Both my sons were born via C-section, and while I could tell you what I felt at the time (a whole lot of tugging, mostly, and the queasy suspicion that a prank-loving surgeon was using a loop of my intestine as a jump rope), the visuals were mostly tidily hidden away behind a drape. Each time I got a quick reassuring glimpse of my goopy, furious, factory-fresh babies — then they were swooped off to a corner for some quick evaluations before they were returned to me, pink and wiped clean and swaddled.
In other words, my experience was about as different from a Lotus birth as you can get.
A Lotus birth, for those who are unfamiliar, is also referred to as umbilical nonseverance. Basically, the idea is for the mother to wait for the baby’s umbilical cord to fall off on its own, rather than cutting it immediately after birth. The cord typically comes off after about three days, but in humid conditions it may take over a week. In the meantime, the mother carries both placenta and child as she waits for nature to take its course. Lotus birth proponents say the practice is not only natural, it provides crucial nutrients to infants and prevents infection and disease.
I never even saw my own placenta during my births. In fact, until this moment I hadn’t even considered what happened to it both times — did they just scoop it out and toss it into a receptacle, or? Well, anyway, I haven’t laid eyes on my own placenta but I’ve seen photos. I’m trying to be open minded, here, but I can’t quite imagine shlepping that thing around with a newborn for days on end.
Perhaps you have questions about the, ah, logistical matters? ME TOO. Here’s what Mary Ceallaigh, Lotus birth advocate and midwife educator, told The Post in a recent interview:
Q: How do you eat meals, go to the restroom or run errands with a placenta attached to your newborn?
The cord usually dries and breaks off by the third day, so no mother would be running errands during that time anyway…hopefully not until at least the fourth week after giving birth! (…) While the placenta remains attached, it’s kept in a nice cloth, and the cord is wrapped in silk or cotton ribbon. Babies are left on a safe surface or with a caregiver while the mother goes to the restroom. For cuddling and nursing, the placenta pillow is kept near the mother and baby.
Q: Does the placenta start to smell after a while? How soon does it start to smell? What does it smell like?
If the placenta has air circulating around it like through cloth, there’s no odor for the first day. There’s a slight musky smell the second and third day.
After the cord breaks, some mothers like to keep the wrapped placenta in a special place in their bedroom, and if it has not had a salt or herbal treatment and its cloth isn’t changed, it will start to smell gamey, indeed. But the kind of terrible, stinky, decayed smell that some fear is a non-issue when proper procedures are followed. The only time that sort of thing happens is if the placenta is wrapped in a plastic wrap or sealed in a Tupperware container— that is a whole other situation, and not a good one, as the placenta will rot before it dries.
Q: What are the best reasons to practice Lotus Birth?
There’s no wound created at the umbilical site, which lessens the chance of infection. It allows a complete transfer of placental/cord blood into the baby at a time when the baby needs that nourishment the most. Babies’ immune systems are going through huge changes at a very rapid rate when they’re first born. Not disrupting the baby’s blood volume at that time helps prevent future disease.
Ceallaigh also says that the practice of keeping the umbilical intact should concern “anyone who also believes the barbaric practice of female and male circumcision should be eliminated.”
The Lotus birth isn’t really a “new trend” like it’s being referred to in the media lately, but it’s likely that with more midwives and advocates joining the cause, it’s gaining more attention.
Personally, I would never do it, for a few reasons. 1) I don’t really buy the notion that it’s better for the baby. As a Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Columbia University put it,
… there’s no scientific evidence that leaving the umbilical cord attached to the baby provides any sort of benefit. There has been research in the past few years which found that when doctors delay clamping the cord for three minutes, the baby receives higher levels of iron which prevents anemia, but beyond that time frame, leaving the cord attached to the baby serves no purpose because it no longer feeds nutrients to the baby.
2) Despite Ceallaigh’s claim that “no mother would be running errands” during the first week after birth, the reality is that plenty of us did, and continue to do so. Like for instance if you have an older child? Or you run out of diapers? Or, you know, you can’t stand being cooped up in the house another second? Just saying, life with a newborn is hard enough without dragging a PLACENTA along wherever you go.
And finally, 3) I’m sorry, I know this makes me sound immature, but ewwwwwwwwwwwww. Maybe if a placenta didn’t look quite so much like something out of a horror movie, you know?
Have you heard of Lotus births before? Would you ever try one?
Image via Lotus Birth