April 27, 2016

joseph andrew's placenta burying ceremony

at our first birthing class, jennifer asked us to draw a picture of what we felt represented birth to us. we were to take a crayon, and with our non-dominate hand, draw a picture while not looking at the other's paper. we then flipped them over and proceeded with the class, discussing the pictures later.

during the class the placenta came up and she asked us if we knew what we were going to do with it. i had tossed around a few ideas, thinking i might make a salve or encapsulate them, but the cost was a little much for us and so we were still up in the air. i had heard of burying the placenta from sites i came across on placenta services, and even joked about doing just that in our backyard to scare away our neighbors that annoy us. but it became very clear at the end of our class what we were going to do with it when jennifer had us flip over our pictures and talk about them.

i drew a representation of what kind of sort of looked like a blobby mama holding her blobby baby, maybe? and they were encompassed by a circle of some sort with what looked like a tree trunk and roots. flipping it over, it sort of looked like they were inside of a placenta (i was really just drawing whatever came to me after about a minute of meditating on the subject). my husband drew a tree with some cute critters in it, representing us and our family, including the soon-to-be addition. we each talked about what we felt the pictures were of and then jennifer gave her insight on both of them. basically, she felt as though each picture, though different, represented the same thing: being rooted in our family with a deep connection to the birth via the tree of life, or, the placenta. which really made me realize that we should definitely bury the placenta.

i wasn't quite sure what burying it would mean to us, i just knew that's what we should do, so i began to look up cultural traditions and rituals for the burial of the placenta. i came across a lot of unique and beautiful ceremonies, but they weren't representative of who we were and what meant the most to us, so i took bits and pieces from here and there and created a ceremony of sorts that really spoke to me. i incorporated a ceremonial saying from this blog, three verses from the bible, and a poem that i found that is so beautiful. i knew i also wanted to make some prints with the placenta to hang in our home and gift to jennifer and megan, so i planned for that as well.

we invited my husband's sister and her boyfriend, as well as my dad, over to be a part of the ceremony and help take video (which i stupidly deleted!) and photos. it was a very intimate and sweet ceremony that i feel was unique to us and spoke from our hearts (even though i pretty much took over and planned the whole thing because i'm obsessive like that).

two days prior to the ceremony, i pulled our placenta out of the freezer and put it in the refrigerator to defrost. the day of, i pulled out our leftover chux pads from our home birth kit (i don't know how we had any leftover considering how long my labor was and how many we went through during that time!) and some medical gloves i brought home from the hospital for oliver to play with, gathered up some sheets of paper and put the placenta on the chux.

(while in the hospital, megan told me that while she was examining my placenta, she found a large extra lobe. it was pretty incredible to hear that, but was shocked that both of my scans didn't detect this extra lobe. so i was most anxious and intrigued to be able to see this lobe for myself when checking out the placenta. i was hoping to include the lobe in my prints, but the caul was still attached to it, so i couldn't get it to stretch away from the main lobe.)

once i had the placenta laid out, i placed a piece of (acid free, 11x14 size) paper on top of it and pressed lightly all over, including the cord. when i pulled it up, it looked amazing! i couldn't believe how much it looked like a tree! and on the first print, i just so happened to catch a heart shape almost dead center. after making the rest of the prints and laying them out to dry, i packed the placenta back up and put it back in the refrigerator until my husband got home from work and everyone came over.

when my husband got home, we prepped the ground by digging a hole, got the silver dollar jade we received as a gift in the hospital out of it's pot and placed the placenta and gloves out on another chux pad by the planting site. everyone showed up and we had our little ceremony. i'd like to share with you what we read.

we are gathered here as a family with the creatures of the earth who are waiting to receive the placenta. now it is time to claim some meaning for the burying of joseph's placenta:

the earth, like the womb, is our origin.

the earth, like the placenta, sustains us.

by burying joseph's placenta, the birth companion, and honoring it, we are reminded of our intimate link with the earth and all the creatures that come from it and return to it. 

so joseph; though you don't yet understand it, we are here to bury your birth companion. once, it linked you to your mother, your sustainer, now, it links you to the earth, which sustains us all, even as it sustains the silver dollar jade we hope will grow through out your life. once, it allowed your intimate relationship with one life, now it speaks of your intimate relationship with all life. 

may the earth provide all the nutrients, faith, hope and love you need to live as one who knows where he came from. 

pslam 139:13-15

'13 for you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. 14 i praise you because i am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, i know that full well. 15 my frame was not hidden from you when i was made in the secret place, when i was woven together in the depths of the earth.'

my husband then placed the placenta in the ground and covered it with the dirt (with olivers help), while bry read this poem:

at the beginning of this world, i was part of you.
made from the same luminous fabric, flesh of your flesh, of our father and mother's being.
as we grew, we separated but united. i fed you, breathed for you, became a pathway for the flushing currents of our mother's blood.
as you slept, i was your cradle and your guard; when you awoke, i was your companion. 
together for that last day, i leashed you the very limits of our linking line before releasing you to the touch of others; but surely none will hold you as nearly, as sweetly, or as softly as i did. 
as our connection was severed, you wept for me once, then were gone.
carry me deep in your heart as you bury me in the soil of our home, for i am the earth of your making.

(katie alice, 2002)

then my husband planted the silver dollar jade and watered it. we all took in a deep breath and a moment of silence, then took our first photo as a family of five.

were you able to keep your placenta? what did you end up doing with it? i'm curious of the different types of ways mother's and families honor the placenta.

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