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An Open Letter To My Placenta

By Jessica Dur Taylor
0-8Dear Placenta:

You might be wondering why, nearly three months after your birthday, you are still wrapped in that indelicate red plastic, frozen solid. Each time I fetch an ice cube, I feel a pang of guilt. You, the unsung hero of birth, nestled in between the Rocky Road and the Trader Joe’s meatless corn dogs like so many bags of peas! (Then again, you don’t see me using them for bicep curls, do you?)

It’s just that I’ve been way busier than I bargained for, what with all the cloth diapering and sling-wearing and breastfeeding on demand. Has my daughter (who owes her life to you, placenta) stolen your thunder? Well, obviously.

But today is your day.

For nine and a half months you held tight to my uterine wall, kept waste and nutrients flowing in all the right directions, and blocked the stray molecules of carnauba wax and yellow #5 from infiltrating my fetus’s bloodstream. Dang those rainbow sprinkles! You did exactly what you were designed to do, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

So why, given all your awesomeness, didn’t I just eat you outright? You were delivered by a midwife in a low-light room after 22 hours of excruciating “natural” labor. Surely you figured you were headed straight for a red wine marinade and the broiler. Or at the very least dehydration. And believe me, after hearing the horror stories of postpartum depression, of new greasy-haired moms hovering under the sheets with the curtains drawn, I seriously considered having you dried out and made into handy capsules, just in case I felt myself daydreaming about putting my baby in the freezer. Or worse.

But by the time we finally met, I was too exhausted to care what happened to you, placenta. Can you really blame me? I’m a woman of average size, even after forty pounds of pregnancy weight gain. So why did I grow a ten pound baby? (Okay, to be more accurate: why did we grow a nine pound, ten and a half ounce monstrosity?) Was it my daily froyo habit? All that grass-fed beef and Dino kale?

All I know is that after pushing for four hours, until my face was swollen and my hair nearly dread-locked, I could give a rat’s bung about imprinting you on acid-free paper, the way I’d once imagined. Was I expecting to be charmed by my baby’s first bedfellow? Did I think you’d make for some artsy photos, maybe inspire a multi-media collage? Perhaps. What I didn’t expect was something resembling a giant uncooked liver, better fit for a haunted house than a matte frame.

Still, heavyweight drippy squid creature or not, you never pulled any punches. I read the disquieting What to Expect When You’re Expecting (note to self: burn it), so I’m well aware of all that could have gone wrong. Even in my post-labor semi-alert daze I knew I couldn’t let you go the way of the hazardous waste bin. You faithfully delivered the antibodies that made one healthy, alert, dare I say it, exquisite little baby–naturally, I was in awe of you both. So I lugged you home, along with my unworn nightie and uneaten snacks, with benevolent, if cloudy, intentions. The last thing I wanted for you was freezer burn!

Have you heard that in some regions of Africa the query to a stranger is not “Where are you from?” but “Where is your placenta buried?” In fact, a quick Google search reveals that burying the placenta is de rigueur all over the world. Here in California, there are more than a few lemon and olive trees growing out of placental internments, I assure you.

And so. The hole has been dug. The cupcakes are cooling. You’re defrosting in the kitchen sink. Soon you will be released from your plastic prison and returned to your natural, gooey state. Time for one last look, cord and all. I may even snap a photo or two.

Since I’ve been flummoxed about what to do with the remains of my wedding bouquet, all dried out and crumbly, I hope you won’t mind me tossing that in as well. Somehow it seems appropriate—after all, that auspicious event did essentially lead to your creation. I’ve also gathered a few heavy rocks to place on top of the burial mound, just in case the neighborhood dogs come a-sniffin’.

As for what to plant on top of you, I’m thinking something low maintenance and hassle-free, like wildflowers. May you nourish them as you nourished my sweet baby girl, and may you rest in peace, placenta, at last.

Jessica Dur Taylor teaches college composition, writes about food for the Bay Area alt-weekly the Bohemian, and makes the most of her daughter’s nap time. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Stealing Time, Prick of the Spindle, The Mom Egg, Gloom Cupboard, Hip Mama online, and others. She lives in Santa Rosa, California.

Illustration by Christine Juneau

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