Photo by Ian Dooley | Unsplash


The Road to Hell

There’s a placenta in my freezer. It’s from my daughter’s birth. She’s 19.

A human placenta in my freezer for 19 years, tucked in a plastic bread bag.

Life is strange, yes?

It’s gross, I know. It happened innocuously enough, as these things often do. I gave birth to my last two kids at home. Long ago, when all the meals were homemade and whole grain and good intention gushed forth, I was that home-birthing, breastfeeding, attachment-parenting witch building a perfect little universe in my mind.

Boil, boil, toil and trouble.

Plenty of toil and trouble later, in a world where take-out is awesome and so is white bread, I don’t regret the choices. But each time I open my freezer, there’s an odd little package winking at me, tucked among the ice cream and the vodka (that’s a joke, of course, it’s gin). It’s small and unobtrusive; to the uneducated eye it would appear to be just another leftover, possibly a perfect morsel for a small dinner (which we never ever have because of all that attachment parenting).

It is, however, a placenta — afterbirth — which the midwife left for us to, I don’t know, do something witchy with. Eat? Burn? We decided to bury it under the perfect flora that we would grow in our lovely yard to commemorate the birth of our precious daughter.

As you do.

But, it was November and I had three little boys and a newborn and the husband was traveling for work and then came the breast infections and the meltdowns and the placenta was tossed into the freezer. For spring. 19 years ago. Good intentions persistently suggested that we should bury the thing under something important. I’m not sure, however, that we’ve ever planted something important (who remembers now?) and, if we did, we forgot the placenta.

My grandmother said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Now I’m cleaning everything again and am stuck with this plastic bag in my freezer. What is one supposed to do with such a thing? I throw old freezer burned things in the garbage with impunity, but I can’t throw this out — it would surely conjure something bad, offend the goddesses and the witches and possibly hurt my daughter, right? Of course, that’s crazy, but what if it’s not?

I can’t risk it.

I suppose we could still bury it, push the frozen knot of organ tissue into the ground and plop a rose bush on top. Experience suggests, however, that we won’t ever plant a bush and, if we do, we’ll forget the placenta. Burning it just seems horrifying and wrong. I really can’t have it peeking at me from the freezer anymore, though. It’s starting to feel like super bad feng shui or very important unfinished business.

Something needs to happen.

The daughter has left for college, off to a new city and a new life. It seems like the perfect time for a ritual processing of the placenta. Trouble is, I’m not sure I have much energy for or interest in ritual anymore. Maybe I can hurl it into the woods, recite a few lines from a poem, and raise a glass of gin. Maybe I can throw it on the bonfire and try to forget about funeral pyres. Is there a place to donate such things for good causes?

Do you see my dilemma?

I suppose there’s no harm in pushing it to the back of the freezer again. There’s plenty of room, it’s a small thing. A perfect procrastinator’s solution.

I will offer this advice — if the midwife asks if you want the placenta, say, “No, thank you.” Then turn and gaze at your charming baby and forget about it.

You’re going to be busy — your freezer and your psyche will need the room.

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