When I was born, my parents decided to plant my placenta. They chose a spot near the entrance of the house, not far from the room where I was born. Above the place where they buried my placenta they also planted a dogwood tree. Dogwoods bloom in late April, around my birthday, and represent rebirth. I grew up learning that this tree was fertilized by the same energy that once grew me. It symbolized my connection to my home and to the people who built it.
The creation and birth of the placenta is not something that I envisioned falling in love with as a doula, but over the years as I've supported many families and witnessed the growth of many bellies, I’ve come to deeply appreciate the subtle and powerful role the placenta plays in this process of sustaining life. There are many ways that placentas are born, sometimes quietly and sometimes with complications. A person is technically still considered pregnant until the placenta has been born, passing the same threshold as the baby it nourished.
There are many ways that humans decide what to do with this unique organ. Some do what my parents did and bury it in the ground to plant a meaningful tree. Some people use the blood from the placenta as ink and create an imprint on paper to frame. Many cultures burn the placenta in a fire pit outside, and save the ashes to scatter later at significant times and places. Some people choose to consume the placenta, taking advantage of the hormones that are still present in the organ. These hormones come from your body and offering that back to your body while it heals can be both physically and emotionally powerful.
My appreciation for the quiet, behind the scenes nature of the role a placenta plays in this process of birth and postpartum means that I’ll always ask my clients what they plan on doing with it once it’s been delivered. Not everyone starts out with a plan or desire to honor their placenta, but I think that taking time to talk through options regardless of what you decide, can help you appreciate this special organ and how you would like to say goodbye. This feels like a nice metaphor for marking the transition into parenthood that occurs when we birth.