The first moments of a baby's life are a whirlwind — so much is happening that it's almost impossible to stop and simply appreciate what has just happened. One midwife-turned-photographer, Emma Jean Nolan, took the opportunity to capture the awe-inspiring power of birth with a startlingly beautiful image. In it, a newborn baby is still connected to his placenta by his umbilical cord that is adjusted to spell out the word "love."
Her intention with the image of baby Harper, which was shot just 90 minutes after he was born last week, was to draw attention to an ancient Maori tradition of burying a newborn's placenta after their birth. Nolan wrote on Facebook:
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.
Interestingly, Nolan told us that she'd been planning to take a photo like this for a while but "was waiting for a baby with a long enough cord to spell" the word. She said, "Once I saw how long Harper's cord was, I knew he was the right baby!"
Although this method for honoring the placenta is rare in the US, the Australian photographer's black-and-white image has gotten more than 2,500 "likes" on Facebook in less than a week, probably because it shows readers — even moms — a sight they've likely never seen before: what is actually birthed when a newborn baby enters the world.