“Mr. Clunie, what would you like us to do with the placenta?”
“What would I like you to do with the placenta? I don’t know, how about you throw it away?”
I hadn’t prepared myself for nurse Weirdo’s reaction, or the doozie which followed: “Have you and your wife not made plans for her placenta?”
Long pause …complete with the world’s first visible, hovering question mark (over my head).
“OK then,” she said. “Let’s keep the placenta refrigerated until you’ve given this the attention it deserves.”
“Refrigeration? Well, our fridge is pretty jam-packed at the moment, what with leftovers and fruit and…,”
“No,” she interrupted. “Our refrigeration unit. We’ll keep it here at the hospital until you and your wife have thought this through.”
That was over six months ago, and for all I know, the leftover Clunie placenta is still sitting in their refrigerator – next to the nursing staff’s brown lunch bags, Greek yogurts, and odor-bustin’ Arm & Hammer baking powder (or is it baking soda?) Since then, I have learned a few things about placenta. Not by researching or asking medical professionals questions, but by creating a sort of mental collage via things I hear on the subway, in chat rooms…etc…
Here’s what I DO know: People plant placenta under trees. People keep placenta at their bank. People actually eat placenta.
I swear on my wife’s now nicely-chilled placenta which (assuming a hospital staffer hasn’t snagged the wrong lunch – is still in their fridge), I am not making these things up. Especially this very very hard-to swallow (gag) last one.
First, let’s talk about the planting of placenta under trees, and why the hell anybody would ever do that.
PLANTING PLACENTA UNDER TREES
Apparently, ancient cultures believed that putting placenta near a freshly-planted tree or shrub would result in a baby tree (or shrub). Obviously, this is totally ridiculous and stupid but let’s face it; nobody knew anything about anything in this world until around 1972, so it’s really not that surprising, is it?
Also, some people place their placenta underneath fruit-bearing trees to take advantage of its supposed nutrients, or fruitrients. So, if you have a cherry or carrot tree, try sticking some placenta underneath it. However, for the sake of your friendships and overall reputation as a sane, non-disgusting person, do not serve people outside of your family these placenta-based foodstuffs. If, somehow, somebody does get a mouthful of your “product,” keep it to yourself. They don’t need to know. And believe me, they certainly don’t want to know.
Since we’re on the subject of actually ingesting one’s placenta, albeit in a roundabout, placenta-seeping-into-a-fruit-bearing-tree-roots kind of way, let’s move on to the next gruesome placental pastime.
ARE YOU GOING TO EAT THAT?
YOU’RE NOT GOING TO EAT THAT, ARE YOU?!
YOU ARE?! YOU FUCKING SERIOUS!? YOU ARE, AREN’T YOU?
Yep. People eat placenta. They really do. It started thousands of years ago when, generally speaking, people would eat their own head to get a meal. Back then, food was super scarce. Remember the Charlie Chaplin film in which Chaplin cooks up his own shoe and proceeds to eat it? Well, that film, at the time, was meant to be an educational, how-to type of film. Only in the last forty years did this film cross over into comedy land.
ANYway, back then, because of this rampant hunger, it was not unusual for a person to ingest placenta. Yum.
Today, we go about the consumption of placenta in a slightly less hideous way; the most common method being the encapsulation of dry placental powder (see inset photo). Some, more adventurous cannibals, cut small pieces of the placenta from the main blob, and cook with it as they would with chicken, beef, or hot dog weenies.
Again, it is best to keep these culinay proclivities to yourself, as some people might go as far as to consider eating placenta to be an act of cannibalism. But if you think about what cannibalism really is (the eating of some other dude), the term cannibalism is not entirely accurate.
Consider, if you will, that if you’ve decided to eat your baby’s leftovers, you are actually eating something which is half you, and half your kid. So technically, it’s cannibalism plus autocannibalism. Again, refer to the helpful inset illustrations if this is still unclear.
“HI…I’D LIKE TO MAKE A DEPOSIT”
And finally, there’s the storing of your placenta at the bank. I personally find it amazing what the banks are able to do these days. I recently deposited a check into an ATM machine sans envelope! And if that weren’t enought, the receipt which came out mere seconds later had a picture of that check printed on it! Now, I don’t recall seeing signs at Citibank or Chase regarding the deposit of lady baby-innards, but given how much easier the banks are making our lives these days, I’m sure it’s just a matter of walking up to the teller and asking them.
BUT WHAT IS IT?
This we know for sure: There are three vastly different things you can do with your placenta. But what placenta actually does or is, we just don’t know. Some in the medical community think it may be a fetus pillow or ottomon, while others assume it to be a type of protective packaging – akin to packing peanuts or bubblewrap.
Someday we’ll surely find out why this placenta-ball was invented, but until then, we’ll just have to wait. And wonder.