Whenua forest boost
A whenua forest growing on the Centre of New Zealand is about to get a boost in more ways than one this weekend.
Whenua is the Maori word for both placenta and land, and for the fourth time, families from around the region will be heading up the hill this Saturday to plant their children's placentas under native trees supplied by Nelson City Council.
A New Zealand first, the whenua forest is already home to about 210 trees planted on top of 210 placentas since the area was launched in 2008 after the death of Nelson midwife Lyndell Rowan.
Lyndell, 41, died without warning from a suspected brain aneurism leaving behind her husband Boaz Gabay, their son Antonio, who was 7 at the time, and two older children from an earlier marriage, Mani Rowan-Hagart and Chetonia Rowan-Hagart.
Friend and fellow midwife Suzi Hume said the whenua forest, which overlooks the Maitai, was set up as a memorial to Lyndell because it seemed the most appropriate way to celebrate and remember her life.
Suzi said burying the placenta was a sacred process in Maori culture, which had gone on to be taken on by many other New Zealanders. "By returning the placenta to the land, one is linking their baby to the land," she said.
Boaz said Lyndell could not handle the idea of placentas being tossed in the rubbish.
"She couldn't see how this complex life support system could just be thrown away," he said.
"She viewed the placenta as something that retained an element of the soul and thought it should be respected."
As a result Lyndell often offered to bury them for her clients and would bring the organs home.
"There were always plenty of placentas in the freezer," Boaz laughed.
Boaz and Lyndell were together for 11 years before she died. He said that in a way the whenua forest kept her alive, and he is convinced she would love it.
"She'd come here and she'd say: "Wow! It's beautiful."
Another reason Boaz loves the garden is that it reminds him how much Lyndell's midwife friends supported him after her death.
"Suzi Hume, Andrea Vincent, Aunouska Myer and Vicky Chamberlayne they're angels, that's the only way I can describe them," he said.
The whenua forest is on council land and is part of a reforestation project. Among the many small trees are three totara one for Lyndell, one for the council and one for local iwi.
Suzi said many placentas ended up in freezers some for years and the plantings gave people a chance to "liberate them".
"It is fabulous for the family to know they will always be able to visit the site where the planting happened because it is public land and we are lucky because locally it is in a location that means something to us all as the Centre of New Zealand is somewhere we all know and most of us have walked," she said.
This year's whenua or placenta planting takes place this Saturday, June 9. Everyone is welcome and anyone who wants to take part should meet at Branford Park's main car park, on the left going up the Maitai, at 10.30am.
The walk up the hill takes 20 minutes and plants are provided.
Info: phone Suzi on 546 7551 or firstname.lastname@example.org.