So I guess it’s been a thing for a long time. Some new mothers eat their placentas. See, I didn’t know that. I know my mother didn’t eat her placenta even though I never asked her. As a Norwegian, she enjoyed a number of menu items that don’t appeal to normal people, and placenta might conceivably have fit the bill as long as the butter held out, except that it’s not beige. It’s not remotely beige, in fact. A placenta looks like a massive blood clot in flapjack form.
Anyway I’m basing my conjecture on the fact that when I asked her (in the flush of my all-knowing teen years, at the dawn of the hippie era) why she didn’t have a natural childbirth, she said “I stayed awake just as long as I wanted to.” She didn’t say it so much as she snapped it off, with emphasis. My thought is that when the medical personnel brought her back to consciousness and handed her a neatly wrapped baby, she didn’t think to ask if she could eat the placenta. Even though she was a very tidy person.
Animals routinely eat placentas for a number of reasons and tidiness may be one of them. Dogs eat them because it’s a good source of iron, it’s important to tidy up so as not to attract wolverines, and oh who are we kidding? Dogs will eat anything, hork it up, and eat it all over again.
Modern humans don’t deal with wolverines as much as they used to and we are a little fussier about what we eat, for the most part. But hormones can make a person pretty peckish. Still, the eating of the placenta is usually done for a variety of reasons that may or may not hold water. It’s considered to be good for the child, for lactation, or for the mood of the mother. It does sound sort of ancestrally legit. But on the other hand, if we were meant to eat the things our body has already expelled for some reason, we’d be eating babies too, wouldn’t we?
I never gave birth but I’m not liable to have jumped on that bandwagon. I can’t even deal with oysters. I’m pretty sure my first reaction to seeing my placenta would be “Thanks, I’m done with that.” Fortunately most of the women who eat their own placentas these days have them sent to a company that dehydrates them and puts them in capsule form. Then it’s just a matter of popping pills. That’s how fecal transplants are done too. And if it ever turns out that pus, bile, or barf becomes a cure for anything, the capsule industry should be seeing boom times.
But don’t pills seem like cheating, somehow? I’m pretty sure it would strike one of my family members as being over-delicate. She tried using one of those nasal syringes on her infant when he got snotty and very shortly decided it was inefficient, and she channeled the spirit of her own foremothers and planted her mouth on the baby’s face and shnorked all the shnot out of his nose and spit it out and it worked splendidly, just as it had for her tribe from day one. I think it’s one of those things that isn’t gross after you’ve done it once, much like another thing I can think of.
The very day I first heard about placenta-eating, I mentioned it to a man and woman who joined us for beer-thirty, and scored a hit right away. It was the man who had eaten the placenta. It wasn’t his wife’s, either. It was at some sort of hippie community event. Sauteed placenta canapes with toothpicks in them, or something. He explained that he ate the placenta because he was polite. “You don’t get offered someone’s placenta and say ‘yuck,'” he said. “That would be rude.”
I’m glad I wasn’t at that soiree. To this day I’d be trying to keep straight in my mind who still thinks I’m a vegetarian.