Jan’s Corner: The Gorgeous Placenta
Midwifery Today, Issue 144, Winter 2022.
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All the following stunning photos are taken by Harriette Hartigan, photographer, midwife, and author-photographer of the book Brought to Earth by Birth, available from Midwifery Today.
Placenta Garden of Life
seeing to share
elements of existence
within our first home
More of Harriette’s beautiful words can be found at: (InSight Photography (harriettehartigan.com)
It is astounding how much midwives and doulas love and appreciate the placenta, while the general public treats it with an “eewww” attitude. We think of it as an incredible though short-lived organ that through it produces a beautiful baby. Most of us teach our families the beauty and function of the placenta. Before or after we have checked it for missing pieces, we show it to the family with awe and respect. Look at this exquisite tree of life in the photo below. Isn’t that stunning? Doesn’t it just look like a picture of health?
Some midwives or doulas make placenta prints out of the placenta for family. (See the back cover photo of the magazine.) There are many lovely rituals that families have around their placentas. Many bury it with a tree over it. Don’t put it too close to the tree’s roots or it will burn the roots as it decomposes. Many people eat the placenta—cooked or raw. Some say it is the only unkilled meat. It is believed to help produce an abundance of milk.
Look at this enchanting cord. Besides its inherent beauty there are some great uses for it after birth.
The cord can also be used to stop hemorrhage. It, like the membranes, is available even if the placenta has not yet come. Put a small piece in the cheek. It is very fast acting.
There is an island where the people call the placenta and bag “the baby’s first home!” Of course, that is exactly what it is! It protects the child and provides a warm home of the perfect temperature, besides feeding the baby and taking away waste.
Of course, one of our tasks as a midwife is to carefully examine the placenta to make sure no pieces are missing. One of my midwife partners had a birth where a tiny missing piece of retained placenta caused a massive late postpartum hemorrhage several weeks later. It was one of those where she thought she had all the pieces, but a little something was left behind. Sometimes it can be hard to ascertain whether all of the placenta is there.
Look at this beautiful piece of artwork. Picasso would be proud. Truly, the placenta and membranes are another of God’s artistic touches to life.
These divine photos give me a renewed appreciation and respect for the placenta, membranes, and cord. I hope they do the same for you.
Toward Better Birth,
Jan and Harriette