The first time I saw a placenta, I was both taken aback and slightly disappointed at its appearance.
It was both startlingly huge — I had no idea placentas were that big — and completely unimpressive looking, just looking like a giant hunk of, well, meat. How did something that sustained my child's life look so ordinary?
What's not ordinary, however, are the many customs that we humans have taken on to dispose of that once-in-a-lifetime organ.
Image: Tina Glisic
Tina Glisic wasn't one to fry up her placenta and chow down, but she did consume her own — in the form of encapsulated pills. "It's fairly natural for mammals to do so and among many cultures it has been practiced for centuries," explains Tina of her decision to encapsulate her placenta. "I saw no harm in consuming it if it provided any benefits." Tina had her placenta ground up and made into pills she could swallow. "The capsules had a bad smell but so did other things to me," she says. "I could only take it if someone handed me one and I chased it with juice."
This story is a bit hard to swallow. (Pun maybe intended.) If you're leery of eating a piece of your own body but your partner is game, pass on your placenta to him for some good eating. He could make like Nick Baines, who blended up his wife's placenta raw in a banana smoothie and fried up the rest in a meaty taco. "As I seasoned it on the chopping board, the bright, almost glowing red chunk of placenta was more attractive than many cuts of offal I've dealt with, and looked quite appetizing," he wrote in his essay for The Guardian. "The meat was rich, with a beef-like quality. It was tender, kind of like roast brisket and not dissimilar to Texas BBQ."
Apparently the Ostiak and Vogul tribes of the Ural Mountains honor the placenta as a literal "mother of the child" — which isn't too far from its actual purpose, actually — and dress it up in special clothes for the occasion. Fancy pants placenta.
Image: Erin Vest/Flickr
The notion of burying the placenta isn't really a novel idea — lots of animals do it, I've heard, to deter potential blood-thirsty predators. But the beliefs behind it are a bit more interesting than that, such as the people of the Celebes Island, who believe that the placenta is actually a sibling to the baby and customs vary from watering it to planting palm trees over top of it to preserve the special bond of the placenta "sibling."
Image: Nico Nelson/Flickr
You don't actually have to dispose of your placenta at all if you go with a lotus birth. Simply bag that thing up and let it naturally rot off of your baby. No harm, no foul. OK, maybe a little bit foul.
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