Monday, July 21, 2014

{Blessingway}

On Saturday, my wonderful friend Michelle put together another beautiful Blessingway Ceremony for me, just as she did when I was pregnant with Lucy. Michelle and I have been friends for 10 years now and I cherish our relationship so very much. She is mama to 3 beautiful little gals and she gave birth to each one of them at home. I was lucky enough to be her doula for her last home birth last year (sweet Marigold turned one just yesterday!) and it is a memory I will cherish forever and ever. She was my doula for Lucy's birth and will also be my doula for this birth.
I'm sure most people are quite familiar with what a baby shower is, but I'm sure many people are quite unfamiliar with what a blessingway is. It is an old Navajo ceremony and is a very positive ritual affirming that a woman will have a natural and beautiful birthing experience. It marks a woman's right of passage into motherhood and is a ceremony of empowerment near the time of birthing. It is a time to gather within a circle of close friends and celebrate sisterhood while honoring the birth mother and preparing to welcome a new baby to earth.
The blessingway was held at my home in the dining room which is where the birth pool will be setup again, just as it was for Lucy's birth. It was such a special feeling to have all of these amazing women gathered in the exact place where we are planning bring this new baby into the world. During Lucy's birth, I could absolutely feel the powerful energy lingering in that room from the blessingway that had happened just a few weeks before.

Michelle transformed the room yet again into an beautiful, colorful and inspiring space for this special gathering. The smell of lavender and other essential oils filled the room as the women came in one by one with delicious food and plenty of love and light to share.
The canvas on the right in the picture below was a group collaboration from my last blessingway.
Love it so much. 
 We spent the first half hour or so just nibbling on delicious food and catching up with each other..
Then everyone gathered in a circle in the birthing room and each person took a turn introducing themselves (there were a few people who did not know all of the others) and telling the story of how we had met. I loved hearing these special women in my life recall such wonderful memories from over the years.
A crown of flowers was placed on my head and the ladies took turns painting my belly,
and massaging my hands and feet with warm lavender water. I felt so pampered!
 In the meantime, the others worked on creating beautiful posters with birth affirmations and
other inspiring messages on them for me to hang in the birthing space when the time comes. 

Each person also brought a special bead with them and Michelle is putting together a necklace that I will be able to wear during the birth. They also each took turns stringing colorful heart beads onto 
a necklace that I was able to give Lucy when she came home later that day. So special!

At the end of the ceremony, we threw a ball of yarn around the room creating a web between all of us. As each person received the yarn, they wrapped it around their wrist or ankle three times first saying the
name of their mother, then their grandmother, then their great grandmother. After each person had
done this, we cut and then tied the string which will stay on until after this baby is born. 
I had to have a little help with mine :)
Michelle gave each person a candle to take with them so that they could light it at home and 
think of me and baby when I go into labor. We all joked about how with Lucy's labor, people
needed more than one candle since it took so long with her. Hopefully one candle will
suffice this time :)

I am feeling so empowered and so ready for this baby after such a beautiful blessingway with 
all of these incredible women. 
I just feel so very blessed.

When Lucy and Zach came home later that evening, Lucy went gaga over my belly art and decided
she wanted to get in on the action as well. So I gave her a washable marker and let her have at it :)
This is going to be one well-loved baby :)

Friday, July 18, 2014

{Destin, Florida}

Zach lived in Johannesburg, South Africa for a year in high school as an exchange student. It was absolutely one of the most incredible experiences of his life, and what made it even more amazing was that he lived with such an incredible family while there. The Harlands truly became his second family. He grew especially close to his host brother, Nic, who is just about a year older than him. They developed a wonderful friendship and brotherhood...and certainly caused all sorts of mischief together ;) 

Nic met the love of his life, Katherine, while living it Switzerland as an exchange student. She is actually from Tennessee but lived in Switzerland for 10 years and then eventually moved to South Africa to be with Nic. Quite a worldly love story, huh? 

We were so excited to hear about their engagement earlier this year and I dreamt of going to their wedding in Johannesburg, but knew that wouldn't really be an option for us at this time. So, we were extra excited to hear that they were going to do a ceremony in the states that Katherine's family could attend...and then they would do another event in South Africa later on. They picked Destin, Florida for their destination wedding and we just knew we had to go...even though I'd be 35 weeks along at the time. What was even more special was that Nic asked Zach to be his best man. Of course, Zach accepted with great honor. 

It was such an amazing week. Katherine's family was just wonderful and I was so happy to finally get to meet Zach's South Africa family (even though a couple of the immediate family members were missing). And of course, everyone really just got a big kick out of miss Lucy :) Speaking of Lucy...it was her first time ever to the beach and she was in absolute heaven!! The poor girl got pushed to the brim for those 4 days with super late bedtimes and extremely minimal napping...but she rallied and did great...with only a few semi-major meltdowns :)

We stayed at an Embassy Suites, but Nic and Katherine's families had rented this awesome beach house a mile down the road and we pretty much camped out there most of the time. Absolutely amazing. 

So, without further ado....get ready for a bit of a vacation picture overload....

 Night before the wedding:
Wedding day:


That beautiful day ended with laterns being lit and let go on the beach...
 The entire day after the wedding was spent on the beach. Perfection.
 Seriously...the happiest girl in the world...
Someone hired these guys to come out and teach us how to build giant sand castles. 
It was super hard work actually...especially for this very pregnant mama...but it was so much fun! 
Zach and I were in a group with Nic and Katherine and this was our massive creation...
After a full day at the beach...we went back to the house to hang out for awhile longer and
have dinner one last time with everyone since we were going to be leaving the next day. 
One last picture of Zach and his South African brother from another mother...
(Check out Zach's awesome sunburn. Yeah...I got one of those too...)
We checked out of our hotel the next morning and went back to the beach 
for a few hours since our flight wasn't until later that day...
 Zach attempted to take her out in this kayak...but this is as far as she made
it before begging to get out :)
...and before we knew it...it was time to head to the airport and head home.

Such an amazing week with wonderful people. Can we please go back?!