And now a word from . . . the Placenta

Yep, the placenta has something to say, something we need to know.

I don’t know about you, but I always thought the placenta was from and of the mother, and that she nourished the baby through it.

 
 Placenta: "a flattened circular organ in the uterus of pregnant eutherian mammals, nourishing and maintaining the fetus through the umbilical cord.”

Placenta: "a flattened circular organ in the uterus of pregnant eutherian mammals, nourishing and maintaining the fetus through the umbilical cord.”

But as I’ve learned more about embryology, I now understand that the placenta is actually formed from the blastocyst, the large, fertilized egg cell that has divided into 70-100 cells.  A differentiation occurs within the blastocyst: a group of cells gathers at one end of the sphere of the cell, and another at the opposite curve. One group will become the placenta; the other the baby.

This means the placenta and the baby are actually of each other.  Or, as the placenta is sometimes called, the baby's twin.

What a concept!

The nascent placenta is then completed by the mother with material from the uterine wall. It serves as the connection between us and our mother, filtering, exchanging nutrients, oxygen, and waste.

In mainstream birth, the cord to the placenta is cut as soon as the baby is born; the placenta is then birthed and often incinerated as biohazard waste (although some hospitals will let you take it home). The natural birth culture has long understood the importance of delaying the cutting of the cord until it has stopped pulsing and the newborn is breathing on his or her own.  Not only does this ease the transition into being in the outer world, but the continued pulsation delivers valuable blood into the baby’s system, the denial of which can be equivalent to a 1200 ml hemorrhage in an adult. 

In addition, the placenta is a powerful medicinal resource perfectly suited for what a just-birthed mother needs: hormones, iron and minerals that can boost the immune system, increase milk production, and rebuild stamina.  There are many practices for consuming the placenta, from adding pieces to a smoothie, cooking it (stirfry!), or drying it and making it into capsules that can be used throughout the childbearing year.  And of course mammal mothers always eat the afterbirth of their babies

There is a ritual of burying the placenta in a special place to honor its role and to create a spiritual home or root for the new baby. Families often plant a special tree over the site of the placenta.

And then there is Lotus Birth, that not only does not cut the cord early, but actually keeps the placenta attached to the baby via the intact umbilical cord until the cord naturally dries out and separates from the baby.

And the lore around the placenta continues. The word placenta translates as a type of “cake” in Latin; annual birthday cakes possibly originated in reference to the placenta.

In energetic medicine, when working with babies, the presence of and connection to the placenta is incredibly important.  Distress in some babies may be caused by the separation from the placenta, and/or a placenta that was discarded.  The baby experiences a loss of its womb companion and protector, and this can be deeply disturbing.

Babies experience “umbilical shock” at the premature cutting of the chord.  Imagine being suddenly severed from a pulsing organ that goes directly into your fire chakra!  After we lose our umbilical chord, the umbilical vessels in our bodies become ligaments that extend into the inguinal area in our pelvis and up to our diaphragm. The vestiges of umbilical shock can move all the way down our legs, and all the way up to our hearts.  It can affect digestion and cause chronic pain and contraction in the psoas and quadratus lumborum.

 Umbilical shock can be attended to and resolved at any age.

Umbilical shock can be attended to and resolved at any age.

The good news is, our physical bodies retain layers of energetic memories of all our experiences. These can emerge in mysterious and powerful ways during energetic touch therapies such as BCST, which makes these experiences available for healing or resolution.

I recently had a powerful experience of my placenta as I was receiving a Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy session.

(And now we’re coming to the point of this whole blog post: a message from the Placenta)

In my session, I began to be aware of an incredible, warm, spacious, comforting physical feeling around my belly button, and the image of the cord and my placenta came into my mind.  I could feel the presence of the placenta hovering just over my belly.  With this sensation, I simultaneously realized how powerful, intimate and mutual the relationship between the baby and the placenta is.

These are the revelations that came to me as I felt the memory of my attached placenta:

The placenta is a Guardian Angel, sent to attend, accompany and protect the baby in the womb.

The placenta is sentient and Intelligent.  

It transmits tremendous energy, nourishment, medicine, love and companionship.

It is a companion; baby is never alone.

It is the great filter, protector and channel, mitigating experience and material, as everything must pass through it before entering the baby.

The placenta sacrifices itself for the baby to be born; it dies so that they baby may go on to live in the world.

The presence and power of the placenta and the connection to it continues long after we are separated from it.  Ancient wisdom traditions understand that the umbilicus area of the belly is one of the most potent energetic gates in the body: the dantien/“the field of elixir", the fire chakra, the center of the spiral current of energy*.

fetus-in-womb_s_650_022616020656.jpg

*The fiery current, which Dr. Stone [Polarity Therapy] called the spiral current, relates to the rajasic quality of directed energy. It spirals from the umbilicus to energize the whole of the body with warmth, vitality and movement." --Bruce Burger

(I even think that children form attachments to security blankets, stuffed animals, etc, as a substitute for the placenta.)

With this understanding of the placenta, and its intimate relationship with baby, the placenta deserves to be treated with utmost reverence.  And as in Lotus Birth, the baby and the placenta kept together honors this relationship and the necessary transition between companionship in the womb, to the independence of the baby outside the womb.  Those of us who did not receive this consideration of our once-wholeness with the placenta can heal the loss and shock through energetic work such as Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy. 

Some beautiful sites for Lotus Birth:

Since publishing this post, I heard from Jamie Miranda about her daughter’s Lotus Birth and read her powerful account of this beautiful process on her blog. What an incredible frontier of possibility, grace and healing this deeper understanding of the placenta has to offer us.

https://jamiemiranda.wordpress.com/2018/09/15/lotus-birth-a-path-to-healing/

https://homebirth.org.nz/magazine/article/lotus-birth/

http://www.lotusbirth.net/

A New Year's Prayer: Sexual Healing between Men and Women

RodinMan.jpg

I try to avoid the news as much as possible (see my Oct. 11 blog post), but the #Metoo campaign has broken through.  Over Christmas week, I read Selma Hayek's horrifying story of abuse in the New York Times ("Harvey Weinstein is My Monster Too").  As many others have already said, this is a necessary, belated and heartbreaking moment in our culture: speaking out about sexual and power abuse as perpetrated by . . . men.

Integral to my calling as a teacher and practitioner of Sacred Daoist Sexuality, is the desire to bring healing to our sexuality; particularly the sexuality between women and men.  When I feel the winds of the firestorm of revelations and deep confessions of sexual victimhood at the hands of men, I think: our men are so sexually wounded.  How did such a distortion of respect and shared power come to be?  And this is not just a symptom of Western culture. The mutilation of women's genitals in African cultures, the binding of feet in Chinese culture, etc etc.  A long, horrific line of abuse perpetrated mainly by men.

But we abuse boys and men as well, sexually and emotionally.  The common first experience of a newborn boy in this culture?  To have the sensitive skin that protects his even more sensitive penis, cut off--either ritually or medically.  Our culture accepts this as a norm.  And yet if these infants were ritually touched sexually, this would be considered a crime.

There are just so many layers to how we have hurt each other sexually.

There is something that concerns me deeply about all this and that is: a kind of sexism I hear my female friends express against men.  For example, a female friend whose male friend is going through a terrible divorce:  "I don't like to say anything bad about a woman but. . . " she starts to tell me.  Wait a minute.  Why not?  Women can be dreadful as well!  And the other implication of that statement: "It's ok to say bad things about men." 

My daughter, recounted a young man at college who expressed surprise about a woman traveling the world by herself.   "He's so misogynistic!"  she says.  "Are you sure?"  I ask.  "Maybe he's intimidated by traveling the world alone--and is impressed that she can."

There is a bumper sticker about capital punishment: "Why do we teach people that killing people is wrong by killing people?"

I ask: "Why do we teach people that discriminating against gender is wrong by discriminating against gender"? 

Rather than go down any further down this rabbit hole, I want to return to that sexual healing.  We have got to reach out with even more love, space and possibility across gender assumptions.  I would even say this is the most insidious of bigotry--we all accept the gender generalizations that we make all the time.  And so, it divides us continually.

On February 4th, I am offering my first men's Sacred Daoist Sexuality workshop, "How to Make Love to a Woman".  It has been a dream and an idea that has been percolating for over two years.  I will share what I know of the complex differences and similarities of our sexual anatomy and sexual responses, as well as the sacred self-cultivation practices that fly in the face of our Western experience of sex.  Such a coming together is naturally vulnerable--for the participants, as well as myself--as it should be. But this will be my prayer for what is possible in intimacy and connection between the sexes: that we need each other to experience a level of physical, emotional and spiritual ecstasy that, no matter our devotion to our self pleasure and practice, can only be achieved in union with another.

Yes, this is a big agenda.  But it will be a simple three-hour class. 

Learning some anatomy, practicing qigong to come into rooted presence, introducing the microcosmic orbit practice to cultivate and circulate energy, all within a container of sacrality:  the understanding that practicing the sexual arts is a spiritual calling and commitment to the beauty of being human.  And the truth we often deny:  we need each other (Hmm--this is cropping up as a theme of mine.  See Dec 10 blog post).  There'll be conversation, questions, and sharing too. 

If you are a man reading this, I hope you'll consider attending.  If you know a man, I hope you will share this with him.  This will be a small class of no more than six men and I am requiring preregistration. Learn more here.

Blessings to all on the New Year--to new understandings of our sexuality, to our compassion towards and need of each other!