Thursday, June 16, 2011

If I'd Known It Was Gonna Be Like This, I Would Have Eaten My Placenta

After baby is a swamp of hormones that gets drained and re-filled with completely different levels of hormones and microthings and macrobodies and such, leaving all the goldfish dead in the pond, damnit! Following me? I take zoloft for chronic anxiety. I've been off of it here and there for years at a time, but eventually something stressful overwhelms my obviously dysfunctional brain chemistry and I become a blithering, miserable wreck incapable of functioning. Back on. It works very well for me, with no side effects. I'm lucky. I tapered off during Ever's pregnancy because of the new literature that said it does increase various risk factors for certain birth defects. I tried to get all the way off, but couldn't. Back on. 25 mg.

After ee was born, I was tremendously motivated to stay on the lower dose, but before I could even arrive home I was hit with a tsunami of panic, a humiliatingly aggressive anxiety that engulfed the darkness of my dreams before I could even open my eyes, and continued, picking up pace, relentless and grinding, all day. By the time my sweet husband came home I collapsed into his arms, sobbing. Back up. 100 mg. It took two weeks, but it worked, and I began to come out of the nightmare.
I'd never experienced such abject terror after a birth. Depression, mild anxiety, yes. This was different, and considering that the cirumstances of ee's birth were the most supportive and loving of any of my baby homecomings, there was no circumstantial reason for this. Ever was a C-Section delivery, my first, and I have come to believe that the construction of a C-Section is what led to my chemical nightmare. My body didn't make milk for days. That alone is evidence of the powerful ways we tamper with the body's homeostasis when a surgery is necessary for childbirth- and mine was. We elected, last minute final decision, for the CS because ee had been flipping like a seal back and forth up and down the entire third trimester. We'd go in and find her head down, leave relieved, and a week later at the stress test find she had her hard little skull wedged neatly in my right rib cage's cupped skeletal hand. As she was born, I heard a rumbling that grew louder, and as I cried and kissed ee's little face I turned to my husband and asked
What is it? He explained to me that ee had had what is called a 'true knot' in her cord. The nurse held it up for a picture, the slimy blue and purple thickened cord tied as a good sailor would, in a perfect bulbous knot, tight enough to stay the storm. It was lucky Ever lived, they said. I'll talk more about that when I do her birthing post.

The morphine and sedatives pumped into your body during a C-Section are incredibly omnipotent, cutting off all communications between your brain and your nerves. This is probably a precarious situation for someone with any issues of the brain, like anxiety. I say probably because I haven't researched any scientific studies- yet- I'm simply discussing my theory here. What I know is that immediately after the surgery, I felt the shadow of the first wave hit my face and bleed down, into my body. In the large, machine crowded room we stayed in afterward, the wave crested and slammed into me, rendering me almost mute.
Are you OK, Mr. Curry kept asking me. I nodded. I wanted so badly to be OK. Sometimes wanting a thing enough can create it's existence. Not in this case. I went from bad to worse, and the first day home from the hospital I felt a horror and pain that I imagine is what people feel when someone they love very much dies. A muted, horrible disbelieving terror that erodes with stabs of pure adrenalin fear. My poor baby, I kept thinking, looking at my newborn girl. I was so sorry to be so faulty. I bathed her, I nursed her, I held her round the clock, but inside... There has to be a better way to do this, I thought after the worst had passed.

What a woman puts into her body while nursing is a serious thing, and all kinds of herbs or treatments that may otherwise be available are not when you are breastfeeding. But the placenta, a disgusting, verbotim and mightily powerful thing,
is. When I read this post by The Feminist Breeder, it occurred to me that I might have missed the opportunity of a lifetime- to experience the babymoon of my darlings in good mental health. The more I read, the more I was convinced. Consider this:

Your own placenta, made into capsules, is incredibly nutritious and beneficial to you. Women who take their placenta capsules tend to have better postpartum experiences, avoid the baby blues, have an increase in energy, and an increase in milk production. Traditional Chinese Medicine has used placenta for centuries to treat issues such as fatigue and insufficient lactation, and scientific studies have bolstered the use of placenta for these conditions. Using the placenta for your postpartum recovery is a very easy and natural way to help you feel better after the birth. @placenta info

What is considered off the charts weird in American culture might be the way we can stock our bodies with the appropriate building blocks for post partum health. I felt and feel a profound sense of loss that I could not be emotionally and mentally present and intact in the months after ee's birth.
While it is more comfortable, trendy and acceptable in modern life to take a pill than eat your guts (as I cannot help but think of it) I'd rather be happy than be acceptable.

What would you do?
Allison the Meep said...

I have had friends who have eaten their placentas raw (I literally gagged when a friend described it to me), and others who had theirs dehydrated and put into capsule form - and everyone I have talked to that has participated in the placenta eating has sworn by its magical powers.

I think if it were in a capsule, I wouldn't be as completely grossed out by the idea of it. It would just be like taking a vitamin, and I could easily get on board with that.

Petit fleur said...

It makes perfect sense. Most animals lick off their baby's placenta... knowing nature, there is likely a reason other than cleaning. I'm thinking before we all became civilized, we likely did it too, so it doesn't seem so weird to me.

What does seem odd is the process that would be used to make these pills and how do you get the placenta to them... Is it like when they freeze placenta for stem cells? hmmm... As usual, you've given me something to research!
Love you Mags.

Leslie said...

This post speaks to me on so many levels. Bear with me, my reply is bound to be long.

First of all, I love The Feminist Breeder! It was through her that I heard of ICAN (Internation Cesarean Awareness Network), an organization that helped me so much in the wake of all the birth trauma I experienced when my first son was born (and the PPD/PTSD that followed). If you haven’t already connected with ICAN, you should. You will find many cesarean sisters there.

I had C-sections with both of my babies. I was induced with my first, which, after hours of terribly painful labor, ended in a C-section under general anesthesia. It was a very traumatic experience and I absolutely HATED it. It was one of the worst things I’ve ever lived through, save only for being raped at 18. I was unable to breastfeed and that was devastating to me as well. I was so incredibly depressed (and so was my husband). It took me the majority of my son’s first year to grieve and process it all. He is 2 now and I’ve had another baby since, but in some ways I am still grieving and still processing. It was big. Still is. Big. And it almost immediately caused a huge paradigm shift in me and my life, one that I am so grateful for - BUT - there are days when I would trade in all my enlightenment to have been awake for his birth, to have done things differently.

With my second baby, I made every effort to do things differently. I went with a midwife at a freestanding birth center and took Bradley classes and hired a doula. (I was even going to do placenta encapsulation!) I trusted my body and went for my WBAC. Things went well, but after 24+ hours of labor and 6 hours of pushing (he was sunny side up), I realized that he just was not going to come out. I was exhausted. We transferred to the hospital and I had another C-section. I got to be awake for it and that made such a huge difference. Having a second surgical birth wasn’t what I wanted but under the circumstances, it’s what needed to happen. I had a few complications as a result of the C-section - lacerated bladder, spinal headache, major UTI - but I was able to breastfeed and I was thrilled about that. Not so thrilled about the way things ended up. I so didn’t want a second C-section. I’m really happy I gave myself every chance to deliver vaginally, but the disappointment is there. I still haven’t been able to write his birth story, and he’s 7 months old today.

I guess I needed to write all that out.

I would have totally gone for placenta encapsulation. I even had the kit ready to go. But we just didn’t think of it once we were at the hospital - the birth center would have given it to us automatically. I didn’t have PPD this time around. Disappointment and sadness, yes. But this time was better. I think I was more prepared. Having had one C-section, I knew what to expect. I knew how to handle a baby, about the various booby traps that keep so many mothers from breastfeeding successfully, and that I had given it my best shot. I’m okay.

I hope you’ll be okay too. Please get in touch with ICAN.

Anonymous said...

All I know is, when I'm so sad and blue and the world presses on me, I'll take/try damn near anything to feel right again. The placenta is a powerful thing...if anything, it has a ton of iron in it! I don't think it's weird. Ask me five years ago I would have said weird. Not now.

Sara said...

When I was in labor with Jonah and terrified, my ex being his usual abusive self, finally the call was made to give me an epidural (I didn't want one, but was so exhausted, so terrified, and my cervix, I was to learn later, was mostly made of scar tissue and needed to rip. RIP! Yikes.) Anyway, the anesthesiologist was a hippie from Gainesville, FL and he told me that when his wife gave birth they did so in a common birthing room in their coop, and the tradition was to either eat or plant the placenta. He was in med school at the time, and couldn't abide eating the placenta so they planted it. He, however, told me he thought he missed an opportunity to invent Placenta Helper which he envisioned on the shelves at his neighborhood food coop.

And hell, if it could have helped the terrible depression and panic I fell into after Jonah was born, I would have done it.

Shaista said...

Never mind the placenta, all I can say is thank goodness for zoloft! So glad you have something that works to push those waves back where they belong.
Funny how we feel so alone when that ocean of despair comes for us, and yet, I just realised that it must be the same ocean that comes for me and comes for you too.. not much comfort for you to know that, but it sort of comforts me :)

Elizabeth said...

I had a terrible birth with Sophie -- hours and hours of labor followed by an emergency c-section. Everything was "out of my control." I went home with a healthy, happy baby, but I felt cheated and vaguely bad, traumatized, really, by the experience. Even now, I look back on that time as Sophie's first real bad experience, literally being ripped from my body without our consent. However, Henry was also born by C-section, and even though I was disappointed after laboring for many hours, I was given the choice of pitocin or another c and I chose the c. When they pulled him out of me at nearly 10 pounds, I felt a physical surge of relief and the certainty that "oh, this is the way he was SUPPOSED to be born." It was the strangest thing. I feel certain that that feeling, the hormones and mama stuff coursing through my body met each other and thus all was well.

Eating the placenta? I totally would have -- in fact, there's an incredible book about the collision of two cultures in the life of a Laotian child who has epilepsy called "When the Spirit Touches You, You Fall Down" where they talk about getting the placenta of your child and burying it at your home to still its spirit. It's profound --

S.A. said...

I had a c-section, because my boy was breech. I tried everything under the sun (external version, acupuncture, moxibustion, inversion, flashlight betwixt name it) to flip him. He was 9+ lbs of chunkybaby and he was going nowhere.

Because of the nightmare c-section experiences my friends have had (one girlfriend didn't touch her baby for 6 hours she was so doped up) I showed up for my c-section with a plan. I also really, really wanted to do my best to nurse (first baby).

No morphine- I don't need it (high pain threshold), the morphine they use lasts for 12 hours, and opiates bind you up, and they won't let you leave until you can prove that your guts work properly. Declined the Tylenol with codeine (again, didn't need it, didn't want to be doped up, bound up).

I was able to be alert and present, and since I had a minimal amount of drug in my system my milk came in on day 2 and blessedly, I was able to nurse.

I was so heartbroken that I had to have a c-section (had a waterbirth planned), but all in all it wasn't that terrible, because I knew what I wanted to avoid.

I'm so sorry that you have been laid so low; you are so right, are bodies are wise and when so many birth processes are bypassed by surgery it can be very discombobulating. I would totally eat my placenta. In many Asian cultures (I am Chinese American) placenta soup is a must for the postpartum mom.

Lone Star Ma said...

I wish I had fried mine up with onions and eaten it. xo

Therese said...

I love placentas and have written a couple posts about them. Most animals devour the placenta right after birth. If you've ever seen a cat get birth you've likely witnessed this wild savagery in your own shoe closet. I save mine because I was intrigued by the idea. I became quickly overwhelmed and fatigued after birth and hadn't prepared beforehand enough to sort out my placenta ingesting plan. Dang. I ended up using to ice my dad's head once...
Next time I plan to prepare ahead and have a solid plan as to how to proceed with the placenta dining preparations! If I ever get pregnant again (8 months + trying right now...) I'll report back :)

Ms. Moon said...

I got no problem with eating placenta although I never did it. It is the only flesh you can eat without killing. Sort of.

trashcanhead said...

While I was pregnant, a friend of mine told me about this. I thought there was no way around it. I didn't want to eat it, but I have suffered from such severe depression, I was certain that I might kill myself or harm the baby after having her. I was sure I would hate her. I was sure she would hate me. Throughout my entire pregnancy, I felt disconnected and terrified. Anxiety ridden. I felt like she was an alien baby, not part of me. I did not know her.

I was worried about myself. I knew I would struggle, I just knew it. I prepared myself to eat the placenta in smoothies.

I can't even eat chicken.

I ended up not eating it. I have a friend that had a baby, he just turned a year old. She ate hers, and still had the most unbelievable up and down depression. She's still struggling with it. Her experience is what led me to my decision not to eat it.

I was grossed out by it. I probably would have barfed.

So, I didn't have a terrible post-partum period. I actually thought that having a baby changed my brain. I felt the most calm and clear headed that I had felt in years. I thought there was a "mom" super power. All of a sudden, I could remember EVERYTHING. I knew what day it was. I knew where everything was located inside of my house. I am regularly terrible at remembering anything. I don't know where anything is. I don't keep anything organized.

I kept the house clean. I even separated and folded laundry, something that I have not done since I was a teenager.

Then. I went back to work. My first shift was 4 hours. My brain cracked wide open and I was sent screaming back into the darkness.

Turns out, my lack of contact with the outside world eliminated almost all anxiety, which freed my brain. Even so, these days now, aren't as bad as the worst I've felt. I didn't eat my placenta, and I was okay. You didn't eat your placenta, and you're having a hard time. My friend ate hers, and she's having a hard time.

Don't feel bad for not eating it. It might have helped. It might not have. If I had another baby, I still wouldn't eat it.

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