Monday, December 2, 2019

The Afterbirth, 21 Years Later

I think I’m probably Chaotic Good. I am less afraid of the dark side, realizing, as I now do, that it is an intrinsic part of life and must be dealt with. But, that’s not the team I play for. I want good things for all people. I want the earth to be OK. I don’t want children in cages. Easy stuff to get behind—I’m not going out on any limbs here. And, I frankly don’t care if laws are broken to do what’s right. Chaotic, not Lawful Good. If we all waited around for laws to change, there would be very little justice. Laws have allowed people to be enslaved, denied basic rights, and be killed.


I won’t say if I’ve ever broken laws. You can probably surmise based on what I’ve written here, that maybe I have. But, I’m no fool, and will not admit to such.

With that as a loose background on my moral compass, I give you a story that might, or might not, be true. You know, in the interest of not (necessarily) incriminating myself.

I gave birth to my son 21 years ago. I gave birth to my daughter 18 years ago. I had amazing, but very different, home births for both.

With my son, I labored for 22 hours. My family came bearing gifts of food and support, and waited while I had early contractions in front of them, laughing (“This is so easy!”), and then gathered in the living room, or sat together on the stairs, as my then husband and I made our way upstairs to our bedroom as my labor increased in intensity. My husband held my hands and looked deeply into my eyes as we walked a circuit from the foot of the bed, through to the adjoining bathroom, pause, and then back again. Loops over and over, pausing when I needed to. Riding the wave of each contraction.

The home birth doctor was there, sitting on the floor leaning his back on the wall. Two labor nurses were there sharing words of encouragement that my husband would then repeat word for word. Over and over again.

After 2 ½ hours of painful pushing my son was born. Crying (him and me both)! Laughter from us all! Amazing.

He was 6 days late. (Earlier that week, I had scared a young cashier who innocently asked when I was due and I told him, “5 days ago!”)

I went into labor with my daughter 5 days early. I felt a tightening. Must be Braxton Hicks. My son was late; I’m not in labor. Feed the toddler. Do the dishes. Again, a tightening. Nah… It’s not.

And, yet, it was.

Let’s just carry on. I can’t really be in labor. Little son asleep in toddler bed next to our king size bed on the floor. Try to get some sleep. Awaken.

Oh, yeah. I’m really in labor.

Frantic call to doctor. Husband talks to the midwife in the practice. He puts a waterproof mattress pad on the bed, cradling the phone with his shoulder. “I don’t want to talk!” Talk to her.

I don’t want to talk! And I threw the phone down. Doctor is on the way. In the hall, I feel an overwhelming urge to push. I feel between my legs and can feel the amniotic sac protruding. Make way to bed. I push again. On phone again, husband reports to midwife that he can see the sac. She tells him to rip it. He does. I then push for a third and final time and my baby girl is born! Tears (her and me both)! Laughter (quietly so as to not awaken son)! Too late. My daughter’s first sounds awakened him. He sees a little wet on the bed, sits up and says, “Mess!” Sees my daughter now cradled in my arms and says with profound awe, “Baby!”

He and I scoot to the head of the bed, I’m sitting upright, leaning my back against the wall, holding my new baby, hugging my little son to me by my side, as umbilical cord is still attached, and my husband is frantically running around talking to the midwife. Making sure I’m OK. Running downstairs to unlock front door. He gets the “I’m the Big Brother” medal I had purchased for our son days before, brings it up, puts it around his neck, and we wait for the doctor to arrive.

In many cultures it is considered auspicious to be born in the caul. The baby is born still within the amniotic sac. My daughter slipped into the world with as much ease as my son struggled.

Both births were remarkable. Both were roller coasters of time bending transcendence. The passage from within to without driving me deeper into myself and a primal state of being. Losing rational thought. Still trying to mindfully relax into each contraction. Opening up to flow my babies out.

For both births, the doctors weighed my babies suspended in a receiving blanket attached to a fish scale. Son: a whopping 9 lbs. 4 oz. Almost two and a half years later, Daughter: a respectable 7 lbs. 11 oz. With each birth the placenta was scooped into plastic tubs that we froze. We will plant them with a tree to commemorate their births! It will be deeply meaningful and will return to the earth nourishment and will feed the tree!

Except we didn’t.

There, with the quarter side of grass-fed beef that I got from the Mennonite farmers in the upright freezer in the garage, pushed all the way to the back, out of the way, were the frozen placentas. And there they stayed for many, many years. Ignored. Life taking precedence over a ritual about life.

Until recently.

My husband and I let each other down in our marriage. We became co-parents more than a married couple and for that I’m truly regretful.

In dealing with all of our stuff, and dividing things up, it came to me to dispose of the placentas. My ex-husband didn’t really want to deal with it. OK. Fair enough. I invited my college age son, but he declined saying, “Nah, I’m good.” Would my daughter want to go with me? Yes! Fitting.

My daughter and I walked into a local woods (or did we?). Off the beaten path, through the meadow, deep into the trees and found a suitable place. Armed with a couple of kitchen garbage bags, one of which wrapped a small hatchet, I used my covered hand to take the lids off. I tipped them over and a 2 inch layer of ice plopped out. I then tapped on the overturned bottom of the tubs with the hatchet poll, taking them in turn, until the frozen placentas dumped out onto the forest floor. My hands still covered by the plastic garbage bags, I placed the tubs and lids inside and closed them up.

My daughter and I surveyed my work. There they are. No one will know.

Would a coyote eat them up? Or a weasel? Or a bunch of shrews? Foxes? Crows?

Would they remain untouched by larger animals and instead slowly be decomposed by insects and bacteria, melting into the earth?

Alice’s Restaurant was playing in my head the entire time.

I didn’t want to get busted for litterin’. I’m still not clear on the legality of it. I mean, is there a statute in place about medical waste? Is a placenta medical waste? A placenta could easily be food for some, which is why I did (or didn’t…) do it.

Chaotic Good, as I said at the top.

All I know is that the doctors were mightily impressed at both of my children’s births at the prodigious placentas my body had grown for their sustenance. I grew amazing babies with that part of me. Surely, there was still nourishment to be had.

Why shouldn’t they go to feed the forest in some way, and perhaps, in many ways?

I (maybe) threw the placentas in the woods.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Letter...

God, I love this song. It's all about going home again, isn't it? And some say you can't...

Friday, July 7, 2017

House Sitting

All the summer plans. All the places people will go. The preparations.

And once you're out the door, the nagging questions seep in. "Did we turn off the coffee pot?" "Did you lock the door, or did I?" "Did we cancel the mail for the two weeks we'll be gone?" "Oh, my God! The cats! I didn't get a sitter!"

A good house sitter will: take in the mail; water the plants (inside, of the tropical houseplant variety, and outside, of the tomato plant variety); feed and take care of the cats... Thank God...

As such, that is, as I know what is required to do a god job house sitting, and have, in fact done it, once and again, I offer up my services mostly through August. Well, there are times in August I could do it, let's say that any way.

Drop me a line, if you are in need...

Oh, and in the Chicago area...

And, August... 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

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