Baby Blessing Dreams, Not Nightmares
I had my first dream about the baby boy I’m expecting last night. I dreamt that family was gathered in my large hospital room to celebrate the arrival of our baby. They were in their Sunday clothes, and I realized that the men were there to give my son his baby blessing and name. I sat holding our son as my husband and a few other men gathered around to give him his name. But I noticed that my dad and a few others in my immediate family didn’t come up to the circle, as if my husband had forgot to expressly invite them. As the circle closed in, I quickly looked up at my husband and told him that we hadn’t settled on a first name for the baby. He assured me that the Lord would reveal the name to him when he gave our son the blessing.
The blessing was over in a flash, and afterwards, I had to ask what my husband what he had said his name was. The first name was some gibberish thing, but I distinctly heard the middle name was “Benjamin,” and not my terminally-ill father’s name as we had agreed on. I became furious that my husband didn’t stick to any of the names on our list and, clutching our son to my chest, began to shout at my husband, insisting that I was going to write on the birth certificate one of the names from the list, hoping this government document would override any crazy revelatory name pronounced in the blessing.
I woke up still a little bit taken back by the emotion and intensity of the dream. For one thing, my husband’s actions were completely uncharacteristic of him, leaving me to think about this as a projection of my own insecurities about entering motherhood and the tensions I see between femininity and masculinity within the Church. The hopes I have for raising my son in balance are placed opposite the fears I have that external forces will take over the process of raising our son to hold more egalitarian views.
I admit that the baby blessing is something I’ve not been looking forward to. I’ve always felt it was silly for the men to exclude women from this mutual work of creation and hailing their babies. Even more than the blessing itself, I resent that the recently-labored mothers are left to clean and tidy the house while putting together a luncheon for the Priesthood holders and their families (just our two immediate families – grandparents, parents, siblings, spouses, and their children – living within 60 miles of our home will mean over 35 people crowded into my little living room and kitchen). When I’m thinking about it in cynical terms, this day seems to uphold the father as Patriarch and lord over his posterity and downgrades the mother to maid and caterer. I am sure I’ll have lots of help, most of all from my DH, who does most of the cooking in our home, but I still feel stress of having all these people over and packed in during cold and flu season.
I think in my dream I was trying to find some way to regain equal standing to the powerful men in the room: they clean-shaven in their suits, and me, sweat drenched and in a hospital gown. My hope in the dream was that I had a legal right to be involved in the naming of my child. Whatever it was to offer me some power back, I wanted to take it, but instead I saw my son being immediately swallowed up by an institution that not only excluded me and other women, but also some key male members of my family, following the strict patriarchal line uninterrupted by women.
In reality, when the baby comes, I am going to go along with and support the baby blessing. I think there is something beautiful in the elders of a tribe welcoming someone new in and claiming him or her as one of their own. That archetype resonates with me. While I wish it were more gender neutral who is considered an elder of the tribe, I can’t do much about that. So I will appreciate the symbolism from afar in my distant pew. And also, I want to consider the expectations of my family, which is a traditional baby blessing. I’m much more likely to have diverse thoughts (like these) that I don’t put into practice.
But I don’t think it can hurt to try to make this the best event I can for my husband, my child, and me. I am interested to know about your baby blessing experiences. Have you done something to be more involved? Is there something that you would be sure to leave out if you did it again? Any advice for those of us private, introverted types who are less-than-enthusiastic hostesses for parties in general to survive the post-baby blessing luncheon expectation? What beautities have you observed in the process of seeing your child blessed in our LDS tradition?