Courtesy of Sarah Smith
Sarah Smith, mom to Anahera, 2; New York City
I knew I wanted to give birth in my home country, although I've lived in the United States for 12 years. I am Maori, and I feel very connected to my land and culture. I wanted my mother to be with me. Plus, New Zealand has a more supportive health-care system for new mothers. So off I flew, eight months pregnant -- the cutoff to travel -- and I stayed for eight months before returning to New York.
It's Maori tradition to plant the baby's placenta on the land your ancestors came from, as a way to tie generations together. With urbanization, Maoris don't always follow this practice, but I'm lucky because my family still has some ancestral property. So, before I went into labor, I told the midwife that I wanted my placenta. The nurses gave it to me, and I kept it carefully wrapped up in newspaper and in a freezer by itself.
Our daughter Anahera was born at the end of November, and we planted the placenta at Christmastime. Some families mark the ground and others plant near a landmark, such as a tree. Often families plant all around the same tree. We decided to bury Anahera's placenta between a tree and another plant. I know where it is, but it's discreet.
The ceremony itself was quite private -- my mother, my partner, our baby, and me. We took turns digging the hole. I placed the placenta in a bowl I'd made from flax leaves that grew nearby and put it in the pit. Then we all touched the soil. Once it was buried, my mother said a prayer in Maori thanking our ancestors for her granddaughter. We sang and hugged. Now Anahera is connected to that land, even though she'll be raised on the other side of the world.