I’m happy to share my experience of Lotus birthing with you all. I do so because I like people to have access to accounts of birthing practices that might differ from the most usual, and because I had good experiences with the practice.
What is Lotus Birth?
Lotus birthing is the practice of leaving the umbilical cord attached to the placenta and baby without cutting it, so that in time (usually 3-7 days) the cord naturally detaches from the umbilicus (belly button) in just the same way that the cord falls off when it has been clamped and cut.
The placenta can be covered with salt and placed in a bag that protects it while attached to baby, and the placenta is simply wrapped with baby until the cord detaches.
My lotus birthing experiences
I first experienced lotus birthing with the birth of my second child, my daughter. I felt in looking back on my first birth, that of my first son, that in the vulnerable state of having recently given birth I had let pressure to pass my baby around overpower my maternal instincts to have a more peaceful and private few days, letting baby feel primarily comforted by the familiar maternal and immediate family connection.
I also had limited memory of seeing the just-birthed placenta of my first son, and as an organ that I find fascinating and interesting in many ways, this felt sad to me and still does. However I did plant that placenta some time later and of course I know that my connection with my son is based on so much more depth now than simply my memories of that time.
Nevertheless much of my first birth experience felt sidetracked from what would have been ideal for me. Among other adjustments, I felt that by choosing to aim for a lotus birth with the arrival of my second child, I would have an opportunity to reclaim possession over the placenta and to respect the importance of the role it had played in nourishing my baby within. I could see no reason that this practice would be to any detriment of my baby, self or family, and of course there is good evidence about the benefit of delayed cord clamping and this could be seen as an extension of that.
I can’t tell you that I thought much of any other spiritual background to this practice, which in itself is a relatively new concept. I would even laugh at myself and say that most animals cut the cord essentially, many biting it to detach the babe at birth, so that I must be a strange animal to diverge from this. Yet it definitely felt right. I am a very spiritual being, but the honest truth is that this decision was less about spirituality than it might have been for others.
I was not forthright about the need to lotus birth, and would have forfeited the idea easily if the need had arisen. I wanted someone else to do the preparation of the placenta. Though I find birth very natural and as a Midwife view the human body and all that is involved with it in a very neutral and matter of fact way, I wanted the privilege of focusing solely on bonding with my baby and not on the practical care required for the placenta when lotus birthing. I was grateful that my Doula was willing and able to assist in preparing the placenta for us to carry it around with baby a while. She also assisted me to make prints using the placenta both with the birth of my daughter and second son.
The Lotus Birth Process
When my daughter was born, my doula placed her placenta in a colander and washed it, then covered it in salt to preserve it and prevent any odour. The placenta was then wrapped tightly in cloth nappies, bound up and placed in a circular calico bag with a long ‘hose’ section of calico that covered the umbilical cord to the point that it met baby. Finally, the interior calico bag was placed in an external red velvet bag. It was small and soft and didn’t seem out of place beside my sweet and delicate babe. I felt that the few visitors who wanted to carry her with the placenta were showing deep caring for her, rejecting any discomfort handling the placenta bag may cause for the joy of having her in their arms. The placenta bag was heavy although small, and it can be a nuisance to have to remember to carry it if you move the baby. This is the point to me in some ways, as it deters you somewhat from moving the baby too much in those first days, and encourages peace.
From my memory my daughters’ placenta separated on the third day. We were very ready for it and I was speaking to her about wanting it to be separated so that I could have less concern over moving. That said I also cherished the time with her attached to the placenta, mostly spent just skin to skin with her in bed. I will say that I felt that her placenta bag and the need to carry it around if I wanted to move, reminded me of the newness of things, and encouraged my busy minded self to take a step back and do less.
Perhaps this is the greatest gift of the practice, or why it is such a recent thing. Modern women have so much busy-ness in them. The gift of stillness even if forced by the practical challenges of carrying around a placenta with the baby was a precious thing for me. Because I choose to do so even though it is not necessary is like a solid reminder and committment to myself that the baby is new and I am recovering from birth.
My third birth, the birth of my second son was physically exhausting as I had lost some blood at the birth. Whilst this was stabilised at the time, I later lost more blood and had a significant period of exhaustion and was closely monitored and cared for. I can’t say I was focused in many ways on his lotus birth, but it felt normal to me because I had done it before. I was just so devoid of energy and those first days I don’t remember in a relaxed sort of way like with my daughter.
We used the same calico and velvet bag as with my daughter and the Doula again helped us with salting. I did marvel at resting with my second son, but I also needed a lot of support to care for him and get through. I still find I need support to get through my days, I am very tired most days. I hoped that his separation would be quick like his sister because I felt weak and not as alert as with the second birth; and then separation was even quicker, and after only a little over 2 days he let go of his placenta.
I’m definitely grateful to have embraced lotus birthing and to have had that ownership over the process. I’m also grateful to record my memories of the experience here with you.