Taking the First Turn - Bringing Placenta Encapsulation to Southern Kentucky
Sometimes you have to take the first turn.
5 years ago I stumbled upon the art of placenta encapsulation and I was curious to say the least. I did some research and found the closest specialist was (at the time) 130 miles away. I wrote her and asked if I could come visit and without hesitation she invited me into her home. With no lack of generosity she welcomed me to Louisville and showed me her setup, explained the process, lead me to credible training and spoke of the ins and outs of the business. When it was all done I went straight home to Southern Ky and signed up for the Placenta Benefits training. That woman, Katherine, started me down this path with her graciousness and hospitality for which I'm very thankful.
When reality sets in.
The training was detailed and took a few months to complete and as a newly trained placenta encapsulation specialist (PES) I was ready to take on four to five local clients a month. That goal felt justified as I considered how many people birth in Southern Ky every month and I'm only asking for a handful to sign up for my services. The following year I encapsulated a whopping 1 placenta in Southern, Ky. The rest were in Nashville under a successful doula and childbirth educator who didn't have time to provide postpartum products for all her clients. The reality of what I had taken on started to set in. The next year was a little better, but still only 10 local clients in an entire year.
Pounding the pavement.
I was tired of traveling one to two hours away to reach the families' homes and decided I had to educate people locally on my newest venture if it would ever be successful. I started pounding the pavement, so to speak, setting up informational booths every where I could and spreading the word of placenta benefits. I did food safety training and shouldered the responsibility of explaining to health professionals & health department employees what I was doing. I had people LITERALLY jump back from my booth at health fairs when they realized what I represented. I heard gagging, choking and obscenities. Some people showed interest, but after spending countless time answering all their questions on cost, procedure and training I would lose them.
Lessons in advocacy.
I worked tirelessly to advocate for the local moms who did want to obtain ownership of their placenta by providing professional information, liability release forms and educating them on their rights. I once had to spend 24 hours talking to hospital administration & nurses trying to help a mom regain ownership of her own placenta while it was still viable to encapsulate. Once we were done respectfully discussing the situation she was able to take her placenta home and the hospital felt comfortable with the release of liability. The most rewarding detail was shortly after this incident a training was held to educate the staff on handling this situation in the future.
All the pieces fit together.
I knew if I stayed professional, respectful and worked hard it would all pay off one day, but at times it was hard to believe. I also knew at this point I had a baby of my own on the way and desperately longed for a payoff to my 2 years of investment before the arrival of my daughter. Then one day I had a stranger call me and say, "I want to book placenta encapsulation". I responded, "Deposit is $100". And that was it; I had a local client. Then in the same month 2 more people called. Over and over the same simple conversation occurred. By the end of 2014 I had encapsulated for 24 LOCAL clients. All the pieces suddenly fit together as my education, advocacy and word of mouth from clients started opening people's eyes to the benefits of placenta capsules.
Where I stand now.
Today I don't even advertise encapsulation services and I on average encapsulate 3 times a month. I don't push encapsulation on anyone (especially my students) and I don't teach about it in my evidence based Lamaze childbirth education course because the science is honestly still out. Centuries of Traditional Chinese Medicine and the benefits I've witnessed in my clients have made me a believer. What I know is that in these tiny pills women are finding comfort, emotional support and energy boosts that get them through the dark days of postpartum. Women I serve have seen their milk supply regulate and found breastfeeding easier with than without. I have clients who use capsules for stressful days long after their baby has grown. Moms rave about the energy they feel and a calmness their capsules & tinctures give them, but to me there is something more important.
What I know is in the tiny pills women are finding comfort, emotional support and energy boosts that get them through the dark days of postpartum.
It is also about ritual. We have removed all ritual from postpartum! What if we served the new mom, presented her with beautiful keepsakes and medicines from the placenta she grew. What if we annointed her feet with warm oils and sealed her healing body with a herbal bath and belly binding ritual? What if we praised HER for the amazing feat she just did instead of giving all the glory to her care providers? If we could find a way back to those postpartum practices mainstream acceptance of encapsulation could be a brick in the path.
When it is someone else's turn.
Recently network Doula and Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC) Amanda Woolen informed me she would be following in my footsteps by training as a PES herself. My first reaction was excitement to not be in it alone. To finally have a back up PES and someone to send overflow to sounded like a relief. Then to know she was going through the same detailed training and using the same process made it even easier to be enthusiastic. Fast forward a few months after her training finished and a proud moment for me occurred. Just months into her journey she had already booked several clients and was walking right up to L&D picking up placentas with no problem or concern.
It is silent moments like this that nobody can see or hear where I'm repeatedly grasping the truth that birth work is all about creating opportunity for likeminded women, thinking in abundance and taking your turn within the sisterhood.
For a second I felt a tinge of jealousy that it had been so easy for her, but then I meditated on the truth that it wasn't my turn anymore. I took my turn, I laid my work out and the fruits of that labor aren't just for me. Amanda's own professionalism, entrepreneurial spirit and people skills play a big role in why she found success in a short time and the purpose of this blog isn't to take any of that away from her. What I'm looking to open up and share with you all through this story is It is silent moments like this that nobody can see or hear where I'm repeatedly grasping the truth that birth work is all about creating opportunity for likeminded women, thinking in abundance and taking your turn within the sisterhood. Together we we are fighting battles for local families and no one is keeping score. The big picture is one day a new network member is going to walk in fresh out of CLC training and be slammed with breastfeeding consults even though for Amanda it was a lot of hard work building the name and reputation she has as the local face of breastfeeding support. That future CLC will have Amanda to thank and for that reason I hope I can exhibit the same graciousness that Katherine gifted me and I know Amanda will gift future members.
I haven't always gone first.
I have not always gone first. In fact the reason I can find confidence and joy in creating opportunity is that many women have created space for me. Doulas before me did the hard work of going first so when I stepped in it was much more manageable and straightforward. Lamaze educators decades before me paved a path for me that has made my journey a smooth one. Truth speakers have spoken up about normalizing breastfeeding and taken the edge off for me. Meanwhile community leaders have gathered wounded women to share their pain so when I speak of obstetric violence it is more widely accepted. I'm forever thankful to the birth warriors who took the first turn, did the hard work and demonstrated to me thinking in abundance.
Did you choose to have capsules made from your placenta? How was your experience? Do you recommend the process to your friends and family?
If you are interested in learning more about Placenta Encapsulation please feel free to contact me or reach out to Amanda.