Rebecca Roosma creates art that celebrates and memorializes childbirth
By Adriana Camacho-Church
Four days after Rebecca Roosma gave birth in 2020, she took her placenta out of the fridge. It was in a large Ziploc bag.
Donning an apron, goggles, mask and gloves, she was ready to make art out of an organ that is usually discarded.
She carefully spreads out the placenta and the umbilical cord on a waterproof absorbent pad that sits on her sterilized kitchen counter. The placenta takes the shape of what looks like a tree with a full head of leaves and a trunk.
“I could see the little home he was living in,” Roosma says.
To create a color print of the placenta, she takes a Q-Tip dipped in aqua green food coloring to trace the placenta’s vein structure. To trace the veins in the umbilical cord, she uses a forest green color. She then places thick watercolor paper on the surface of the placenta rubbing it gently with her hand. Next, she carefully lifts the paper off — creating a print.
When dry, she frames the print and sets it on floating shelves above the rocking chair in her son’s nursery.
Giving birth impacts the body, mind, and spirit, and Roosma honors the experience of giving life and the organ that makes that possible by using the placenta to create art and postpartum remedies to promote physical and mental health.
“To throw it away is like you’re missing part of the birthing process,” she says. “Its healing benefits have been valued by ancient cultures all over the world.”
Roosma teaches visual arts at Odyssey Charter School in Wilmington and is one of two placenta artists in Delaware.
For the past eight years, the Wilmington resident has created numerous placentae prints and umbilical core keepsakes, such as dream catchers, for clients. She also uses the dehydrated placenta to make supplements, smoothies, including chocolate truffles. Roosma learned her craft while training to become a certified doula at the International Placenta and Postpartum Association in Philadelphia.
“I am passionate about making a birthing person’s labor, delivery, and postpartum experience the best it can be, and that led me to placenta remedies training,” she says. The training also included some artistic methods to pay tribute to this life-giving organ, including prints and umbilical cord keepsakes. As an art teacher, these really captured my imagination.”
Placentophagy (the practice of consuming one’s own placenta) is debatable. The internet is full of anecdotal placenta-eating stories, both positive and negative.
A 2013 study published in the British Journal of Midwifery states that although there are several credible theories — and mothers’ and midwives’ experiences support the practice —evidence is limited, dated, and inconclusive regarding the benefits of consuming placenta.
Meredith Boye says Roosma’s placenta supplements and other remedies have helped her with a quick and strong recovery. The chocolate truffles are one of Boye’s postpartum favorites.
Meredith and Eric Boye also opted for heart shape umbilical cords to commemorate the birth of each of their four children. Their eldest, who is eight-years-old, says he knows what the cord is used for. “The umbilical cord feeds the baby when the baby is inside of mommy’s tummy.”
Meredith says it’s pretty cool to have a visual reminder of how amazing the birthing process is.
Other parents like to choose a color scheme that matches their nursery decor, and many like to include the baby’s birth stats and a favorite quote in calligraphy.
“I’ve even made prints in a Finding Nemo theme (placenta made to look like a jellyfish) and Up theme (placenta made to look like a balloon) with quotes from the movies,” says Roosma.
So, how do birthing facilities release a placenta for transport?
Roosma takes the placenta home in an ice cooler if she is the parent’s doula. If she is not, she picks up the placenta from the hospital, birth center, or at the home.
“The hospitals usually have a waiver for the clients to sign, and they place the placenta in a lidded bucket with the client’s barcode on it,” says Roosman. “The birth centers secure them in biohazard bags for me. If you are having a home birth, [two] gallon Ziploc bags will work.”
— For more information about Rebecca’s placenta services visit: hatchlingsdoulaandplacenta.com