Months ago, my husband and I decided we’d each give Ava a baby blessing. It was a very controversial decision for an LDS family to make. That is because, in our church, only fathers with the higher priesthood may participate in the public blessing and naming ritual for new infants. Mothers must sit among the congregants while the baby is being blessed.
But my husband and I are products of a country where, outside of religion, women and men are very nearly equal. As a parent, I want to send a clear message to our daughter, beginning with her first blessing, that this equality would not end at the doors of the church. I don’t have the priesthood—but I don’t need the priesthood to give my child a blessing. I have the right, as a daughter of God, to pray over my children, and expect He will provide guidance, blessings and inspiration in return.
And so, with only our parents and bishop to witness, Jang held Ava first and gave her a beautiful blessing, which I recorded. I won’t share it all, but the most touching moment came when he asked God to give her “the strength to know that it’s okay to be different and to be yourself.” He continued, “I bless you with the desire to accomplish great things in your life…with ambition and leadership that you can be a shining light to other people. That other people can look to you as someone who is faithful and trustworthy.” Since a baby blessing more often conveys the parent’s hopes for the child, rather than any prophecy, hearing my husband say these things about our daughter warmed my heart. I hope Ava will be a trailblazer and example for many people, both inside the LDS faith and outside of it. We smiled at each other when he finished.
Then it was my turn. I’d stayed outside the priesthood circle, at my hubby’s request, but now I stepped forward to hold my child. The bishop, my father and father-in-law stood somewhat awkwardly around me. I’m sure none of them had any idea what this moment would look like. Truth be told, neither did I. It was a blessing my own mother had never voiced. I felt a little uncomfortable coming forward then— but the instant Ava was in my arms, her face brightened, and I felt a calmness come over me. She recognized me, her mother—and as her mother, this was exactly what I should be doing for her. Thankfully, I’d thought and prayed beforehand about what I wanted to say; and when all the men had moved to the side or taken their seats, I began to speak:
“Ava this is a special day for you. This is a day where all your family is gathered together to celebrate your birth. We’re so very happy you’re a part of our family. You’ve been blessed with an even temperament and a sweet nature, and we truly hope that these character traits continue in your life. As your mother, I pray that Heavenly Father will bless you with the ability to clearly know right from wrong, and to be a guide for your siblings and an inspiration for those around you. It’s important now to stand for things that are right and true. We hope that you’ll always stick close to the Church and close to your Heavenly Father, and say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.”
As I spoke, I somehow felt a rightness to my words. I wondered if that is how fathers feel when they bless their children. In that moment, I was happy, surrounded by family as I held my baby daughter. I had stuck to my commitment to bless her out of sheer principle—there had been times when Jang and I wondered if it would be worth it to go ahead with the mother’s blessing, fearing how our friends or church leaders would react. But I can tell you, when we each blessed our daughter in turn, it felt so right; so complete. As parents, we are a team, and we stood together that day. And I believe God stood with us as well.