Lotus Birth: Do it! Or not. Whatever.

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Living in Vermont and teaching yoga, there’s a certain extent to which one may fall down the rabbit hole of Hippie-dom. I will preface by saying:

  • I have NEVER been to a Phish show and would most likely sooner eat a peanut butter and glass sandwich than attend one voluntarily. (Disclaimer: they are fantastic people. So are any fans that are reading this. But to me they sound like this.)
  •  Not wearing shoes in public IS NOT AN OPTION. I don’t care if it’s July. I don’t care if it’s some great symbol of not being brought down by THE MAN. PUT SOME GOD DAMN SHOES ON. Gross.
  • The closest thing to dreadlocks I’d ever rock on my white girl head are what you might find at the end of a day I’ve been wearing a hat and believe me I waste no time brushing that shit OUT.
  • I once tried to put flax in my kid’s smoothies and they were all “WHY DID YOU PUT SAWDUST IN HERE? FIX IT!”
  • When being enlightened on the merits of a “vagina steaming women’s circle” I laughed so hard I fell off my chair because, well, VAGINA STEAMING WOMEN’S CIRCLE. I’d rather go to a Phish show.

Now that we’ve got that squared away, a confession.

With the birth of both of my children, I did what is called a lotus birth. Basically the child is born, the cord remains uncut and once the placenta comes out, you keep both until you decide which one you like better. (Pro tip: Placentas are cheaper and you can leave them in the car when you run in for a coffee and no one gets their shorts in a wad.)

Calm down. I’m kidding. I’d never leave a placenta in the car alone.


Here is a picture of a sunset because who the hell am I? Did you expect photos of bloody organs? FOR GOD SAKES.

Here is a picture of a sunset because who the hell am I? Did you expect photos of bloody organs? FOR GOD SAKES.

Anyway, lotus birth.

So the placenta and umbilical cord stay attached to the baby until it detaches on its own (generally between 3-7 days). Or, in my case until you get sick of waiting for that to happen because GOOD LORD IT’S BEAUTIFUL OUTSIDE AND I’M GOING TO LOSE MY MIND IF I DON’T LEAVE THIS BEDROOM.

The origins of the practice can be traced back to a California woman named Clair Lotus Day, for whom it is named. She questioned the act of cutting the cord and in 1974, birthed her son with an obstetrician who agreed to let the cord go uncut. Previously, the ritual was observed only in chimpanzees.

Now aside from a healthy appreciation for picking things, I don’t make it a rule to take life tips from chimps. Yet the whole idea seemed compelling. The baby is given all the blood and nutrients that the placenta has to offer (full on lotus birth aside, there has been considerable research that suggests allowing the placenta to stop pulsating before being detached offers a whole host of benefits to newborns). Once detached, the belly button is perfectly formed, no open wounds to tend to or risk infection. And the added bonus that no one really asks to hold your baby because THEY ARE COMPLETELY FREAKED OUT. (Side note, my mother lives 7 hours away and didn’t visit until my son was a month old. I was given clear instructions in sending photos to “crop that nasty shit out”.)

My son’s home birth was a 4.5 hour “shoot me in the head and put me out of my misery” ordeal. Ten minutes or so after he arrived into the arms of my midwife, the placenta was ready to come out as well. She steadied me on my knees in the middle of the bed and directed me to push. I asked her to pull. Didn’t I do enough work already? LEND A HAND, LADY. I guess you can’t really do that. So I pushed.

We laid the placenta next to my son on a towel and once my friend who had a lotus birth of her own arrived, she tended to it. She rinsed it in a bowl of warm water and then we placed it in a colander to drain. (No one that visited in those first days would ever agree to a pasta dinner at our house.) Several hours later we transferred it to a bowl and coated it with salt and lavender. Each day following, she returned to scrape off the salt and reapply. It shrunk rapidly as it cured like some sort of placenta jerky which I think I read about on Goop once. The cord had dried completely and twisted like a twig. Finally, on day 5 the placenta was so small that I put it in a baby gap gift box that had once contained items much more attractive.

The spiritual aspect of lotus birth suggests that allowing the baby to make this transition from womb to world on his or her own terms at his or her own time reduces anxiety and elevate the bond between mother and child by limiting overstimulation.

By day 7, that sidecar of an organ showed no signs of peacing out. But if we’re going to keep with the trend of parenting like animals in the wild, I was about to go full polar bear on that baby and EAT HIM if I didn’t get out of the house. Just a walk around the block. You know, until it felt like my vagina was going to fall out. Then I’d waddle home. And also, SEVEN DAYS? Placenta, your work here is done. I’ve decided. And if this baby were to grow up to be some sort of serial killer, well, we can travel all the way back to this moment where I rushed him along before he was ready thus making him completely unable to trust anyone ever. So I grabbed a pair of scissors and after softly whispering in his ear, “come on buddy. Let’s do this. I’m sorry but even if I were the type of person that would name you Moonstone THIS WOULD STILL BE RIDICULOUS AT THIS POINT.” I gently hacked it off a couple inches from his belly.

"Dude, they say lotus birth babies can remember when they lost their umbilical cord. Do you remember?"  "Huh? Umbilibal cord? What's that? Oh, that thing? No. What are you talking about? Can I go play xbox now?"

“Dude, they say lotus birth babies can remember when they lost their umbilical cord. Do you remember?”
“Huh? Umbilibal cord? What’s that? Oh, that thing? No. What are you talking about? Can I go play xbox now?”

Six years later when pregnant with my daughter, I was on the fence about doing it. Mostly because I had a six year old to deal with in addition to a newborn, and I didn’t deep down believe that the whole process made any difference in my son’s development. Then I got to thinking about the what if’s. What if we cut it and she were colicky? What if she screamed her head off for some other reason? Or grew up to be a stripper? OH MY GOD. IT’S THE LACK OF LOTUS BIRTH. I had to keep the playing field level.

As it turned out, she was an emergency induction at the hospital, but we made clear our plans to the doctors right away. The on call nurse was familiar with lotus birth and while the doctor threw me a little western medicine side-eye, he agreed on the condition that the baby was born without complication.

24 hours later, she quietly entered the world to meet the 8,000 people that appeared out of nowhere to stick their heads in my vagina. She was laid on my chest and the snip happy doctor was edged out by the nurse who insisted, “just give her a minute”. Within seconds she wailed and he backed down. The mob slowly dissolved as the excitement (for them) was over. The nurse grabbed one of those pink basins and we plunked the placenta in it with a few receiving blankets. We had requested that we be allowed to leave the hospital barring any emergencies and after our 4 hour old daughter was cleared by the pediatrician, they pulled up a wheelchair and told us we could see ourselves out. Honestly, I’ve checked out of hotels with more fanfare. So, baby under one arm, placenta under the other, Bobby wheeled us through the empty halls to the garage and we headed home.

A different friend tended to my daughters placenta, and in addition to salt and lavender, we rubbed it with calendula and wrapped it in cloth. We changed the dressing once a day for the next 2 and on day three, I called it. It was the last days of summer before my son started kindergarten and the thought of sitting in the sunshine outside the local bakery sounded like heaven. Again I grabbed the shears and leaned in. “It’s go time, sister. You’ve got this.”

The face of a girl whose going places. And by places, I don't mean clubs right off the highway.

The face of a girl whose going places. And by places, I don’t mean clubs right off the highway.

Guys, I know we’re only 2.5 years in, but I’m like 98% certain she’s not going to be a stripper. So there’s that.

And not only can my son armpit fart at like an Olympic level, but he can also LEG FART.

I can’t completely credit lotus birth but I can’t say it didn’t help.

amateur comedian, professional bullshitter. will take pay in baked goods once already rich.

  • Tessa Valyou

    So I feel like there is not much I haven’t heard of about birth by now, but I never heard of this! It was all about, to eat or not to eat, nothing about just keeping it attached and around a few days. Too bad Wes ingested his poo in the womb and had to have his airway cleared, he had to be swooped away and smelled like poo so bad they had to clean his hair a couple times the next day to get it out. So no delayed cord cutting for him. I would love to at least do the ‘wait until the pulse stops’ thing this time. I might have to chat with my doula about this…hummmmm. Thanks!

    • OddlyWellAdjusted

      You learn something crazy every day! Eight years ago there wasn’t much info out there and my midwife had never heard of it. By the time Josie was born I think she had attended at least a handful.
      Poor Wes!

  • Kathleen De Simone

    god Sara you continue to amaze …and I so so sooooo agree with you about Phish and especially White Girl Dreads…uchy…this lotus birth is fascinating..though I feel my getting pregnant at this point —well lets just say it would be more likely I could grow a foot. by next Thursday ….. but I am so sure it is a wonderful way to start..but the way you wrote about it just plain brilliant …oh and seeing as a know both these lotus born babies…I know it certainly didn’t do them any harm…they are both stunning of face, graceful of body, and quick with wit…thanks for writing about this I know it will be of great value for some young mother thinking about this how isn’t living on brown rice and praying in an Ashram..and I shall close with as a former card carrying Hippie …I hate Patchouli oil, and anyone who wants to live in a commune deserves it xxxooo

    • OddlyWellAdjusted

      That last line is gold. I love you.

  • Jess W.

    Ok – L.B. question for you (LB may take off now in mommy boards, fingers crossed!) How did you manage all the skin-to-skin time in those first days with a dangling placenta? I feel like there were times my kiddo didn’t leave my chest or arm-tuck area and I’m having trouble picturing where the placenta lives in those cases. How long is the (your) cord once it dries up?

    • OddlyWellAdjusted

      Good question! So, both of my kids cords were of average length and shortened as they dried. With my son, I didn’t know any better and kept him on top of me, belly to belly for the first 24 hours so the last couple inches stayed pretty fresh and therefore I think contributed to the amount of time it held fast. With my daughter, I alternated belly to belly with arm tucking and laying contentedly on her own. Hers dried much faster. The other thing I learned (oh god. I could be curing cancer if I didn’t waste up so much brain power with semi useless information) is that as the cord dries, you have the opportunity to encourage it to dry in the direction most convenient. So if the baby is primarily laying to your right, put the placenta on the baby’s right so it’s not between you. It gets so stiff that it can look like it’s uncomfortably tugging at their belly.
      Thanks so much for reading!

      • Guest

        “encourage it to grow in the direction most convenient”… I wish we could do that for kids, ya know, overall.