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.