'For Aboriginal women, placenta burial is a common ritual. Mine was thrown out by mistake.'

Proud Wiradjuri woman Jami had always dreamed of her birth experience reflecting her Indigenous culture.

One of the aspects she had been most looking forward to was a placenta burying ritual. It's a sacred act that is deeply significant within many cultures, including for First Nations people.

As the CEO of Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation said, the premise is that the act of burying the placenta is telling mother earth and the country on which the child has been born to protect the new infant's spiritual soul.

With this in mind, Jami had plans to perform a placenta burial of her own. But after giving birth, Jami's placenta was thrown out by mistake.

And it had a major emotional impact.

Watch: Jessica Rowe on post natal depression. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia. 

Registered nurse Jami had been with her husband Tom for nine years when they started trying for a baby.

"I was very lucky to fall pregnant after four months," Jami said to Mamamia. "Especially as I had been told it might take longer because of my endometriosis."


Jami's pregnancy went well, but a benign tumour in her liver caused stress along the way.

"I needed several ultrasounds to keep an eye on the size of the tumours and this gave me anxiety during an otherwise good pregnancy."

While Jami and Tom had made a 'grand birth plan', they later abandoned it once the birth got closer.

"Initially, I wanted my birth to be free of pain relief, with no monitoring, but Tom and I let our expectations go as I didn't want the stress of things not working out how I imagined. The only thing I wanted to remain on my birth plan, however, was that I wanted to keep the placenta to bury on country. This is significant in Aboriginal culture to ground and connect my baby's spirit to her ancestors."

When Jami was close to full term, her waters partially broke in the middle of the night, so they called the hospital and were told to come in.

"We had been into the birthing unit a few times already with pre-labour pains, but after the assessment I clearly remember a lovely midwife called Sharon telling me I wasn't going home without my baby this time! 

"As we settled in, we told the team about the plans for our baby's placenta."

After three hours of contractions, Jami was moved into the birthing suite.

"The pain was horrendous, but I managed to breathe with it. We dimmed the lights and got our playlist happening. It was peaceful at first but when the monitor showed our baby was in distress, they broke the rest of my waters manually to get everything moving more quickly."


After another couple of hours passed by, Jami was close to six centimetres dilated. Their baby was still showing signs of distress, so the midwife inserted a fetal scalp monitor, leaving Jami with very little ability to move about.

The decision was then made for Jami to have a c-section, as this was deemed the safest option to get the baby delivered quickly. Jami remembers about 20 people rushing into the room.

"I had to sign the consent form and get the surgical stockings on, all while still experiencing the pain of contractions. It was frantic!"

Baby Lily was born just half an hour later on August 10, 2020.

"I remember the strange sensation of Lily being pulled out. It was like someone was doing the washing up inside my tummy. I also remember seeing her head over the drapes and thinking she had a lot of hair! The midwife placed her on my chest while they stitched me up and after her health checks they concluded there wasn’t a reason for her distress and that perhaps she was just happy inside my belly and didn’t want to come out!"

Jami felt relieved that Lily was okay and that it was all over. 

Once in the recovery bay, she asked the nurse about her placenta. 

"The nurse didn't know what we were talking about so she went to ask what happened. After realising the placenta was thrown in the clinical waste bin, she fished it out to show us.


"I was really confused about what had happened as this was the only thing I had requested as part of my birth plan and it felt so disrespectful. I couldn't get over the fact it had been so carelessly thrown out and as a nurse, I know what goes into those clinical waste bins," Jami said.

It was at this point that Jami realised her hopes of a placenta burial were crushed. 

"Those first few days really upset me. Looking back now I wonder how much that affected what came next."

The couple took baby Lily home on day three, and Jami felt immediately overwhelmed.

"Lily didn't stop crying for six months. I wasn't sleeping, so dealing with all the basics like shopping and cleaning felt too hard. 

"On top of feeling anxious, I kept having this cycle of negative thoughts that would spiral out of control. I couldn't drive because I would imagine car crashes, [and I couldn't] even walk outside because I would be so paranoid about bad things happening to us. But then not going out made it worse and she would only stop crying when I walked with her in the sling."

There was residual grief as well over the loss of her placenta burial too, Jami said. And that took its toll. 

Jami and her daughter Lily. Image: Supplied.


"I was crying all day and I would also get incredibly angry at Tom about the smallest things. One day, when close to a total breakdown, I nearly shook Lily while she was screaming. I walked away leaving her safe in her cot, but then I rang Tom to say, 'You need to come home now'."

Jami rang the Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia (PANDA) helpline and spoke to a woman who stayed on the line until Tom arrived home. Jami and Tom also discovered the Gidget Foundation in Sydney and Jami was put on a course of medication and given access to regular therapy. 

"It felt like my life had been saved and that someone was finally listening. The support made everything easier to manage as did the acknowledgement that things had not been okay. 


"I had spent a lot of time ruminating on the placenta care and whether or not my c-section had impacted how it had been thrown away. I often wondered if things would have been done differently if I had a vaginal delivery."

As part of her road to recovery, but without the placenta to use in the rebirthing ceremony, Jami now has plans to use a piece of Lily's umbilical cord instead. 

It's not the same, but Jami said it does give her some peace of mind that her daughter will have this special moment on country too. 

Reflecting on the whole situation, Jami said there's still a lot for the wider medical community to learn about respecting a mother's birthing wishes — particularly when it comes to cultural sensitivity.

"It is so important in Aboriginal culture to connect and ground your spirit with your ancestors," Jami explained. 

"I would say to other First Nations women who are pregnant to ensure they contact the hospital’s Aboriginal Liaison Officer who can advocate for you during your birth to ensure your wishes are met. I don't want this to happen to anyone else."

If you think you or someone you know may be suffering from depression, contact PANDA – Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia. You can find their website here or call their helpline – 1300 726 306.

For more from the Gidget Foundation, you can visit their website here. 

Feature Image: Supplied.

As one of our readers we want to hear from you! Complete this survey now to go in the running to win one of five $100 gift vouchers.