Much attention has been given lately to placenta encapsulation and consuming placentas through smoothies. These practices have been said to help with the postnatal transition. When I was planning for my son’s birth I didn’t feel interested in encapsulation. I knew I wanted to keep my placenta, but this was because I wanted to find other ways to celebrate it’s vital role in growing and keeping my son alive and well in the womb.
Despite having a rocky start after my son’s birth, and not being able to do any of my plans straight away I kept the placenta in a deep freezer until I was ready.
But with a newborn, being ready never arrives.
It wasn’t until we were moving interstate to go back home to Brisbane that I finally organized to do the ceremonies I had wanted to do.
Handling your own placenta is a pretty epic thing these days, given the normality of separation we have from our body’s normal physiological functioning (birth and menstruation in particular). I know a lot of mums (let alone dads) are seriously grossed out by the placenta. I think this is a real shame considering how amazing it is. You grew a whole organ as well as a baby!
So if you’re reading this, maybe you have a curiosity or love for your own placenta too… If so, read on for three things you can do with it.
Once I thawed out my placenta and started handling it I felt compelled to just stop and be present to all the birth memories that flooded back. It can be an intense and visceral reminder of all the things about your birth. It’s like being transported right back to that time and space.
For me, I wanted to sit in that space with all the grief, pain, and love that was there.
Just beginning to handle my own placenta was so healing. After it had been hidden away in the freezer for over a year.
The next step for me to honour and make a keepsake from the placenta was to make an art print.
I experimented with watercolour and gouache paints, after also making a natural print from the raw placenta itself (with blood that is still contained in the placenta).
I made several versions with different colours and then got two of best placenta prints professionally framed, one for me to keep and one for my son to keep when he’s older – if he’s into this kind of thing!
Use good quality art paper (270gsm)
Watercolour or gouache paints
Lay the placenta with the maternal side down (the side that is attached to the mother’s uterus), and the veiny side up with an old towel or a disposable change mat underneath to absorb the blood.
Arrange it as you’d want it to look in your print, e.g., with the cord in a spiral shape or love heart, or like a tree of life.
Experiment with your paints and colours, painting all over the placenta.
Press the paper on top of the placenta to create the image.
Repeat as many times as you like to get different effects. Wipe the paint off in between if you prefer.
*The placenta won’t be able to be consumed after you paint it for printing. You can either take some off it first for consumption or use a food grade dye instead of inks or paints.
Before doing the print I removed a small part of the placenta off to make into a tincture.
A tincture is a strong remedy normally using plants infused in alcohol for 4-6 weeks.
While there are mixed views about consuming your placenta in a remedy like this, I wanted to make the tincture to have something that will last a long time, and it can be added to body potions like a salve or balm.
For a detailed recipe see here:
The final process in celebrating the placenta was to bury it in my garden.
Burying our baby’s placentas in the earth has been done across cultures and continents probably for as long as life itself (unless they were being eaten).
Burying my son’s placenta in the earth was the most important ceremony to me, because it symbolizes a sense of connection and belonging to the Earth that most people reading this would not have experienced.
Most people’s placentas are incinerated on mass together as medical waste. I believe our placentas deserve a better ending than this.
Like our ancestors have done, I buried my placenta in the Earth. It was important to me that my son start his life knowing that his womb mate would be cared for and honoured. Burying our placenta in the Earth is symbolic of our inseparable relationship with the Earth. I feel privileged to know that my son will have that connectedness in a very practical way. As we teach our children the stories of their birth we can teach them about what happened to their placenta as well, hopefully allowing them to grow up with a sense of belonging and reciprocity with this Earth.
During the placenta burial I sung the song I had sung to my son in the womb throughout my pregnancy. I also sung this song when he was born and still sing it to him as he grows up.
I recommend the work of Minmia, Wirradjirri Law-woman, teacher and great-grandmother who writes and shares about placenta customs of her people and the importance of children growing up knowing they are connected to country, whether you are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander or settler/coloniser. There is so much wisdom non-Indigenous folks needs to relearn about Earth honouring ways, and Minmia’s work offers some important medicine in this regard and I’m grateful to have learnt of her work through my teachers and look forward to learning more.
Did you do anything with your baby’s placenta? I’d love to hear your story.