When women give birth in Odense’s University Hospital, they get to add a leaf to a very special tree. This tree hangs on the wall of the labour and delivery ward, and upon leaving the hospital parents are invited to make their contribution to the tree. At the beginning of the year, the tree bears twelve bare branches, one for each month. Starting with the January branch, families who welcomed a little girl add a light green leaf to the tree. Little boys are represented by dark green leaves. Those babies who never opened their eyes become butterflies on the tree, proud red apples signify twin births, and for every home birth, the midwives add a flower.
When we left the hospital last July only 2 hours after the birth of our new son, I was in a daze after 15 hours of labour. It can feel abrupt to leave the place where you just had such a profound experience so shortly after it has occurred. When my husband placed our dark green leaf on the July branch, I felt like even though we were already leaving, we were part of something bigger, and my son’s birth would be symbolised here on this tree along with all these other beautiful children. And there were so many leaves and flowers and apples. Looking at the wondrous face of my baby, my heart broke for those mommies and daddies whose little butterflies were finding a symbolic place on this tree of life.
I think there are other labour wards in Denmark who also have trees of life. If you ever see one or add to one, you know what they are. Until then, stay well.
From Denmark with Love,