For a few weeks just before I was due with Mr. Monk, my husband and I attended a childbirth class at a local pregnancy/childbirth/parenting center. We decided to go to the crunchy, granola place considering our general desire to have a natural childbirth and, more importantly, it was only a five minute drive from our house. Over the years we've learned that long car rides when you're running perpetually late are not very good for our marriage or our sanity. So, the uber hippie place it was!
From the second we started our first class, I could hear the Sesame Street song "One Of These Things Is Not Like The Others" playing in my head. I was the only one wearing makeup. The only one giving birth at the posh hospital ("baby factory") across the city (maybe not the best planning considering our aforementioned driving issues). The only one who didn't consider the possibility of a c section to be a fate worse than death. The only one wearing deodorant. Just kidding, but I probably was the only one wearing perfume.
Over the course of the class, it was enlightening hearing the women talk about their home birth plans, tubs and all. I tried to keep an open mind as others shared their desire to breastfeed for 2 to 3 years. (!) Although I thought many of the other women were maybe just a little kooky and I'm pretty sure they were judging me and my purses, it was a serene environment in which to learn about the roller coaster we were about to experience. That is, of course, until they told us to eat our placenta.
For the uninitiated, eating one's placenta, placentophagia if you will, is supposed to help regulate your hormones and prevent postpartum depression. Look, it's trendy! One of the women in our class planned to mix her frozen placenta into a smoothie. The instructor also blended hers upon the birth of her daughter. While I was feeling mildly nauseous at the thought, my husband was listening with rapt attention. He became convinced that "we" needed to do this to help bring our baby into a happy home. "We? What we?" I wondered as he started finding out rates for the encapsulation of my placenta into pills that I would have to take.
After being a week overdue, I went to see an acupuncturist friend to kick start the labor process. While I was fairly certain the acupuncture wasn't doing what the pitocin later would, I chatted with my friend about the meal o' placenta. She was so emphatic about the benefits and her amazing experience, calling it the best high ever. I began to think that maybe I could take the pills after all. I was so used to downing all those prenatals, what not add another handful of horse capsules?
So, we decided to just have the pills made in case I wanted to take them. My OB hardly batted an eye when I told her my revised birth plan to harvest and take home my placenta in a tupperware. This is San Francisco after all. The "placenta doula" picked up the organ and turned it into pills less than 12 hours later. It was the most efficient transaction ever. I was half delirious having just delivered Mr. Monk into the world, but I remember her being sweet, braided and very soothing. She even brought me a print of my placenta (think fingerprint, only bigger and more bloody) that I specifically requested her NOT to bring. She suggested I may want to hang it in the nursery. It's rolled up in back of the nursery closet. Does that count?
I didn't follow her directions to take 6 pills a day for the first week postpartum. I couldn't even bring myself to open the jar for the first four days. Curiosity got the best of me on the fifth day and I tried two of the pills. Nothing happened. Taking that as a good sign, I took three more pills that night. I wish I could say that nothing happened.
I woke up in the morning with a bright red, itchy rash ALL OVER MY ENTIRE BODY! I was suddenly radioactive. The rash was so dramatic and so angry that I could feel the rejection searing through me. I knew instinctively that it was from the bad idea jeans (genes) pills. I reached out to my OB and the placenta doula, neither of whom had ever heard of such a reaction. In my leper-like state I went to see a dermatologist in case I needed a steroid to calm the welts. The stately old dermatologist immediately asked me if I ate anything out of the ordinary recently. "No, not that I can think of." "Oh, well, actually, um..."
The Dr. looked at me like I told him I ate my baby, which I guess I sort of did. Thankfully, I didn't need a steroid prescription and the rash went away by itself a few days later. I kind of wish I took a picture of my bumpy body for posterity. Now all I have is this awesome story. Oh, and the baby.