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The Story of Our Placenta

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The discussion of what we would do with our placenta began on our drive home from our second pre-natal class. During the first class, the teacher asked what we wanted to get out of the course; among “meet other new moms” and “feel prepared for labor,” one dad jokingly said “placenta recipes.” Sure enough, the next class, the instructor brought print-outs of recipes for Placenta Lasagna, Placenta Stew, Placenta Meatballs and so forth.

Driving home, my husband and I discussed that, no, we would not be eating our baby’s afterbirth. (He told me he almost accidentally ate his nephew’s, which his sister had put in the deep freeze and he mistook, understandably, for a roast.) Just search images of placenta and you’ll not only not want to eat one, you will likely lose your appetite for a few hours.

At a routine appointment, my midwife asked what we wanted to do with ours, and I told her I assumed we would say “thanks, but no thanks.” But when I later recapped my appointment to my husband, he revealed he had a change of heart and did want it. So at the following visit, I told my midwife that I was mistaken; we did in fact want the afterbirth.

Keeping the placenta seems to be rather trendy at the moment, with people opting to bury it, make it into art or jewelry, or have it made into supplements. I mention this to my midwife, who says that while it does have all the baby’s necessary nutrients, it isn’t the superfood it’s made out to be and I could get the same benefits from a chia seed, kale and fruit smoothie without the afterthought of how I’m basically swallowing an organ I grew.

Fast-forward to the big day: Labor is pretty standard at home and then the hospital. My midwife tells me it’s time, I give three pushes and the baby is out 10 minutes later. My husband cuts the umbilical cord, separating the baby from the placenta. The midwife gives me the syntocinon shot to help the placenta delivery get on its way and after a short time tells me to push. I read her expression and think I must not be pushing well. I try again; she gently tugs the umbilical cord and nothing. She explains that the placenta isn’t coming so she’s going to call the obstetrician in. The OB arrives wearing a surgical gown, with polar fleece jacket and gum boots visible beneath. (These rubber boots are rather fortuitous shortly after her arrival.)

She goes to work by putting a gloved arm up my hoohoo and begins manually scraping, like a kid digging in clay soil. Her other hand is on top of my belly, pushing the uterus from the outside to encourage contractions to help push the placenta down. Blood is gushing out with chunks of placenta. (My husband later compares it to gutting an animal.) I am offered nitrous oxide, which is quite pleasant, but unfortunately doesn’t eliminate the pain. It really, really, really hurts. More so than the human that just squeezed through there.

As one of the nurses goes to empty the pan that was collecting the gushed-out material (that wasn’t splatting onto the floor), my midwife says with scrunched up nose: “Oh, I think they want to keep that.” There must have been sizable afterbirth bits coming out. In gas-induced slow-mo, I turn my head to my husband, who is sitting in the corner, holding the newborn baby. The look of disgust is hardly concealed as he says, “No, that’s ok.”

After what feels like an hour of violent forearm foraging in my lady parts (but my husband says was probably 10 minutes), the obstetrician says it’s possible the placenta has grown into my uterine wall and if that‘s the case, she would need to perform a hysterectomy or I’d die from blood loss; I’d already lost 1.25 liters. I am wheeled into the operating room, put under anesthesia (hallelujah) and wake up a couple hours later to get the big reveal. Had they taken my entire uterus out? Could they get the placenta detached? Could they save a big enough piece for my husband to put in a plastic container to later bury, make supplements out of or perhaps lasagna?

The doctor comes into my hospital room and explains that an ultrasound revealed that the placenta was not attached, just stubbornly stuck and they were able to get it all out after a long bout of scraping with a second OB stepping in when the first was exhausted. There is no mention of the placenta; we could safely assume it had been disposed of in the hospital refuse.

I later ask my husband if he’s sad we didn’t get to keep it. “No, it was just something that was offered and it could have been special to plant a tree on top of it.”

Ah, so that’s what he wanted to do with it.

What did you do with your placenta(s)? And would you do the same thing the next time?

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