So, you've already got your labia jewelry—where do you go from there? Well, if you've recently given birth (or are planning to in the near future), a recent trend suggests you might want look towards umbilical cord jewelry, as the New York Post reported last week. Yes, really.
Umbilical cord jewelry is exactly what it sounds like, and there are multiple jewelry designers out there providing the service.
Ruth Avra, 39, a classically trained metalsmith and jeweler, tells SELF that she started making the jewelry in 2012 after the birth of her son.
Avra's friend gave her the stump of her baby's umbilical cord in 2011, and "she asked me to make something out of it, but I had no idea what to do," Avra says, so she just held onto it. Then, once her son was born, she looked at his stump next to the one her friend gave her and "instantly knew what I needed to do." She was particularly struck by the differences between the two, she said, which required her to think beyond her metalsmith training and get creative about turning them into jewelry. "These are really organic pieces—no two are anywhere alike," she says.
After making one into a necklace for herself and one for her friend, "suddenly I was making them for all my friends," she says. She now sells them online and has since expanded her range to include jewelry made out of baby teeth, baby's first hair clippings, hospital bracelets, and cremated ashes.
Nianna Rodriguez, 28, had a similar idea about five years ago. "I sort of wanted to make something for myself after I had my first daughter," she tells SELF. And after a period of trial and error, Rodriguez says she finally found a technique that worked. From there, she sharpened her skills and started selling them online alongside other "inclusion" jewelry and homemade soap made from breast milk. "My mom actually does the soap, cold processed the old fashioned way," she says.
The jewelry may not be for everyone—and that's fine!—but it can also be an incredibly special piece for others.
"The reason I wear my son’s and my daughter’s, the reason I make these, it's literally the connection between mother and child," Avra explains. "It's how your baby gets nourishment, how your baby grows—it's the literal and figurative connection between mother and child. And once it falls off, the physical connection is gone."
The umbilical cord is something that many parents hang onto without really knowing what to do with, she says. And rather than letting it sit in a baby book on a shelf for decades or in a box somewhere, why not turn it into something more interesting?
Similarly, Rodriguez says her project came out of her desire to have a "personal keepsake to remember that season of life of having little kids and barely having the time to shower." Many of her customers simply want to honor their baby or their pregnancy, she says. And for those who had a challenging pregnancy or whose babies were stillborn, the jewelry can be an especially meaningful symbol.
If you're interested in creating jewelry out of your baby's umbilical cord stump, you don't really need to do anything special other than keep it in a safe place.
During pregnancy, the umbilical cord is the path by which you supply your baby with nutrients and oxygen. But once your baby is born, they don't need it anymore, so it gets clipped and snipped, leaving behind a little stump.
After giving birth, it's important to clean and care for the umbilical cord stump according to your ob/gyn or pediatrician's directions while it's still attached, Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., an ob/gyn at Yale-New Haven Hospital, tells SELF. That usually means keeping the area dry and clean, which may be easier with sponge baths, the Mayo Clinic says. Eventually, the stump usually falls off on its own between one and three weeks after giving birth. And although it's best to let it fall off on its own when it's ready, you can help it along by exposing it to the air to dry it out.
But, from there, you really just need to hang onto it if you'd like to some day turn it into jewelry. Avra and Rodriguez both say they've been impressed with how long the stumps stay usable. Rodriguez says she's used one that was 17 years old, and Avra says she's used ones 20 years old. So your child's birth doesn't necessarily have to be recent for you to get your own unique keepsake.