Sunday, May 17

The Birth Tree

My daughter Jami
The last time my daughter came to visit she had a surprise for us.  She asked if we would be willing to plant a memorial tree on our farm using the placenta from her last child’s birth to place under the new tree.
My grandson Dax was born in Texas, so the placenta had to be frozen until the planting ceremony.
Truthfully I had never heard of this before and it all happened so very quickly that I didn't have much time to prepare. 
Afterwards I did a little research and found out quite a lot. 
There are simple ceremonies, eloquent ceremonies and elaborate ceremonies preformed to honor the placenta all over the world. 

Many cultures, including the Navajo Indians and New Zealand's Maori, bury the placenta to symbolize the baby's link to the earth. 
The Navajo of the American Southwest customarily bury a child's placenta within the sacred Four Corners region to bind the child to its ancestral land and to its people. The Maoris of New Zealand bury the placenta in native soil for the same reason. They even applied their word for land to the placenta - "whenua."
In certain regions of Siberia, the buried placenta is thought to be ill or uncomfortable if the baby becomes sick. The gravesite is treated, and the placenta may be reburied in another spot in hopes of curing the child.  

The Parigi of the Celebes Islands also view the placenta as the older brother. It is carefully preserved in a special pot, wrapped in white cotton, and is ritually buried by the mother. Palm trees are then planted to honor the burial site. Similar beliefs can be found in Java and Bali.

My grandson Dax on a visit this May

Many world cultures have a tradition of planting the placenta under a young tree and that tree becomes the child’s tree, symbolizing life.  Trees planted this way tend to do well benefiting from the nutrients from the placenta. 
I loved the idea of having my grandson’s birth tree here on the farm.  They live so far away; it helps me to feel as if a part of my daughter is here with me.
My husband and son-in-law digging the hole
What is the Placenta?
The placenta grows with the baby from the very first cell divisions; it is even formed from the same cells as the baby.   The placenta is there to provide nourishment to the growing child and is the direct physical link between the mother and child.  It also cleans wastes that form throughout the pregnancy. 
The placenta is flat, and when in the womb, one side attaches firmly to the inside wall of the mother’s womb; the other side faces the baby and provides nourishment through the umbilical cord. 
 At the time of birth, the placenta maintains its connection to the womb as long as possible, to continue sustaining life until the baby's successful arrival into the world.
The placenta is also called the afterbirth but in the Old Testament it was thought to be the External Soul.

Keeping The Placenta
It is very important to tell your care provider or doctor and the hospital ahead of time that you are taking your placenta home with you.
You should plan on bringing a cooler to the hospital for care and ease of transport from hospital to home and directly into the freezer.
You can freeze your placenta for as long as you need to, some people even wait for the babies first birthday or other milestone.

This website,  Birth to Earth Tree Planting  is great for an entire package to go with the tree planting including an educational book and a copper tag to hang on the tree with the child’s name, date of birth and date of planting. 

The Tree Planting
The burial and tree planting can be a way to honor the experience of birth by taking the part of you that kept your baby alive in the womb and transferring it to a tree for continued nourishment and a dedication of future life, health and love. 
To make your tree planting more personal to you, have a poem ready to read, a declaration or promise you wish to make, or say a prayer or blessing for health and long life.
You can bury tokens along with the planting such as mementos of grandmothers or other family members to make it a group or family tree shared by generations.

Hole dug and placenta covered with dirt

For me it was a way to feel connected to my daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren. 
30 plus years ago my daughter Jami was connected to me with our own placenta and umbilical cord.  Now, even though they are miles away, I will be connected to my daughter and her children every time I look out at this beautiful tree. 

My husband and I have been planting a lot of trees since we purchased our farm, but had not been able to locate one tree in particular I really wanted, an American Sycamore. 
On that warm summer day in July, we were able to find just that tree at a nearby nursery and my husband Bill and son-in-law Donnie brought it home. 
We located a perfect spot that would provide shade but also a place where we could see the tree while either on the patio or from multiple windows in our house.  All year long we can look out and see the new spring leaves, set under the dark summer shade of the limbs, see the leaves turn golden in autumn or watch snow fall and land on each branch.  And each time I see the tree I am reminded of this wonderful gift my daughter gave to me. 
We hope someday to see the tree big enough for a swing for future grandkids.  

What Type of Tree?
Growing up we had a huge sycamore tree in our front yard my father had planted.  My father also installed a huge rope swing that I and my many siblings enjoyed for many many hours.  We also fought a lot over that darn swing!  My older sisters and brothers loved to climb to the top of the sycamore tree and could see for miles and miles and even watch the city’s July 4th fireworks display.  So because of the memories of that big wonderful tree, and as a way to remember my father, I have planted a sycamore tree in every one of our homes.

My grandson Dax, just a toddler at
the time of the tree planting, 2014

Choosing the right tree for your planting can have memories attached to it or just be one of your favorite types of trees. ( I also love sugar maple trees!) 
And bushes can be used for the planting such as lilac or forsythia. 

To find the meaning behind each tree you can go to this website: Tree meanings

Or go to this website for an American Indian Tree Symbols Chart. 

My husband Bill, son-in-law Donnie, granddaughter Maddie and grandson Dax,  tree planting weekend, July 2014 

I waited nearly a year to write this post.  I wanted to make sure our tree, my grandson Dax's tree and my daughter Jami’s tree, my tree, our family tree survived the cold winter here in Ohio.  
It did.



Anonymous said...

Hello, just wanted to say, I loved this article. It was helpful and a great idea! Thanks

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

Glad it helped and thanks, Elizabeth

Anonymous said...

Great post and love this idea. Thanks for the info on cultural traditions and the links. So glad I found this!

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

Thanks, It was new to me but very interesting to research it. Glad I was able to be a part of something so wonderful. Elizabeth

Anonymous said...

Thanks for finally talking about >"The Birth Tree" <Liked it!