What a better way to honor pregnancy, birth, and a new baby than returning the placenta to the earth especially when it is planted with a living and growing tree.
Why bury a placenta?
Read about options for the placenta or placenta jewelry.
Why was the placenta buried in ancient times?
Placentas had three main functions in ancient times. In some cultures the placenta was seen as the baby's spirit guide helping the child navigate the birth and then returning and connecting after death. Placenta burial was also considered as a sacred connector of the child to his birth place or heritage. It was also to bestow blessing or protection for the child's future. An item representing the future calling, was often buried with the placenta.
Other cultures included trees into the burial ceremonies.
Read more about Celtic birth tree calendar here.
Why bury the placenta with a tree?
Trees can represent:
Fruit trees: nurturing, feeding, growth, energy
Oak trees: power and courage
Elm trees: intuition and inner strength
Maple trees: balance and promise
Cherry trees: good fortune when in bloom/ love and romance
Birch trees: new beginnings
Cedar trees: healing and cleansing
Palm trees: peace and flexibility without breaking
Ideas for choosing a tree for your placenta burial
While the symbolism of trees is meaningful, there are also climate issues surrounding tree planting. Check tree planting guides for trees that flourish in your climate.
Are you going to be living in the area long term? Is it a special area to you that you will visit frequently? If you do not own the land, check with the owners or proper authorities before planting your tree.
Moveable options include large planters with smaller trees/bushes, so the placenta tree can be transported with a move.
Detailed planting directions for the placenta and tree.
If you are having a home birth, then there is no additional work in obtaining your placenta. You can plan to bury your placenta when having a hospital birth as well. Discuss the desire to bring the placenta home after the birth with the health care provider.
Providers and hospitals have different policies surrounding placenta release. Many hospitals now will simply release it immediately. Others require signing a waiver stating that the hospital is not held responsible and that the placenta is a blood borne pathogen...meaning it contains blood that could contain infectious microorganisms that cause disease. Some hospitals request that the placenta be held until you and baby are released from the hospital and some require that the placenta be removed immediately.
Bring a container and cooler for the placenta. Occasionally, hospitals do not provide a sealed container. A few gallon sized ziplock baggies can be used if no container is available. Place the placenta (and container) inside a cooler with ice so that it remains fresh until it is home.
Freeze the placenta unless it will be buried within the first week after birth. You may need to wait 6 months or longer to plant your placenta based on climate. It can remain safely frozen long term. Some people wish to wait until a special time in the baby's life such as baby's first birthday, when baby starts eating solid food, the end of the breastfeeding relationship or it could be based on a return to fertility after the first postpartum menstrual cycle.
Place the placenta into a biodegradable container prior to burial. Options can include a woven basket, wooden box, unfired clay pot, or a cloth bag that can be decorated. Remove the placenta from any plastic containers prior to burial.
Choose the location and type of tree. Research specific planting directions for your climate and tree variety. Most will need to be buried 12 inches into the ground depending on type of tree, soil type and size of the tree. Bury the placenta 4-6 inches lower than the placenta and place soil between the placenta and tree, so that the placenta has time to decompose before the roots reach the placenta. To use a large urn or pot, place 6-8 inches of soil in the pot, then the placenta, then, 4-6 inches of soil, then the tree.
Care for the newly planted tree according to tree planting guidelines.
Adding ceremony to the burial process
Ceremonies can easily be included in the process. They can be as simple as re-telling the birth story and thanking the placenta for supporting life. They can be elaborate and include poems, stories, and planting additional items as symbols. Decorating the placenta container can be a family activity.
Pictures of the child and tree yearly create a special keepsake.
For more information on placenta history and information follow Placenta Training Company's Pinterest boards.