My first thought when I met my friend at my front door, 5 days after her giving birth, was ‘What a bloody champion’. My second was ‘Jesus, what is that smell?’
She floated on in, serene, unflustered, not even laden down with the requisite baby bag chock full of mini nappies and baby wipes. Nope, it was just her, her beautiful new baby, Vincent, and what appeared to be some steak in her hand. Which was weird because she’s a vegetarian.
She must have seen me looking and by way of explanation said, “Oh, I’m just in the area grabbing something for dinner tonight.” That’s when I offered to put the meat in the fridge for her. “Meat?” she looked at me, perplexed. Meanwhile, baby Vincent serenely slept against her chest in one of those baby hammocks I could never quite master.
“The meat, in your hand.” I pointed to what appeared to be raw meat wrapped in baking paper and cling wrap. My friend just smiled at me and said, “Oh, what this?” holding up the purplish/grey lump. “Oh, no, no this isn’t dinner, this is Vincent’s placenta.”
Say What Now?
I’ve got to hand it to her though, clearly this wasn’t the first time she’d had this conversation. In fact, she carried on as if it wasn’t even a thing. UM, YES it’s definitely a thing lady, back right up and tell me why you are holding your son’s placenta, which upon closer inspection, was still ATTACHED TO HIS BODY.
Faith* asked me, “Do you want to hold him?” Errrmm, okay, sure. That’s when I’m pretty sure that my attempt at being cool completely crumbled. I mean, to be fair, I think I was allowed to be both shocked and curious when she handed me this beautiful baby and then simultaneously placed a festering piece of wrapped grey flesh beside me on the kitchen counter.
Yet suddenly I was intrigued. I mean, I’d had two babies myself by this time and I’d always, you know, just cut the cord at the source and proceeded to have it all thrown into the MEDICAL WASTE CONTAINER. I’d heard of mothers wanting to take their placentas home, plant them in the garden, make them into milkshakes, you know, that kind of totally sane thing, but to keep it attached to the baby? Until it naturally fell off? Jesus, WHY?
So Faith explained it to me. The Lotus Birth. How the practice of allowing the umbilical cord and placenta to detach naturally from a newborn was quite a beautiful and natural thing. (The rank thing in my kitchen suggested otherwise but I encouraged her to go on nonetheless). Faith then explained to me that once she had birthed Vincent, the placenta had been placed in a bowl, the “excess juices” has been wiped off (yes, I’ll wait while you process that) and then she rubbed it in sea salt and lavender, so that it wouldn’t get “malodorous”. No need for big words around me Faith, I now when you’re trying to sugar coat the word “reek”. I inquired as to what benefits the Lotus Birth brought about. “Oh we’re doing it for his emotional and physical well-being.”