My fiancé and I had a little bet going about how long I could keep a particular plant alive; a pink gerbera daisy that I had received it as a thank you gift. Since my track record for keeping plants alive is ridiculously poor, he likes to see how long I can go before a plant is dead. He likes to tell anyone who will listen about the summer when I wanted to start an herb garden. Within three weeks they had all died and I was forced to continue purchasing herbs at the store or using dried ones.
There is a lot of wonder and magic and amazing things that come with child birth. There are rituals and traditions that every culture and family holds dear, and these traditions vary from family to family, and person to person. This essay is not meant to offend anyone but just to offer my opinions on how I think I want my childbirth to proceed with regards to the placenta.
It seems that use of placenta post birth is becoming more common. It seems that more people are cooking it, preserving it in various ways and it appears that there is a growing market to have it turned into supplement pills to take post-natally, or to use it in various DIY art projects.
Here’s what I would like to say on this…”No. This does not appeal to me.”
I understand this is a personal choice every woman must make for herself, but I see the placenta as an organ that is used to nourish the baby, providing a safe site for nutrient and waste exchange between the mother and fetus’ tissue during gestation. Safe because if the mother and fetus’ blood where to mix directly it could cause immune reactions due to different blood types. The placenta allows the exchange to occur through diffusion and active transport (yup, whip out that 9th grade bio text if you don’t remember what this means) thus eliminating reactions that could occur due to differing blood types.
When the body gets rid of it after giving birth, I believe that is the body’s way of saying “I am done with this.” I believe that if we were meant to re-ingest placenta then our bodies would have been designed to have our reproductive system reabsorb the placenta cells and return the nutrients to our body through some sort of post-natal circulation system.
This is clearly not what happens and thus I want my placenta to be disposed of according to hospital policies. I have no problem with delaying cord cutting to allow the new born to take up some more nutrients from the placenta and in fact do plan on doing this, but again, that is the placenta nourishing the baby for a short time immediately after giving birth; it is not me saving it and ingesting it at some point in the future.
Now, one counter-argument I have heard to mine says that many animals immediately eat their placenta after giving birth so why not humans?
Here’s my response to that: There are a lot of things that animals do that I don’t do and I feel placenta eating is one of those things.
Here’s my logic on the issue, based on 2 reasons animals may eat their placenta:
1) It smells. It smells like blood, and vulnerability to predators. So by ingesting the placenta immediately animals are attempting to remove the evidence of a vulnerable baby animal near by. This makes sense so that the predators don’t come looking for an easy meal.
If there was the risk that immediately upon giving birth, birds of prey would start swarming the hospital to eat my baby and immediate ingestion of my placenta would keep them at bay, I would probably eat my placenta. But barring any immediate threats to my baby’s life that stem from me not eating the placenta this is not something I will do.
2) Nutrients: yes I will not there is protein, vitamins and iron in the placenta. Animals are taking this back into their body. But animals live in the wild. They are not in a hospital or a developed area where as an alternative to eating their placenta they can take vitamins and supplements or easily have a nutritious meal. Also when a human gives birth even if they are really exhausted they can have food brought to them. If an animal gives birth they may be really exhausted and hungry but they would have to hunt, or forage for food. I am guessing they don’t want to do that immediately after giving birth so naturally they eat their placenta to get a quick meal into them so they can take care of the baby.
I guess if I were in a situation where I might starve and be unable to care for my baby because there was no other food source available then I might eat my placenta to give me energy. But I live in Canada, a developed country with grocery stores and restaurants and ways to eat healthy food after giving birth without having to eat my body’s own organs. I also have a husband who can help and bring me food, as well as family and friends. Yes there are some pack animals that “help” raise the young, but in most of the animal (mammal) kingdom the mother raises the baby herself. .
Now with all that said, after I give birth, please don’t suggest various placenta preservation ideas. If I have low iron, I will take Iron Supplements. Not eat placenta tablets. If I have low protein I can have a protein shake. Not a placenta smoothie.
Another placenta option that seems to be also growing in practice is the “placenta as art” movement.
People think it is beautiful. And yes I believe that placenta is beautiful in the metaphysical, spiritual sense of “Oh this is the thing that allowed my baby to come into the world healthy and nourished” NOT in a “Let’s take artistic vintage photos of the placenta and post to instagram” or “let’s make a print of it on canvas” or “let’s turn it into a teddy bear.”
It’s an organ. If I am going to see pictures of placenta they better be in a medical text book or journal. Not, in the newsfeed for Facebook.
I don’t mean to offend anyone who does plan to incorporate their placenta into their lives in some way, this is just how I choose to give birth. It is between me, my husband and the medical practitioners working with us. Humans have come a long way in medical advancements and science. We have a much better understanding of how the body works. In primitive societies maybe eating the placenta made sense because of lack of medical therapies to help a woman recover and because if you live in tribal society animal predators may be attracted to the placenta and attack your baby, but for me with all the knowledge we have I believe there are other options to recover after birth so yah, I don’t plan on ingesting the placenta, or doing anything with it other than letting the hospital dispose of it in what ever way they see fit.
It seems that I have reached the point where my pregnancy is all consuming. Maybe I bring it on myself because it has been big part of my life for the last 8 months and as the pregnancy progresses it becomes more noticeable. Maybe it is due to the fact that this has been a particularly difficult pregnancy with issues and complications which disrupted my ability to continue my normal day to day routine early in the pregnancy. How was I supposed to keep up with weight lifting when at 9 weeks you are told not to do any heavy lifting for risk of a hemorrhage rupturing?
Last year at this time, I was actively training for 8-10 hours minimum a week to compete at a national level sporting event on the other side of the country. This year, I am actively spending what seems like 8-10 hours a week walking to bathrooms so I don’t pee myself.
Exhaustion from being so big and carrying so much more weight means that I no longer enjoy heading to a farmer’s market to get inspired in the kitchen with my husband. I would rather just eat something quick and easy that takes no time.
We used to watch the food network, get inspired and make our own versions. (It’s how I perfected my bacon-blue cheese guacamole dip). Now we watch the food network while we stare at whatever quick meal is in front of us. Likely picked because of it’s low probability of giving me heart burn or coming back up later.
I used to have discussions about what is happening in the world and kept myself informed. Now I have to put a reminder in my calendar that I have to vote in the Provincial Election this week. (It’s shameful to write this because I have a degree in Political Science but I have barely followed this election in Ontario).
I used to share interesting and thought provoking articles with my husband and talk to him intelligently about many topics — now I send him articles about how to time contractions, or what a baby’s poop looks like as he ages and his diet changes.
I understand that parenthood changes life. But I didn’t expect it so soon.
When I think of not waking up every day and going to work I get panic attacks. I have worked since I was 14 years old. I worked all through high school, held summer jobs, worked close to full time while in University and had a job lined up before I even finished my final exams.
For 14 years I have always worked.
The idea of staying home terrifies me. I know this little person inside of me will need me and I will be able to fill my days but I am terrified about going from a job that challenges my intellect and allows me to constantly learn and develop my skills to worrying about how much the baby has eaten and pooped and whether he is sleeping enough.
It doesn’t help that our society makes it seem like we need to do so much for the new arrival. That more and more of my house is becoming baby-fied. We got rid of an air hockey table to make room for a play pen, we converted our office into a nursery, which meant that the guest room became the guest room/office which meant that my arts and hobbies area of the guest room was disassembled and relegated to bins in our crawl space. My sporting equipment sits forlornly in another corner down there.
I look in my crawl space and see my golf clubs, my weights, my paint brushes and paint, canvases with unfinished paintings, my dragon boat paddle and to me I am not seeing my stuff, I am seeing myself and wonder when I’ll be back enjoying these hobbies?
Everyone says I should be happy and excited about this new chapter of my life, and please don’t get me wrong, I am, but is it so wrong that when I look into that crawl space part of me thinks that is my life in the corner of the crawl space and I wonder when we’ll be able to take it out again?
***** the below was added to the post after a night of reflection****
Perhaps the above was written in a particularly hormonal moment of my pregnancy and I assure you that I am more excited than depressed about this baby coming.
I heard from my Mom that she felt similar feelings when she was having a child. I think perhaps a lot of women go through a fear of losing their identity when a child is on the way and perhaps we don’t talk about it enough. I hope that others who feel the same way read this and know they are not alone.
My husband assures me that I am not losing my identity to my child but instead adding a new aspect to my already rich and diversified identity.
And that is a good thing.