Give thanks for the blessings of Harvest! We have arrived…
After having navigated the intense work of the Summer season with its unforgiving momentum, we can shift into the energy of Autumn with deep gratitude, knowing that our efforts are, indeed, our successes and that all of our energetic investments are ripening. Now is the time.
Where there is work that lies ahead, our sacred Mother Earth inspires us with her breathtaking display. Reminding us of our ever-present divinity…there is no death, only transformation, that resting is productivity, and that just as we carefully prepare ourselves to exert energy into the world, we deserve to take as much (if not more) care to prepare ourselves for the internal determinations we will make over the coming seasons.
Because inside is where the shifts actually happen.
In this season our ancestors come to the head of table, illuminating the path for those of us who care to be attentive, that we might further align our hearts and intentions with the celestial purpose of our linages. Each of us has human work and we have been given every tool we need to accomplish our sacred tasks. Using our senses to stay present to NOW, our most arcane questions can be answered. But we must commit to the task of receiving. Those of us who have spent the last three months pouring into the cups of so many may find it challenging to shift gears and accept our own medicine. In fact, we are most worthy of the medicine we carry. Let us share it with ourselves.
Congratulations to the beautiful Sacred Birth Keepers who have completed their journey through the Practitioner Training Program. It is exciting to anticipate the magic that is to come by way of their mindful relationship with the elements, women, families, and BIRTH.
Finally, it is our intention that you enjoy the offering this season. That it stirs acknowledgement, reflection, or acceptance, perhaps even some laughter. However you are moved, we are thankful for the opportunity to be together, once again. Our time is sacred.
With Love And Immense Gratitude,
Elemental Birth Rites
Placenta The Forgotten Chakra
By: Robyn Lim
With the shortening of daylight hours the energy of the unseen rises and we are beckoned into deep feminine. It is here that we meet our unadulterated truths which often go undetected as result of our pace; how often we suppress the fullness of who and what we are to “keep up” with external expectations? But Great Mother Gaia has given us opportunity to follow her example and turn inward, gleaning wisdom from our past experiences, gathering the abundance in preparation for the great stillness to come. Activity becomes yet more unseen, and we settle into the darkness.
This darkness is where baby resides.
Tucked into their bubbles, our babies are conceived and undergo a most profound transformation behind the veil. Those of us who opt-into technology to catch a glimpse, are only doing just that… catching a snapshot of a process that is ruled by mystery. But in this obscurity, our children are not alone. Each of our beloved babies, is guarded by a most universal archetype, the Great Mother who has cared for each of us. Superior in her intelligence, she nurtures, sorts and filters, holds, and tends to her charge and then quietly dissipates when her job is complete. The only organ we grow, release, and live on to create again, the blessed placenta deserves high honor.
In this excerpt, our respected teacher Ibu Robin Lim, shares her deep wisdom and reflections regarding Modern vs. Traditional Treatment of the Placenta as well as Lost Placentas. If you are unfamiliar with this book, please do seek it out. Not only for those soon to birth, Ibu gently guides those of us whose placentas were discarded without acknowledgement or consideration. A true gift to birthing women, their babies, and to the balancing of humanity. This oldie but goodie is not to be bypassed.
Modern vs. Traditional Treatment of the Placenta
If you were born in a hospital in North America, Europe or the so-called “developed” or “civilized” world, your placenta was labeled medical waste and incinerated. It was treated as garbage and thrown away without ritual or even a pause to offer gratitude for its significant role in your advent. In the past, some hospitals would sell their patients’ placentas to cosmetic companies. Without your permission, your placenta may have ended up in a shampoo or facial cream product.
In 1994 it was discovered that approximately 360 tons of human placenta was being sold by hospitals annually to French pharmaceutical companies, who used it to make the protein Albumin. None of the families of the babies to whom the placenta’s belonged were aware of the commercial use of their placentas. None of them had agreed to share their genetic flesh and blood commercially. That same year Britain banned the practice of collecting and marketing the placentas of unsuspecting citizens.1
For many indigenous peoples of the world, this is shocking and tragic. In Indonesia, when people ask me what happened to my placenta, and I tell them that it was most likely disposed of by the military hospital where I was born, they weep for me. A hospital in Indonesia that does not respectfully give the placenta to the baby’s family risks outrage from the parents and their community. Indonesian families quickly bring the placenta home and perform important rituals, essential to the baby’s future well-being.
I recall attending the birth of a young single mother, Megan, who required a cesarean birth for her baby, Corwin. She had intended to have a home birth but instead needed to be transported from her home to the hospital. Megan was broken-hearted that her baby boy’s placenta would be treated as medical waste and thrown away. At the hospital I spoke with Megan’s attending nurse, who was kind, loving and sympathetic to Megan’s concern for her placenta. She told me of the hospital protocol and together we wondered if their policy to restrict families from taking home their placentas was based in law or prejudice.
Later that evening, as I was leaving the hospital with Megan’s mother, we were delighted to find Corwin’s placenta wrapped in a double plastic bag, waiting for us in the front seat of the car. The note attached said only, “Shhhh.”
“Another thing very injurious to the child, is the tying and cutting of the naval string too soon; which should always be left till the child has not only repeatedly breathed but till all pulsation in the chord ceases. As otherwise the child is much weaker than it ought to be, a portion of the blood being left in the placenta, which ought to have been in the child.”
-Erasmus Darwin, (Charles Darwin’s grandfather) Zoonomia, 1801
More than two centuries ago doctors like Darwin began questioning the immediate cutting of the cord which had become fashionable protocol, even habit, among medical birth attendants. The practice of severing the mother-placenta-child connection quickly and clinically came into practice only after men took over the management of birth. Today midwives and doctors are still questioning the wisdom of early umbilical cord clamping and cutting. On August 1st, 2010, Dr. Kornia SpOG, specialist of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Udayana University in Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia, gave a seminar supporting the choice of Lotus Birth (umbilical cord non-severance) and delayed clamping and cutting of the umbilical cord. He assured the audience that it was safe and that choosing to leave the umbilical cord intact was a human right. A year earlier his colleague SpOG, Dr. Hariyasa Sanjaya left his own newborn daughter’s umbilical cord intact after her cesarean birth. To my knowledge this baby, Gayatri, was the first child of an obstetrical surgeon to have a Lotus Birth.
Prior to the medical establishment’s aggressive takeover of birth, midwives, nurses, traditional birth attendants, grandmothers, good neighbors, any woman helping a woman birth would wait patiently before separating the reproductive trinity. In traditional cultures the neighborhood witch-midwife used her knowledge of herbs, massage and wisdom to mend the sick and injured, and in attending birthing mothers. She (in some cultures ‘he’ as was sometimes the case in Bali) would help the family clean up and wash linens after the birth. Someone would cook a meal, feed the mother and all in attendance would partake in celebrating the newly arrived baby. They would sit by the fire and discuss possible names for the baby. After hours of slow whispered talk and story telling it would be time for the midwife to go home and only then would they think about severing the umbilical cord. Until then, the placenta with the cord intact was tucked in beside the mother while the baby nursed at her breast and the mother rested and bonded with her newborn.
Quite often, the traditional midwife might be called away to attend another birth, to minister to a dying soul, or help a neighbor find a missing goat, and the placenta-cord-baby trinity would be left intact another day, or just left until it naturally released. This was not a problem, for fear based medical protocols had not yet infiltrated the hearts and minds of the people. The placenta was just a natural part of the baby. …
Many of us lost our placentas. I was born in a military hospital and my parents were never consulted about the disposal of my placenta. You may have recently had a baby, and it never occurred to you before now to take home and honor your baby’s placenta. Please, no regrets. The best thing about the past is that it can be healed. I wrote my placenta a letter asking her for forgiveness. As a child my mother taught me to talk to my Guardian Angel to ask her for help and guidance, and I know that my placenta was listening.
Dear placenta/my Angel,
Forgive me for being a small baby and not having the power to make a proper ritual to honor your body, which died at my birth. I trust that you are with me in spirit, protecting, guiding me. Thank you for blessing my life. Thank you for being a witness to my joys and sorrows. May my life be an example of service and peace.
I encourage you to write your own little letter to placenta. It feels amazing. What do you have to lose, except a few regrets? You will never ‘find’ your lost placenta, however, remembering is healing. After writing this letter to my placenta, I burned it in the garden, in a circle of flowers. I imagined the smoke carrying my prayers, hopes, and dreams into the spirit world, where my placenta awaits me.
We live in a world of “mine,” a world where we rely on mountains of possessions. I wonder if the roots of consumerism are planted in the practice of taking babies’ cord and placenta away before they naturally let go. Trauma from being forced to let-go too quickly leads to the feeling of separation and abandonment, which can result in behaviors of grasping and even hoarding in extreme cases. For most of us, it is just an aching for someone lost who we cannot identify. It may be just a feeling of homesickness or the worry that a family member is missing. For me, it was a childhood obsession with a stuffed panda bear about the size of my last placenta that I affectionately named Nicky. I carried Nicky around under my right arm until it fell apart. Many times my mother repaired the damage and when he needed to be washed, I cried and stood beside the washing machine and dryer until he came out. Then and even now, I feel the loss in my belly, right where my umbilical cord once attached me to my placenta.
In 2007, I was asked to speak at the 22nd Congress of Non-violence in Verona, Italy, about gentle birth as a foundation for peace on earth. Before commencing my speech, I led the audience in a brief experiment. I asked them to stand up and take hold of their purse or bag. Next I picked up my own bag, put the strap to my belly and asked all present to do the same. I then instructed the audience to take a moment of silence and focus on connecting to our center chakras and the bag we each held. I then dropped my bag to the floor and instructed the audience to do the same. When they did I said, “Now imagine you have lost this bag forever.” Immediately, a man in the audience exclaimed, “Oh! If I lose this bag I will die.” His bag was round and red-brown, the strap was long, and I thought it resembled a placenta and cord. When other members of the audience shared similar feelings of panic for losing their bag, I asked them where they felt the loss in their body. They pointed to their gut right over their belly button, where their umbilical cord was once attached. I said, “Now what happened there when you were born?” It was then that they understood: the severing of their umbilical cord and placenta from their body left a lasting scar of separation and fear of loss.
Considered the deceased twin of the Ibo child in Nigeria and Ghana, the placenta is given full ritual for the dead and a burial.