A Ritual For Our Times
Sarah J. Buckley M.D.
Lotus birth is the practice of leaving the umbilical cord uncut, so that the baby remains attached to
his/her placenta until the cord naturally separates at the umbilicus- exactly as a cut cord does- at 3 to 10
days after birth. This prolonged contact can be seen as a time of transition, allowing the baby to slowly and
gently let go of his/her attachment to the mother's body.
Although we have no written records of cultures which leave the cord uncut, many traditional peoples hold
the placenta in high esteem. For example, Maori people from New Zealand bury the placenta ritually on the
ancestral marae, and the Hmong, a hill tribe from South East Asia, believe that the placenta must be
retrieved after death to ensure physical integrity in the next life: a Hmong baby's placenta is buried inside the
house of its birth.
Lotus Birth was named by, and seeded through Clair Lotus Day to Jeannine Parvati Baker in the US and
Shivam Rachana in Australia, who have both been strong advocates for this gentle practice. In this century,
since 1974, many babies have been born this way, including babies born at home and in hospital, on land
and in water, and even by caesarean section. Lotus birth is a beautiful and logical extension of
natural childbirth, and invites us to reclaim the so-called third stage of birth, and to honour the placenta,
our baby’s first source of nourishment.
I am a New Zealand GP (family MD in America), and have 4 children born at home in my adopted country,
Australia. I have experienced Lotus birth with my second and subsequent children, after being drawn to it
during my second pregnancy through contact with Shivam Rachana at the Centre for Human Transformation
in Yarra Glen, near Melbourne. Lotus birth made sense to me at the time, as I remembered my time training
in GP obstetrics, and the strange and uncomfortable feeling of cutting through the gristly, fleshy cord that
connects baby to placenta and mother. The feeling for me was like cutting through a boneless toe, and it felt
good to avoid this cutting with my coming baby.
I spoke with women who had chosen this for their babies, and experienced a beautiful post-natal time. Some
women also described their Lotus-Birth child's self-possession and completeness. Others described it as a
challenge, practically and emotionally. Nicholas, my partner, was concerned that it might interfere with the
magic of those early days, but was happy to go along with my wishes.
MY EXPERIENCES OF LOTUS BIRTH
Zoe, our second child, was born at home on the 10th of September 1993. Her placenta was, unusually, an
oval shape, which was perfect for the red velvet placenta bag that I had sewn. Soon after the birth, we
wrapped her placenta in a cloth nappy, then in the placenta bag, and bundled it up with her in a shawl that
enveloped both of them. Every 24 hours, we attended to the placenta by patting it dry, coating it liberally with
salt, and dropping a little lavender oil onto it. Emma, who was 2, was keen to be involved in the care of her
As the days passed, Zoe's cord dried from the umbilical end, and became thin and brittle. It developed a
convenient 90 degree kink where it threaded through her clothes, and so did not rub or irritate her. The
placenta, too, dried and shrivelled due to our salt treatment, and developed a slightly meaty aroma, which
interested our cat!
Zoe’s cord separated on the 6th day, without any fuss; other babies have cried inconsolably or held their
cord tightly before separation. We planted her placenta under a mandarin tree on her first birthday, which
our dear friend and neighbour Annie later dug up and put in a pot when we moved interstate. She told us
later that the mandarins from the tree were the sweetest she had ever tasted.
Our third child, Jacob Patrick, was born on the 25th September 1995, at home into water. Jacob and I stayed
in the water for some time after the birth, so we floated his placenta in a plastic ice-cream carton (with the lid
on, and a corner cut out for the cord) while I nursed him. This time, we put his placenta in a sieve to drain for
the first day. I neither dressed nor carried Jacob at this time, but stayed in a still space with him, while
Nicholas cared for Emma, 4, and Zoe, 2. His cord separated in just under 4 days, and I felt that he drank
deeply of the stillness of that time.
His short "breaking forth" time was perfect because my parents arrived from New Zealand the following day to
help with our household. He later chose a Jacaranda tree under which to bury his placenta at our new home
My fourth baby, Maia Rose, was born in Brisbane, where Lotus birth is still very new, on 26 July 2000. We
had a beautiful ‘Do It Yourself’ birth at home, and my intuition told me that her breaking forth time would be
short. I decided not to treat her placenta at all, but kept it in a sieve over a bowl in the daytime, and in the
placenta bag at night. The cord separated in just under 3 days and, although it was a cool time of year, it did
get rather smelly. (Salt treatment would have prevented this). Maia’s placenta is still in our freezer, awaiting
the right time for burial, and I broke off a piece of her dried cord to give to her when she is older.
My older children have blessed me with stories of their lives before birth, and have been unanimously in
favour of not cutting the cord- especially Emma, who remembered the unpleasant feeling of having her cord
cut, which she describes as being “painful in my heart”. Zoe, at five years of age, described being attached
to a ‘love-heart thing’ in my womb and told me “When I was born, the cord went off the love-heart thing and
onto there (the placenta) and then I came out.” Perhaps she experienced her placenta in utero as the
source of nourishment and love.
Lotus birth has been, for us, an exquisite ritual which has enhanced the magic of the early post natal days. I
notice an integrity and self-possession with my lotus-born children, and I believe that
lovingness, cohesion, attunement to nature, trust, and respect for the natural order have
all been imprinted on our family by our honouring of the placenta, the Tree of Life, through