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A Daughter Comes of Age.

My 13-year-old daughter, Vivian, has come on many postpartum visits with me (I am a labor support doula). She works hard, has lots of friends, and stays very centered in difficult situations. When we were planning her Bat Mitzvah I began writing a speech to her that I'd planned to give during the service.

There was so much I wanted to say to her that by the time I was halfway into it, I realized there wouldn't be nearly enough time during the service to give it. I didn't want to just hand her a letter, I wanted others to hear what I had to say about her. And it was in that way that I came to learn about and prepare for a Blessing Way for her.

I had attended the ALACE Empowering Women During the Childbearing Year workshop with Vicki Elson and she introduced the idea of Blessing Way to us. In an article she gave us was this paragraph:
 The "Blessing Way" tradition is rooted in Navajo ritual, but it is so
 lovely that it has been adopted by members of many other American
 subcultures. While diverse groups adapt the tradition to their own
 lifestyles, the name "Blessing Way" remains as a tribute to its
 originators. Ceremonies may be offered to help a person to heal, to
 celebrate marriage, to acknowledge the onset of menstruation, to bless a
 house or a journey, to ease major life transitions, or to honor and support
 expectant mothers.

I was nervous about how this ritual would go over since my husband's family and some of my friends are observant Jews. I didn't want to offend anyone, yet I felt that this ceremony for her was necessary because the Bat Mitzvah service and celebration would not be a time when others could approach Vivian and tell her how they felt about her. I wrote an invitation that in part read:
 The ceremony for Vivian will begin in a circle with everyone introducing
 themselves in the context of their connection to her, "I am Carol, neighbor
 and good friend of the family." Any talking will be consciously focused. We
 may go around the circle several times, each time with a theme: "What
 strengths do you see in Vivian that will help her to thrive in the future?
 What do you wish for her?" You may wish to read a favorite poem or quote
 for her. If you feel like, you may light a candle as you give your wishes
 for her At the end of the evening she will blow out all the candles. In the
 future, when looking for strength, she can remember what was said and
 re-light the candles.

Everyone was asked to bring a candle and four roses. Two of the roses were put in a vase and the other two had their petals removed. When all of the petals were harvested, we broke them up and put them in boiling water to "cook" while we sat in the circle. The resulting rose petal mush was cooled and then rolled into beads by the women there. The beads were left to dry and then made into a fragrant necklace.

I began the circle by reading my letter to her. It was long. When I looked up at one point during my reading I noticed that almost everyone was wiping tears away. The impact of my words and feelings for my daughter had touched everyone. My friends spoke next, offering her strength and advice. One friend folded a giant origami crane for her as she spoke, telling a story of determination. Other friends gave her a pouch filled with amulets and encouraged her to pursue the ways of the Goddess. Her Aunt spoke, using words rich in biblical meaning. My midwife spoke and chose to honor me in her words, which added a richness and fullness to the different generations of women present. Many of the women cried as they spoke. One woman, with a daughter the same age as Vivian, wept as she relayed some of the moments our girls had shared growing up together. One woman read aloud the poem, "What is a Woman?" After each woman honored Vivian, they hugged. When the circle was complete, the twelve of us joined hands. The candles flickered and the room was filled with the gentle yet strong sense of woman-spirit.

As we shared fruits and sweets at the end of the evening I looked over at my daughter talking to her best friend. I noticed how she held her head high and allowed her eyes to dance in the candles' light. I noticed how she delicately held her drink and plate. I looked around for my little girl, yet she was nowhere to be found. I realized that she had moved on long before this evening. I felt secure knowing that she had just received a solid foundation from which to now enter this next stage of her life.

--Ilana Stein, CCE, CLA, lives in Flushing, NY, and is a Training Instructor for the ALACE Labor Assistant workshop.3
COPYRIGHT 1998 Association of Labor Assistants & Childbirth Educators
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1998, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Stein, Ilana
Publication:Special Delivery
Date:Dec 22, 1998
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