Topic: Health

Image to raise awareness on traditional Māori birthing practice

By Mere McLean

An image showing a newborn baby next to his placenta promotes the correct way of birthing according to Māori midwife Lisa Kelly of Ngāi Tai.  The photo taken by Brisbane-based photographer Emma Jean Nolan has gone viral after she posted it on Facebook.

It's an image that has gone viral to the surprise of the photographer whose image is honouring the traditional Māori way of giving birth.

Nolan says, "We had talked a lot throughout her pregnancy about Māori tradition and about what she was going to do with her placenta, so that's why when she hopped up after having him and hopped in the shower I prepared that photo for her."

Māori midwife Lisa Kelly, who is based along the East Coast, supports what the image promotes but says it's a personal decision to show the placenta.  

Kelly says, "I did think that it was a beautiful image but perhaps not one I would put up (online), I guess that being the whenua is tapu and it belongs to that baby and woman, but it is theirs and she wanted to show it."

Baby Harper is the fourth child of New Zealander Jolene Spies and her husband who is based in Brisbane, the image promotes a normal theological birth.

Nolan adds, "We all had that connection with our placenta, we all have that connection to our ancestors and our land and the other important thing for us was to show what a normal theological birth looks like.  

Normal theological birth is something Lisa Kelly supports but acknowledges for most Māori we regard the placenta very sacred.

Kelly says, "The issue of whenua being tapu is like a personal or more of a side issue and I didn't really think about that when I saw it.  To be honest I was really taken back I do see a lot of things like that quite a lot on facebook, but actually not so up close and personal."

Photographer Emma Jean Nolan will be touring New Zealand later this year to work on a project concerning birthing but for now her photo continues to go viral on the internet.

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