LOTUS BIRTH: Birth with an intact umbilical cord.
Baby and placenta are kept together until the cord falls off naturally.
Lotus birth is another grass roots movement. Woman to woman the word is passed. . . it makes sense and a heartstring is touched. . . .the father is enlisted for support and, one family after another, declines the use of scissors at birth. This movement causes the knowledgeable professionals to stop and then flounder for answers. As the things they hold to be sacred are questioned and thrown out, everything they know to be true is also called into question. This is a good thing and enriches those who can admit that things are not always as they seem.
When your clients are planning a lotus birth, think ahead to what some of the pitfalls might be.
1. The relatives might be upset. Many couples who plan lotus birth see the days with the placenta (usually 4 to 6 days) as private family time and make a rule that they will not have guests until the placenta is separated. This relieves the new mother of performance anxiety as she gets to know her new baby. It gives the baby a quiet transition period to intensively bond with his/her parents. One couple I know did not let anyone know their baby had been born until the placenta had separated naturally.
2.What if it smells terrible? Ground rosemary sprinkled all over the surfaces gives the placenta a pleasant smell like turkey stuffing. Some women put lavender and rosemary essential oil on the placenta first to prevent smell. Some put salt on both sides. There will be a smell. It is not terrible. A cake rack or a Chinese wooden steamer can be helpful to place the placenta on to allow air to circulate. Blue Chux (incontinent) pads are helpful to prevent bedclothes from being stained with blood. The placenta is organ meat that is fresher than any meat you have ever purchased. It will naturally begin to smell after a few days of being in the air.
3.What if I decide not to do it once I’ve started? Not a problem. The cord can be cut at any time and usually is atrophied (dried and shrunk) enough that it needs no clamp after 24 hours. It is common for new parents to go through periods where they think Lotus birth is just too much trouble. Often the mother wants to give up and cut the cord and the father will talk her into persisting a while longer; then, the father can be fed up and the mother will encourage him to keep going. It becomes a quiet meditation to wait vigilantly for the cord to fall and in our fast-moving society it is a real contest to slow down for the baby. Parents report that the days spent with the placenta attached taught them a great deal about cooperative parenting and patience.
4. What are the annoying aspects of Lotus birth? It can seem like a nuisance to have to move the placenta every time you move the baby. Having a piece of raw meat in your family bed is a little peculiar, too, and can be messy. Once the cord dries after 24 hours, it has the consistency of rawhide which makes it seem like your baby has a wire coat hanger protruding from his/her belly. None of these problems is insurmountable if the parents can be relaxed, stay close to bed and view Lotus Birth as a rites of passage.
5. How do I do this with a 3 year old jumping around on the bed? This is actually one of the biggest challenges and is a reason that Lotus Birth most often happens with first births. Protecting the newborn from the exuberance of a 3 year old is not easy at the best of times. Prior to the birth, the parents should put some thought into creating a “nest” for the new baby and mom for the Lotus time. The father and older child can build a “play space” of some kind with new library books and music for nap times. Enlisting friends and family to take the older child for some active outdoor fun each day will also help the new parents maintain the sanctity of the Lotus time for the baby.
The role of the Attendant in a Lotus birth
Educating your clients about the possibility of a Lotus birth is easily done with a handout. For many families, Lotus birth is not a preference but knowing that there is no problem leaving the cord intact indefinitely reassures them that it’s all right to slow down the cutting of the cord after the birth. When physicians justify early clamping and cutting of the umbilical cord with erroneous statements like “the baby may become jaundiced”, the parents can point to Lotus birth as proof that patience with cord clamping is perfectly healthy.
If your clients decide to have a Lotus birth, your encouragement and support can mean a lot to them. Talking through the logistics prior to the birth and making a plan for what equipment will be needed is helpful. Remind the mother to keep the house warm so that she can be naked (except for panties/pad) and the baby can just wear a diaper. Lots of skin-to-skin contact in the first few days of life gets the breastfeeding relationship off to a good start. A supportive attendant can remind parents that the Lotus process has its highs and lows and that many people find deep meaning in giving this patient beginning to their child.
Caroline and Paul’s Lotus Birth
Caroline is the daughter of a family physician and Paul works in the film industry. They were planning a home water birth for their first baby and had heard about Lotus Birth and wanted to give it a try. The birth process was long but Caroline coped well and gave birth around suppertime in the water. Paul was so captivated with the birth that he did a poor job of filming it! The midwives helped the family to take lots of photos of parents and baby and placenta all resting in bed together. It was a glorious feeling for everyone —a birth that flowed easily and needed no scissors, clamps or cutting of any kind.
When the midwife returned to the home the next afternoon, the bloom was off the rose. The father looked rather anxious and wanted to know “How much longer are we going to have to have that THING on the baby?” The mother and baby were sleeping peacefully together so the midwife had some time to spend talking to the father as they cleared up dishes in the kitchen. She let the father know that his impatience to have things “tidied up” after the birth was normal. She also pointed out that very few times in his life would be as profound as the first days of his son’s life. She encouraged him to really listen to the messages that his son, his wife and the placenta might be telling him. The father decided to relax again and let the placenta stay attached.
A few days later, he was lying beside his son on the bed and, as he watched him, he saw the cord slowly detach from the baby’s belly. Right then, he felt a “release” from his own belly and something freed up in his core that had been blocked. He began sobbing with joy. When he planted the placenta under a tree in front of the house, he felt a deep sense that his transition into fatherhood had taken place, not in an instant, but in a slow leisurely process of learning and letting go.