The ceremonial cutting of the umbilical cord was once a mandatory step in the delivery of a child. The baby’s parent or another important family member would grab a pair of medical scissors and snip the final physical connection between mother and baby.
Now, though, more and more expectant mothers are bucking tradition in favor of welcoming their babies with an all-natural birth. Vanessa Fisher went so far as to skip the cutting of the cord in favor of carrying her son’s placenta attached for more than a week – but she had her reasons for doing so.
On April 25, 2017, Fisher and her husband Nick made an announcement via Facebook: they were expecting. “The best birthday gift I could ever give my beautiful and amazing wife,” Nick captioned an image of their positive pregnancy test next to a fish bowl, a play on their shared last name.
Five months later, with their older son in tow, the couple jetted off to Hawaii to make another announcement: they were going to have another boy. Even with their gender reveal complete, though, there would be even more preparations before the baby arrived in January of 2018.
That’s because there would be a new birth plan this time around. Fisher researched natural methods for child delivery and quickly found herself drawn to a non-traditional, yet increasingly popular one: lotus birth.
Parents who opt for a lotus birth do not clip their child’s umbilical cord in the tried-and-true way. Instead, they leave it and the placenta attached until the cord dries and breaks from the newborn’s body. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s a method that has become a point of contention for some medical professionals.
Without research or medically proven facts on lotus births, many doctors advise against it. Dr. William Schweizer spoke to Live Science on the topic. “The placenta is dead tissue and because of this, the blood in it is prone to bacterial overgrowth,” the New York University Langone Medical Center ob-gyn said. “[Risks mostly] center around a concern for infection in the placenta, which can spread to the baby.”
On the other hand, Fisher’s research had uncovered stories of mothers who had “left the cord attached for several minutes or hours after birth to allow for the placenta to stop pulsating,” she told the Daily Mirror. “This would ensure there was time for a full placental blood transfer to the baby. Taking that idea a step further was the lotus birth.”
At the very least, research has shown that delayed clamping of the umbilical cord does have health benefits. As the placenta pulses, it delivers a bit more blood to the baby. This can make up more than 30 percent of a newborn’s total blood volume, an added protection against anemia in infants.
Even without scientific backing, Fisher thought an all-natural lotus birth would be the perfect fit for her second son’s arrival. “The idea really resonated with me because I was already set on embracing a very natural approach to this pregnancy, and cutting out any unnecessary medical interference was important to me,” she said.
On top of that, Fisher admitted that the birth of her first son wasn’t anywhere close to her expectations. In fact, she told the Daily Mirror that her hospital experience was disappointing, so she wanted to try something new. The only thing left to do, then, was to alert Nick and the rest of her family of her choice.
“In the beginning, my husband was surprised by the idea, but supportive nonetheless,” she said. “Other family members were not fond of [it]. I think that the most reluctance stemmed from the fact that it was unfamiliar. Their arguments included the placenta is definitely unattractive and the placenta being attached would require that they be even more careful with the baby.”
But, for Fisher, the arguments against her proposed birth plan weren’t enough to sway her. In fact, she simply believed it was tradition that prevented her family from seeing the other side. “Unorthodox is difficult for people to conceptualize,” she said. “We stick to what we know without much consideration for the alternative.”
Fisher remained steadfast in her resolve, so, when she gave birth to her son Ashton Nathaniel on January 16, 2018, she forewent the ceremonial cutting of the cord. Instead, her baby’s cord and placenta remained in place, and she washed the latter and sprinkled it with salt, lavender and rosemary.
From there, Fisher said everything went as planned. First, the baby’s umbilical cord became “dry and brittle like a twig.” Then, after five days of carrying Ashton’s placenta around with him in a fabric pouch, his mom said the cord finally snapped.
Still, a small piece of his umbilical cord remained attached to his belly button. “On day nine, the remaining piece […] detached from the navel,” Fisher said. Even better news was that “it didn’t cause infection or discomfort to the baby,” according to his mom.
In fact, the Fishers believed that their birth plan had soothed their youngest son’s transition from womb to real world. “Emotionally, lotus birthed babies tend to be more serene and peaceful,” they wrote in a Facebook post.
Of course, every mother’s birth plan will be different – and everyone who hears Fisher’s story will have their opinions as to what she should or should not have done on the day she delivered Ashton. To her, though, the whole thing was perfect.
“Whether the cord is cut or not, it detaches naturally,” she said. “An old saying, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ comes to mind when I think of the lotus birth. None of the process requires prompting, all of it was beautifully orchestrated.”
Fisher also said, “There was absolutely no flaw in the way that God designed any part of the process from conception, to delivery to breastfeeding.” Furthermore, in order to complete the all-natural cycle of her son’s lotus birth, she said she and her husband planned to bury the detached placenta.