Saturday, February 13, 2010

Placentophagy is the term commonly given when a mammal eats its placenta shortly after birthing it. Traditional Western medicine eschews this practice in humans, and I wasn't able to find any hard, empirical evidence that spoke of its benefits. Many people contend however, that eating the placenta provides the mother with rich nutrients that enhance post-partum uterine health, decreases the likelihood of post-partum depression, and increases the quantity and quality of the incoming breast milk. Everyone seems to agree that if only the mother ingests the placenta, no harm will come of it.

When their little girl was born, a 16 year-old client of mine was shocked at the emergence of his girlfriend’s placenta: “And then, and then," he recalled, "all of a sudden, this great, big Meat-Heart came out!” I always liked that he called it a Meat-Heart.

I decided to dehydrate Lanie’s placenta and collect it for her in pill form. What follows is a photo essay and some commentary about the experience. I tend to get a little squeamish around blood and guts, however the placenta was an integral part of one of the holiest events of my life. As a result, I think, I found it remarkably easy to handle and prepare. But please be forewarned, some of these photos are most definitely NSFW and I wouldn’t begrudge a soul for turning back now.

Step 1, Preparation

The placenta spent the day on top of the refrigerator thawing out.

Step 2, Draining The Blood

I put the placenta in the sink, drained the blood, and rinsed it off thoroughly -- it never tried to escape.

Step 3, The Flavoring

The recipe calls for a sliced up lime, some ginger and a hot pepper. They were all put in the pot to steam.

Step 4, The Steaming

This pot was purchased at a thrift store in Colorado in 2004. It played a lovely role during the labor, and this turned out to be its final culinary mission. The placenta was steamed on each side for 15 minutes.

Step 5, Meat-Heart!

I could not help myself: The 15 year-old boy in me was wildly bemused by photographing the placenta with other food stuffs commonly found in the kitchen. (The photo with the slice of pizza has been deleted.)

Step 6, Cutting it into jerky strips, and then panning it up

Step 7, Into the oven you go

Proud Papa

I cooked it for about 10 hours on the lowest setting on the oven. I got up every two hours all night long to check on it, walking by Lanie and Endy, who were usually awake anyway, on my way to the kitchen. At around 3 am I realized I had cut the pieces too thick, so I sliced them all in half a second time.

Step 8, Appraising the jerky

At this point, around 9 am, I was cranky and had no coffee in me, and frankly the whole project was starting to gross me out a little.

Step 10, Enter the coffee grinder

The Krups will never be the same again

Step 11, Voilá!

Step 12, Encapsulation

I spent most of the day feeding the powder into little capsules I bought at the health food store. At one point Lanie and I watched the movie "Heat" on instant Netflix. I will not lie, it was strange watching the movie "Heat" while encapsulating a placenta.

Step 13, The Final Product is Here!!

I ended up filling about 280 capsules. Thanks to Sarah P. for the recipe, Lana D. for answering some questions, Lanie for her heroism, and finally, to the placenta, for so thoroughly and unconditionally nourishing our dear little Endy for nine, long months.