This is a story about how I went from being someone who had never heard of a placenta to being someone who ingested one…by accident. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Being pregnant taught me many things about my reproductive system that I had never thought about. It’s not that I had misconceived notions, I just had…no notions. Never given it a thought. The placenta was one of these things.
The placenta is not, as I had imagined when I was much younger, the same thing as amniotic fluid. I realized that I had never bothered to update my teenage understanding of this amazing organ until there was one inside of me, but once I got wise to what it really was – the source of nutrients and basically all bodily functions for the baby – I was amazed.
Many believe that the placenta, being so rich in all things baby and pregnant lady, is extremely beneficial to the mother if ingested after the birth of the baby. (Side note – did you know that after the baby is born you still have to birth the placenta? And that it feels like what I imagine running a marathon just to cross the finish line and find out you have to sprint a 5k would be like?). Though there isn’t much conventional scientific evidence proving that consuming the placenta does anything for momma, it’s definitely not hurting anyone, so I did want to give it a try. I only had things to gain: some say consuming it decreases propensity for postpartum depression and helps to regulate the general transition from beautiful pregnant woman lit from behind to sleep-deprived, milk-soaked, bat shit crazy new mother.
Well there are a few ways to ingest this magic baby maker. The one I was interested in was capsules. You take your placenta from the hospital, hand it over to the right person, and for the next few weeks take placenta pills. The other, less appetizing, was taking the placenta home and using pieces of it in shakes or juices. I was not warming up to the latter.
Unfortunately, after Noam’s birth, the hospital said they had to test the placenta for this or that related to the fact that the baby was born three weeks early. So I left without the raw material for my postpartum capsules.
As it turned out, my postpartum experience was emotional, exhausting, but pretty even-keeled for the most part. I didn’t find myself regretting too much not having tested out the placental benefits I had stood to gain, as I told some other postpartum ladies at a recent get together. We were at the midwife’s house, who had invited us all over to meet each other and share a bit about the first few months of motherhood. It was remarkably comforting to be around other new mothers, and the time was flying by as we ate snacks and drank fresh juice that the midwife had prepared from her fruit trees.
Her fruit trees AND…
“There’s a placenta in this juice!” she said incredibly nonchalantly after I had already drank half a cup. I froze momentarily, as did the other two women.
I had so many questions. Mainly, whose placenta was I drinking?
Responding to our outraged disbelief which she mistakenly interpreted as enthusiasm, the midwife explained that she had so many placentas preserved from the various births she had supervised that she often tried to incorporate them into her daily diet.
Coping with the idea that I was ingesting a random woman’s collection of hormones and nutrients and torn between finding the situation hilarious and repulsive, I decided just to finish my juice. I was, after all, halfway through anyway. Who says you never get a second chance?