Okay, brace yourself. There's a birthing technique that will allow you to live in a house with a Keurig and some wifi but still keep the umbilical cord attached from your baby to its placenta postpartum until it detaches on its own, about a week later, just like chimpanzees do. Sure, it requires lugging the thing around for six days, but the benefits are — what are the benefits again? Something about bonding.
Okay, snort. Let's all do that together. SNORT. We're all so precious aren't we? We've gotten really precious you guys. I have too, it's just my precious things are defensible and everyone else's are not. Right? Am I getting how this works?
Anyway, like imaginary you, I was just having some coffee and swooning over the new Win Butler Arcade Fire, and then I get hit with this XOJane headline: I DID NOT CUT MY BABY'S UMBILICAL CORD FOR SIX DAYS SO WE COULD HAVE A NATURAL "LOTUS BIRTH" JUST LIKE CHIMPANZEES.
Fine, I thought. I'll bite. Or perhaps I won't actually bite, because — uh — this was the subheadline:
Other animals chew the cord off shortly after birth, but as a vegan, this option did not appeal to me.
Okie doke-a-huh? So, is birthing an extreme sport now? Is this like some paleo pregnancy thing where we're supposed to only eat raw meat and nuts and go hide in a cave alone when its time to labor? Am I being birthing trolled? Because here is a person who wants her birth to be so much not like other humans that she's moved away from actual humans and is instead using the most human-like primate as a model.
And she decided that not cutting the cord like, at all, was the best choice for her comfort level. And she has a son. (Lulz, NEVER cutting the cord jokes, his poor future mates, lulz.)
Highlights from her article:
During my lotus birth, a lovely six-day period of bonding and closeness was established with my baby, and we washed and wrapped the placenta everyday to keep it clean and placed it in a waterproof pouch.
Shortly after the birth, the cord dried quickly into the texture of an electric cable. During the nights we slept with the baby on the bed and the placenta was placed next to the bed. Transporting the placenta with baby around the house was made convenient by using a stretchy wrap, which had a pocket in the front to hold the placenta.
After six days of healing and bonding, we woke up one morning to find our baby Ulysses had gripped hold of the cord and detached it by himself
Due to the damp environment where we lived and because we also chose to wrap plastic around the cloth, the placenta did not dry out as well as it should have and did leave a musty smell for the last few days
Musty smell! Musty Musterton! Creepy placenta purse! Shenanigans!
But all the hilariousness aside, why not try to take this lotus birth lady seriously and just really consider her views? What's she up to? What does she want?
Okay: a lotus birth is where you don't cut the cord until it separates naturally. You also let the placenta expel itself from the mother instead of tugging on it, the way they so often do in medical/hospital births.
A little bit of medical info: Typically, in traditional birth scenarios, the cord is clamped or cut within one minute of delivery. I spoke to a nurse friend, who explained that, historically, after making the connection of higher levels of anemia in newborns related to that hasty snipping, the option to wait until the cord stops pulsing to cut it is now pretty common. The baby loses blood volume traveling through the birth canal. That blood is backed up in the placenta, she said, and in those few minutes after birth, the blood returns to the baby when the cord isn't clamped or cut.
"There's no proven benefit to leaving it attached," she told me. "But I don't know if there is a disadvantage, other than people all over the world thinking you are bizarre. Aboriginals would probably think you're weird."
But you know what I kind of think is weirder? That we're so weird about natural stuff. Myself included! The lotus birth lady is a nutjob, but we're a bunch of germ-obsessed weirdos who are cut off from our feelings and can't imagine putting a premium on the bonding over other stuff. I submit that the concept of a C-section is way more terrifying than a placenta party. And yet, which is more common? Which is totally normalized?
Anyway, among the 1700 comments on the post were these gems:
I mean, do what you wanna do, but that's basically just lugging around a dead sack of tissue and blood for 6 days.
That was my thought... once the cord is dried up doesn't it mean that it's no longer viable?.. aka it ain't doing shit
That's not entirely true, it is creating a lovely biohazard of rotting tissue for her newborn baby to snuggle with.
I feel sad and oppressed that my mother didn't love me enough to let me snuggle with rotting tissue from her uterus.
I can think of worse things like, your mom playing Dave Matthews in the delivery room?
The truth is, we're all just grasping at straws. Sure, there's medicine and science, but anyone who thinks those things are definitive argument settlers for what to do regarding childbirth, much less that just because you've decided how you think it should be that you can even be sure that's how it WILL be, has never been on the Internet or in a delivery room.
As someone who walked this gauntlet when I decided that, as a former drinking, smoking, totally unhealthy boozehound, that I suddenly needed a drug-free, natural birth in a water tank of ultimate zen, I can relate to the fact that the notion of doing it right when it comes to having your baby, whatever the fuck right means, is a highly individual.
As bizarre as this is, it's this lady's "feels right." As a citizen of choices, I gotta give it to her, hook, line and placenta.
Image by Jim Cooke.