There's something special about kids and their dogs. My kids grew up with a dog that we all loved very much. His name was Taz. My daughter and Taz were inseparable, best friends.
As years went on, Taz grew old and no longer had the energy to play with my daughter. Instead, he kept a watchful eye on her from the front porch. A mass developed on his chest that we later learned was bone cancer. With arthritic hips and advanced age, the best we could do was keep him comfortable.
Taz eventually lost his ability to walk. The pain medications became ineffective, even at the highest dosage. One night, Taz began screaming and howling in agony. We took him to the vet's office where the vet confirmed that the cancer had spread to his spine. Taz was suffering.
Euthanizing the family dog was difficult even though we knew we were ending his pain and suffering. It was especially difficult because my husband and I had to tell our young children that Taz was going to die. They were comforted by having the opportunity to say good-bye. They hugged him and gave him treats. Then they said good-bye one last time.
Birth and death seem like direct opposites; however, they share some similarities. Birth and death are transitions. When I had my first child, I transitioned into motherhood. My old sense of self died. Moments after my daughter was born, I delivered the placenta. I inspected it with my midwife. The placenta was, in a sense, dying at that moment of my daughter’s birth. Its job of sustaining my baby’s life while in my womb was complete. I felt a sense of gratitude as I looked at it. I didn't want to discard such a precious organ as medical waste. It deserved something better, but I didn't know what. I stored the placenta in my the deep freezer for safe keeping until I could figure out how to honor it.
When Taz died, we had a short burial ceremony in our backyard. I think by including our children in the burial ceremony, they were able to understand death better. My daughter wrote Taz a letter and placed it in the grave with him. Then I went to the freezer and pulled out my daughter's placenta that had sustained her life while I carried her in my womb. I placed her placenta in the grave next to Taz and whispered, "Job well done."
Shortly after an egg is fertilized, the placenta begins to grow and attach to the uterine wall. It delivers nutrients, elminates waste and sustains your baby's life until your baby is safely delivered into your arms. It is truly an incredible organ! Some cultures even consider this organ to be sacred.
During the birth planning process, our doulas discuss your options and preferences for your placenta. One option is to consume your placenta after delivery. There are many ways for ingesting the placenta. Some practitioners mix frozen pieces into a smoothie for consumption. Some people cook and ingest their placentas. Our placenta encapsulation specialists prepare and encapsulate the placenta into pills. There is not enough science to support or oppose the consumption of the placenta. We have anecdotal evidence that reports some of the benefits of placenta consumption include: stabilization of mood and anxiety during the initial postpartum period, increased energy, lactation promotion, increased iron absorption, improved sleep, decrease postpartum hair loss, improved overall mood. Like most supplements, results will vary among individuals. Our placenta encapsulation specialists will pick up your placenta, prepare it, and deliver it to you in pill form.
If consuming your placenta is not your cup of tea, there are other options for your placenta as well. Some cultures believe that the placenta is a gift that should be returned to the earth after delivery. Life is intertwined with death. As your baby is born, the placenta begins to die. Its job is complete. Our doula will help you honor your placenta by assisting with finding a suitable burial location. You can learn what I did with my baby's placenta here.
Placenta art, lotus birth, and allowing the birth facility to incinerate and dispose of the placenta with other medical waste are also options. Our team does not judge your choices. Our goal is to make sure you understand all of your options so that you are capable of making informed decisions about your care.
Kira Kimble is a doula trainer, certified doula and doula mentor. She is the owner of MINE-R-T Doula Company in Charlotte, NC