real life

I gave birth like a chimpanzee

Originally published on xoJane on 24 October, 2013

Lotus birth is the practice of leaving the umbilical cord uncut after childbirth so that the baby is left attached to his/her placenta until the cord naturally separates at the umbilicus, usually a few days after birth. Wikipedia

Other animals chew the cord off shortly after birth, but as a vegan, this option did not appeal to me.

During my lotus birth, a lovely six-day period of bonding and closeness was established with my baby, and we washed and wrapped the placenta everyday to keep it clean and placed it in a waterproof pouch.

As the placenta did not release until five hours after the birth, this provided for a special bonding period in a close embrace, without separation. During this vital period of bonding between us, I felt strongly that it was important that no one else take the baby away. Having the placenta still attached to the cord helped to ensure this.

Ulysses, minutes after being born in the bath, unassisted

Shortly after the birth, the cord dried quickly into the texture of an electric cable. During the nights we slept with the baby on the bed and the placenta was placed next to the bed. Transporting the placenta with baby around the house was made convenient by using a stretchy wrap, which had a pocket in the front to hold the placenta.

After six days of healing and bonding, we woke up one morning to find our baby Ulysses had gripped hold of the cord and detached it by himself, leaving a neat and healthy-looking belly button. For the six days the placenta was still attached, he was very peaceful and slept extremely well. Due to the damp environment where we lived and because we also chose to wrap plastic around the cloth, the placenta did not dry out as well as it should have and did leave a musty smell for the last few days. However, as the cord had already sealed off and we kept the rooms well aired, I didn’t feel this posed any threat to Ulysses.

Despite the minor inconvenience of learning to maneuver around the cord for six days and dealing with the cleaning of the placenta, I feel the potential benefits of lotus birthing far outweigh any cons.

In fact, I will definitely be having a lotus birth for my next child.

In cultures where they maintain the placenta after cutting the cord, a tradition exists for the placenta to be buried to the right side of the front door for a male and the left side for a female. My husband and I lived in a block of flats at the time so did not have this option and decided we much preferred the idea of returning the placenta back to the land through the sea rather than burying it. As we love to travel, the sea is a symbol of adventure and freedom, a life I hope Ulysses has the opportunity to experience someday.

This is why I chose lotus birth -- and child-led parenting, and why I would recommend it to anyone who asked.

The birthing party: Mum, Dad and Ulysses

Growing up as a conventionally parented child, I often felt a sense of powerlessness that in turn created a dependency on others and lack of self-confidence. Natural birth and child-led parenting provides ways you can show the most precious person in your life that you respect, trust and honor their innate wisdom.


Many times I get asked from where does lotus birth originate?

I am not entirely sure how it became named, but I would guess it has something to do with the placenta resembling the flower. If you have ever observed a placenta with the cord attached it has a beautiful network of veins running through it as the leaves on a flower have, the cord also bears resemblance to the stem. The lotus flower is also a symbol most widely recognized from India.

Central to all spiritual paths is the concept of "letting go"; everything in nature takes its cycle and in its own time transforms into the next phase. Just as the mother’s body knows instinctively to release the placenta after it has received the chemical messages released from the baby suckling on the breast, so does the baby’s body know exactly when to release the cord from its point of attachment without any intervention.

This is also why I decided to opt for an unassisted birth without any intervention.

I felt strongly that I needed to allow my baby to be born at the exact time and in the exact way that I felt most comfortable. Even though I had emergency numbers on hand, I chose not to have any midwives or medical professionals present as I felt I could not trust them to respect my wishes and follow through on my birth plan.

After hearing numerous stories from other women who had birthed with the medical profession, I did not feel reassured that I would be fully supported. For these reasons, I chose to only have my husband present at the birth.

Ulysses co-sleeping in the family bed

The words "natural birth" often conjure up images of a birthing pool, homeopathic remedies and few interventions from midwives, sometimes even a doula is present.

But to me, natural birth means a whole lot more than just birthing in the comfort of your own home without forceps and drugs.

The placenta is the baby’s life source: delivering oxygen, food and also expelling waste for a lengthy nine months in most cases.

It has grown with the baby, constantly present. Even after birth, the placenta continues pumping oxygen to the baby for at least five whole minutes whilst the baby learns to transition to breathing fully with its lungs. For as long as the cord pulses, not only oxygen but also other precious nutrients such as iron and stem cells are also being delivered to the baby’s stores, providing an optimal chance for survival and growth.

When we clamp and cut the cord too soon, we risk losing this precious fluid and gas exchange. Some wild animals such as our closest relatives, the chimpanzees must know this instinctively as most of them continue to carry around the placenta with the cord attached to their babies until it naturally drops off and is returned to the earth; what we otherwise refer to as a "lotus birth." Other animals do chew the cord off shortly after birth, but as a vegan this option did not appeal to me.

Just recently there has been much concern amongst obstetricians regarding the potential danger of cord non-severance possibility of a dangerous condition known as septicemia, a blood infection (or poisoning) which can cause organ failure and can put the baby's life at risk. Interestingly, even though this subject is talked about with much concern, there does not exist any evidence/cases of actual septicemia or deaths of newborns caused by a mother opting not to sever the cord.


There does however, exist many cases of septicemia in instances of cord severance.

The physical benefits of not cutting the cord include optimum immune protection and reduced risk of infection as no open wound is created. Other benefits are, in my opinion, of a more spiritual nature.

A happy and healthy lotus child- 9 days after the cord detached

I believe that to truly understand how nature intended women to give birth we must look to the wild animals who are untouched by man.

Let me explain.

When animals are near the end of their pregnancy, they instinctively know when to retreat and allow their offspring a safe passage into the outside world. They choose a quiet and peaceful place without too much stimulation from light or noise and begin their labor alone.

Nothing else intervenes because this would cause the mother stress, contracting her birthing muscles which must remain relaxed in order for the labor to progress successfully.

Once the offspring have arrived, there is no weighing, measuring or wrapping in blankets; the young mammals simply find their way to the breast to suckle and connect to the vital touch of the mother’s skin who will help regulate their body temperature and provide a feeling of safety and comfort. This closeness with a familiar smell and touch also provides a much needed buffer against the shock of the transition from a warm, dark and quiet womb to a harshly overstimulating outside world.

As our son grew older, we also adopted a child-led parenting approach to raising Ulysses, which allows the child to take more control of what happens in their life.

Child-led parenting involves raising the child with freedom alongside guidance, without force and punishment.

In allowing children to take life at their own pace, they learn to trust their own instincts and develop a set of morals and values based on their own experiences rather than the parents' interpretation of the world. Such practices as baby-led weaning, non-violent communication and unstructured play form part of a non-forceful approach, much like lotus birthing where the baby’s body decides when to let go of the placenta rather than a third party.

I believe we can learn from nature as parents. Let's observe and learn from the wisdom of animals in the wild.

A happy and healthy lotus child: two and a half years later.

 Reprinted with permission from xoJane.

What do you think of the so-called Lotus Birth?

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