Thursday, November 02, 2006

Strange Fruit: The Rosy Afterlife of Two Placentas Buried in My Front Yard – Part One

*Welcome to my second post/stab at keeping up with the Fussy’s November NaBloPoMo bo-blog-nanza.

Two of the three placentas I generated while gestating are buried beneath the rose bushes in my front yard. Why?


a) I’m crazy about composting.
b) I have major attachment (or detachment?) issues.
c) I’m a brassy home-birthing freak of Mother Nature.
d) My triple Ziploc sealed placentas were rapidly defrosting in a cooler alongside cold cuts and juice boxes at a time when we had no freezer-fridge to stash them in. (Colossal food safety failure, I know. Join me in pointing the finger at my well-meaning hubster for this one. If not for him, I would have spaced it and left them behind to rot. Yuck.)
e) Burying them seemed like an out of the ordinary and fittingly bizarre way to christen our new house (and take a breather on a frenzied New Year’s Eve move-in day).
f) To pay a unique, unforgettable tribute to our youngest two children, who were both born in bed at home.

Pick an answer; They’re all true.

Well, except that I missed the entire placenta burying ceremony, which my husband drastically abridged and de-romanticized without asking me first, the one who manufactured both placentas in the first place. Basically, without meaning to, he stole my “moment” and turned it into an exercise in simply, unceremoniously dumping afterbirth biohazard.

After swigging a couple of Mike’s Hard Lemonades with my sister, my husband indifferently dug two holes, dumped my placentas into the hallowed out dirt and stuck two twiggy, pathetic looking, barely grown rose bushes on top. All while I slept on my side between unpacked boxes with my then 2-month-old daughter gulping away at my engorged breasts and my then 1-year-old son franticly twiddling my hair between his fingertips to fall asleep.


Yup, uninformed me Rip Van Winkled straight through the my husband’s deconstructionist take on a placenta ritual that I’d waited so long for, and eventually planned to soulfully detail in the pages of Mothering Magazine or another similar natural parenting periodical. (What? You don’t have any Brie to go with my whine?! Now I’m doubly disappointed.)

Before moving day, when we were still crammed into a sardine can of a third-floor apartment in the city/seashore, my placentas remained frozen stiff, sandwiched between a box of green tea mochi (crazy tasty Japanese ice cream balls encased in gooey rice flour) and a bag of shelled edamame (soy beans), awaiting their moment of crunchy-granola placenta glory.

Meanwhile, I daydreamed of finding a home big enough to house our family of five. It had to be small enough to be fairly affordable (c’mon, we’re talking Southern California 2003 here), far enough away from gang turf (again, c’mon, we’re talking Southern California here) and close enough to walk to an excellent kindergarten program (which we later passed up in favor of a private school we drive our son to every morning).

I had beef with my first placenta, the one that never made it beneath the now blossoming rose bushes in our front yard and probably ended up blended into an overpriced wrinkle cream. Instead, we buried a toy I can’t remember to honor our hospital-born first child, so he wouldn’t feel left out.

No, I don’t mean beef as in beef-placenta stew, which is an actual recipe, no kidding. My midwife sent me a recipe for placenta pate, again I kid you not.

Anyway, my first placenta, the one that accompanied my eldest son, The Maestro of Mouth, 5, was the subject of my multitudes of negative, depressed feelings at the time.

My first pregnancy was labeled high-risk the same day it was officially confirmed by the trusty gals at Planned Parenthood. It was a rocky nine months, marked by weeks and weeks of round-the-clock bed rest and constant worry that I might miscarry at any moment.

Many times I feared I’d flushed my budding baby down the toilet in a pool of blood and golf-ball sized clots. Paranoid, traumatic, volatile, unsupported and alone are the only words that come to mind when I look back on it. Maybe I’m not yet ready to rehash such an emotionally turbulent and physically trying chapter in my life.


During one of my half-dozen trips to the emergency room that pregnancy, a female doctor who seemed genuinely concerned told me I had a rare gestational condition called placenta abruptio (also sometimes called placental abruption). The condition can cause severe hemorrhaging, which often leads to the early termination of pregnancy and, in rare cases, maternal death. Medline Plus defines placenta abruption as “separation of the placenta (the organ that nourishes the fetus) from the site of uterine implantation before delivery of the fetus.”

Until I complete Part Two of this post (which will appear hopefully tomorrow if I’m the diligent NaBloPoMo-er that I hope to be) I leave you with my curiosity:

Where’s your placenta? If you gave birth in the hospital, do you ever wonder whether the staff disposed of it, shipped it off for medical research or hawked it to a comsmetic company? What’s the strangest placenta story you’ve ever heard? What do you think of women who do strange, creepy things with their afterbirth?


At 7:16 AM, Blogger Mad Hatter said...

If the "strange, creepy things that women do with their afterbirth" are writing about them so damn well, then I say let the placentas fly.

After popping out of me in a Halloweenesque squirt of blood that sprayed the obstetrician and Pollacked the hospital walls, my placenta was sent, I presume, to the incinerator. I do not mourn its loss. It was a bit of a clunker in the first place, leaving my daughter too skinny by far.

At 8:36 AM, Blogger Crunchy Carpets said...

Friends of our fed her placenta to the dogs...this was after much howling at the moon!

It was apparently a very 'dramatic' home birth witnessed and including their family of large dogs and various kittens and the rabbits that they USUALLY fed to the dogs.


I have no idea what happened to my first one.. I was drifting in and out of consciousness from massive blood loss.

The second one they showed me ...ya..looks like liver..and away it went.

At 11:41 AM, Blogger Little Miss said...

you know, i was just glad the placenta came out in one piece, no issues to worry about after my delivery (x3); i could just focus on my new baby (x3).

and i'm an anthropologist by nature. In many cultures around the world what you did (and what others have done) with their afterbirths are extraordinarily normal.

(how's that for an oxymoron?!)

I'm just sorry your "moment" was nipped in the bud.

At 11:53 AM, Anonymous Hubster said...

I hope that now that she has written about it, she will finally stop reminding me every time I prune the rose bush that I "stole" her moment and that I failed to communicate or ask her where she wanted them buried and what she wanted to plan on top. Look, ice was melting causing the frozen bags of flesh to move closer and closer to the Rolling Rocks and the wife’s cheese (which see would defend with her life). With the commotion of moving, kids running every (nieces/nephews included) I had to make an executive decision. Keep the beer contamination free. I mean really, its strange enough wanting to keep the soft red egg shell, stranger yet is keeping it in the freezer, and quite frankly it was just too damn cultish to have a burying event for this piece of bio-hazard. From my stand point, the justification is that I am a concerned citizen who is responsible enough to know that you can’t just toss a bio-medical waste in the trash. So using it as fertilizer for the roses is just being practical, making it a ceremony and/or event is bit too tribal for people who drink bottle water.

So there is my side, regardless, my memory may not be the best, but this is one thing she is not letting me forget. So please, let us hope that it has now been purged from her system and it can remain buried for good.

At 5:01 PM, Blogger AtYourCervix said...

Where I work, we simply throw the placentas away in biohazard trash, which is incinerated.

As for me personally, I didn't do anything with my first two children's placentas (hospital births, when I was a teenager), but I took home my 3rd child's placenta (hospital birth, totally unmedicated), and we buried it in her grandparents' backyard. I also made placenta prints before we buried it :-) And yes, I took pictures of the burying ceremony.

Someday, I'll post my prints and pictures ;-)

At 4:26 PM, Anonymous frectis said...

Where’s your placenta?

My placenta was discarded sometime shortly after my birth in 1969 ;) My first baby's placenta was tossed in the hospital in '95. The next three babies were home births in '97, '99, and '00. I had all of their placentas up until our move from SoCal to the Rockies in '03 where they were stored temporarily in my mother-in-law's freezer. The day after my husband left her on a visit and the day before I arrived for a visit, she threw them away to make room for restocking the fridge. Sniff. I saved them all that time looking for the perfect place to plant them and they were tossed.

Sorry about blowing the blogging thing ;) My midwife in SoCal was Lorri Walker (of Irvine). Who was yours? Maybe I can get a job with her when I move back ;)

frectis, the midwife

At 4:30 PM, Anonymous frectis said...

What’s the strangest placenta story you’ve ever heard? What do you think of women who do strange, creepy things with their afterbirth?

Ps: the midwives around here regularly dry them out and encapsulate them for their clients to ingest. (I don't.) I've heard of placenta smoothies, in eggs, in lasagna, in stew...

At 4:21 AM, Blogger mad muthas said...

i dunno what happened to the twins' (and my) placentas - i was stoned and i missed it. but did you hear about the tv chef in the uk, hugh fearnley-whittingstall (sp?), who prepared a casserole from one on tv and served to a load of people at a party celebrating the birth of the baby involved? unsurprisingly, there were some complaints! here's the link:

don't know if that will work for you. if not, let me know and i'll email it to you.

At 4:27 AM, Blogger mad muthas said...

sorry - it was actually made into pate and served on toasted foccacia! even better. seems some of the guests were less than enthusiastic, but the baby's father had 17 helpings!

At 3:46 PM, Blogger me2cali said...

My post is multi-parted.
1. Yes, I threw back a few Mike's with your hubbie. I was standing in the front yard with him when he seemingly randomly started digging under the windows. He seemed as if he was on a timeline. He was franticly digging away. (I was unaware that he was trying to save the Rolling Rock.) So, I was a bystander, but I was not an accomplice. I had no idea what he was doing. I was merely trying to sneak a smoke with my bro-in-law.
I remember the night well. It was one of the quietest yet most memorable New Years Eves I ever had! I think we polished off a few bottles of Champagne. The glasses hadn't been unpacked yet so we just swilled out of the bottles while sitting in the driveway on the removed back seat of the minivan. My hubbie broke out a fire pit and your hubbie dragged the TV out and plugged it into a very long extension cord.

2. The story of my first placenta was a tragic one. Apparently the placenta had some attachment issues. And I, like you, had a pregnancy & birthing experience that is still painful to think about and kept me from having a second child for 6 long years!
Anyhow, shortly after the smart, stunning and always sassy Ms. Mini Mom (we'll call her Minnie) was born and brought home we had to admit her to NICU. She had some unknown sleeping problem where she wouldn't wake for days, not even to eat (how can I get that?). Once Minnie was able to come home again I kept cramping, bleeding and passing big blood clots, which I was told was normal. This went on for weeks until finally 6 weeks after Minnie was born my doctor did an ultrasound & told me “I had a hunk of junk in my trunk” and that I needed an emergency D & C to remove it. The placenta that I never saw in the hospital (but certainly felt coming out) had partially hidden out in my uterus for 6 WEEKS! Yuck! I heard it being sucked out in the OR, so I knew it was gone for good! Thank God, because I didn’t want it anymore.

3. When my second daughter was born (we’ll call her Princess Mayhem) I vaguely remember seeing a glimpse of a red bloody thing but that was it. As long as it wasn’t clinging to my insides for dear life, I didn’t care what happened to it!


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