Baby Blessing Dreams, Not Nightmares

by Alisa

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?

Alisa

Alisa is a professional adult educator and corporate manager who enjoys spending time with her husband and son.

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23 Responses

  1. Kay says:

    The one thing I do when my children are blessed is to pick up a paper and pen and write it all down while it is being spoken. Often with blessings you remmeber some but not all of the words. It is an important occasion and none of it should be missed. Later I write it out in decent handwriting, let’s face it writing fast produces scribble. Then I have a beautiful reminder for them of their blessing.

  2. mraynes says:

    This is a powerful post, Alisa. I never had a problem with mr. mraynes and the men in our family using their priesthood power to give our children blessings. I view the process of labor and birth as a sacrament and so I am happy that my husband also has a sacrament to bless the lives of our children. But there is a visibility problem; the wonder of the woman’s sacrament gets lost in its private nature while the man’s blessing is a forefront ritual in our community. Unfortunately this perpetuates women’s invisibility within the structure of the church.

    I have now had the opportunity to participate in two baby blessings. While my husband and the men in our family gave the actual blessing, it was important to me to be involved. My son was blessed in our ward’s sacrament meeting so I took the opportunity of getting up during the testimony meeting and pronouncing my own blessing on him. A year and a half later we blessed our daughter in my husband’s grandparents’ home. Before the priesthood blessing, I said a few words and once again gave my own hopes and blessing to our daughter. Both experiences were beautiful to me, although I liked the intimacy of the home better.

    This is a very personal moment and you and your husband should find a way to make this experience the most meaningful for the both of you. It sounds like you are striving to do this.

  3. Lori says:

    I found when my babies were born that I agreed with mraynes in that the birth was so much about me and and baby that it seemed appropriate to allow my husband his moment of doing something significant.

    Two things I have done. One you could do, one I got away with because of special circumstances.

    I slipped a tape recorder in my husband’s pocket for all the blessings and then transcribed them. I didn’t ask permission and nobody but family knew we did it.

    Second, when my oldest was blessed he was two years old because he was adopted, and I sat with him during the blessing. I didn’t think he would be calm without me, so I sat with him in a chair in the center of the circle and let the men stand around us. Again, didn’t ask permission, just did it. I was less willing to give up this ritual to my husband then because in the process of adoption I had not gotten any special consideration. We had been equally involved in the process. When I gave birth to my two girls, it felt much different and I didn’t feel the need to be a part of the blessing. Consequently, I have made it a habit that when my children are getting blessings for illness that I hold and comfort them while my husband performs the blessing.

    I didn’t have to worry about post-blessing expectations. We live far from family, so just had the grandparents at the blessings. (well, ok I have to admit that a LOT more family came for my son’s blessing because it was a big deal to me and we were sealed the day before. We actually flew in family from around the country and had a really big group. But, I’m an extrovert and enjoyed hosting – even for a 4-hour ride to the temple with everyone and a picnic lunch after.)

  4. FoxyJ says:

    The blessings of both my children were both fairly low-key and I really don’t remember much about them either way. I also took notes to transcribe later. I’m having a baby in a few months, and my biggest anxiety is the fact that my husband is now inactive, as are all the men in my immediate family as well as my father-in-law, my brother-in-law, etc. We don’t have very many active men living nearby, and I feel weird asking some random person from our ward to do it. We just moved in a few months ago and are having a hard time getting to know people; still haven’t seen our home teachers yet.

    Remember that you don’t HAVE to host a luncheon. It’s optional. For my daughter’s blessing my mother-in-law bought and cooked food; with my son, it was my daughter’s birthday the next day so we just had our usual family birthday dinner/party later in the day for her, since the baby certainly didn’t care 🙂 Have you asked your husband if he could prepare food/clean up? Anyone else in your family? I figure that if family members are coming and want food, maybe they should provide it themselves; I would imagine that they would also understand that your home is not large enough to host a party. Maybe you could start a new tradition of handing out sack lunches for the drive home after church 🙂

  5. Heather says:

    In the ward where we blessed our son the bishop ALWAYS asked the mother to stand up after the blessing. He would say something like “We’d like to have sister so and so stand so that we can acknowledge the part she played in bringing this spirit to earth”. It was such a small thing but it made me feel SO included and acknowledged.

    We’ve since moved to a new ward and I’ve never seen our bishop do that. But we are blessing our daughter next month and my husband knows how much it meant to me to be acknowledged before so he is going to ask the bishop if he will have me stand up. My husband feels pretty strongly about this and our bishop is a really good man, so I am hoping that he will do this. And part of me is hoping that it will be come a tradition in this ward just like it was in the other ward.

    Oh, and DON’T you dare cook anything for the open house after wards! Delegate EVERYTHING out to the others, even call and ask someone else to come over and clean your house. You just had a baby, they aren’t going to argue with you.

  6. Sara L says:

    This is a very thoughtful post.

    My husband isn’t a member of the church, so I was very apprehensive about the whole blessing experience for my daughter, who was born last spring. I knew I didn’t want it done in church. I just couldn’t bear the thought of my husband sitting there on a bench while other people got up to bless our daughter. We decided to have it at home. We felt more in control of the whole process that way. My husband got the food (just snacks and not a full-on luncheon) and our whole extended family took part in setting up/cleaning. My husband and I put together a program of sorts and decided who would say the opening/closing prayers and how we would acknowledge family members. My husband gave a talk before the blessing itself, and he also conducted the meeting, which made it not as big of a deal that he wasn’t doing the actual blessing. The bishop did the blessing (because I didn’t want to choose between my dad and step-dad who raised me), with my dads and home teachers standing in the circle. The blessing was done in accordance with church procedures, but I felt that having it in our home made it more of a pleasant event for us, as well as his non-LDS family. It was a powerful experience and I wouldn’t have done it any other way.

  7. Maria says:

    My husband and I talk about our impressions and desires for our new little baby before he/she is born and during those first weeks. My husband feels very strongly that the blessing should come from both parents as much as possible, and that my input is as valuable as his. When my husband gives our new baby a blessing, he imparts our joint hopes, using words and phrases we have discussed together. There have been a few surprises… my middle daughter was given the gift of languages. I thought that was strange because it had never come up in our discussions, however, she is a verbally articulate little thing and always has been. She assimilates all languages, verbal, written, foreign, math, and music so fluidly. Languages clearly is her gift. Also, we record and transcribe the blessing. We have always looked at the baby blessing as a type of patriarchal blessing, one in which we invest a lot of prayer and preparation, one of significant value to us as parents and someday to our child, and one worthy of recording.

  8. MJK says:

    I’m with Lori – I had a wonderful home birth with wonderful midwives. The birth was about me and the baby. The weeks following the birth were about me and the baby and nursing and nursing forever and ever. And the baby wanting to be held by me. The blessing was a way for him to do something for the baby that I was not able to do.

  9. mb says:

    You wrote: “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).”

    WHAT?????!!!!!! Where did this come from??? I’ve never done this or seen it done. Luncheon for 35 people when you have a brand new baby in the house? This is nuts! As one of those private, introverted types who can do hosting but doesn’t if she doesn’t need to, I’d never even have considered it with my babies. If someone else wants to put on a luncheon at their house for the occasion, that’s fine with me, but no way would I consider doing it at mine at that stage of the game.

    “One person’s good idea—something that may work for him or her—takes root and becomes an expectation. And gradually, eternal principles can get lost within the labyrinth of “good ideas.”” –Dieter Uchtdorf, last weekend.

    If you really feel like this tradition must be done, find one of your extroverted relatives who loves hosting parties and ask her if she’d like to do it AT HER HOUSE. She’ll probably love it and then you can focus on what’s important for you, your baby, your husband and the Lord.

    If no one in your family wants to take it on, then don’t do it. No harm done. You can enjoy your sacrament meeting together and hugs and kisses and expressions of appreciation in the foyer and call it good.

  10. Kristen says:

    As a first time mom, nearly five years ago, in a new ward where I didn’t know anyone, it was important to me to have my dad, mom, and sister there at my daughter’s blessing. (They traveled to my state when they heard I was in labor.) Even though I had an unplanned c-section. And had a fever and raging breast and scar-site infections. And it was February in Utah. This was stupid. I would not do it again. I’d rather be alone. You know, I don’t think I knew back then that at home blessings were an option. (Oh! Oh! And make sure to discuss with your husband that he is not to speak until he is absolutely sure that he can be heard on the microphone. I didn’t hear a word of my daughter’s blessing because some random deacon didn’t hold it close enough.)

    Compare this to my friend who had January twins two years ago. She had them blessed in May. They were full-term, but she still had no desire to expose them to a lot of people during cold and flu season, which I think was really smart. Her family provided the luncheon.

    No one can make you have a luncheon but you. No one can make you bless the baby right away but you. If I were you (and this is on my mind for real because I deliver a baby next February) I’d reevaluate your expectations and come up with a plan that you can be happier with.

  11. missOlea says:

    Re: Lori’s comment about holding her adopted toddler. I have seen a number of families do this in several wards (I have moved around a fair bit) all over Australia. Even though you mentioned that you didn’t ask, I doubt anyone would have freaked out. Are you going to put the kid on a chair by himself?

    I also thought it was a lovely idea to hold your children as your husband blesses them – sort of a physical representation of the spiritual “full-body armour” your parents shield you with through blessings.

    I think mb’s idea would be a good one – ask someone who loves hosting parties to throw one in honour of the baby’s blessing. You don’t want to resent this important occasion.

    As far as Alisa’s post goes: I am not married, and have no children, but we have a large family and I am the oldest, so there have been many recent blessings. I think it’s important to remember that you know all those men who will be assisting your husband with blessing his baby. None of them are faceless, and I doubt they are going to try and exclude you from your son’s life. You love them, or they wouldn’t be invited to help at such a sacred time.

    I understand that this is about bigger things than the blessing itself. You said “this day seems to uphold the father as Patriarch and lord over his posterity and downgrades the mother to maid and caterer”, but think about how much of this is actually expected of you, and what your role really is. I would probably say more as father = patriarch, woman = nurturer, spiritually AND physically, to whatever degree you want to take on that role. You complement each other, and are equally loved by Heavenly Father.

    This blessing is really from Heavenly Father. Try to focus on that, rather than what Aunt Sally and Uncle Jim expect.

  12. Caroline says:

    My son’s blessing was non-traditional.

    It was at my home with about 20 of our friends and relatives. My husband and I held the baby together, and then my husband read a blessing that we had written together.

    I thought it was a good compromise between my feminist principles and Mormon tradition. I felt strongly that I should be involved in the holding and blessing of the baby, so I’m glad we found something that worked for us.

    My new baby is now 2.5 months old, and we have to figure out what to do for her blessing. I’m open to doing what we did before, but a huge part of me feels that it’s important for me to use my voice this time. This is my daughter – I feel even more compelled to give her a blessing that is clearly from her mother as well as her father. I want us to pronounce the blessing together, but I’m not sure how to work this out logistically yet.

    Best of luck, Alisa!

  13. Moniker Challenged says:

    As far as I know, this is not an ordinance. It’s a tribal welcome, and a replacement for Christening (you know, like keeping the eggs and the bunnies for Easter but jettisoning the fertility rites ;-)). I think it’s really optional when all’s said and done. Since the purpose is to create pleasant memories for you and your kin, you might as well do whatever you want, and create the kind of memory you can cherish. Congrats on the soon-to-debut boy!

  14. cchrissyy says:

    I didn’t think I was that out of the loop, but I haven’t even heard of people hosting a post-blessing luncheon. I completely can’t relate to your paragraph that it’s an expectation. Do people seriously ever do that?

  15. Alisa says:

    Thank you all for your helpful comments. I love hearing what you did, and how you were invovled, from a more traditional sense to a non-traditional sense. This has given me and my husband a lot to think about and discuss as we prepare.

    As far as the luncheon goes, I haven’t been to a baby blessing where there wasn’t food served at the new baby’s home afterward. It may be a Utah thing, but it always seems accompanied by food and guests. Maybe if we can get permission to do it at our house and not on a Sunday, we can all go eat at a restaurant or something.

    On a related note, my husband just confessed that he has an underlying fear that he’ll randomly change our baby’s name during the blessing. So maybe that’s where my dream came from. 🙂

  16. mellifera says:

    New moms hosting a party is insane. End of story.

    Anyway, now that that’s out of the way, we were brand-new in our ward when we blessed our daughter (we had just moved across town and knew a few people in the ward, but not that many). So we took the opportunity this occasion presented to invite friends from grad school, who are *very* skittish about religion, to church. Heheheh! Nobody says no to a baby christening. 😉

    We did have a branch beforehand just give sort of a gathering point for everyone before our (afternoon) church got started. But, it was very low-key and put together by my very own, very awesome mom. Not me.

  17. FoxyJ says:

    I just remembered that part of the reason why I didn’t feel quite as stressed was because both my kids were between 3-4 months old when they were blessed. A child can be blessed any time up to age 8, so there’s not a time limit. We did the blessing that late because I have c-sections and a difficult recovery every time so it takes at least 8 weeks before I’m even ready to see people and do social stuff. Our next baby is coming in February and will likely not be blessed until at least April. I’m planning on leaving her home with my husband until then since it will be winter and flu season.

  18. kmillecam says:

    I share your nervousness during flu and cold season, especially with a newborn, and especially with your first baby. Perhaps you can alter the luncheon plans. But I digress.

    With my two children I have done vastly different things. With my oldest we blessed him at home and I did not have any part of the ceremony. With our younger, my husband had reached the conclusion that he did not want to bless our baby in the Mormon tradition, and I had reached the conclusion that if I could not do it, then no one would.

    But then I realized that my real problem was my awakening feminism. I did not see why I could not bless my own child. DH didn’t want to, I did. He has the priesthood, I don’t. This bothered me more and more.

    We finally decided not to bless the younger in church or anywhere. We briefly considered a blessing sans priesthood and still having family attend. However, this would have just freaked them out.

    In the end, I took my baby in my arms after thinking about it for weeks and weeks, and wanting to feel right about it, and I blessed him in our living room in the middle of the night as I felt it was the right time. Granted this wasn’t a family affair, even with my entire immediate family. But it worked for us.

  19. Mel S says:

    I am haunted by these words from your dream: “As the circle closed in…” Circles are such symbols of eternity and inclusion, of wholeness and unity, I had never really considered the symbolism of a priesthood circle closing off others from the person they are blessing, including the baby’s mother 🙁

  20. anon says:

    I had two children with my previous, non-member husband and both were blessed by uncles of mine. I later remarried and the subsequent children were blessed by their father. One at church, one at home with only immediate family. I am very grateful that my husband is able to bless our babies himself. He loves them so much, and is so emotional and sincere with his blessings. It feels sacred. I don’t know if its because of my prior experience, but I am moved beyond words with love for my husband when I hear him bless our beautiful little children.

    Just because the words come from his mouth, doesn’t mean you are exempt from participating. Talk with him about the blessing beforehand and write down some ideas, topics, phrases you’d like him to include, if so moved upon by the spirit. 😉

    To make things easy on me, I decided to only do dessert receptions after the blessing. No meal. I made brownies and called it a day. I will admit that I had to clean most of the house by myself and was pretty annoyed by it though. I guess some things never change…

  21. Susie says:

    The baby blessing really has nothing to do with the parents. It is about the baby receiving a blessing for his or her life from the Lord. The father is just a vessel for this blessing to be delivered.

    As for the luncheon, from what I understand, it’s just to say thank you to those who were in the circle or who traveled to see the blessing. It’s not something you have to do or is really encouraged by the church.

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