented My Blessing Way on my web site here.
Having Jeannine with us was such a blessing, even more so now that she is no longer here. She died in 2005 and is greatly missed by all of us in the Birth Activist world. I sometimes feel her spirit around me, encouraging me, as I write and share insights around motherhood.
I praise Anna Stewart for taking the time to document The various Blessings that can be ours as women when we take the time to honor, love, and appreciate each other. I attended a Blessing Way for my friend Susanna back in 1998, and it was the first time I had ever felt the spirit of the Lord at a baby shower. Up to that point I had been to dozens of showers and had been the recipient of several showers around the births of my first four children. These parties were wonderful, and I was grateful for the time, money, and effort that various friends and family put into them.
But as we sang to Susanas baby, prayed together, and then shared our hearts and hopes for our wonderful friend and her new child, I realized that the materialism of the American Baby Shower had stolen from women our sacred and holy potential to truly honor and bless each other. The Blessing Way takes womanly connections and puts them into the spiritual stratosphere, rather than keeping those relationships tied down to materialism and silly jokes and games around birth and mothering.
Here are a few more links, mostly articles written by Anna about her work, but also some blog entrys by women who loved what she had to say:
Blessing Ways for all Women

Mother Blessing

Mother Blessings Intro to the book (PDF)
Gifts from a blessing way
And here is the text from my own Blessing Way article:
(Click on the link to see the pictures.)

My Blessing Way
With commentary on the Primal Mama Lifestyle from my experience and perspective
By, Jenny Marie Hatch
Hatch Family during Jenny’s fifth pregnancy – August 2002 Michelle – 13,
Allison – 10, Jeffrey – 8, Andrew – 5, Jenny, Paul
Sunday September 8th, 2002
Yesterday I called Jeannine Parvati Baker to integrate what happened during our blessing way last Monday (labor day). She offered this to me as a final gift before the birth of our fifth baby in a few weeks. We had intended to talk for thirty minutes, but went way beyond that time, and she said it was her gift to the baby and I to have a chance to chat freely. The timing was interesting to me as yesterday was the sixth anniversary of my first Freebirth. My son Andrew turned six yesterday, and I called Jeannine asking if we could talk during that time, as it was the exact moment that I was in labor, on a Saturday morning, six years ago. She agreed and we had a wonderful discussion. I realized as we hung up the phone that our conversation ended right about the time I had a quick five-minute transition and started pushing Andrew into the world – about 9:30 AM. He was born after four pushes at 9:52AM.
This pregnancy has been a healing time for us. We conceived in January. My husband Paul has known for years that if we had another baby I would want to do my own prenatal care, as I did with Andrew six years ago, and was not surprised when I did exactly that for the past eight months. What was a surprise to me however, was how my life organized itself to allow me to use Jeannine and Rico as my Shamanic Midwives, much the same way that Laura and David Shanley were my mentor’s during Andrew’s pregnancy. I don’t know why I have been so blessed to have these pioneers as such an intimate part of my life. But I will take what I have been given and just say that it has been exciting to develop deep friendships with these souls who are working so diligently to heal birth.
I first discovered Unassisted Childbirth in 1989 when I read about Pat Carter’s League of empowered women, and I determined then that one day I would join her league by giving birth alone. How exciting for me to be able to have deep and passionate discussions through email and on the phone with these wonderful sisters while pregnant, being mentored and encouraged by those who have lived such amazing pioneering lives and then been passionate enough to write and share of their experiences!
As we have walked, skipped, and occasionally run in a dead heat down this conscious parenting path – I have been amazed and gratified that our journey has led us to living in close proximity to people like Laura and Jeannine.
Paul and I have had an interesting journey, with much of argument and discussion about how best to birth, nurture, and raise our children. We have finally arrived at the place where we feel very comfortable in our own skins as conscious parents, but it was not easy to get to this place.
This pregnancy has been marked with much peacefulness and happiness. A gentle soul is in the making and it brings us so much joy, I just want to sing and dance and praise God for the goodness of our lives after so much tribulation.
We transferred to the hospital shortly after Andrew’s birth for help with his breathing and my bleeding. Laura believes my background in musical theatre called for a dramatic birth and Jeannine has also expressed that a need for drama expresses itself through those types of realities. I don’t know why I had such a wild time after that birth, when all I wanted was a quiet bonding with my child after his entry into the world, but the trauma of that transfer resulted in me questioning everything about our life.
In the years that have followed we have really struggled, questioning everything we felt guided to do for our children. This time of scrutiny lasted a while, especially when I had friends who had a beautiful 9lb. daughter die during a Freebirth. I questioned my spirituality, my inner guidance, my sanity, and went through a dark time of wondering if anything that I had perceived as truth, was of worth to our children. We decided the year Andy was born to send our children to a Core Knowledge Charter school. It seemed like all of my ideals of home based everything – birth, school, nutrition, and conscious living had quickly evaporated into nothing.
As we struggled through this time, made more challenging by Paul experiencing debilitating panic attacks, horrible food allergies with a gluten intolerance that made us give up vegetarian eating, and terrible financial difficulties that required me to work outside our home off and on for a few years, I experienced a sort of valley after our peak empowering experience of taking personal responsibility for the health of my beautiful son during his gestation and birth.
*(I learned during his pregnancy that by indeed taking full responsibility and not passing the buck to anyone, I was much more careful about my diet, my exercise routine, and my sleep – and I built this 11 lb 12 oz child in 42 weeks from conception, on 80% live vegan foods and enjoyed an energetic pregnancy, nursing my two year old son for the duration.)
I have thought long and hard what this “valley” of darkness after Andrew’s birth was all about. A scripture comes to mind when I think of this time. It is from the Book of Mormon and says: “And now, I, Moroni, would speak somewhat concerning these things; I would show unto the world that FAITH is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your FAITH” Ether 12:6
I believe now that this time was the trial of my faith. Sometimes God gives us enough light and truth to encourage us to take a different path, but then he lets us struggle somewhat as we learn by our own experience to know the bitter from the sweet. As Jeannine and I talked yesterday she told me of the three years that her children were court ordered to attend school. I marveled once again at the similarity of our paths. While we were not court ordered to send our children to school, the outside pressure we felt from family and friends contributed greatly to this decision and Paul was deeply concerned that with tandem nursing the boys I would not be able to give Shelly what she deserved in terms of my time and energy. We sent her to school at age seven for the first time a few days before Andy’s birth.
We felt somewhat comforted that our children were in a safe place during the four years they were in public education and that we were able to rub shoulders with some wonderful families, but I hated the fact that after being so clear about home school our life had spun out of control and the institutionalized learning I had so long abhorred, the materialism, and the busy runaround lifestyle was being shoved on my children and ME! The irony in all of this was that the children loved it! (OK – Jeff did hate kindergarten, and refused to go about half the time, but he was excited for a few weeks in the beginning!)
Michelle told me a few days into her second grade year that she loved recess, music, gym, and eating lunch with her new friends. The only part of school she didn’t like was when the teacher stood in front of the class and talked! As Allison and Jeff had their first imprints with kindergarten and made new friends and mostly enjoyed the time outside our home while I nurtured Andrew, I again questioned my beliefs about unschooling and mother and father being so responsible for everything from birthing to teaching children to read.
We participated in Joy school for the first time (Joy preschool is a parent led program where parents organize a twice weekly preschool taught in their homes – I did this for a year with both Jeff and Andrew when they were four, with about seven other families from our church). Once again, I found myself doing something I had vowed I would never do – having developed very strong beliefs about pre-school being bad for children. Yet the boys loved the structure and the friends and the feeling of community, and I enjoyed developing friendships with the other mother’s.
As our diet quickly degenerated to the typical American cold cereal in the morning (easy, quick, and a kid pleaser), the school’s hot lunch for lunch, and meat based supper for the sake of my husband, I again would look in the mirror and wonder who I had become. As I thought of the years of painstaking efforts in my kitchen to feed my children the most nourishing, organic, whole foods on the planet, and the care with which I crafted my breastmilk, which I gave to them in such a careful, nurturing way, I wondered at this over night change to mainstream everything. If I sent a healthy snack to school for the classroom or baked something from scratch for the preschool or school party celebration, most often the container would come home full of what I had made and my child would be in tears saying that no one wanted what they had to offer, and next time could they bring fruit snacks for the group? Those evil gelatinous nasty concoctions of chemicals and sugar were my kid’s ticket to popularity and acceptance. And so I caved, and bought them time after time, again wondering “who” I had become and “where” were all of my ideals?
All of this questioning about home birth, nutrition, home school, and conscious intentional living was good for my heart. During the four years that the children participated in the Charter and Joy school’s and we had a real break from pregnancy and breastfeeding, Paul and I were able to negotiate and redefine our priorities and then in a careful and calculated way begin again. This time in a much more conscious way; aware of the pitfalls of being too independent and too isolated from our community – thus shutting ourselves off from wonderful friendships, experiences, and memories. With the children in school, our family and friends who had been so worried were able to relax for a few years and the uncomfortable scrutiny, rejection, and prejudice, (which are all present whenever one walks a different path – and which the children were able to feel), settled down somewhat. In order for of us to feel comfortable with this lifestyle, all families need to evaluate how much rejection and feelings of being “different” our marriages and our children can take as we walk the alternative paths.
For some, this rejection and scrutiny could weaken the ties that bind us together and cause a breech in our intimacy as a couple. One of Paul’s constant laments in the early year’s was, “why do we always have to be the weird one’s?” I believe this time of reevaluation was a chance for us to integrate and process the trauma that had troubled our marriage. Paul’s perception over the years was that I would rush from one book to another, take a flying leap into the unknown with him and the children quietly standing by flustered and uncomfortable. He told me once that every time I returned home from the Library with a stack of books, he would cringe wondering what was next.
As I raced from natural childbirth to vegetarianism to not immunizing, to pushing all the beds in the house together, to breastfeeding a four year old, to unschooling, and finally to the mother of them all…. Unassisted Childbirth… he was left wondering what sort of an irresponsible nut case he had married?
He didn’t have the time, energy, or gumption to read all the books that I did. He had been raised on meat and traditional medicine and turned out all right. His older siblings were raising beautiful, healthy, large Mormon families without all of this alternative stuff. Why did “we” have to do it just because someone wrote it in a book? As I said, we argued and fought and between times made babies. And I nurtured and tried not to talk too much to him or anyone else about the vision that was forming in my head on how our family life “could” be.
When everything collapsed after Andrew’s was born in 1996 and family and friends perception was that the Hatch’s had finally “come to our senses” and sent the children to school. I was so devastated. I sort of gave up. Yet now I can look at those four years and see that it was a sacred window of opportunity to heal and purge and become even more conscious of what our values and dreams for our family were.
It was a strengthening time for us as a couple. Because without the mind numbing fatigue associated with attachment parenting little ones we were able to take great leaps and bounds in the level of intimacy and trust in our relationship. I find it doubly interesting that after this time of settling and integration in our marriage, I was able to go through the terror of remembered sexual abuse (childhood molestation and adult gang rape) which I had carefully tucked away in my brain to be dealt with at a much later, safer time. From what I have studied, the memories coming back are a sign of health and are often enabled to come out by the loving acceptance of a spouse. As I perceived Paul’s emotional protection of me and his increasing satisfaction and delight in my efforts as a mother, I believe my body/mind was freed to take the plunge and fully purge the past out of my cells.
During this time of healing, I felt this child’s spirit around me, comforting and concerned, as I relived the horror of sexual abuse. As soon as I perceived I was healthy enough to carry a baby, both physically and emotionally, I prayed and asked Father to bless my womb with life. He did and this baby leaped into it with my next fertile cycle in January of 2002.
During this pregnancy I have had dozens of witnesses that completely endorse and validate the other promptings I had on holistic lifestyle choices over the years prior to Andrew’s birth. I used to be so confident, almost to the point of being cocky and offensive to those I came in contact with, that my way was the absolute best way to welcome babies into the world and to nurture and raise them. The confidence I feel in regards to all of this primal mothering is more quiet and clear. With the sober understanding that this lifestyle while wonderful in most ways, has it’s drawbacks and pitfalls. Some of these pitfalls are the loneliness and feelings of isolation the family may experience. A lack of community for our husbands and children is also a very real phenomenon. We mother’s may feel supported, validated, and nurtured by friend’s from all across the world in our vast internet outreach, or in mothering circles in our community. But our husband’s and older children may not, and this lack of support for our partners may lead to a divorce. Our children may also feel they are “missing out” by not attending school, and our husband’s may be flat out rejected by peers who feel uncomfortable with these life choices. Men are already isolated in our western society and to add one more layer of isolation may tip the scales over to a family breakup.
Most truth in life is so surrounded by warfare that often it is difficult to clearly see and quantify what it is exactly that we are doing as parents. The ultimate payoff may not be felt for years, or even generations. But through the quiet, purposeful daily practice of nurturing, teaching, and loving our little ones in a very conscious way – we are battling all that is evil on the planet. As I have renewed my testimony and faith in the truths surrounding primal parenting during this very conscious pregnancy, a quiet yet firm confidence has welled up in my heart. The fullness of this flowering was made manifest not just to me, but also to Paul during our Blessing Way ceremony six days ago.
Rico and Jeannine “groom” Paul and Jenny
Early in my pregnancy, I was clear that the greatest gift I could give to my husband and children was the experience of the blessing way. I felt somewhat shy and embarrassed to organize my own ceremony – but had a very clear vision of how I wanted it to go. I felt confident that if I did nothing else during this child’s gestation – the feelings and power associated with a family blessing way would be the most important “prenatal care” we could experience. So, being the little red hen that I am, I set out to create the ceremony that would serve our family best.
I contacted Jeannine and asked her if she and Rico were coming to Colorado at all during my pregnancy. She told me that they would be in town over Labor Day weekend. It was perfect! Labor Day! Symbolic and also a day when Dad’s would be off work! She told me that they usually get up to $1000.00 for conducting these ceremonies, but that with our young family she wondered if $300.00 would be too much? I assured her it would be fine. For the same price as an unnecessary ultrasound I was going to be blessed by the very pioneers of blessing way who would perform the sweet ceremony for my husband and I!
I spent the summer dreaming, planning and visualizing how I wanted the celebration to go. Being a Christian, I knew it would be important to have the Savior’s spirit in abundance at the party and I also knew that sacred hymns and prayer would be the best way to invite his spirit. I also understood that the ceremony and the feelings attached to it would be a potential pattern for how my birth would be and was concerned about the “wrong” people attending. After a few weeks of pondering on “who” to invite, I decided to trust that whomever came was meant to be there and that I should just invite everyone I knew.
I mailed out 95 invitations two weeks before the party. I invited almost everyone I know in Colorado. I gave out an additional 50 invitations to my church community the day before the party. I sent quite a few invitations out of state to various family and friends, knowing they would not be able to attend, but hoping they would be with us in spirit. My best friend Susanna wrote me the week before and promised that she would be praying and with me in spirit during the ceremony. I had planned and conducted a blessing way for her four years ago, here in Colorado before she moved to L.A. It was the first “baby shower” I had ever attended where I felt the spirit of the Lord and angels in attendance. I was hoping for something similar with mine.
It was scary, exciting, and overwhelming thinking who might attend, would there be enough food? Would people judge me for not doing a traditional baby shower? Would they think I was judging them for doing the traditional baby shower? Would I ever be invited to a baby shower again?
I let all of that go, and trusted that it would be perfect…and it was!
The morning began with a shopping trip to get the fruit, flowers and ice. Then I cleaned, napped, bathed, and dressed for the party. Jeannine, Rico, and Halley came at 8:00AM and pitched right in and helped with food preparation and loading the car. I will never forget Rico washing grapes and strawberries at my kitchen sink while I baked muffins. It was just so homey and natural to have these wonderful souls in my home! I showed them my herb garden and my newly painted bedroom, which had carefully been prepared for our new baby. Jeannine was so complimentary of my efforts; it just made me feel good, and nurtured.
We drove up to the park about 9:30 and set up all the tables, chairs, and food. Then I prepared my alter with a picture of Jesus, and a few meaningful things to me – a bag of wheat grass, a jar of Kamut, Wheat, and Flax seeds, and a sample cloth diaper. We had requested that no one bring gifts, but rather donate to our cloth diaper fund. Our friends gave generously and I was able to order all of the diapers needed for this new little one last week!
Soon after ten AM friends started to arrive. We ended up having four fathers’ attend in addition to Paul. I was so pleased that they had taken the time to come. As each family arrived I had a feeling again, of perfection. This was my tribe, my family, our support, and the very souls we were destined to bless the way with!
To invite the spirit of the Lord, I had asked my son Jeff to offer the opening prayer, but he declined, feeling shy in front of the group. Then I asked if anyone felt guided to say the prayer, and my friend Nancy, a Doula, said that she would be honored and proceeded to offer a wonderful prayer of thanksgiving and protection for our family as we welcome our new baby.
Then Rico described how the blessing way came to be practiced in our modern age, and Jeannine described the purpose of passing around the yarn which we all wound around our wrist’s symbolizing community and unity and support for our family. As we wound the string I sang the opening hymn, acapella. I chose this hymn because I have sung it so often the past year as I mourned the death of my older brother. Dave’s first child was born a few months after his death and it was sweet to have my sister in law Lori and her son Dylan at the party!
We sang this song at Dave’s funeral, and it has brought me much comfort this past year since his death – and it fit in perfectly with the blessing way theme. Here are the lyrics.
Come thou Fount
Come thou fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing thy grace.
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above,
Praise the mount I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of thy redeeming love.
Here I raise to thee an alter,
Hither by thy help I’m come.
And I hope by thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God.
He to rescue me from danger,
Interposed his precious blood.
Oh to grace, how great a debtor,
Daily I’m constrained to be.
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love.
Here’s my heart, oh take and seal it
Seal it for thy courts above.
Here’s my heart, oh take and seal it
Seal it for thy courts above.
While I sang Jeannine noted two hawks flying overhead, gracing our party with their energy and spirit. As I finished the song, we broke the strings and tied them to our wrists to be a reminder to pray for the baby and the birth.
Then Jeannine and Rico did the ceremonial grooming. Letting down my hair, and noting coming wisdom evidenced by my first gray hairs. Paul noted that he must be very wise, as his head is covered in gray and we all laughed. Then Rico massaged Paul’s shoulders and expressed to him his love and confidence in his abilities as a husband and father/provider. Jeannine and Rico then demonstrated their hand mudras individually and then together facing us. The symbolic hand motions are indicative of the life walk that we all make first as individuals and then as part of a family.
Then they anointed our feet with a bottle of Young Living’s dream catcher essential oil blend. I had used this oil throughout the pregnancy and felt it would be appropriate for the blessing way. As Jeannine massaged and touched various reflex points in my feet, I felt a wave of loving energy wash over my body and the baby started to kick quite excitedly. Rico worked on Paul and as they massaged I asked that my friends start going around the circle telling who they were and how they knew our family. This was the highlight of the party for me and I really enjoyed hearing everyone tell how they had met our family and what our relationship was. Many touching things were said and I found myself tearing up as expressions of love and acceptance were conveyed to Paul and I.
To finish the ceremony Paul and I sang a hymn together with him accompanying on his guitar. We sang Jesus, Lover of my soul.
Here are the lyrics….
Jesus, lover of my soul
Let me to thy bosom fly,
While the nearer water’s roll,
While the tempest still is high.
Hide me oh, my savior hide,
Till the storm of life is past,
Safe into thy haven guide,
Oh receive my soul at last.
Other refuge have I none,
Hangs my helpless soul on thee.
Leave oh leave me not alone,
Still support and comfort me.
All my trust in thee is stayed
All my help from thee I bring,
Cover my defenseless head,
With the shadow of thy wing.
we finished the song, I had a feeling of love enter into my heart, from the circle of friends that had gathered and for my sweet lover and eternal companion, Paul. We finished the party with a feast of fresh fruit, muffins, and fruit juice and just visited and took pictures. Everyone was gone by 12:30 and we gathered up all of our belongings and went home. It was a beautiful and sacred moment in time for my family, and me and I will never forget the love conveyed and the happiness and joy that manifest during the party.
I feel that from this moment until the baby arrives we have been blessed, sanctified and set apart for the important task of welcoming our child into our home. Coming as it has after so much sorrow, warfare, and questioning of our choices and beliefs has made the joy experienced that much more intense for us.
My prayer for all of our families is that as we walk down this path we will be patient and loving as we learn new principles and truths and gradually implement them into our family life, with the understanding that it takes time to learn line upon line the precepts that will strengthen and nourish our children. I have a dream that by the time my children are grandparents these practices and this lifestyle will be firmly entrenched into our world as the ideal way to live family life. It has to be or how else is Isaiah’s prophecy in chapter 65 going to be fulfilled? Lord knows it is not going to be fulfilled with the current worldwide path we are on with the medical model of chemical parenting.
Symbol of the 1st and 2nd Husband/Wife Homebirth Conferences
Remember, Isaiah saw our day….
“And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying. There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days; for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed. And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labour in vain, nor bring forth for trouble; for they are the seed of the blessed of the Lord, and their offspring with them. And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer, and while they are yet speaking, I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock; and dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain saith the Lord.
Isaiah the Prophet .

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    My interview on the Freebirth Society Podcast is up on my blog.
Here I am at 41 weeks pregnant with Benjamin. His cousin Dylan was napping while I dozed and sipped raspberry leaf tea.
Cut and paste this link to listen to the podcast or buy one of my childbirth books: https://jennyhatch.com/2017/09/28/my-interview-with-emilee-saldaya-on-the-free-birth-society-podcast-jennyhatch/ These books were lovingly crafted for those couples searching for alternatives to hospital childbirth.
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