by LINDY ALEXANDER
I have a placenta in my freezer.
It’s been there since the birth of my son in February. I had to sign it out of the birthing centre, and then it was officially ours. We took the placenta (I never know if I should refer to it as my placenta or my son’s?) home in a bright yellow bag with the words “biohazard” written firmly on the side. I wrapped it in a black garbage bag and put it in the freezer. It was at that point that I started to wonder what I had done.
While I was pregnant I read that in many cultures it’s customary to plant a tree (usually a fruiting one) in honour of a new baby. I had given some of my friends fruit trees as gifts for their new arrivals, as I love the idea of giving something that wouldn’t outgrow in a season, but rather that would track nature’s seasons and grow as they grew. And it seemed logical to my pregnant brain that I wanted to give the placenta to the earth to nourish the roots of a tree. If we end in the ground, why not also start there?
It seems the world can be divided into 2 groups of people; those who are horrified by having anything to do with the afterbirth and those who are open to the idea of signing out a dinner-plate sized biohazard, and bringing it proudly home with the baby.
I was in the latter group but now find myself wincing when I go to the freezer having to lift out the black garbage bag to get to the frozen peas.
I’m not sure why I’m queasy at the idea now, but the idea of defrosting the placenta (and do I defrost it on the bench or in the fridge?) and looking at it for the first time since the birth fills me with dread. Perhaps because in the height of labour and the birth, and even in the days following, I felt like a lioness. Powerful and primal. The blood and guts were all part of it.
Now, 11 weeks on I’m less primal and more prim.
I saw one of the midwives down the street the other day. I told her about the frozen bag in the freezer. She told me that her daughter’s placenta had remained in their freezer for seven years. A near miss when her husband was preparing a BBQ one weekend was the impetus she needed to finally plant it.
Though some people do eat the placenta after the birth, the idea of my partner accidentally serving it up to unsuspecting guests was enough for me.
This weekend I’m going to dig a hole and put in the placenta. On top of it we’re going to plant a barberry tree. The very tree that (in Spanish) my son is named after.
We’ve posted before about those who actually eat the placenta after birth – in fact, an easy to swallow placenta pill has even been created, using just the placenta and a few handy kitchen tools.
Lindy is a social worker and PhD student. She is also writing her first book based on her experiences living and volunteering in rural Uganda.
What do you think about taking the placenta home? Have you done it? Would you do it?