Feminist Options for Baby Blessings
Two and a half months ago, I gave birth to Baby A, my third and last child. As with my other two, his advent has inspired a lot of reflection about baby blessings. I still feel, as I did six years ago when I gave birth to my first child, that I should somehow be involved, that I should somehow be included in this ritual. But how to do it?
One option is to do the baby blessing at home. At home, there is a lot more freedom for innovation, particularly if you aren’t concerned about getting the fancy certificate. (The baby can be entered into the system as a child of record by the ward clerk without the certificate.) At home, couples can decide to hold the baby together, can write the blessing together, etc. This might be considered a more informal “parents’ blessing” upon their baby.
Another option (to consider at least) is to see if your bishop is open to having the mom hold the baby during the baby blessing in Sacrament Meeting. The handbook is clear that only Melchizedek priesthood holders can be in the circle. But if the woman is sitting down inside the circle, she’s not really in the circle, is she? It might be worth asking your bishop about this option, particularly if he’s the type to not be afraid of innovation.
Similar to the previous option, you can ask if you can hold the microphone during the baby blessing in Sacrament Meeting. Since this is a job that usually teenage boys without the Melchizedek priesthood do (at least in our ward), it seems clear to me that having the mom hold the microphone should be a viable option. It would look a bit funny and awkward, I think. And it might seem a bit unchivalrous to the observer to see the mom craning her arm around to hold the mike in front of her husband’s face, but the image kind of tickles me. I like the idea of the ward seeing that female presence up there doing something a bit awkward because she feels so strongly that she would like to be a part of this ritual.
These three options above are what I would call integration options — options that bring women and men together during the blessing of the child, though they do still tend to be male-voiced and male-centered. Another category of options would be separation options, in which a woman/women blesses or prays for the child without men being present.
This could take many forms, of course. One way to go about this is to invite friends to bring a poem, story, song or thought to offer which might help the baby navigate his/her life. As women sit around a circle, they could share their offering, and the mom could close the gathering with a blessing/prayer for the child.
Alisa wrote a beautiful post about a ritual she and her friends participated in before the birth of her child. Her experience is more of a blessing or ritual for the mother-to-be than for the baby, but several of the ideas could easily be adapted for a female-centered baby blessing.
Another idea is to have the women surround the mother and child. They could join hands with one another forming a ring, or they could all put a hand on the mother/baby, as they take turns praying for or pronouncing blessings upon the child.
Personally, I like the idea of doing both some sort of integration baby blessing and some sort of separation baby blessing. I think it would give me peace to know that the more male-voiced baby blessing ritual would be balanced out by a female-voiced baby blessing ritual.
Which of these options resonates most with you? What other ideas do you have for either integrating women into the male-centric traditional baby blessing or for creating women-centered baby blessings?