Archive | March 2014

Breastfeeding as a (s)hero’s journey?

Every single human being was drummed into this world by a woman, having listened to the heart rhythms of their mother.

––Connie Sauer

February 2014 003

Recently I re-posted an article I wrote about breastfeeding and parenting as spiritual practices. I received a comment on the re-post that really gave me pause and some food for thought:

I’ve really liked your writing about preparing for birth as a warrior’s rite. I only wish I’d had materials that prepared me for breastfeeding similarly…

I’d like to have at least one breastfeeding book out there that supports women in breastfeeding even when it’s hell, and that doesn’t assume any pain is due to some tiny, easily fixed problem. I continue to get the most condescending advice when I talk about this in public — I don’t know how anyone thinks, with the amount of pain I’ve experienced trying to make this work, that I haven’t already tried every obvious solution.

Anyway, that is all a bit tangential to your post. I do think breastfeeding can be spiritual, though for some of us, it may be an ordeal as much as birth is. I would love to see that acknowledged better in breastfeeding resources.

 

I’ve been a breastfeeding counselor for nine years. I’ve written before that I have much more often marveled that a mother kept breastfeeding than I have wondered why she didn’t! Mothers are amazing and they go through a LOT. Reading this comment made me wonder why I’ve never really written about my own breastfeeding stories in the sense of a hero’s journey—perhaps because the difficult parts, once overcome, then fade into the fabric of that ongoing relationship? Perhaps because of the sheer ongoing involvement of breastfeeding, rather than the more discreet, definable event of birth? Perhaps because the path can be even more twisty and intimate and embodied and thorough and invested than even pregnancy and birth? Perhaps because, for me, my early breastfeeding stories are very bound up in my overall feelings during postpartum and the struggles I experienced there? Perhaps because for me personally the breastfeeding relationship continues to evolve into toddlerhood and so some of visceral, newborn, early journey elements are subsumed into the more habitual and every day? Why have I never written about the bloody, messy, tearful, painful parts of breastfeeding in my own personal motherhood story?! They’re there. And, when I counsel mothers in person I do talk about those parts. I also never tell people that breastfeeding hurts because they’re doing it wrong—I tell them they will read that phrase over and over, but that in reality, most women experience some degree of discomfort and even pain in the early weeks. Where it becomes not normal is when there is blood or blisters or open wounds, but if someone suddenly started sucking on ANY of your body parts 8-12 times a day, I think it is logical that we can expect some adjustment or difficulty or stress or pain in adjusting to that degree of intense, sustained, body contact/involvement.

I wrote the following at the end of one of my blog posts last year: January 2014 041

I’m also reminded again, however, of why breastfeeding support holds such a lasting pull for me and that is because postpartum is where it is at, that is where we are so very, very deeply needed as support people. Birth is amazing and exhilarating and women most definitely need us there too, but in the nitty-gritty, day-to-day, unglamorous, nipples and breast infections, teething, crying, dirty-haired, exhausted, wrung-out maternal web of daily being is a very tender and delicate beauty that becomes visible only when we’re willing to spend months and months, or even years, serving as a listening ear, a medication lookup, and someone to trust with both her laughter and her tears.

Talk Books: Laughter & Tears: The Emotional Life of New Mothers | Talk Birth.

Birth has been one of my biggest passions for many years. It is so exciting and interesting and almost “glamorous”—it is where the thrill is, the big work, and the big moment: the baby’s emergence. But, guess what, it is in the breastfeeding relationship and the first year with the new baby in which the mother’s strength is really tested. Breastfeeding is the day in and day fabric of connection. It is a huge physical and emotional investment, the continued devotion of one’s body to one’s baby. Breastfeeding support may not as exciting or thrilling as birthwork for me, but it is so very REAL and so very needed, and part of the nitty-gritty reality of individual mother’s complicated lives as they find their feet on the motherhood road. It really matters.

In what ways has breastfeeding been a hero’s journey for you? I’ve written a lot about birth in this context—the idea of the birth warrior or birth as a shamanic experience or birth as a labyrinth path, etc…but what about the breastfeeding journey? How were you tested, how were you challenged, how did you rise, or make peace, or triumph, or cry, or scream, or dig so deeply into yourself that you had to gasp in wonder at your own capacity? What is your breastfeeding story…?

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Talk Birth Wordwalls

In thePewter Birth Partners Sculpture Pendant (custom sculpture, hand cast, doula, midwife, birth art, birthing)
womb
we begin
enclosed
and safe
nurtured
by our
mother’s
body
soul
connected
to soul.

We are fed
and
encouraged
to
grow
to take
the
steps
to life
beyond
the womb.

–Linda Ervin quoted in To Make and Make Again: Feminist Ritual Thealogy by Charlotte Caron

A couple of days ago, my brother was home sick from work and sent me an email with two photos attached. He said he was sick and messing around with different things and made me two wordwalls using the most commonly used words on my blog. Not only that, but he made them into cool goddess shapes also! What fun. 🙂

goddess goddess1Aside from things like “posted” and “February,” I really got a kick out of seeing the words that were the biggest (meaning used most frequently in the last several weeks of my blog).

I am getting read for a new session of classes to begin as well as working feverishly on my own classwork. Today, I spent many hours working on my fourth paper for my Ritual Thealogy class. I realized I hadn’t made a post this week yet and it is already Wednesday and then as I closed To Make and Make Again, which was my text for this class, the little poem I opened with caught my eye in the Appendix of the book.

This past weekend I was in St. Louis where we had a booth for Brigid’s Grove at a women’s spirituality gathering. It was very successful! But, not a lot of time leftover for blogging!

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Tuesday Tidbits: Cesarean Courage

“Her courage is written on her body.” –Molly (Talk Birth)

March 2014 009Last year I made several cesarean birth art sculptures by request. It felt like a “risk” of sorts to make them, like I was trying to interpret another woman’s experience artistically, but I did it and they were well-received. I chose to imprint words in the figure’s cesarean scar because I kept thinking about how that mother’s love and hope and courage are all permanently written on her body. Recently, I had a request to make another and so I re-visited my Cesarean Courage idea and made some new figures. She is wearing her baby and her scar with pride and strength. These sculptures are not supposed to send an “at least you have a healthy baby” message, they are communicating that her birth journey with her baby is seen and acknowledged and validated.

“I became a mama goddess, too. I became a wonder of fertility, of softness, of late nights and warm beds; a body capable of unimaginable things. I labored and tore open, too.”

–Amanda King (in Being a C-Section Mama In the Birth Goddess Club)

When I shared the cesarean courage mama picture on Facebook, someone responded: Usually I look at the scar as a forever reminder of my failure. The idea my courage and love is forever written on my body in the marks of a surgeon’s knife is so transforming. I am humbled and amazed and inspired and encouraged by the ways in which birth art “speaks” to other women. It is a powerful experience and I feel so honored to communicate and share in this way. When I stopped teaching birth classes, I worried about no longer being “of service” to birthing women, but through my sculptures, jewelry, and writing, I still am doing this work and I am grateful.

Thinking about it reminded me of this wonderfully powerful photo of a mother-assisted cesarean birth in which the mother (a midwife, IIRC) caught her own baby…

You can read more in the accompanying article.

WHEN a baby is born by caesarean, the hands that lift it from the womb to the world usually belong to an obstetrician. But now, there’s someone else who can help deliver the baby: the mother.

via Delivered safely by caesarean with his mother’s hands – National – theage.com.au.

This picture and article were published several years ago and also covered in a Radical Doula post.

There are lovely photos from an online doula friend at Plenitud of a family-centered cesarean birth as well. And, two more recent posts with family-centered cesarean births here and here.

This week I was also touched to read a mother’s story of homebirth plans turned hospital birth plans turned cesarean birth after the baby developed an atrial flutter and was risked out of homebirth:

This has been a big week, with deep shifts that I’m sure will keep happening as we go through the coming days. March 2014 036Sometime in the next three weeks, I will subdivide into two women — one a mother, and one a fresh newborn infant, each with our own developing story and life path. I will find that I care more deeply about some things than I ever thought possible, and other things that were important markers of my life and identity are no longer significant. I’ll celebrate and I’ll mourn…

via Pregnancy Not-So-Blahs: My Story of Fetal Atrial Flutter | Amanda Aguilar Shank.

I knew I was going to be a mother very soon. I focused on not freaking out, and on enjoying my last moments of being so intertwined with my baby. I sent her telepathic messages of love and reassurance. I knew I wouldn’t be seeing her right after the surgery and that likely she would have to go through some trials before I could be with her again.

The operation itself was not as bad as I expected. One critical piece of my experience was having the accompaniment of a labor and delivery nurse friend, who served as a kind of impromptu doula, helping me to hold my ground when treatments being offered were inappropriate or unnecessary, and to fully embrace with less fear and more trust the life-saving help that hospital staff had to offer…

via From Home Birth to Hospital: My Story of Fetal Atrial Flutter | Amanda Aguilar Shank.

smallMarch 2014 059These mamas have taken powerful birth journeys. They have laid down their bodies for their babies. They hold their experiences, they wear them, their courage, love, and hope, upon their skin. The birth experience is there, loud and clear, and yet new experiences and joys are too. She is whole.

 

The Goddess of Willendorf & Does My Uterus Make Me Look Fat?

“Loving, knowing, and respecting our bodies is a powerful and invincible act of rebellion in this society.”
~ Inga Muscio

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Replica on my birth altar.

I do not remember the first time I ever saw her, but I do know that I have loved the Goddess (Venus) of Willendorf sculpture for many, many years now. I consider her almost a personal “totem.” I do not see her as a literal representation of a particular deity (though when someone uses the phrase, “Great Goddess” or “Great Mother,” she’s the figure I see!), I see her more as honoring the female form. I love that she is so full-figured and not “perfect” or beautiful. I like that she is not pregnant (there is some disagreement about this and many people do describe her as pregnant) and what I like best is that she is complete unto herself. She is a complete form–not just a headless pregnant belly–I just LOVE her. She represents this deep, ancient power to me.

In a past assignment for one of D.Min classes, I wrote:

I have a strong emotional connection to the Paleolithic and Neolithic figures. I do not find that I feel as personally connected to Egyptian and Greek and Roman Goddess imagery, but the ancient figures really speak to something powerful within me. I have a sculpture of the Goddess of Willendorf at a central point on my altar. Sometimes I hold her and wonder and muse about who carved the original. I almost feel a thread that reaches out and continues to connect us to that nearly lost past—all the culture and society and how very much we don’t know about early human history. There is such a solid power to these early figures and to me they speak of the numinous, non-personified, Great Goddess.

I know ancient goddess figures are commonly described as “fertility figures” or as pregnant, but most of the early sculptures do not actually appear pregnant to me, they appear simply full-figured. One of the things I love about the Willendorf Goddess is her air of self-possession. She is complete unto herself. She may be a fertile figure, but she is not clearly pregnant and she does not have a baby in her arms, which indicates that her value was not exclusively in the maternal role. Early goddess figurines are usually portrayed alone, it is only later that we see the addition of the son/baby figure at the mother’s breast or in arms. The earliest figures seem independent of specifically maternal imagery, it is later that we begin to see Goddess defined in relationship to children or as exclusively maternal. I think this reflects a shift that women continue to struggle with today (in Goddess religion as well as personal life) with the mother role see as exhaustive or exclusive. In contemporary society, the only mainstream representation of the Goddess that manages to survive under public recognition is the Madonna and Child and here, not only has Goddess been completely subsumed by her offspring, but she is no longer even recognized as truly divine.

This image has been a potent affirmation for me many times in my life. One Mother’s Day, my then four-year-old son Lann found a IMG_0636little green aventurine Goddess of Willendorf at a local rock shop: “We have GOT to get this for Mom!” he told my husband and they surprised me with it that afternoon. It still makes me get a little teary to look at it, because it was such a beautiful moment of feeling seen by my little child.  When I found out I was pregnant for the third time, my husband surprised me with a beautiful, large Goddess of Willendorf pendant. I was holding onto that pendant during the ultrasound that told us that our third son no longer had a heartbeat and during my labor with my little non-living baby, I wore and held onto the pendant. It went with me to the emergency room and I could feel its solid, reassuring weight against my chest when dressed in just a hospital gown and receiving IV fluids as blood continued to come from me as my body said goodbye to my baby. I buried a goddess of willendorf bead with my baby’s body and put a matching one on his memorial necklace.

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Bead ready to go in with my baby.

On Mother’s Day the following year, right after finding out I was pregnant with my rainbow baby girl, my husband gave me a beautiful new Goddess of Willendorf ring. I was little scared to wear it, because what if she too, became a sad reminder of a pregnancy lost (I have only worn the pendant again a tiny handful of times since the miscarriage-birth experience, even though I took a lot of comfort in it during that time), but wear it I did up to and through the moment when I caught my sweet little living girl in my own grateful, be-ringed hands.

The website that he bought the ring from went down shortly after and I’d not ever seen another ring like it for sale. However, I signed up to become a retailer for Wellstone Jewelry in 2011. While on the phone making an order, I requested one of their Venus of Lespugue pendants. The woman on the phone told me, “we don’t sell very many of those. She seems to make people uncomfortable. In fact, we used to make a ring too. A venus of willendorf ring, but no one ever wanted her. I think because 1057she is ‘too fat’ and she makes people feel weird.” Oh my goodness, I replied, I think I have one of your rings! I emailed her a picture of my hand and sure enough, though discontinued now, I’d coincidentally gotten one of the last ones ever made. She said they could get the mold out of storage and make some more custom rings just for me. Since I’m a business genius (what? You said they never sold? Sign me up for a dozen!), I immediately said yes and she shipped me several beautiful Goddess of Willendorf rings, which I then sold to several friends. (I still have two left if anyone wants to buy one! I would wear them all if I had enough fingers. My favorite ring ever!)

What does this have to do with my uterus making me look fat? Well, I’ve had the experience of wearing this ring and having another woman, a wonderful, peaceful, healer of a woman, laugh at it, like it was a joke ring. My mom sold a pottery sculpture version of the Willendorf to a man at our craft workshop and he laughed at her too saying, “this is hilarious.” Hilarious? Because she is fat, I guess? Several years ago, I read a post online titled Does My Uterus Make Me Look Fat? and I thought of my beloved Goddess of Willendorf, She of the Ample Uterus. While I can no longer locate the article itself and the post I had linked to in my drafts folder takes me to a re-direct site, I remember the article talking about how even pre-teen girls have a slight swell to their bellies. The author of the post was like, “duh, a flat belly IS NEVER POSSIBLE. THERE IS A UTERUS IN THERE.” When I read it, I thought about the jewelry woman’s comments about women not liking the goddess of willendorf ring because she is too fat. And, I saved a couple of quotes, the first two from the Our Bodies edition of Sage Woman magazine (Spring, 1996):

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Batik Goddess of Willendorf from a friend at my blessingway.

“…so it has been: women’s power has declined as woman’s belly has been violated and shamed…5,000 years of patriarchal culture has degraded belly, body, woman, the sacred feminine, the soul, the feminine sensibility in both women and men, native peoples, and nature–all in a single process of devaluation. Because our belly is the bodily site of feminine sensibility, our patriarchal culture marks the belly as a target of assault, through rape, unnecessary hysterectomies and Cesarians [sic], reproductive technology, legal restrictions on women’s authority in pregnancy and childbirth, and belly-belittling fashions, exercise regimens, and diet schemes…a culture that literally hates women’s guts…” –Lisa Sarasohn, The Goddess Ungirdled

“Our bodies are vessels of the sacred, not the homes of sinful urges. Our bodies create and sustain the sacred. And that sacredness does not equate with any artificial notion of bodily perfection. All of us are fit habitations for the divine, no matter what the diet doctors, fitness gurus, health good fanatics, New Age healers, and the fashion police try to force on us. If we don’t take our bodies into account in our expression of [our religion], then it becomes a mere shadow of itself. When we are fully present in our bodies [women’s religion] becomes a three-dimensional, vibrant, fully fleshed-out expression of the divine…” –DeAnna Alba in How to Flesh Our Your Magick

And, perhaps from the original Does My Uterus Make Me Look Fat article, I had this quote saved as well that addresses the “love your body,” rhetoric so often expressed, including, I suppose, in even the quote I chose to open this post:

“the fact that “love your body” rhetoric shifts the responsibility for body acceptance over to the individual, and away from communities, institutions, and power, is also problematic. individuals who do not love their bodies, who find their bodies difficult to love, are seen as being part of the problem. the underlying assumption is that if we all loved our bodies just as they are, our fat-shaming, beauty-policing culture would be different. if we don’t love our bodies, we are, in effect, perpetuating normative (read: impossible) beauty standards. if we don’t love our individual bodies, we are at fault for collectively continuing the oppressive and misogynistic culture. if you don’t love your body, you’re not trying hard enough to love it. in this framework, your body is still the paramount focus, and one way or another, you’re failing. it’s too close to the usual body-shaming, self-policing crap, albeit with a few quasi-feminist twists, for comfort.”

–saved from this post

March 2014 023
Even though I am a goddess sculptor myself, I have never been able to make my own version of the Goddess of Willendorf that satisfied me. I tried polymer clay, I tried pottery clay, I tried making my husband make one for me. None of them were right. Finally, just this month, my husband said, why don’t you make one, but using your own style? This was an ah ha moment for me and guess what, it worked! I successfully used the same technique and structure I use for all of my sculptures, but with a Willendorf-style-twist and I finally made my own sculpture that I’m really proud of. My husband made a mold and cast her in pewter and I’m wearing her right now. Her uterus might make her look fat, but to me, she is one of the most powerfully affirming images of womanhood I have ever encountered and there is nothing funny about her.

        “Your body is your own. This may seem obvious. But to inhabit your physical self fully, with no apology, is a true act of power.”

–Camille Maurine (Meditation Secrets for Women)

March 2014 022  March 2014 038

International Women’s Day: Body Prayer

I roam
sacred ground
my body is my altar
my temple.

I cast a circle
with my breath
I touch the earth
with my fingers
I answer
to the fire of my spirit.

My blood
pulses in time
with larger rhythms February 2014 040
past, present, future
connected
rooted
breathing.

The reach of my fingers
my ritual
the song of my blood
my blessing
my electric mind
my offering.

Breathing deep
stretching out
opening wide.

My body is my altar
my body is my temple
my living presence on this earth
my prayer.

Thank you.

I wrote this poem in the spring of last year and was very pleased when Trista Hendren, author of the children’s book The Girl God, wrote to ask permission to reprint it in her new book: Mother Earth. I received my copy of the book last month and wanted to offer a mini-review of it today, International Women’s Day, because as Trista says, it is “a beautiful tribute to the world’s first ‘woman.’” Mother Earth is theoretically a children’s book, but it offers an important message and call to action to all world citizens. Along the top of the pages is a story, written as a narrative experience between Trista and her daughter Helani, about the (human) mother’s need to rest. The story evolves into a message about the Earth and the care and rest she is crying out for. Each page features a large illustration and below the illustration is a relevant spiritual quote, poem, prayer, or message.

February 2014 038(I got a big kick out of seeing the company I keep on the back cover…Buddha, Hafiz, the Dalai Lama, Starhawk…Molly Remer?!)


I’m still wrapping up the school session as well as preparing for a big event next weekend. I feel taut, overcommitted, crabby, snappy, distracted, and out of time for writing even though I have a pile of ideas for things to write about (always!). Trying to remember that this is normal for me during the week of final paper grading and final exam giving and does not indicate a permanent state of imbalance requiring mass quitting of everything, but that is still how it feels in my (tired) body. It was nice to revisit this poem and take some quiet time to read the whole book.

I wrote a prayer for mothers last year on International Women’s Day:

See your worthIMG_8522
hear your value
sing your body’s power
and potency
dance your dreams
recognize within yourself
that which you do so well
so invisibly
and with such love.

Fill your body with this breath
expand your heart with this message
you are such a good mother.

via International Women’s Day: Prayer for Mothers | Talk Birth.

It is also important to remember the sociopolitical purpose of this day:

International Women’s Day is not about Hallmark. It’s not about chocolate. (Thought I know many women who won’t turn those down.) It’s about politics, institutions, economics, racism….

As is the case with Mother’s Day and many other holidays, today we are presented with a sanitized, deodorized, nationalized, commoditized version of what were initially radical holidays to emphasize social justice.

Initially, International Women’s Day was called International Working Women’s Day. Yes, every woman is a working woman. Yes, there is no task harder perhaps than raising a child, for a father and a mother. But let us remember that the initial impetus of this International Working Women’s Day was to address the institutional, systematic, political, and economic obstacles that women faced in society.

via How we miss the point of International Women’s Day–and how to get it right. | What Would Muhammad Do?.

In years past, I also wrote about the connection to birth as a feminist issue:

“The minute my child was born, I was reborn as a feminist. It’s so incredible what women can do…Birthing naturally, as most women do around the globe, is a superhuman act. You leave behind the comforts of being human and plunge back into being an animal. My friend’s partner said, ‘Birth is like going for a swim in the ocean. Will there be a riptide? A big storm? Or will it just be a beautiful, sunny little dip?’ Its indeterminate length, the mystery of its process, is so much a part of the nature of birth. The regimentation of a hospital birth that wants to make it happen and use their gizmos to maximum effect is counter to birth in general.” –Ani DiFranco interviewed in Mothering magazine, May/June 2008

via International Women’s Day, Birth Activism, and Feminism | Talk Birth.

Happy International Women’s Day! May we all find the space in our day to take a deep breath and honor our bodies, our families, and women around the world who are working, working, working every day to make the world a gentler place to live. (Even if we sometimes get snappy while doing it…)

November 2013 061

Placenta Magic

…And when you see this wondrous thing
That grew me up so well,
Say thank you to the Goddess
Who made us from one cell…*

–Dr. Sarah Buckley, “Ode to My Placenta”

I’ve said for many years now that my favorite color is “placenta red.” A deep, rich, life-saturated red. I’m amazed by the placenta. How cool is it that we can grow a whole new organ and then just release it from our bodies when it is no longer needed? Pretty cool. I think the reason the placenta might not get as much acknowledgement and appreciation as it deserves is because it then pales in comparison to the miracle of a whole new person suddenly showing up on the earth as well. Forget growing a new organ, I just gave birth to a new person!!!! And so, the placenta may be cast aside with hardly a glance or even much thought to its powerful role in pregnancy and the sustaining gift of life it offers.

In a lovely article called “The Placenta Project: An Artful Birth-based Inquiry,” Nane Jordan (writing in the spring 2013 issue of Midwifery Today) explains:

I love the placenta as a literal metaphor for communication and communion, for reclaiming birth, midwifery, and women’s body knowledge in a society that seems to have lost connection to the earthy mother-fabric of our origins.

Though shrouded in ‘blood taboo,’ as is a woman’s menstrual and postpartum blood…the placenta is truly an honorable life-giver. A sign of its taboo status is the immediate disgust so many people feel at seeing the placenta’s incomprehensible blood-filled mass. The stigma of women’s blood is augmented by fears of contamination and disease through contact with blood. After birth, the placenta is most commonly treated as refuse (what is refused) or garbage and discarded as a waste product. Though our society has an insatiable appetite for gore and violent bloodshed, we are seemingly lost when it comes to viewing the blood that gives life (p. 50).

So, how might we give the placenta a little bit of recognition? Here are some possibilities:

  • Have a lotus birth—leave the placenta and cord attached to the baby until it naturally separates on its own timetable. Women writing about lotus birth experiences describe a very mystical sense of communion with the placenta and are adamant that it is still beneficial to the baby after birth. Sarah Buckley describes more about this process in her article: Lotus birth – a Ritual for our Times
  • Plant it—many families choose to plant a special tree, shrub, or plant over their baby’s placenta, feeling that just as the placenta nourished the baby, it can now nourish the earth and another life.
  • Create art with it—using blood or paint, place a sheet or paper or cloth over the placenta. Lift up gently to create a “placenta print.” Other women shape and dry the cord to save as a sort of ornament. I read an article about using a cross section of the cord to create a unique art portrait of the greatly magnified life-giving tissue specimen.
  • Encapsulate it—in this process, the placenta is dried and powdered and put into capsules for the mother to ingest postpartum. Though research is not ample on this process, anecdotal reports are very enthusiastic about the benefits of doing so.

I’d love to hear your ideas, particularly about additional rituals of celebration! In my own case, I wish I’d done a little more to celebrate the placenta’s role in each of my children’s lives. Here’s what I actually did:

  • First birth: I meant to take my first son’s placenta home from the birth center to plant under a tree, but then forgot it. When we back for a postpartum visit, we asked for it, but it had already been discarded with the other “hazardous waste.”
  • Second birth: My mother was tasked with making a placenta print. It was hard to handle and resulted in very limited success! (I rolled the print up and keep it behind my belly cast from this pregnancy, which seems fitting. In honor of this post, I unrolled it for the first time in almost seven years and took a picture! See gallery below). When this son was about two years old, we finally buried his placenta ceremonially underneath a nectarine tree. We experienced two redneck moments with regard to this solemn occasion: we cracked up while planting it because the tree had a label around it that said “super sweet” and it looked like it was pointing the placenta. And, when we were digging through the freezer to find it, my husband said, “here it is!” and I had to say, “actually, I think that is a squirrel.” You know you’re a redneck if…you confuse the squirrel in your freezer with your placenta…
  • Third birth: this was a second trimester miscarriage at home in which the placenta did not release until 6 days later. I was desperate for the placenta to come out and I talked to it, saying that I would do something special with it if only it would just come out. When it finally had to be gently twisted free by a midwife, it had decomposed enough that it came out in many little chunks. At the time, I was so relieved to have it gone, that I didn’t care when she tossed it in the trash. Later, I wished I had brought it home to bury and to acknowledge for having tried so hard to keep my baby alive that it wasn’t willing to let go even after my baby left me.
  • Fourth birth: my postpartum doula was tasked with making a placenta print. She did so on paper with marginal success. Paint would probably have been helpful, but since we were also encapsulating it, we did not use paint (as with my son, I rolled this print up and stored it behind my belly cast from the pregnancy). After this birth, I consumed a dime-sized piece of the placenta immediately after the birth and then my doula took it home to encapsulate. I became a huge fan of placenta encapsulation after this experience (more about my personal experience is here).
  • After each newborn, I also chose to keep their cord stumps after they fell off and I keep them all in a little bag that I originally wore around my neck throughout my first labor.

*In the version of Buckley’s Ode to the Placenta that I had saved in a folder on my computer, this is the last line. Googling for it, so I could link to it in this post, only produced a handful of websites (not hers) that had the poem reproduced, but with “Goddess” replaced with “God.” I’m really curious to know which version is correct!

Re-posted from: Placenta Magic.

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