I'm sitting at my friends house in Sault Ste Marie, Jericho is sleeping peacefully downstairs and I'm just relaxing, enjoying the silence while sipping on an Americano and eating my vegan brownie from the fairly frosted vegan. Pure bliss.
Interrupting my quiet moment is my brain telling me I need to write this blog - I fight a bit. I've written it twice already and it's been accidentally deleted both times. Then I start fondly remembering the journey of our placenta, smile to myself and remember the telling of this story is worth it. So friends, for the third time let me tell you the story of my travelling placenta.
I know most people these days still think it's weird to have anything to do with your placenta but from early on in my pregnancy I knew I wanted Jericho's arrival into this world to be slow, peaceful and gentle as it could be and that included his separation from his first possession - his, our placenta. I'd intended to do delayed cord clamping and desired for Jericho to remain attached to his placenta as long as possible - then I went to the home birth information night and was introduced to the idea of intact birth and cord burning. My brain practically exploded. I'd never heard of such a thing but man was I so excited about it. I did some research and couldn't believe the extra benefits from it at birth such as all of the cord blood goes into baby increasing iron levels, stabilizing glucose and oxygen and a less anxious birth for baby. When I checked out cord burning I was also beyond amazed that no one else is doing it - it meant a slow separation from his placenta and that the moment could be extended for Jonah and I instead of cutting the cord and the moment immediately being over.
I told Jonah of my new plans as I added it to my written birth plan, he looked at me with a weird face as he often did and said "okay" and he was cool with it. I told my family who despite my excitement expressed that I was weird and crazy. I pressed forward with my plan anyways. As I prepared for Jerichos birth I made signs with my intentions and purposes for having a home birth to help keep me motivated and posted them around our home for me to read during difficult contractions. One of the signs was my desire for intact birth and cord burning - things which would be much more difficult if a hospital birth became necessary. I lovingly bought beeswax candles and made the separation board in preparation for the cord burning.
Finally the day arrived, Jericho was born at 0242h, his placenta was born 6min later - intact. They placed Jerichos placenta in the pan we had prepared and placed it along side us as he had completed his breast crawl and was snuggled in suckling like crazy for his colostrum. We waited, enjoying every new moment with Jericho for 4 hours. Yes. Not two minutes but 4 hours for all of the blood to go into his little body and for him to be settled before it came time for Jericho and his placenta to be separated. I lovingly held Jericho as he continued to suckle and Jonah along with the midwife turned the cord and slowly burned it until it was separated - it took about 10min and Jericho never cried once. He was peaceful and relaxed, the transition was slow, beautiful and something I'll never forget. We got many pictures and I was able to witness the separation and enjoy the moment. Jerichos umbilical cord was tied into a knot on his end and his placenta was placed in a ziplock bag, sealed and put into the fridge. Because we waited so long for all of the blood to go into Jericho the umbilical cord was flat and completely white and he placenta was very very flat.
For a while my placenta hung out in the fridge, for me it was a loving reminder of the bond Jericho and I shared and symbolized my body nurturing him. For other members of my extended family it was a disgusting reminder of the realities of birth and some even refused to eat anything from my fridge or freezer while it was in there! I wasn't sure what to do with the placenta for awhile so I popped it into the freezer as I wasn't ready to burn it or bury it (the two options the midwives gave me as they don't take your placenta after a home birth). From time to time Jonah would take the placenta out of the freezer and put it on the counter and joke that he was defrosting supper. Despite everyone's feelings around my placenta I continued to do what felt best for me and kept it close by in the freezer. January came and I started my doula training; Amanda, one of our teachers is also a placenta specialist and taught us about the placenta, I offered to bring mine in and Amanda offered that we could do some teaching with it and some prints. I was nervous about bringing my placenta around but I was excited for the learning opportunity for my peers and the keepsakes.
I brought my placenta to class that week and Amanda did some teaching around he placenta which was a little difficult due to how flat my placenta was since all of the blood had left the veins. We did a blood print which is my absolute favourite and several rainbow prints with food grade dye. I then got to cut the umbilical cord as Amanda had graciously offered to make it into a circle for me so that I could make a dream catcher keepsake with it. We even did a print with just the umbilical cord in the shape of a heart. I was so grateful for all of these special memories. My placenta returned home with me and went back into the freezer. Once the placenta prints dried I put them into frames and they now adorn my bathroom with their precious memories and beauty.
Some more time passed with my placenta living in the freezer and then came our annual trip to Prince Edward Island. I'd decided that I wanted to burn it there on the beach as PEI is a place dear to my heart. Jonah was very unhappy about traveling two days with my placenta in the car as Jericho and I were flying. But for me, he did it anyways. Jonah cared for and kept my placenta frozen over the two day journey and put it safely in the freezer at the cottage when he arrived. It stayed there for a week while I decided where and what day we would take my placenta to be burned. Then the unthinkable happened. As we packed up the car, the cooler bag I have lovingly packed my placenta in was forgotten in the freezer. Of course, I didn't realize this until we had driven 2hrs away, unpacked at our "new home" for the remainder of the week. I called the air b&b owner and arranged to go back to the cottage and pick up my cooler bag - we trekked the two hours back across the island to rustico and I eagerly bounced into the cottage to expectantly retrieve my cooler bag only to open to the freezer and find nothing. Yep. Nothing. Empty. Nada. My placenta was gone.
After over two hours of negotiating with the air b&b owner and the company that cleaned the cottage after we left, after many offers to dumpster drive and refusing to take no for an answer my placenta was located and we were given an address to go and pick it up. It only took in total about 6hrs but then I was met with waves of relief as I was finally reunited with our placenta.
I decided it was time, the very next morning we took the placenta to the beach near point prim and prepared to say goodbye to this special organ. As a family we gathered drift wood, sea grass and kelp from the beach. Jericho felt the sand between his toes for the first time and the cold ocean water on his feet. He loved it. We dug a hole to hold our little nest of fire and built it up with what we had gathered. Jonah started a low but hot fire and I took the portion of the placenta that we planned to burned, wrapped gently and lovingly in tissue and placed it on the fire. We sat watching it for awhile as it gently and peacefully burned and then Jericho and I played - daddy joined in and we got a little bit wet and a little bit sandy. We returned to our fire and saw that our placenta was gently returning to the earth and was almost burned away. The smoke was sweet smelling, relaxing. I felt a closure and peace as the fire burned down and our placenta had returned to dust.
Now I can't lie. I know Jonah would love for me to say that was the end of this placenta stuff but no, it's not. I kept a lovely chunk to bring home to Emily - part well use for an inclusion jewelry piece, part we'll dehydrate and part I'll use to plant a tree with that can grow as Jericho grows.
Now the joke is that my placenta just moved into Emily's house - it sorta did. Until we're ready to work with it anyways!
I hope you guys have enjoyed the story of our travelling placenta and the journey we had. I have so many fond memories of the journey and I'll never forget them. If you have more questions or would like info on how to preserve your placenta with things like encapsulation, prints, tree planting and the like please feel free to contact us! I'm pretty certain the 3 things we are most passionate about are woman, babies and placentas!