38 weeks and also women giving blessings

Today I hit the 38 week mark and, as a bonus, my chins came in. Hi, chins!

This is the week where everyone has felt free to walk up to me and tell me how miserable I look, which is fun. I think I look quite good. I mean, yes, I look tired because I don't sleep well. And I look overheated because I am, because hello does it need to be this freaking hot at church? But on the whole I was feeling decent today.

slimming, slimming stripes

Here is what I looked like at 38 weeks last time around.

I think size-wise I appear about the same(?) but otherwise I much prefer today's picture. Better lighting, actual makeup, and I was not standing in the Hobo Spider Apartment of Gross. All improvements.

I guess there is the part though where in the older picture my pelvic floor still worked. So that's something.

And now we segue: Back when I was pregnant with the Tiny Dark Lord, I read for the first time about the (now discontinued) practice among Relief Society sisters of washing and blessing women before childbirth. (It was in a Sunstone article, "A Gift Given, A Gift Taken: Washing, Anointing, and Blessing the Sick among Mormon Women" by Linda King Newell.) This was absolute news to me, and I felt like I'd lost out on the chance to benefit from something that sounded quite powerful and beautiful and sisterhood-y.

Rixa Freeze over at Stand and Deliver wrote a great blog post ("LDS blessing rituals before childbirth") a few years ago about those blessings and what we know about them based on the records and meeting minutes kept by Relief Societies. Basically these women ministered to each other in a manner similar to the washing and anointing we experience now in the temple. They believed and had been assured that they were empowered to do this through their faith. And these were the kinds of things they blessed the expectant mother with (this text comes from the minutes of a Relief Society in Idaho--you can read more in the Sunstone article):

We anoint your spinal column that you might be strong and healthy . . . your bladder that it might be strong and protected from accident, your Hips that your system might relax and give way for the birth of your child, . . . your breasts that your milk may come freely and you need not be afflicted with sore nipples as many are, your heart that it might be comforted.  . . . .the child shall present right for birth and that the afterbirth shall come at its proper time . . . and you need not flow to excess. . . .

Um, I could have used all of that. Just saying.

And then this came at the end of one of the recorded blessings:

Sister ___ we unitedly lay our hands upon you to seal the washing and anointing wherewith you have been washed and anointed for your safe delivery, for the salvation of you and your child and we ask God to let his special blessings to rest upon you, that you might sleep sweet at night that your dreams might be pleasant and that the good spirit might guard and protect you from every evil influence spirit and power that you may go your full time and that every blessing that we have asked God to confer upon you and your offspring may be literally fulfilled that all fear and dread may be taken from you and that you might trust in God. All these blessings we unitedly seal upon you in the name of Jesus Christ Amen.

I could absolutely use some of this now. Isn't that just beautiful?

This practice, along with blessings of healing and other things, was slowly discouraged through the early 1900s as the structure within the Church shifted towards an emphasis on priesthood leadership. In a 1946 letter from then-Apostle Joseph Fielding Smith to then-RS President Belle Spafford, he made it very clear that it was more correct for the Elders to administer to the sick, not the sisters.

After that, it just stopped. This, to me, is absolutely sad and unfair. Something that brought comfort and peace and sisterhood to so many women was discontinued by men who (bless their hearts) had never experienced it and likely did not appreciate what they were writing off with their "just call on the Elders" reasoning. Because that's not actually the kind of thing where the Elders can just step in and take over. ("So, Home Teachee, do you need anything this month?" "Yes, actually, I'd like you to anoint and bless my spine, hips, and breasts in preparation for my upcoming labor.") And yes, I can ask (and have, and will) my husband for general blessings of comfort, but it's not the same. At all.

One sleepless night I had fun daydreaming about who I would ask to come be part of my before-childbirth blessing. I got a really great group together, let me tell you. Sadly, I have no immediate plans to go vigilante and start organizing something, even though that would be awesome. I do know, though, that all those women, whether I invite them to come bless my bladder or not, will be praying for me when the time comes and that there is power in their faith and prayers. For now that will have to be enough.


AmyJane said... [reply]

I'll pray for your hips and breasts and bladder and sphincter muscles and all the things. :) Final countdown time!

Jennifer Whitcomb said... [reply]

38 weeks looks even better on you the second time around... Good luck! And you can add my faith and prayers to your list of sister muscle.

Señora H-B said... [reply]

I'm thinking of you all of the time and you'll be in my prayers. I agree with you about the sister blessings. I hope that someday that practice will be restored; it just seems so beautiful to me.

Kayla FrecklesinApril said... [reply]

It's such a sad thing to have lost. I recently read somewhere (kicking myself for losing the link) the story of a pioneer woman in Arizona who wrote about how the blessings from the women around her saved her life while in childbirth. It was such a sweet testimony and it made me so sad that I've missed out on that. Maybe someday...

Missy W. said... [reply]

I'm snickering at the thought of the home teachers blessing me to prevent nipple soreness. Now I could have used some of THAT! Those first few weeks were so hard!

Jenny said... [reply]

You don't actually look miserable. I think it's probably a misguided attempt to say something more polite than You look huge! Which you don't. You look pregnant. And now I'm convinced it's passive aggressive code for I think you're fat. So now I have something new and insulting to look forward to at church.

Maybe you should ask for clarification. I think I need some.

Liz Johnson said... [reply]

You should have a blessingway!! Just gather all of your favorite women and eat your favorite foods and have them anoint you with chocolate or paint henna on your ankles or belly or something. I did this with my last baby (had them draw henna all over me) and it was really fun and, surprisingly, REALLY spiritual. It reminded me of those rituals that you're talking about. It was beautiful.

That said, if I were close by, I would totally round up some of my hippie birth friends and come lay our hands on you and bless you in faith. In the meantime, I'll do the vibe/prayer thing.

Lady Susan said... [reply]

What amazing blessings! And yes, I could have used all of that as well. You are right, one's husband, other priesthood authorities can give blessings of comfort etc., but they will not contain the words like those you shared. And this from a woman whose husband was pretty involved in the whole birth process. I agree....we lost something there.

Lady Susan said... [reply]

Forgot to add: wishing you a much less traumatic birthing experience this time around!

Cooldad said... [reply]

I think my head just exploded. Thanks for that.

Nemesis said... [reply]

Thanks, amyjane! And now I will have the "Final Countdown" song in my head for the rest of ever.

Nemesis said... [reply]

Jennifer, thanks for the compliment but even MORE for the sister muscle!

Nemesis said... [reply]

Señora, when it does happen you know I'll be there for yours! xxx

Nemesis said... [reply]

Crossing fingers, Kayla...of course it would help if more of us even knew that was ever a thing!

Nemesis said... [reply]

Ugh, I am so sorry, Missy. Totally worth praying for!!

Nemesis said... [reply]

We will see if I make it back to church at 39 weeks. Although being able to respond to questions with a "getting induced tomorrow" seems better than last time's "go @&$# yourself."

Nemesis said... [reply]

Liz, thank you in advance for the prayer and vibes! Since I'm not seeing the Dr at AF who broke BOTH our bottoms, I'm crossing fingers that things will be better!

Nemesis said... [reply]

Thank you, Lady Susan!!

Nemesis said... [reply]

Right, Dad? Pretty mind-blowing stuff!

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