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Heard of a lotus birth? It's nowhere near as pretty as it sounds.

A lotus birth (pic from this XOJane article).

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.”

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Yes, this is an actual unattached placenta.

I didn’t say, but I wanted to quietly tell her that the kid was less than a week old, he was going to get fairly fucking emotional regardless.

Now Faith isn’t your run-of-the-mill hippy. Well, I didn’t think she was. Sure, she doesn’t eat meat which is a fairly common lifestyle choice these days but the Lotus Birth practice did seem rather extreme and frankly, out of character for her.

Especially when, after some research, I couldn’t really see any actual benefits. Her argument was that before modern medicine, this would have been how women in tribes continued on after birth. They didn’t have any medical grade shears to cut that sucker off, so they let nature take its course. The thing is though, we now DO have the technology and the skills. Also, correct me if I’m wrong here, but isn’t the placenta useless to the baby once it is no longer being used as a life support system inside of its mother?

Even more alarming is that this growing trend is potentially dangerous to a newborn.

Obstetrician Pat O’Brien, spokesman for the UK Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said, “We are aware that a number of women are choosing umbilical non-severance, known as lotus birth, and this is something we would discourage.”

“If you wanted to pick an environment that encourages bacteria to grow you probably could not do better than to leave the placenta attached after birth.

“Soon after the baby is born there is no longer any circulation in the placenta, so it’s dead tissue and full of blood, making it the perfect culture medium for bacteria.”

YUMMY.

Yeah, so I’m not seeing a particularly valid argument for this practice.

Look, I’m all for women having choices when it comes to birth and breastfeeding and rearing and actually, I don’t mind what you do with your child, as long as it doesn’t put them at risk.  And The Lotus Birth appears as though it could do exactly that.

Have you had an experience with a Lotus Birth? What have been the benefits?

*Not her real name. Obvs.

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