Okay guys. Today I am going to tell you about how I ate my own placenta. Or, more correctly, am eating it. Not this second. But soon.
But first, let me give you a quick idea about how much better the recovery process is with an unmedicated childbirth.
In the hospital, I would get an epidural, which meant a catheter, an IV, sometimes Pitocin, and always interesting and fun pain medications afterward. After the baby was born they would unhook me from the epidural and the catheter, but it took a few hours for the full effects to wear off, so my husband or the nurses would have to transport me to the recovery room and help me hobble to the potty, where I would sit there for like fifteen minutes with no idea if I was peeing or not because, see, I couldn’t feel anything. (Usually I wasn’t, and this performance had to be repeated several times until my bladder recovered from the indignity of the catheter.) Then I would (with assistance) hobble back to bed, where I would lay in one position, unable to really move much and with a horribly sore back from the spinal needle and the effects of the epidural withdrawing. Usually I was groggy or just foggy from the medication and lack of food and water, since at a hospital they don’t let you eat or drink anything during labor, and unable to really comfortably nurse the new baby since I couldn’t manage to finagle my body into a position that was conducive to nursing. After a sleepless night of nurses coming in every hour or two to check my blood pressure and (painfully!) knead my stomach to ensure that my uterus was shrinking (an unnecessary procedure, given that I breastfeed and the breastfeeding causes the uterus to shrink much more effectively than someone shoving their hands into it), I would usually be able to take a shower about 24 hours after the birth. It would be a very quick shower, because I would be really dizzy and lightheaded on my feet, and then I would go back to the hospital bed, where I would lie or sit in slightly more comfortable positions for the next 12 or so hours. They would finally release me after more torturous stomach kneading, and my husband would take me home where I would go straight to bed and remain mostly in bed or on the couch for the next three or four days, at least. The house would fall into shambles, laundry would pile up, dishes would conquer the kitchen, and we would eat a steady diet of frozen food and pizza. Finally, about 8 to 10 days after the birth, I would slowly begin to get back on my feet. Generally about this time I would have to go on antibiotics for the bladder infection that always results from a catheter, and would also begin weaning myself off the painkillers that took care of the post-epidural lower back ache and the post-partum cramping.
This is what happened after the home birth.
After Liam was born, the midwife cleaned me up and helped me walk back to the bedroom. I had a hard time straightening up because my lungs weren’t used to so much room, but other than that didn’t feel much pain except soreness. I sat cross-legged in bed, nursing the baby, while the midwives gave me some warning signs to look for. Then while Liam got his exam, the midwife showed me how to check my own stomach to make sure the uterus was hardening. While still unpleasant, I was able to control the amount of pressure applied and once I was able to tell that the uterus was firm, there was no need for extreme kneading. Then they left and I took a shower. It was still a quick shower because I was a little light-headed and had trouble breathing standing up (again, the lungs readjusting), but it was wonderful to be able to shower immediately after the birth instead of feeling grimy and gross for a whole day. I got back in bed (after peeing with no help!) and the Ogre slept while I nursed the baby. About five hours after the birth, our friends brought the girls back, and I sat on the couch and chatted with them for a an hour or so. Then the Ogre heated up dinner (drip beef that I had fortuitously made the night before), put the girls to bed, and we laid in bed and watched a movie before going to sleep. The next day the Ogre got up when the girls did and let me sleep for a while. When I did get up, I washed some dishes, started a load of laundry, and then pretty much kept off my feet for the rest of the day. The third day, however, I was up with the girls, was able to do some more laundry and clean the kitchen and generally pick up the house. By Saturday, other than being a little more tired than usual, I felt completely normal.
I have to credit a lot of the super-quick recovery not just to being unmedicated during labor, but to the magical healing properties of the placenta.
When we first met our midwife, we were given a bunch of pamphlets about natural child birth, cloth diapering, baby wearing, and placenta benefits. I actually read the placenta benefits one out loud to the Ogre and we spent a good hour roundly abusing and laughing at the crazy, crazy things people do when the yoga and granola go to their heads.
Then I read it again the next day.
The pamphlet was written by a company called Placenta Benefits, and it talked about some of the the causes of the baby blues and postpartum depression (loss of iron, plummeting hormone levels) and how the placenta contains valuable nutrients, vitamins, and hormones that can help restore a woman’s post-partum body to a state of normalcy. The company was actually started by a woman here in Vegas, and she offers encapsulation services, which include steaming, dehydrating, and grinding up the placenta into capsule form. This allows the placenta to retain those essential nutrients and hormones in a form that allows the benefits to be stretched out over a longer period of time than, say, placenta pasta.
I was really intrigued by the idea of a natural way to deal with post-partum depression. I had really severe post-partum depression with my oldest and had to go on antidepressants, which basically turned me into a zombie. I only took them for about four months but I definitely did not want to have to go through that again. So I brought it up to the Ogre, who proceeded to laugh, realize I was serious, and then tell me that I may need to go talk to a priest because technically that would be cannibalism. Auto-cannibalism.
He was kidding, but he continued to call it auto-cannibalism, even though he told me that if I thought it might help he was all for it. So after the baby was born and the placenta was delivered, we put it in a Pyrex bowl with a lid and stuck it in the fridge. The next day Jodi, the placenta encapsulation specialist, arrived and began the steaming and dehydration process, which really disturbed the meat-loving Ogre because he said it smelled like sausage.
It did. It was gross.
The day after that she came back and ground it up into pills and we paid her. I took the first dose right after she left and an hour later the Ogre wandered into the kitchen with a bewildered look on his face. I stopped unloading the dishwasher and looked at him quizzically.
“Are you humming?” he asked incredulously.
I had been. I was in the best mood I’d been in in weeks. It was amazing.
The pills don’t really have that instantaneous effect after a few days, but they help nevertheless. I’ve only had a few random crying episodes, much less than with the other kids, and have generally had more energy and more patience with my older children than I do normally. They’ve also really helped slow down the post-partum bleeding.
All in all, this recovery has been remarkably easier. To tell you the truth, I’ve been a little annoyed at how easy it’s been. I was looking forward to a solid week of bad movies and being spoiled, and I got two stinkin’ days.
I guess I’m being punished for succumbing to auto-cannibalism.