Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Placenta Story

I still remember the day that I held a big silver bowl, my mother's placenta floating inside.

I was 11.

It was gross. A deep red, slimy, veiny mass. Swish. Swirl. In the bowl. The bowl . . . I vaguely remember eating popcorn from that bowl on family movie nights. Maybe I didn't. Gosh, I hope not . . . Swish. Swirl.

* * *

After babies one, two and three, my mother went on a "getting in touch with nature" kick. The kind of kick that had her nixing our spam burgers and fried bologna sandwiches. The kind that had my mother talking about "peace" and "being one with nature." The kind of kick that had my mother joining the ranks of La Leche League . . . the militant division. Boobs being their weapon of choice.

My mother decided that it would serve her best to have what would be her last baby in the same place where she was conceived (at 11 I knew what conceived meant, I was just in denial about how it actually worked . . . this is a good thing. I was a worrier.). A home birth plan was set in motion.

I had no idea what this meant. No idea . . .

The days leading up to my sister's birth were torturous. OK. I have no idea what they were like. I don't remember. But, I can't imagine them being pleasant when we had a bunch of breastfeeding moms, with babies in tow, milling about our house as if it were a subway during rush hour.

The memories of the day my mother finally did give birth are stored in my head in a series of snapshots. My mother having her feet rubbed by one of the mothers, her baby tugging at her sleeves. A dozen or so other mothers sitting in the living room, drinking tea while simultaneously feeding one baby and disciplining another. Every room in our spacious 800 square foot house was filled with people. Some I knew, some I think were just there for the free drinks (served in boob mugs, I might add). It was a boob fest . . . where was my dad? Hiding. No doubt.

The night dragged on. My mom was in her bed, in ready position, my sister desperately clinging to her insides. I gave up waiting. I needed to sleep. I went to my room only to find a half dozen babies slumbering on my tiny twin canopy bed. I was desperate and made an attempt to scoot one of the toddlers aside, happy to squeeze in anywhere.

The valuable piece of real estate I found was . . . wet. Pee.

The couch. Occupied by breastfeeding mums. My brother and sister's bunk bed. Taken by more babies.

No more beds . . .

My closet. The place where I was certain could lead to Narnia if only I went in deep enough. I laid a few blankets in the bottom, curled up in the fetal position, and fell right to sleep.

I heard my name. Shouts. My mom? Was she calling me? I felt a hand reach back into the closet and tug at my shirt.

"The baby is coming," alerted the voice.

I stumbled into my mother's room. She was surrounded by a sea of eager faces, peering, searching, invading . . . Even their kids came to watch, a few sitting in the front row munching on snacks, donning 3D glasses (OK, that part isn't true, but it really was a chaotic scene, that much I remember).

I stood near the foot of the bed. Pain and joy tugged at my mother's face, clearly engaged in a war I did not quite understand. The midwives beckoned me to come closer, "Do you want to touch your baby sister's head?" Why was it so important that I touch it while it was in THERE? I mean, she was coming out, right? I'll touch her later, thanks.

There was a cacophony of grunts and screams with the low hum of normal, every day conversation in the background. My mom was clearly in extreme agony and these women were planning their meals for next Sunday. OK, so maybe not their meals, but while I was freaking out (HELLO, I was 11), these women were so calm it was almost surreal.

Push. Grunt. Scream.

Out came the baby (there was a little more to it, but you get the idea).

"Do you want to cut the cord?" Where the heck was my dad?

They wrapped my sister and put her on my mother's chest. I stood there. Wow. I'm so not doing that, ever (I distinctly remember thinking that).

I was yanked from my reverie by a bowl being thrust in my hands. And in a matter of moments said bowl was filled with a placenta. I felt my eyes bulge, pleading with the sockets to let them go. What was going on? Was this part of the baby? Did it still need this?

I watched the placenta jiggle in the bowl. Swish. Swirl. The baby in my mother's arms had just made a traumatic journey, yet she didn't cry. Me, I wanted to bawl.

Someone took the placenta from me. We never saw each other again. And in its place I was handed a plump, 11 pound baby with a squishy face and a head full of wispy hairs.

In that moment all was quiet. I could feel her breath. I could smell her. I could hear her little gulps and gurgles. Even as I type this I can still feel her heavy in my arms. I walked her around our modest little home. I showed her the bedrooms, the bathroom, the kitchen, the living room. It took all of ten seconds to show my little sister the home where she would live for over 20 years.

I wish those 20 years would have given her more. More peace. More true happiness. More kept promises.

Our house was filled that early morning on April 12th. Women. Children (one of whom PEED in my bed). Chaos at its best. . . but by the late afternoon all was quiet. The baby girl rested in my arms.

She was safe. For now. Happy. For now.

My baby sister just signed papers to purchase her very own home. She'll be leaving the home where we all grew up in a matter of weeks, a month or so at the most.

She's all grow up. My baby sister.

I won't forget seeing her for the first time, holding her, giving her a tour of her home.

And of course, we'll always have the placenta story . . . and that is one I'll never forget.

Swish.

Swirl.



*Quick disclaimer to La Leche Leaguers. I am a breastfeeding mom with absolutely nothing against La Leche League (these women were pretty darned cool . . . only a few were a little nutty and nutty is perfectly OK). I was 11 and I was kinda freaked out by the sheer number of exposed breasts in one location and of course, there was that placenta thing, too . . .

60 comments:

Flea said...

Oh wow. And congratulations to your sister for getting her own place. :)

I breast fed all mine, but the LaLeche people ARE militant. Don't like them, Sam-I-Am.

flutter said...

I, wow. WOW

Mr Lady said...

My oldest was 7 1/2 when my youngest was born, and he was the catcher. He saw everything. And then my midwife showed him my placenta, and flipped it inside out for us so we could see how it worked.

He thinks it was the coolest thing he's ever seen.

I said all that to say that I love this story, and I bet your mom does, too.

Tara R. said...

My oldest was about four when her brother was born. I've never asked her what she remembers about that time. I probably should...

Congrats to your sister. This was a great tribute to her. auspicious entry into the world.

Karen said...

Only you could make that story what it is. Wow. That's a lot for an adult to live through, but it's a wonder you had a baby of your own. Ever.

Lori said...

wow! what a vivid picture you create... and yes as an 11 year old that would be well... wow

Casey said...

What a strange experience! At eleven, I think I might have been freaked a bit if I had a placenta bowl thrust at me! Congrats on your little sister for getting her own place, that's quite an accomplishment..

Kristi said...

Wow. that put me right into the place while I was reading. I remember seeing my own child's placenta and thinking it was gross, I can't imagine it through a child's eyes. My T13 is a birth story of sorts today too.

meredithwinn said...

this is an amazing story! you don't often get to hear the perspective of a young girl witnessing a birth!

and oh god, i hope it didnt' become the popcorn bowl! i remember specifically throwing away the bowl that held my placenta, i couldn't even stomach giving it to goodwill to some unknowing stranger!

Immoral Matriarch said...

Gorgeous story, sounds like a great [if terrifying experience]. Congratulations to her!

Stephanie said...

Wow. I was just fascinated reading this. I don't even know what to say. I didn't know a league like this even existed!

A Buns Life said...

Congrats to your sister! I can't even imagine being witness to all that....I remember being totally grossed out even watching my mom nurse my sister but again, my mom had zero modesty and walked around the house totally naked and was VERY unkempt if you know what I mean....shudder. The images are still burned into my brain.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

It is interesting the way adults don't always consider what the kids might want--just what they want the kids to want.

It sounds like quite the surreal experience. I'm glad you decided to go ahead and give it a try yourself.

ConverseMomma said...

I cried for you, in the closet, with a bowl of placenta in your hand, I cried for you. But the weeping turned to something else when they put the weight and wonder of your sister in your arms. For me, that was the turning point.

Tracey said...

Swish, swish.... that was gross.

Nice story.

Kori said...

Hey. That is too cool. Love it.

Jonny's Mommy said...

Tell me this is a fiction story right?

No. Really...fascinating story and very well written. Very unique telling of a story that I am sure only a few can relate to.

I also breastfed and not all the LaLeche people are crazy, but there are some!

justmylife said...

Wow, I don't think I ever saw my own placenta. Congrats to your sister. My oldest son is currently looking for a house hopefully he will get lucky too.

crazymumma said...

wow. what an experiience.

I am intrigued by your suggestion of her unhappiness, but it seems things may have moved on?

I remember when my elder first held her baby sister. Four years apart they were, still are of course.

The love in her face. The wonder.

Lisa said...

Holy wow.....you, my friend, have lived a lot of life!!! What a crazy, wild story!
(BTW - where WAS your dad?)

Burgh Baby said...

I'm speechless. And SHOCKED that you still had kids. Um, yeah.

tommie said...

I saw a live birth around the same age. I truly believe it was what kept me from being a teen mom!

Congrats to your sister!

I breastfed both of mine...heck I was still nursing while preggers with L. The LLL people tried to get me to tandem nurse. That is where I drew the line! Even though they are only 16 months apart, there is no way I was nursing two!

Momisodes said...

Can I please tell you how much I love reading your stories? Because I do. You are an amazing storyteller. Even if they do involve boobs and placenta :)

Big congrats to your sister!

Cecily R said...

Congratulations to your sister! How exciting for her!

And as for your story...you are one HECK of a writer my friend!! Only you could get me sucked up into a story that even at 33 I wouldn't be able to handle on my own!!

lizzy-loo said...

i have four breastfed children. i am familiar with la leche and while i admire what they stand for some of them can be a little militant. breastfed or die! what an amazing experience. i am amazed at your writing (and envious) i can feel your pride and love for your sister. congrats on her big step.

i have a friend whose mother had a recipe for placenta stew. it was rumored around town what the family would do with the placenta (which wasn't true) oh small town life.

Kami said...

The placenta thing is killing me! I have birthed two babies and have never seen the buggers...you at 11 are swishing one in a bowl!

Crazy.

Kellan said...

This is THE MOST FABULOUS STORY! This FABULOUS story needs to be sent to MAGAZINES for publishing - MAGAINES, I am telling you!

I'm sorry your little sister is moving away - this was a wonderful tribute to her - you told a GOOD story!

Take care - Kellan

Hyphen Mama said...

I hope I'm not repeating what anybody else has said....

BOY that brings all new meaning to "from the cheap seats"!!

This was a great story. You're an amazing writer. I felt like I was right there... seeing the placenta for myself (I've created 2 of my own and haven't seen either one of them).

LceeL said...

You went through all that and you STILL had kids?

DysFUNctional Mom said...

I'm still cracking up about the 3D glasses! 11 lbs? Holy moly!
Great story, I wish your sister well.

Tiaras and Tantrums said...

oh my stars! Yeah, I don't think I would ever have had kids after that!! Poor dear - your poor brain! But to hold your new sister - precious!!

Mighty Morphin' Mama said...

This is so fabulous! Love it, terrific memory. And congrats to your sis!

Stacie said...

what a great memory !?!?!?! :)

Congrats to your baby sister...and holy heck 11 lbs, congrats to your mother. :)

Kristen said...

I love the swish swirl!!

WOW is right, and yes I too would have been a little freaked out by all the boob. And to be honest with you (I too only breastfed) would still be a little freaked out to see that much boob!

So happy for your sister getting her own place. Congrats to her, and now it is her turn to take YOU for a tour!! :)

pam said...

Thank you SO much for the words of encouragement. You've no idea how much it means to me.

Vodka Mom said...

wow. That was incredible. really. I'll be back!!!!!!

MommyTime said...

Wow, that's a heck of a story. I was 13 when my brother was born, and I held my mother's hand throughout the delivery. But I distinctly remember being grateful that I was as the head of the bed instead of at the foot. No placenta for me to see. Thankfully.

PS Stop by my place on Saturday morning for a little good news. :)

womaninawindow said...

Holy shit! This was so worth waiting for the right moment to read. I don't know if I'm crying or laughing or maybe even retching. A little of all three I think.

Perfect! This.is.perfect!

Veggie Mom said...

You're a Survivor, of sorts, aren't you? Did your Mom remain in the Back-to-Nature phase for long, or is that just what it was-a phase? BTW, don't forget that we're starting a Great New Pop'rs Halloween Giveaway at my place today...22 different, fun prizes. Come play, today!

Xbox4NappyRash said...

Oh my lord.

imbeingheldhostage said...

Oh my gosh, this was fantastic storytelling. really. When I read the title I was almost afraid to go on, but so glad I did. Wow. I am soooo thankful that we didn't convince my son to see his brother get born. At the time it seemed like a great idea, but he didn't want to and now I'm thinking, "whew!"

Congrats to your sister!!

Mamasphere said...

I was four when I saw my sister being born at home. My story and yours are very similar (crowded with women, for one), but from a different age perspective. My sister cried. A lot. And I didn't like her so much right off the bat for that, lol. Thank you for that wonderful story!

Danielle said...

man was my childhood boring. hee hee...That is one cool story

huddtoo said...

What a cool story. These are the type of stories that will stay with you forever!! Congrats to your sister!

I recall a funny placenta story from the birth of my son, we've told it to many people. Kinda funny how those things make, hmmm, interesting...stories. :)

Anglophile Football Fanatic said...

Wow. I cannot imagine holding a placenta - or doing natural at home birth & producing an 11 pound kid. But, wow. What a wonderful bonding experience for you & your little sister. I got mad at LLL when I read on their site they thought I should go on the total elimination diet to make sure my kid got boob juice with his lactose - hell to the no.

Elaine A. said...

WOAH dude...

Gorgeously written. I kinda felt like I was there myself... but...

Woah...

Nissa said...

Great story! I'm so sorry you were forced into that placenta holding role, though. Yuck! It's one thing for the mom to want a natural birth experience, but shouldn't she ask her kids if they want to play an active role in the process? I would have freaked out..
At least you got a sister out of it! Pretty cool that you got to be the one to show her the ropes!

Rachel said...

Have I mentioned I adore you? Because if I haven't lately, I do.

You write brilliantly and I could feel and experience everything with you.

I was a breastfeeder but ya, some of those LL'ers... they be crazy :-) LOL.

Indy said...

Great story. I can't imagine seeing the placenta at the age of 11. I have never seen placenta and I am 36.

Anonymous said...

I just sent you an e-mail. You told a simple childhood story (albeit a rather eyebrow-raising event) with such grace. I was riveted.

I agree with your other writers. You seriously need to consider publication.

I'll be back. Hopefully with a blog of my own.

Kim said...

GREAT story!!

RJTrue said...

"The memories of the day my mother finally did give birth are stored in my head in a series of snapshots"

Um, could this be because snapshots can still be found in Mom's room in THAT drawer??
Oh, happening upon those was always a surprising joy!

Haha.

Hope I wasn't the one who peed;)

Mrs. N. said...

Well written ad always and both touching and hysterical

Lindsey said...

What a remarkable story! WOW!

I must admit, I wanted to see my placenta the second time around. I don't know why, but I did. I guess I thought anything that causes contractions until it comes out was a big deal. I'm a weirdo. My friends thought so too. Oh well.

I'm STILL nursing once a day. It has been a long hard weaning process, but soon....very soon it will be over.

Kat said...

WOW! How did I miss this post? It is amazing. Seriously. Wow.

I breastfed all my baby and agree that LaLeche folks can sometimes get out of control. ;)

Colleen - Mommy Always Wins said...

This was absolutely wonderfully written. I can almost SEE the terror on your 11-year-old face (oh, if I knew what you looked like, anyway...)

Colleen said...

Wow...how incredible and scary for you (cuz I certainly don't like seeing it and I understand it a lot better than a kid might).

And I'm with you on some of those La Leche Leaguers...I have called them the Militant Moms League ever since I read in one of their books how evil formula is because of the plastic for making bottles, the fuel wasted for making and transporting the milk and formula, and yes, evil even because of the dairy cows' farts depleting the ozone. But beyond that, they have a lot of great info on BF'ing that I found invaluable with both children.

painted maypole said...

wow! that's some story!

sweetsalty kate said...

ELEVEN POUNDS? Pardon me while I uncurl my toes. And my teeth.

What a vivid scene... fabulously drawn. So incredible.

Magpie said...

Wow. That is one hell of a story.

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