Of Baby Blessings and Love

A year ago this month, mr. mraynes and I were driving home from a trip to Costco where we had stocked up on what I hoped would be some of the last diapers we would ever buy. Our two children were about to embark on potty-training, I had recently emerged from a serious depression and had just been accepted into a graduate program. Life was looking up.

I remember saying to mr. mraynes, “I feel like our family is complete, like we have the two spirits we’re supposed to have and we can move on with life.” A week later I found out that I was pregnant.

That scene played in my mind yesterday morning as I prepared my baby to be blessed by his father and grandfathers. I found myself smiling at my precious determination. Though it is human to try and control the future, life proves itself to be formidable in its complexity.

So much of our religion is an attempt to secure the fate we desire–keep the commandments, read the scriptures, pray daily and the Lord will bless and protect us–but to do those things in an effort to stave off the inevitabilities of mortality is an exercise in futility. Life will happen.

And some would say that pronouncing a blessing on a baby for a happy, healthy and faithful future is likewise futile. But this is one of our traditions that I deeply love. I recognize the problematic gendered nature of this practice and the hurt it causes many women. I have even written about my own antipathy towards this ritual and yet, I am always touched by the sight of men I respect and love cradling my child in their arms to bless him with the power of God and their love.

This is my third baby blessing and in the intervening years I have worked through a lot of my bitterness and resentment. I have also seen that there is a lot of flexibility in this ritual. We have blessed our last two babies at home. Though my husband still performs the blessing with the men of our families, being at home gives me the opportunity to give voice to the love and hope I have for that child.

I rarely feel the spirit anymore, something about the noisiness of toddlers drives it away. But as our families gathered in our living room to bless and celebrate the life of my sweet little boy the spirit descended and the room glowed with love. Our home became a temple, a sanctuary not only from the heavy snow falling outside but also the pain and disappointment that so often accompanies our mortal existence.

After an opening hymn and prayer, my father shared a poem he had written from the dying words of Mary Murray Murdoch. A woman who walked across the plains with the Martin Handcart Company and got as far as Chimney Rock, Nebraska when she succumbed to the hardships of the trip. Her dying words being”Tell John I died with my face towards Zion,” the poem speaks of beginning a journey in hope and faith and resting in the love of God.

And then it was my turn to express my love and wonder for this little boy who so unexpectedly came into my life. I shared my hopes and dreams for his future and gave him an informal mother’s blessing. The previous evening I remembered Souviens-toi, the French hymn that Starfoxy wrote about months ago and decided to sing it prior to the blessing his father would give him. As I sung of our Heavenly Parents I felt their presence and knew that for just a few minutes heaven was in our living room, with our families and in the eyes of my baby.

The future is unknown and life will ever prove challenging. There is no magic prescription for determining our destiny, there is only the choice to love. As the ceremony came to and end and I watched the snow soften and fall gently on the cars, trees and skyscrapers just outside our window the words to our closing hymn rang true in my heart…”Where love is, there God is also.”

Mraynes

Mraynes lives in downtown Denver with her husband and four children. She spends her time lobbying at the Colorado Legislature, managing all the things and preparing Gospel Doctrine lessons.

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11 Responses

  1. Corktree says:

    This is beautiful mraynes. “there is only the choice to love.” – especially that. I still don’t know how to hope for the outcomes I do want and simultaneously accept that much will happen that I *don’t* want. But I do think I’m learning to let the complexities fall away and just focus on love. The things I read and do and feel that sustain me lately are all about human relationships and putting people first above all else, and it gives me peace.
    God IS love. Thank you for the reminder.

  2. spunky says:

    Thank you for sharing this, mraynes and congratulations on the new bub! The blessing you had sounds just beautiful. I am so happy for you and your family!

    I loved this simple, yet so very complicated, mortal truth:

    “So much of our religion is an attempt to secure the fate we desire–keep the commandments, read the scriptures, pray daily and the Lord will bless and protect us–but to do those things in an effort to stave off the inevitabilities of mortality is an exercise in futility. Life will happen.”

  3. Jessawhy says:

    Amazing. I’m so glad you wrote this post. I know baby W will be grateful to have this record of his blessing and the love of his family. You are a wonderful mother and an amazing human, Meg.

    Thanks for sharing this and thanks for being my friend.

  4. Caroline says:

    mraynes, I so love and appreciate your thoughts on this. Just beautiful.

    I like the fact that you were able to make women such a presence in your ritual, despite the traditional male blessing circle. Not only did your dad base his poem off a woman’s quote, but your you spoke your own blessing, and you sung a song that mentioned the Mother. Wonderful. No wonder you felt their presence in your home.

  5. Sally says:

    Beautiful – I would love to read the poem your father wrote.

  6. Stella says:

    It is so beautiful! Now that I am not an active member and do not plan on marrying a Mormon (but it could happen, if one would accept my heathen soul–I’m not opposed to it), I visualized myself in your shoes. I saw my living room with people gathered. I pictured my husband and I giving our baby a blessing that we had prepared together–but we wouldn’t say through “the priesthood”–it wouldn’t be attached to that, but it would be special and sacred and full of just as much faith and good intentions. The sad thing is that I couldn’t picture actually inviting any of my family as they would see it an irreligious attempt (in their eyes) to “fake” something that could only be real in the church–and that made me a little disheartened.

    I guess I have time to get them ready for such an event–and when the spirit of love and faith and hope and more love it there–well, then, they will feel it too.

  7. Kirsten says:

    I loved that you did the blessing at home. In December my “baby” turned twelve, and was ordained to the priesthood. I didn’t want this ordination to take place in some cramped, bland church classroom as the participants were wanting it to finish quickly so they could get home for lunch after church. I decided that my voice needed to be heard and told the bishop that I wanted to do the ordination at our home. He was puzzled and asked why. I said that I felt this was an important milestone in my son’s life and I wanted it to take place somewhere special. Our homes are to be the most sacred places outside of the temple– I wanted it done at home. He agreed as long as we didn’t have a “program”.
    Everyone we asked to come was delighted to do so. Many even told us that they were going to do the same when their boys turned twelve. I could tell that the bishop didn’t really want to do it at our home. He was kind, but it felt like he was placating us. Before the ordination I simply embraced my son, told him I loved him, and was proud of him. (no “program” ). It was a beautiful, spiritual experience. I also think it meant more to my son as well.
    Mraynes, I am so glad you had this wonderful time with your baby. What an amazing memory you will have too look back on as he grows.

  8. Alisa says:

    I love this post. No, we cannot predict how life will be, but we can appreciate these moments. I love how you made this a special occasion for you and the people around you.

  9. Deborah says:

    I love that you chose that song . . .

  10. heidelade says:

    This was so beautiful, thank you for sharing it. We chose to bless our youngest at home immediately after she arrived, surrounded by the loving birth team that had spent the day praying for and welcoming her. It was an amazing and sacred experience, the birth and the blessing!

    Kirsten, thank you for your idea of the ordination at home, I love that.

  11. Michelle says:

    Oh, how I love this post and your beautiful way with words! I felt the joy and light of your living room as I read. I am blessed to know those precious children, and their wonderful parents…what incredible love you emulate!

    Our family had a similar experience. A moment when Heaven surrounded us. It was the day of our children’s patriarchal blessings. We all four gathered in a special room, in our patriarch’s home. He was a long-time friend, knew my husband and I as teenagers, and loved us all the more because of it! He knew and adored our children from birth. As those blessings were pronounced, the world disappeared. We were taught and instructed from on high. We were caressed and whispered to, words beyond those spoken. We were all equal and treasured. The divine nature of son and daughter alike was revealed. I have never felt more loved! And there was no division of woman or man. Only the things that made us each unique and valuable, and those things that bound our family eternally. I cannot remember without tears.

    It is experiences such as these that remind me that I am in the right place, even though I feel so out of place. I have faith that things will change. Things will be made right.

    Hope you know you are very loved and very admired.

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