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This Viral Photo Of A Baby With Its Placenta Sheds Light On Different Birth Rituals

"Maori tradition of returning the placenta to the earth is a beautiful way of honoring the placenta that gave us life."

Photographer Emma Jean Nolan posted this picture of a young baby's umbilical cord spelling out "love," which has been shared more than 1,000 times.

Nolan, who is based out of Brisbane, Australia, is a midwife. While on maternity leave, she took up studying photography and turned it into a second career photographing families with newborn babies.

Emma Nolan

She told BuzzFeed that her passion for working with birthing women has branched out into maternity, newborns, and family.

On Jan. 2 she uploaded this photo she took of young Harper Hoani Spies, who was born to Jolene and Johann Spies of New Zealand. The photo features Harper attached to his placenta with the umbilical cord spelling "love."

Facebook: emmajeanphotographictales

Nolan photographed Harper in the position to highlight Maori birthing traditions, which she explained in a Facebook post:

Welcome earth side sweet little Harper

As a Maori baby his placenta will now be returned to the land.
The word 'whenua' relates to the placenta and to the land. Whenua (placenta) is returned to the whenua (land) with the pito (umbilical cord) the link between the newborn and papatuanuku(mother earth). With this affinity established, each individual fulfils the role of curator, for papatuanuku (mother earth), which remains life long.

(info credit to

How did you honour your placenta?


Commenters reacted positively to the photo, remarking on its beauty.

Others have shared stories of how they've buried their own placentas.

Nolan went on discuss the significance of the practice.

Maori tradition of returning the placenta to the earth is a beautiful way of honouring the placenta that gave us life. I think that the Maori people have a much stronger connection to their ancestors and the land through this and other traditions. There are many other cultures around the world that also practice this tradition.

I think it is important for people from Western cultures to see this as we are so disconnected from ourselves, our ancestors and the land which is evident through our continued disregard for the earth.

Emma Jean Nolan

She added what she wants people to take away from the photos.

I hope that people will have a new respect for the beauty of life in its raw form and perhaps appreciate the placenta that kept their child alive by honouring it in some way. I also hope that it starts a conversation on physiological birth and optimal cord clamping due to its many proven benefits for the newborn.

Harper's placenta is set to be buried on his family's land to honor tradition.