Why I Won’t Judge Women For Making Umbilical Cord Art

Photographed By Jennifer Avello.
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So apparently moms are making art using the umbilical cords of their recently-born babies. If you’d like to see examples, you are welcome to follow this link to a BuzzFeed story that aggregated several umbilical cord art images from social media (the reactions so far: 140 “Ews” and 92 “WTFs”). Look, I’m going to admit right now that I did not enjoy seeing those images — I’m a little squeamish, and I despise crafting. But I also couldn’t help but think about how much the last few months have changed my attitude toward this sort of thing. In the past, I probably would have felt judgmental of women who did this sort of thing and made fun of them for taking Pinterest a little too far. In fact, I remember when The Cut covered this trend a few months ago and I laughed so hard I nearly cried. But now, I get it.
The thing that changed me (in, ugh, so many ways) was a pivotal moment during my miscarriage in June — when I very unexpectedly saw the fetus, held it in my hands, and felt this strange but undeniable urge to do something with it. As I wrote last month, I wondered if I should touch it, keep it, or, yes, even photograph it. The truth is, I didn’t feel a strong emotional attachment to whatever human that fetus might have turned into had our fates followed a different path — I didn’t quite think of it as a person, or of my odd instincts as mourning rituals, exactly. Still, there was something about the material evidence of this, the most extreme physical experience my body had ever been through, that made it incredibly hard to just throw away.
I haven’t yet given birth, but I can only imagine that it can be equally hard to part with the physical evidence of that life-changing, life-giving experience — you (presumably) get to keep your baby, of course, but what about the rest of it? You made that umbilical cord and that placenta, it lived inside you, it provided nourishment to your tiny little human for months. It must be a hard thing for many women to see it all discarded as straight-up medical waste. Look: I am pretty confident that, if and when I successfully have a kid, I will not be making umbilical cord art, or doing anything with the placenta, for that matter. But I sure as hell can’t judge other women for doing it. I hope you won’t, either.

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