View Full Version : Planting a placenta

03-20-2007, 04:45 AM
My children were born at home. My daughter's placenta is nurturing a decorative pear tree in the front yard now. My son's is in the freezer, and I'm already pregnant with baby #3.

I need some ideas about types of trees to plant in honor of my babies. We have a spring baby (boy) whose tree will be planted on his second birthday in May. We're thinking about a flowering tree, perhaps--but nothing too "girly". We want to plant the tree / placenta at the end of April or first of May, and then let our son and some family and friends help plant flowers or groundcover under the tree during his "birthday party".

Our new baby is due in August. We won't know boy or girl until the birth. We'd like something that looks pretty in summer and fall, when our baby's birthday will be.

To give the idea of what we're trying to do, I'm copying here something I wrote called "Planting a Placenta". I wrote this essay last spring.

I appreciate your suggestions about tree varieties.


Planting a Placenta

Flesh of my flesh that nourished my baby through nine months of growing, what fitting way could our family honor the mass of tissue and blood vessels that remained after my daughter was born? We decided to recognize life with life, by planting a tree.

Our first visit to the nursery (the plant nursery, not the baby nursery) took place during early labor, on the day I gave birth to Anna. I felt my womb begin to tighten starting before dawn. At nine o’clock in the morning, I called the midwife. “This might or might not be the real thing,” she said. “Go about your normal day, and call me to report your progress.” We had a list of errands to do: return a book to a friend, run to the grocery store, pick up some movies at the library, visit the nursery. We started out that snowy March morning looking at trees. An oak seemed too overbearing for our tiny cabin-like house. We considered a maple, but they have their dramatic moment in the fall. That wouldn’t do for a March baby. Perhaps a fruit tree. Something with flowers. Yes, that would be right—this birth was taking place in the spring. We looked at plum trees, apple trees, crabapples, and finally settled on the pear trees. Their narrow shape and coin-like leaves created an eye-catching accent. “Bradford Pear, Cleveland Select” read the tag on our tree. Perfect. Something Midwestern, sweet and simple, like we hoped our baby would be.

Contractions soon became intense, and our errands were cut short. By dawn the next morning, a baby girl was born at home, into her daddy’s arms. I was so comfortably relaxed lying on my bed that I called the midwife and told her to wait another hour. Between my call and her arrival, Anna came. We were grateful for our Bradley prenatal classes then, and for having watched so many homebirth videos. From her conception to her first steps, she was always ready before her parents quite knew what was going on. My husband, Carl, wanted to cut the cord himself. “Let’s wait for a professional,” I suggested. Lynda, our midwife, arrived a few minutes later. I tried to birth the placenta in the bathtub, where I was warming my cold body in the steamy water, and nursing our newborn baby—but I couldn’t turn my concentration from the beautiful child in my arms to the work of birthing the placenta. Lynda tied the cord, Carl cut it, and my mom and sister took our baby into the bedroom to help me focus on the work that remained. “When you feel pressure, push!” said Lynda. “I don’t feel anything,” I said. I just felt exhausted. And I wanted my baby back.

After I birthed the placenta, which I remember as the longest and hardest part of the birth, Lynda made prints of the placenta and umbilical cord on artist’s paper. She traced around the bloody print and labeled each part. She said she used to be a hippie midwife back in the sixties, and they did “placenta art” back then. Then she wrapped the placenta in paper towels and put it in the freezer for safe keeping.

During the weeks that followed, spring became summer and I sat on the couch nursing Anna and watching out the picture window as the children at the school across the street spent recess running through the open field. I watched the trees get that green halo around them, bud and blossom into flower, and then explode with leafy growth. We debated for weeks about where Anna’s tree would go: front yard or back, east or west of the front walkway. I argued for having the tree visible outside the picture window, from my spot on the couch. After all, I would see it there every spring and remember.

We bought our tree and my husband drove it home in the back of his red truck. Driving home from the nursery, with Anna between us in her car seat in the cab of the truck, all was right with the world. A perfect day—fitting for a celebration of new life. The sun was warm, so I kept the baby inside while Carl dug a hole as deep and twice as wide as the bulb of earth and roots that held our tree’s lifeline. When he called me out of the house for the planting, I saw a wad of blood-soaked paper towels lying unceremoniously in the bottom of the earthen hole. “What happened?” I asked. “That’s the placenta,” he said. There, defrosting in the heat, lay the fleshy lump that had nourished our baby. It felt like one of my limbs was lying there. I began to cry. I reached in the hole, grabbed the frozen placenta, and brushed the dirt off the paper towels. Then, gingerly, I began to tear off pieces of paper towel, but my labor was fruitless. The paper was frozen to the placenta. I gave up and gently laid the afterbirth back into its new home in the earth. Tears burned my cheeks as I said my silent goodbye and thank you to what had been a part of me.

Together we raised the tree and set it into the hole. Carl poured dirt around the edge. It was fitting that darkness once again enveloped the flesh that had grown in the darkness of my uterus, and then lay dormant in the womb of the deep freeze in the garage. As I bid farewell to the placenta, Anna was lying on her back wearing a white lace bonnet to shade her face, looking up in fascination at the leaves of her tree. It was easier to say goodbye to this piece of my body, knowing that I would keep its womb-mate, my baby girl, who might someday grow a baby and a placenta of her own.

Every year in the spring, right around the time of Anna’s birthday, her little tree sprouts buds and begins to flower. By the time she is telling stories of her birthday celebration, her tree is in full bloom. We take special pictures of Anna underneath her pear tree, and we enjoy watching them both grow.

We have another placenta in the freezer now. This one nourished my son John during his nine months in the darkness. We will plant another tree to celebrate. We’ve already made a trip to the nursery. Carl prefers a maple tree for the backyard. I’m leaning toward a plum tree for the other side of the front. John was another spring baby, and when I was ripe with pregnancy I remember driving past a plum tree in full bloom and knowing it was almost time for his birth. The maple will have to wait for a fall child. Planting a placenta beneath a tree is an old custom, probably as old as birth itself. A child needs to know her roots, and to feel connected to a home. While the ties of family forge strong bonds, rituals like planting a tree in honor of an event can cement those bonds and offer powerful symbolism that every child can understand. Our tree and our children have grown well. A placenta helps them grow strong.

03-20-2007, 05:41 AM
We're going to plant our placenta this year too! I'm not sure what or when. I wonder if I can plant a tree in July? :think
I know I want to do placenta prints when I defrost it though.

03-20-2007, 08:36 AM
I need to plant mine too. I'm thinking a dogwood. :think

03-20-2007, 10:33 AM
We're going to plant our placenta this year too! I'm not sure what or when. I wonder if I can plant a tree in July? :think
I know I want to do placenta prints when I defrost it though.

We did our placenta prints right after the birth--but I bet they'd work when you defrost. Let me know how it goes. :)

Our plant nursery is generous with information about how/when to plant. I'd ask before purchasing. I think they offer a full refund if your tree dies, as long as you follow their instructions.

My husband thinks you can plant trees all summer, as long as you water, but I have heard spring and fall are the best time.

Happy placenta-planting!


03-20-2007, 02:05 PM
When my sister was born my mom planted a rose bush on her placenta and then when my sister's baby was born she let my mom plant another rose bush for my niece.

When I have another baby, I would like to plant a passion flower bush on my little one's.
this what they look like
this is what their meaning.

03-20-2007, 04:31 PM
I have intended to plant a tree with the placenta after each of my homebirths and haven't done it yet. Three placentas have been tossed as I came to the realization that I was never going to get around to it. Now there is another in my freezer and I think an apple tree would be nice if I can find the space for one. Something that will give back to us as it grows. It seems so meaningful to have the fruitfulness of life coming back around full circle like that. The placenta nourishes the baby while she's young and the tree as it grows, then the tree nourishes the child once again when she is older.