For many, the placenta is something that feeds their baby through to birth, but for the estimated 700 families who have chosen to plant their whenua on the Botanic Hill in Nelson it holds something much more special.
It was an emotional day for the family of Nelson midwife Lyndell Rown-Gabay as a plaque commemorating the community “whenua” planting site was unveiled on Sunday.
Lyndell died suddenly in 2007 and fellow midwife Andrea Vincent says, after her death, the New Zealand College of Midwives knew they had to do something to honour her memory.
“We thought, ‘how can we remember Lyndell, who used to sneak into parks like this and plant placentas’. It just seemed very appropriate”
They approached the Nelson City Council and asked them to provide an area for the planting.
“The site just seemed magical as soon as we stepped in, and we can keep planting for years to come. It felt right for us that the essence of Nelson babies re-grow Nelson,” says Andrea.
Nelson mother Felicity Yellin says she liked the idea of her son Noah always having a place to come that was his.
“It’s a beautiful community place and Noah can come here anytime and know that this is his tree, a strong totara, just like him.”
Deb Doherty was planting her second son’s placenta and says she first heard about the background of the plantings from her midwife.
“She told us the background behind it and I just really liked the idea of it. The thing that gave my son life, now helping to grow a tree.”
Lyndell’s husband Boaz Gabay says his wife had a great respect for the whole birthing process and she would often plant placentas.
“She had a very strong respect for tangata whenua’s customs and that’s where it comes from. She instinctively just couldn’t see placentas getting thrown into the incinerators in hospitals.
“The first time we did this the whole side of the hill was just grass and now it’s pretty much a forest. It’s amazing.”
Now in its tenth planting year, it’s estimated more than 700 whenua have been homed in the area.
Council’s contract supervisor Haidi Spence says that the site has created a very special memory.
“It’s also a chance to contribute something really special to the community. We’re really helping to create a thriving ecosystem up here which is something to be really proud of.”