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  • amberpetersnu

The Missing Piece (peace?!)

"So... I guess in a way you could say that this ritual, apart from being a closing of your early postpartum period, is also an opportunity to put together any missing pieces of your birth, anything we may have left out in our conversations together, or we might have forgotten to mention" I explained to my client, as we were getting ready for her ritual of closing the bones. "And I brought you something," I continued. "Maybe we should start with that."

I handed her a package and she smiled. "Haha, it's the placenta!"

She had given birth four weeks earlier, an unexpected but very welcome and beautiful home birth, with her super optimist second baby trying to be born thumbs up, midwives duly and skillfully applying manoeuvres to assist this, and her husband and me holding and massaging her, giving her all the emotional and mental support we could.

Such a shame that the placenta did not come, despite patient waiting and a few midwives' interventions, and the mother was taken to hospital by ambulance to get it surgically removed, thereby missing out on what to her seemed one of the greatest pecks of a home-birth: birthing in your own bed, and then the comfort of being able to stay there, in the bubble, not to be moved, just to relax and marvel at new life.

But her fate was a (calm enough) ambulance ride to hospital, more waiting and then being taken to the operating room where the placenta was successfully removed by a kind gynecologist who did a great job in removing the placenta, but routinely threw it away directly after, while the mother had wanted to keep the placenta, as to plant a tree on it, like she had done with the placenta of her first child.

I had been negligent, too. I hadn't reminded anyone of the importance of keeping the placenta, as I had been all focused on supporting the mother, who had been scared about getting full anesthesia.

And even though my client was kind enough not to ever make any reproaches, it was clear she was disappointed and I felt I should do something, to try and make it right.

In the weeks to follow the idea of sewing a placenta came to mind: the ideal detention work for a bad and negligent doula, not only educational, but also healing and creative, a way of making up for things gone wrong.

Working on it taught me a lot about this organ, its beautiful anatomy, surprising structure and purifying qualities, all very much worth our appreciation. Working on it was also a way to create a great gift to the mother I was supporting, a way to gain consciousness of how this placenta she hadn't had, might be important to her. And a way of having my compassion and understanding materialize into an object, ultimately given back to her.

We spent a beautiful morning together that day. Her mother-in-law, who had also been present at the birth and had come over from Brazil especially to take care of the young family in the first weeks after, assisted me in closing the bones. Pictures were taken by dad, who had had the privilege to be my first male client to be wrapped up in rebozoes, when we practiced for the ceremony in my home.

And baby? He slept practically through the whole ritual, being timely fed by his knowledgeable mother, and accompanied by a replica of what is in some cultures considered his older brother: the cuddly toy placenta.

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