THE LOTUS BIRTH OF AALIA LAKSHMI ROSE By Sam Pearson I had first heard of Lotus Birth from the homebirth midwives that attended the birth of my second child. They offered it to me as an option but we decided at that time to cut the umbilical cord. When I fell pregnant with my third baby I wondered if we might investigate Lotus Birth this time around. When I enquired of friends who had practiced Lotus Birth, they made little comment except to say they recommended it and would never cut a baby’s cord again. I did further research and it seemed to make sense not to interfere with nature without good reason. We wanted a natural birth so decided to leave the cord unsevered and let it dry and separate of its own accord. As this was our first experience with Lotus Birth, we also decided if at any time we felt uncomfortable with the process we would cut the cord. My pregnancy was fairly straight forward and the birth even more so. It was a January day in Sydney and we were in the middle of a heatwave. I laboured and birthed at home with the loving support of my family. Aalia was born into the water as my husband Nico cuddled me from behind and my sister caught her as she emerged from my body. A short time after Aalia’s birth I started to feel some more contractions so left the pool to birth the placenta. Nico held a large stainless steel bowl underneath me and I crouched slightly as it slid easily out of my body. It was beautiful, quite large and after a thorough inspection declared intact. We left the placenta in the bowl close by while we got to know our precious new baby. We took special care of the bowl as the children excitedly clambered around to observe their new baby sister. Later on that evening we transferred the placenta into a large plastic sieve that we placed over the metal bowl to drain. Everyone had a good look at it and marvelled at the different colours and cord, which was already beginning to dry out. Leilu decided to play with the new digital camera and took a few great shots of the rich coloured placenta in its bright pink sieve. We got comfortable on the bed with me laying on one side of the baby and the bowl with her placenta on her other side. As we planned not to use nappies with Aalia she lay naked on a handmade cotton pad and I lay naked beside her. The nights had been too hot to wear clothes so we were able to enjoy the skin-to-skin contact. The next morning the cord was surprisingly dry. It was still a little friable but incredibly strong – a bit like beef jerky. There was the faintest smell quite similar to fresh meat. It was not offensive in the least and nothing you could detect unless you had your nose right up close. That evening after deciding that no more moisture was going to drain out of it we prepared to wash, salt and bag the placenta. Nico held Aalia close to the bathroom sink while I lifted her placenta and started to run warm water over it. I had thought I could pretty much rinse it under the tap but it proved to be much more difficult than I expected. There were some pockets of blood trapped in the folds of the caul and it had to be turned inside out to make sure the whole placenta was washed on both sides with clots removed. I commented to Nico that I couldn’t be as gentle as I’d like to be or we’d never get it properly clean. It really was big and a bit hard to manage. Eventually, I was happy that I had done a good job and we patted it dry with a paper towel and carried it to the change table for the next step. I had a bag of sea salt, some lavender essential oil, a square terry cloth nappy and a special placenta bag that I had made during my pregnancy. We lay out the nappy and started packing Aalia’s placenta with salt. Once it was covered with a thick layer I sprinkled a few drops of lavender oil over it and we wrapped the lot in the nappy and secured it with nappy pins. Aalia watched the whole process intently and paid great attention. She did this every time we resalted her placenta over the following days. The entire package then went into the placenta bag. I had made it out of Royal Blue velvet. It had a drawstring at one end to close the opening and a cord cover out of the same velvet that secured with Velcro. The cord cover was about half the length of the cord and we wrapped it around the cord at the bag end. The velvet seemed a bit “wintery” in the heat wave but soon proved to be a most suitable fabric as there was no chance of it accidentally slipping off the bed or couch. During those first few days I held Aalia most of the time and we kept her very still. This was partly because it was not quite as easy to move a baby with the placenta still attached, but also because there seemed to be an aura about her that reminded us to be very sensitive to her newness. Everybody had a cuddle at least once a day. My Dad, who was out visiting from England, was excited to meet Aalia and came to see her every second day. My Mum had phoned to say she preferred to wait to visit our new baby once her cord and placenta had fallen off, which I happily accepted. I was not offended because I realised that many people in our society would find the practice of Lotus Birth quite confronting. When I was nursing Aalia I placed the placenta bag on the couch or bed beside us and when somebody else cuddled her we placed the bag on her tummy which she didn’t seem to mind a bit. When I moved around the house with Aalia I carried her and her placenta as one bundle. At night I would place Aalia in the middle of our large family bed with her placenta beside her and I would lay down on her other side. When she woke up to feed, in order not to disturb her, I would climb over her switching places with her placenta to give her access to the other breast. Every day Jordan and I would resalt the placenta discarding the old salt and replacing the nappy with a fresh clean one. Every day the placenta got smaller, lighter and drier. On the fourth day I noticed that the cord, which was very brittle by now, would scrap on Aalia’s tummy and hip making it quite red. This was bothering me and I was starting to get tired of having to always consider the placenta. Nico suggested I cut the cord if I felt like it but I couldn’t bear the thought of that and decided to wait until it came off naturally. Nico then suggested I talk to the baby and tell her I was ready for her cord to come away. Even I thought that was a little wacky but it couldn’t hurt, so I went to my bedroom with Aalia and told her how much I loved her and loved her placenta. How I was in awe of the fact that it was the organ that had nourished her while she was inside of me and pleased that we had not immediately cut it off when she was born. I also spoke to her about how I was looking forward to the time when it came away so I could hold her close and not worry about it scraping her skin. It didn’t separate immediately as I was secretly hoping, but I did feel a sense of peace and decided to wait patiently. For the rest of that morning Aalia kept grasping her cord between her feet and tugging at it. I wondered if it was itchy because it was healing or if she had simply discovered it with her feet. By now the cord was hanging on by one thin strand and the placenta was a third of its original size and very light. I glanced away and when I looked back I saw she had pulled it off – four days and two hours after she had been born and only a short time after I had talked with her. Everybody in the room went “Ooohhh” and she then had a big cry – bigger than she had ever before. My research assured me that some babies cry when they are finally Lotus Born. It seemed to us that she was finally born, that the past four days had been one long gradual birth. We all noticed that from the instant her cord came away she was more alert and fussy where she had previously been very still and quiet. Over the next couple of months Aalia’s placenta dried out even further, became lighter and eventually ended up the size of my palm. It is many different colours and is still encrusted with some of the salt. Trust in nature’s wisdom was one of the reasons we decided to have a Lotus Birth and now, whenever I feel myself looking with impatience for the next stage in Aalia’s development, I remember how we left her cord alone. I am reminded that her progress has nothing to do with my expectations, and everything will happen in its own perfect time.