Once upon a time, a long time ago, I was a woman driven only by science. When I was pregnant with my first I dug through medical journals to make decisions about how I would labor and deliver and I read only peer-reviewed articles to learn how to best nurture my baby’s growth and development. I turned my nose up at amber teething necklaces and salt lamps. I scoffed at co-sleeping, rolled my eyes at the idea of using coconut oil for everything, and simply couldn’t understand why anyone would nurse their baby into toddler-hood.
When my baby arrived, I promised myself I wouldn’t turn into one of those pseudo-science-touting moms who insisted that essential oils could cure all and that babies should be worn 23 hours a day.
And then I had my first baby and realized that, when it comes to making sure your kid is happy and healthy and eating and sleeping, you do absolutely anything and everything that might possibly work.
Needless to say, my kid wore the amber necklace, I wore the kid, and my and my husband's bed became the family bed. My kiddo nursed deep into toddler-hood and, when diaper cream irritated his tiny hiney, we went straight for the coconut oil.
When I got pregnant with my second I vowed to be more open minded. When my doula (see the transformation we’d made in just a few short years?) suggested I look into placenta encapsulation to avoid the intense baby blues I’d experienced with my first, I was more than on board.
To some, placenta encapsulation sounds gross, to others it might seem like a waste of money. To me it was simply something I was willing to try if it gave me a shot at the glowy, happy postpartum period I’d assumed my well-written and research-backed birth plan would provide last time. When my little guy came screaming into the world a couple of weeks before his due date I immediately sent the placenta home with my husband so that the encapsulation specialist could get to work.
A few days later my capsules were ready and as I examined the mason jar filled with little brown pills I felt like a down-right earth goddess. Next to the jar, in a canvas drawstring bag, I found a little surprise. My encapsulation specialist had taken my newborn’s umbilical cord, formed it into a heart, and dried it. I was at once both totally touched and a little bit weirded out.
Later that evening, as I inspected the heart, I wondered what the heck I should do with it. It served no purpose but felt too sentimental to throw away. Stumped, I did what any crunchy-mama-in-training would do: I turned to my local natural mama’s Facebook group for ideas. And ideas they had.
If you, my friend, find yourself in the possession of an umbilical cord (heart shaped or not) or an umbilical cord stump that you can’t seem to part with, consider the following uses, courtesy of the moms in my town:
1| Use it as a Christmas ornament
Whether you hang a hook on it to hang directly on the tree or stuff it in a clear glass bulb, using your baby’s umbilical cord as a holiday decoration is a great way to both celebrate Christmas and gross out friends and neighbors who inquire into your unique ornament.
2 | Frame it
If you don’t mind people asking what the heck is in the frame (or welcome the opportunity to talk about your beautiful birth) consider framing your baby’s umbilical cord. You can frame it on its own or in a shadow box filled with your baby’s other take-home items from the hospital.
3 | Display it discreetly
If you’d like to be reminded of how sweetly you talked to your belly on the days your toddler has you hollering before breakfast, consider displaying your baby’s umbilical cord as mantel art or as part of a larger, multi-umbilical cord art piece created from the cords of all your babies.
4 | Wear it
From breast milk to ashes, you can now have almost everything made into jewelry. Wearing your umbilical cord is a great way to stay connected to your pregnant self.
5 | Put it in the middle of a stuffed bear
Heartbeat bears often take a recording of those first dizzying thump-thumps and place them in a player inside a snuggly bear. Take your heartbeat bear a step further by adding the umbilical cord to the stuffing. When your kid grows up and moves away you can snuggle that bear close and remember that they were once little more than a beating heart and pulsing cord.
6 | Pass it onto your kid when they procreate
This is my current plan. The little heart will likely remain in sock drawer limbo for the next 30-odd years until my son decides to have a baby. At that point I’ll likely stuff it in the box of sentimental hand-me-downs I’ve saved for just as long and be glad that, finally, the cord is back with its rightful owner.