The Placenta part 1 (this is long but might be interesting).
I’m writing about my experience handling and processing the placenta’s of both my daughters. When Lucia was born, I dehydrated and encapsulated her placenta. (I say her placenta because most of the structure grows from fetal tissue which implants into the blood filled walls of the mother’s uterus). It was a special and profound experience for me to explore and build a relationship with this amazing organ and to honor all that it had offered and sacrificed for my daughter’s life. I’ve handled a few of them now and one thing that has struck me for both Lucia and Talise when holding their placentas in the recent days after birth, is how much holding the placenta felt like holding them, like holding the same being in some way. Some cultures consider the placenta to be the child’s twin, a kind of older sibling that watches over them (Genetically and functionally speaking, this is not inaccurate) and obviously sacrifices its life for the baby to be born. Yet another example of the deep teaching of this labor that death feeds birth and birth feeds death.
Many cultures have complex beliefs and protocols about what should be done with the placenta after birth to honor it and harness its power for the child and mother and community. Many cultures bury it (some making sure it is in a secret place so spirits can’t find it), some cook and eat it, and others turn it into a powder to be taken such as in traditional chinese medicine. I even saw a guy in England who made teddy bears out of placentas which is gross and weird to me but…ok. When I look at the placenta, I see the tree of life branching and the veins and arteries look like the red and blue roads of the the human and spirit paths of the Lakota traditions. There is an entire cosmology of wisdom to be perceived that speaks to the interrelationship of the worlds of death and birth, spirit and matter and our connection to our ancestors. I like the idea of the placenta as the roots, the umbilical cord the trunk, and the baby the fruit.
In the US, a vast amount of the placentas are placed in bio hazard bags, may be briefly studied for pathology, and then incinerated. Some hospitals have policies that families cannot take the placenta home with them and this has been a subject of lawsuits, although we had no problem bringing ours home. If you want to take yours home, be sure to put that down in writing as part of your birth plan and talk about it with your birth team before you labor. Parts of the internet also allege that placentas are sold or used for stem cell research or other scientific studies, though I couldn’t find much concrete info that is still occurring though a french cosmetic company used them in cosmetics into the 90’s. I can say that it certainly is not treated as sacred by the medical establishment. For some, this represents a vast spiritual forgetting. I’ve heard indigenous grandmothers speak to the deep need to return the placentas back to the earth as a form of gratitude and respect and healthy spiritual “soil” management. They say we cannot keep taking resources from our mother the earth without putting them back into the soil to feed that which feeds us. The same can be said of much of our modern farming practices which deplete the soil of its aliveness and do not feed back to life. Part of the reason I’m sharing this is to return the little bit of wisdom and information I’ve been receiving back into my community. Please share your experiences in the comments if you want.
For those that don’t know, the placenta is an amazing organ. Its english name may come from the latin/greek word for the flat and round cake it resembled called the “placenta”. Part of the reason that women are often so tired during the first trimester is because their body is growing it rapidly, and it is larger than the baby for much of the first trimester (another reason to see it as an older sibling or twin). Imagine how tired you would be growing another set of lungs or a new liver as an adult! The placenta acts as a bridge between mother and child, flooding the mother with hormones to change her body in ways that support the baby, releasing waste products and receiving nourishment through the mother. Mother and baby blood does not actually mix and the placenta mediates this connection between them. The different functions it serves are vast and fill textbooks.
For Lucy’s placenta, we cooked some of it (I’m someone who likes to try things and it tastes like liver or other organ meat) and then powdered and encapsulated the rest for Mom. When I ate it, I felt a full body “zing” of energy rush through me. It is potent, whatever it is. Traditional Chinese Medicine believes that the hormones in the placenta can help the mother’s body recover from birth and may help stave off postpartum depression (I can’t say this was the case in the first birth though we were in an apartment with serious mold which really affected her mood so that really makes it hard to tell). Most mammals eat their placenta after birth and there are examples of some protecting it more fiercely from predators than their baby! It is not known why animals eat their placentas and there is much speculation. There is some evidence that eating the raw placenta right after birth may provide hormones that help stop bleeding which can be very helpful if a mother is hemorrhaging and you don’t have medication to stop it. I do believe consuming it in the week or so after birth may help the internal attachment wound to heal in the uterus. We ate a lot of chicken liver pate’ right Talise’s birth to help Siri recover from her blood loss. Like liver and other organ meats, the placenta is nutrient dense and at least you know the conditions under which it was raised unlike store bought organ meat.
Some believe that eating the placenta is a form of cannibalism and I could see how they have that view, though its more accurate to see it as eating your baby since its genetically similar to them. I see it as returning the nutrients to the baby through the mother since everything the mother consumes will be passed to the baby through the breast milk anyway.
This time I dehydrated and powdered some of it (no time for capsulation) and I also took a piece and we buried it in our back yard in a good way. Since we own this home, I wanted to help anchor Talise here as a spot she can draw power from, and I do feel even more at home here after the ceremony of burying it. Talise seemed to like that part and she was talking and smiling while we did it
My spiritual father George Bertelstein taught me that nothing in life is intrinsically more sacred than anything else, and that things becomes sacred by handling and treating them in a sacred way. I’ve taken that to heart and I’m really grateful for the ceremonies we’ve created to help us to navigate the huge transitions of life and death we have been surfing. (For those who don’t know, my wife’s father passed away unexpectedly 8 hours to the minute after our daughter Talise was born just over a week ago). I have more to write about Rick’s passing and the process he is in and how it relates to the placenta and I hope to share that soon. Hence this being part 1 😉
Thanks for taking the time to read this if you have gotten this far. Our lives are so precious and so many people have sacrificed for us to be here. I’m particularly grateful to the placentas of both my daughter’s for watching over them so well during the time in the womb and for sacrificing their own lives so that they could live. I’m grateful for my own placenta as well. I hadn’t thought about that before, but it is my most immediate ancestor and I feel it’s care more now. Thank you. Big love.