The wind woke me up tonight as it tore through this house we are renting. The door swung open and the windows rattled. I could hear leaves rustling and trees creaking outside.
My little boy lets out a squeak and stretches his tiny body, resting his hand near my cheek. And I begin to write frantically on the notepad app my phone.
I know it’s time to write this story. I’m ready. I’m beyond ready. It’s been spinning around in my head for weeks now as I breastfeed, no hands free to write it down. If my placenta had out come out the normal way, my birth story would have ended at my last blog post. But it didn’t.
Birthing my son into being was a long and luxurious experience but after he arrived, I still had work to do. My aching body had to release the placenta. Vanessa assured me this is normally very quick and easy. It generally just slips out. So we cut the cord awkwardly, welcoming our son to earth and my husband carried him to bed for their first cuddle. I wished I could go with them.
Instead I held my doula’s hands and squatted over a bucket and pushed. And pushed. And moaned and sighed.
I called my mother to tell her our news as Vanessa said sometimes this helps the placenta release. Nothing.
I drank loads of water and had a piss. I had a poo. Nada.
The fucking cord was wet and slimy against my thighs. Some blood was coming from it so Vanessa put a clamp on it and gave me an injection to close the capillaries in my uterus and if the placenta was fully detached, it would have made its exit swiftly. It didn’t.
I hated the clamp. It made it impossible to sit down and rubbed painfully on my bruised torn labia. I reverted to my default setting and decided to go to sleep.
I hobbled the few metres to my bed and my waiting newborn and man. We had sweet cuddles and stares in awe and amazement. Sleep came gratefully with the hope the placenta would slip out softly once I relaxed and had some skin to skin with my boy. It didn’t.
I woke a few hours later to no placenta and the dawning realisation that we would have to go to hospital.
Fuck, fuck, fuck!
We looked at our options and got lots of different advice from Vanessa’s midwife contacts. If we tried to pull or massage my placenta out and it was still attached to the lining of my womb, I was at risk of haemorrhaging all over our truck.
So we decided to get a good nights sleep and go the next day. I can actually hear some of you medically trained readers gasping now!
I realise this probably seems quite radical to you as the common procedure is to get the placenta out of a woman as quick as possible. But we were all still in the mode of trusting my intuition from the birth and that is what my body was pleading with me to do. Just one night as our new family before heading to a potentially traumatic experience. I felt a strong need to stay in our birthing bubble a little longer so our son could properly arrive into our home. So we all agreed and felt good about the decision. A blissful nights sleep was had and we felt much more energy the next day.
A van was organised for our trip to the hospital where I could lie down for the journey. So off we went.
It is like a bad dream and when I go back over it in my mind now. It plays like a film in my head. Some parts are funny, some are sad, some are horrific and I feel in some way I had to disconnect from reality to get through it. A part of me stayed snuggled up in bed with my day old baby.
I remember hobbling into the hospital, painfully aware that walking was the last thing my body wanted to do but sitting in a wheel chair was even more uncomfortable.
I remember hating saying goodbye to my husband and baby as they went to wait on a park bench outside.
We walked down long hallways and went up many floors in the lift.
I tried that thing where you do a pretend smile and hope a real one follows. It didn’t really work.
We were led into a room and suddenly the staff were upon us.
A short women in her fifties with a teddy bear necklace who soundlessly handed me a brown paper bag to put my clothes in.
A male nurse with empty, jaded eyes who stood with his arms folded to my right by a window.
The consultant, younger than me, wouldn’t look me in the eyes.
A student nurse who was kind and talked to me as I was led to the table and my legs risen and feet in stirrups.
Vanessa, my midwife who had to fight her way in to be with me stood to my left and held my hand.
Her soft eyes and steady breath calmed me.
Then it all happened so quick.
Legs pushed apart.
Labia spread forcefully.
I was crying.
The young consultant pulled at the cord.
I tried to relax and breathe and drift off into a safe place in my mind.
The male nurse suddenly marched over from his place at the window and kinda karate chopped me on my abdomen above my womb.
It worked… out slipped my soft and slippery placenta.
33 hours after the birth. We didn’t tell the hospital staff that of course!
It was quickly scooped up and put in a bin on the ground in front of my bed.
An open small bin, no lid.
It just sat there.
No human waste bin with a lid.
Just a normal open bin that you would find in an office.
I remember it taking me a few moments to register what had just happened.
I felt relief that the placenta had come out so quick and knew I could leave this nightmare soon but something was bothering me…. what was it??
MY PLACENTA is in that bin!
I had big plans for this placenta, you see.
An image of the box of jars and neatly, detailed instructions for my doula angel, Aislinn floated into my mind.
I planned to make a tincture, an oil, an essence and capsules out of my placenta and even hoped to have a little in a juice.
I woke up and sat up on the bed, saying calmly “I want my placenta”.
Lots of heads shaking no and a desperate look on Vanessa’s face.
I asked to see it.
It was held in front of me by the nurse who simultaneously waved her hand in front of her nose in a ‘smelly’ gesture.
Vanessa tried to explain to them about ancient cultures and the practice of ingesting your placenta.
They looked at her like we were utterly insane.
I started to cry as it dawned on me how unprepared we were for this. I hadn’t considered they wouldn’t allow me to take home my own body part!
“At the very least I want a print of it”. I shrieked, picturing the canvas waiting at home and wishing I’d had the foresight to take it with me.
Instead I made poor Vanessa try to make a print of it on one of those horrible plastic incontinent pads while the staff looked on with scornful eyes and snickers.
She tried to tell them about how each placenta has a unique structure that resembles the Tree of Life and we were trying to capture it to show my son someday.
They weren’t convinced and instead were more interested in peering at my sore, exposed cunt.
The nurse produced a bottle that to me looked like one you find in a fish and chip shop for vinegar and sprayed a forceful jet of liquid directly onto my torn labia.
Only telling me what it was afterwards once I let out a big scream.
The consultant announced she was going to give me stitches and I would need antibiotics.
I said no to both.
The room exploded.
Everyone began shouting at once.
Telling Vanessa how crazy we all were in her pueblo and how dangerous her practices were.
How stupid I was and how dangerous it was to not have stitches.
I just kept staring at my placenta in that open bin and made a quick decision.
“I don’t care. I’m taking my placenta home. I will bury it. I’m not leaving it in that fucking bin” I whispered to Vanessa.
She looked back at me with her beautiful eyes and nodded immediately.
She didn’t for a minute think of how this could affect her reputation and I love her for that.
She told them we wanted to leave and they still continued shouting.
The man rushed to the door and blocked it.
While they were all distracted, I jumped down from my stirrups and quickly got dressed. I scooped the placenta out of that horrible little bin and put it in the big brown paper bag they had given me to store my clothes.
I have no idea where I got the strength from but something took over and I felt invincible.
I marched over to the crowd that was forming as two more nurses and a translator appeared.
Everyone was still shouting.
Apparently they wouldn’t let me leave until I signed something.
So Vanessa took one look at the bag in my hand, grabbed it and walked confidently out that door.
She got as far as the car park before she realised she was still in her green scrubs!
She found my husband, handed him the bag saying hurriedly “here’s your placenta” and rushed back into the hospital.
What a woman!
I came out the door ten minutes later to find her hiding in the stairwell.
I had managed to talk the growing number of staff down and charm them a bit by pretending I agreed with everything they said. In return the translator gave me a quick scan to confirm my womb was empty.
I left the young consultant with a parting shot. “Have you given birth? No? I hope you remember me if you ever do”.
Once me and Vanessa were reunited, we hugged for a very long time.
“I can’t believe they just put it in that bin” I whispered.
“I’ve seen dead babies in that bin” Vanessa whispered back.
We cried and cried together at the horror of it.
And again, I looked into the eyes of this brave, strong woman called Vanessa Brooks, the founder of Da a Luz Midwifery School and realised for the first time what she was really fighting for.
And the forces that she was up against.
We walked together out of the hospital and went out the wrong entrance.
I had to wait on my own while Vanessa went to get the car because my energy was gone and I couldn’t walk so far.
Instead I hugged a tree on the side of the road and waited.
The consultant and her friend strolled by, glaring at me as I wrapped my body around a pathetic little palm tree on the side of a busy road.
Eventually the van with Vanessa, my husband, little boy and placenta appeared. My son had slept soundlessly throughout the whole experience. He was none the wiser and for this I am so grateful. It was a shite experience for us all, my husband included. The adrenaline kept us going for a couple of days but then the reality hit me and I’ve spent a long time crying over it. I’ve accepted it now and I think it happened so that I could write about it and share it with you. I had hoped to make this a fancy piece with statistics and other case studies but the reality is I don’t have the time right now.
So I write my story for you with the hope you will share yours with me. Maybe we burned some bridges with the hospital by taking the placenta but we were acting on pure impulse. Vanessa reassures me that they probably won’t even remember the experience. She has tried many times to build better relationships with them and has had little or no success.
I don’t know what the answer is to solve this situation but I guess raising awareness is the first step. I used my placenta for all the things I wanted. I’ll share how we did it all soon.
Big, huge love as always xxxx