umbilical cord boxes

Posted on February 29th, 2012 by mountain girl  |  9 Comments »

My latest project is painting umbilical cord burning boxes. That may sound just a little strange, but I can explain.

I am working with a midwife now. I do some art for her, and she visits me, talks about how the baby is growing, measures my belly, and does all the sorts of things a midwife does. I’ve never had a midwife before, but I love her visits. We listen to the baby’s heartbeat, she answers my questions (am I huge? am I having twins?) and gives me some nutritional and practical tips.

I really loved my 9 months carrying Zia with no prenatal checkups, and I loved having an unassisted birth at home. David delivered her, and my parents and Cindy were there to welcome her into the world.

I thought we would do it unassisted again this time, but after meeting Kristine (the midwife), I realized how much I would like someone along the way to talk to about my belly, my birth, and my baby. I think part of the difference is that it gets a little lonely up here in the mountains. And as much as I love being alone and tucked away at home with my family, there is something inside that switches on when I am pregnant. I want someone to notice how my body is changing, I want to connect with others who understand this wild thing called pregnancy, and I really want someone to see my beautiful baby and tell me how perfect she is.

And although my first choice would be having my family and close friends nearby, still, my midwife has so many things to offer–in a completely different way–that I am thankful for this new experience, in the absence of the people I’m familiar with.

So we worked out this plan where I do art for her in exchange for a percentage off her fees. It’s awesome how easy and flexible she is. Can you imagine bartering with a doctor for his services? Me either.

So right now, I’m painting boxes; and here is the story of those boxes.

As a midwife, Kristine traveled to developing nations to help with births. She ran a waterbirth center in Guatemala for 3 years, lived in Ghana, West Africa, for a year, and went to Thailand and Indonesia when the 2004 tsunami hit.

After the tsunami, the new babies were dying of tetanus. They were being infected by unsanitary tools used to cut and seal the umbilical cords. The midwives came up with a solution: using candles, they burned through a section of the cord.  It both severed the cord and sealed it shut. They did it by laying the cord across a box or bowl, holding a candle on each side, and letting the wax drip into the box.

The infections were stopped, and the cord-burning method has spread to other nations where it’s hard to get clean instruments. Another nice things is that there are no clumsy clamps or strings, and the cord dries up quickly and falls off in about 3 days.

Now Kristine always burns the cord, even here in the US. She uses wooden boxes made just for this; they have four notches for the cord and candles, and the wax drips into the box.

Although lots of people are fine with a plain box, Kristine wanted some with art on them. Some people like to keep the wooden boxes and the leftover candles, and some even light the candles at the baby’s first birthday. A beautiful box can be a special reminder of the baby’s birth.

Kristine has a website especially about cord-burning. You can read about the method, see pictures of how it is done, and even order a box.

I love painting these boxes. I have the first one finished, painted with a seasonal mountain theme, and I’ve started the second. I’m not sure what other kinds of art I’ll be doing, but so far, it looks like it’s going to be a sweet little job over these next baby-carrying months.

9 Responses to “umbilical cord boxes”

  1. Colleen Wickersheim says on :

    Mia, This is such a beautiful box!!!
    I didn’t know you were pregnant! so awesome! I am TOO with #3! I am having a boy and he is due mid June! How far along are you? So exciting!
    I have slowly been posting some of the things I am doing for my little guy and will be posting more of my projects soon.

    I actually stopped by your website to see if you saw this recipe that I just posted for a quick, easy, and healthy muffin! I just thought you might enjoy playing around with the recipe…. heres the link!

    I would love to know what you think of it!

    CONGRATS on your growing baby! I’m excited to read more about baby projects! =)

  2. mountain girl says on :

    Congratulations! Ours is due August 1st.
    And the muffin looks like just my style. I’ll try it with your applesauce or juice pulp addition!

  3. Mom, Dad & Makayla says on :

    hi honeeee……………LUV your pix and the stories and that you and lil Zia are sooooooo artsy!!!:):):) we ate lunch at La Paragua in Santa Cruz the other day (we paid $30 for two bowls of beans, nutty, right????) but the best part was they gave us some pear preserves ( a REALLY TINY LITTLE BIT IN A LITTLE TINY BOWL) and they were WONDERFUL – I think they would go great with Colleen’s muffins – we ate them with sopapillas and that was wonderful, too. WE LUV U GUYS/mom

  4. mountain girl says on :

    Sounds yummy! We should get some pears and try making our own preserves…

  5. Poco Mountain Girl » Blog Archive » boxes for haiti and uganda says on :

    […] painted a couple more boxes for my […]

  6. Poco Mountain Girl » Blog Archive » midwife box and carry bag says on :

    […] box belongs to my midwife. It was given to her after the 2004 Indonesian tsunami, where she was helping […]

  7. Poco Mountain Girl » Blog Archive » another painted box says on :

    […] midwife, Kristine, asked me to paint another cord burning box for a midwife she knows. Her favorite colors are purple and olive, and her logo contains lotus […]

  8. Poco Mountain Girl » Blog Archive » box for a midwife says on :

    […] been a while since I’ve painted a cord burning box.  I just did this one for a midwife in Indiana, and sewed up a batik bag to go with […]

  9. Poco Mountain Girl » Blog Archive » in the shop: hand hewn box for home birth says on :

    […] posted this new item in my shop–a handmade cord burning […]