Umbilical Cord Mementos
by Jan Tritten

[Editor’s note: This article first appeared in Midwifery Today, Issue 108, Winter 2013.]


[photo by Gina Dacosta]

Heart-shaped umbilical cord memento

We midwives and doulas are an odd and interesting lot. We love umbilical cords. There is usually so much going on at a birth that we don’t think a lot about them in general, but when we get to talking on the subject of umbilical cords, we love it! It is through the cord that baby is nourished and waste is taken away—amazing! I asked questions on Facebook about the cord and got so many responses with love and enthusiasm that I know you all share the love of cords with me.

The cord is a beautiful, pearly rope that is the baby’s lifeline in utero. It is not only a lifeline, but also a familiar friend through baby’s life in the womb. Like a toy, a baby plays with and grasps her cord. There are actually a few toys in there…thumbs, feet, fists and the cord! Sometimes the baby plays rough with its cord and grips it too tightly. A friend who is also a midwife was in labor and her baby had poor fetal heart tones. She transported to the hospital and ultrasound showed that the baby was gripping the cord so hard that it affected her heart beat.

I love that some midwives have formed a lovely ritual (we need more rituals in modern birth) of making a placenta and cord print for the mom as a keepsake. When my friend Eneyda and I attended a birth in Puerto Rico with midwife Gina Dacosta, we were touched by how the cord and placenta were treated so respectfully. Gina made a beautiful placenta and umbilical cord print and the baby’s footprints were added to the paper. This is a really nice thing for the midwife to do for the family.

The miracle of pregnancy and birth is so touching, so unique and so special—only a very creative God could come up with it. I would not have ever thought up such a miraculous manner for a new person to come to Earth, but like other midwives and doulas, I love it. Another practical use for the cord is to stop a hemorrhage or bring out a sticky placenta. Simply have mom chew on part of the cord—the wonderful oxytocic power from the cord gives it the unique ability to help midwives with complications (see my editorial, Lessons from Kitty Birth: Using Placenta to Control Hemorrhage, for more on this).

Midwives and doulas these days are so creative. While playing around on Facebook, I found a wonderful keepsake my cousin Teresa made from the cord. The word love is spelled out with the cord and then dried. Teresa is an amazing homebirth momma and doula. I asked her to give you instructions with a couple of her photos. (See more photos on page 6 of the print magazine.)

Toward better birth,

Jan Tritten

Jan Tritten is the founder and editor-in-chief of Midwifery Today magazine and a midwife who was in active practice from 1977 to 1989. She became a midwife in 1977 after the powerful homebirth of one of her daughters. Her mission is to make loving midwifery care the norm for birthing women and their babies throughout the world. Meet Jan at our conferences around the world! [ PHOTO BY ANDREA NOLL ]

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