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.”