by Batya Friedland
The placenta is an organ designed to leave the body. Fully. In tact. Can you imagine if your kidneys, on their own, just left the body? Once given the signals, the placenta, or after-birth, releases itself from the woman’s uterus, literally to be born. If someone gives birth to her child, she also gives birth to her placenta.
We are the only mammals that currently do not regularly eat our placenta. In a mainstream culture where the sanitized is favored over the raw, and where 98% of women birth within a system that considers this organ as medical waste, our re-membering of who we really are is at hand.
Placenta is gold! This recipe is jam-packed with nutrients: iron, vitamins including B-12, minerals, and various hormones such as oxytocin, the ‘love hormone’. Ingesting placenta also supports milk supply and breastfeeding.
Mystically, the veins on the baby side are shaped as a tree. Many spiritual traditions reference a tree, or the Tree of Life, as part of their cosmology. Placenta can be read, like tea leaves, or Tarot. That which is most wild, most “out there”, is actually what is innate to us, common, and natural; most “in here”. None of us got here without one. Without placenta, we would not grow in the mother’s womb. In Hebrew, one of our ancient languages, the word for placenta is shelya: Of God. (shel=of, Ya=one of the names for God)
There are many traditions around the placenta. Some cultures historically have made ceremony with placenta, or medicine. Others have eaten it raw, or made a stew. Some have included a burial ceremony. Other options American women are currently doing include smoothies, tincture, homeopathic, or requesting encapsulation. Women have reported that eating placenta has supported them immensely with post-partum in terms of energy level, mood, and internal support for an extremely transitional time.
I have great reverence for this organ that continues to pulse and live even after it is released from the body. My experience with her is that she is alive. By seeing the power and potency in placenta, we can see the power and potency in ourselves.
Batya Friedland, MA, Chaplain, Doula, and Midwifery student, offers placenta preparation on a sliding scale. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
P.S. I just wanted to chime in and say that I have never been so acutely aware of the sacredness and importance of this amazing part of our female anatomy until the birth of my second daughter, Sage. It took an hour for me to birth my placenta. Just as my midwife was preparing for the inevitable pitocin shot or transport to the hospital after a beautiful and powerful birth I said to her, “Come on, come on. We didn’t make it this far…Let’s do this.” And, with a gentle push she came out: crimson and glorious. I love her so much at that moment! This part of my body which nurtured and protected my baby. A part of me yet an autonomous organ-being. She sat in my fridge for a month! Can you believe it? (The pic you see at the beginning of the post was taken at that time; notice the sparkles?) I was sure she has gone bad and at the prompting of my partner, Trevor, I finally opened the plastic container to find her perfectly fine; still crimson and smelling good. I finally got the courage to touch her, to make placenta prints and to say goodbye. My family and I buried her in the mountains, and I felt like I was burying my mother; I grieved. A part of me said, “How come you didn’t get this with your firstborn?” I don’t know. I had to feel it. I had to learn. I had to remember. So ladies: Please honor your placenta in whichever way you feel appropriate. She is sacred and beautiful–just like you.
by Halina Krupa