By Latisha Guthrie
Making a baby is an incredible act of nature. When you really stop to think of the miracle of creation, how two tiny cells merge and divide again and again to grow an entire human being, it’s easy to have a deep reverence for life. One of the great miracles of pregnancy for me, is the placenta. This powerful organ is created only for this one purpose by you and your baby. It is birthed into the world, just like the baby is. However, as it leaves your body, its contract fulfilled, it is often discarded without much thought. I’d like to challenge you to consider how the placenta plays into the miracle of life by honoring its place in creation.
If you’ve ever had an opportunity to really look at a placenta, you will know the miracle I’m talking about. The shape, size, and color as unique as each child, it contains all of the life force and love that nourished your child these nine months. The thin, yet perfect and strong veil that carefully covered the baby a reminder of how little armor is needed when the right nourishment is provided. The tree of life that is seen in every single pattern of veins, the story of your genetic history spelled out in every branch. For me, it is not simply an easily overlooked organ to be tossed aside.
The placenta is honored in many ways around the world. In many cultures it is revered almost as much as the child. In Nigeria, it is seen as the twin of the child and given full burial services. In other cultures it is buried under a tree and it is believed that the health of the tree is representative of the health of the child. Some bury the placenta with items like books or money to ensure a smart or wealthy child. In other traditions, the placenta is burned to ash and saved by the mother. Whenever she needs to feel close to the child, she will sprinkle some of the ash on her food. In traditional cultures, the placenta was a way to connect. Connect the child with Source, the parent with the child, the parent with Source, the child to the community long after it has moved on. It was seen as a way to complete the circle of Source, community, and child.
Placenta encapsulation is a more recent way to connect with the energy of this amazing organ. Popularized by midwife Raven Lang in the 80s it is now commonly done in natural birth circles throughout the western world. Though there is not much scientific research regarding encapsulation, the anecdotal evidence is promising. Mothers report less post partum depression, speedier recovery time, and increased milk production. I would encourage you to consume your placenta after birth either raw or encapsulated if you are drawn to do so. However, in my work with placenta, I’ve seen it heal much more than this.
One of the most powerful experiences I had the honor of being a part of came from two best friends, their babies only a few months apart. The first woman had a hospital birth that did not go the way she had intended and she was handling a lot of grief around her experience these many months later. My client, was able to birth in a birth center and decided to encapsulate the placenta. She suggested to her friend that she come and help. As I washed and prepared the placenta, the best friend slowly began to watch with curiosity. I suggested she take over and she began rinsing the placenta in the sink. When she took this gift of life into her hands, I could see her whole body melt. She continued to rinse and massage the placenta, and soon started sobbing. Seeing that she was deeply reconnecting to the birth of her child, my client and I left the room so she could have some time to herself. After a bit, we came back to the kitchen and we both just put our hand on her shoulders and stood together. Sisters. Women. Carriers of life. The gateway to this world. Taking time to share gratitude with this gift of life, created a powerful moment of connection. A knowing that we had the ability to heal each other.