the placenta tree

The text from my son-in-law came in at 6 a.m. He was at the hospital with my daughter, who had just delivered their second child. The text read, “They are bringing the placenta at 7:30!”

Um, how to respond, especially after an interrupted sleep? “Great,” I texted back, and forgot all about it as I made coffee (for me) and pancakes for my two-year-old grandson. I was staying with him while his parents were in the hospital.

An hour later, the doorbell rang. On the front steps stood a woman holding a large plastic dishpan, and what looked like a towel. I opened the door, completely confused. “Here,” she handed me the towel. She seemed to think I knew why she was here and what she was bringing for us. “This is for Maisie,” she said briskly as she looked around for a place to settle the dishpan, which held a large round container. Is she here to groom the dog, Maisie, I wondered? And why didn’t my daughter mention this appointment when we went over my instructions for the weekend?

“And where should I put this,” she was asking, “It’s heavy!”

I suddenly put two and two together, realizing this woman was my daughter’s doula, and that she had brought the placenta! My son-in-law meant she was bringing it to us, not to their hospital room.

Another “Um,” I stalled. Though I had eight grandkids already, this was a first for me. Not quite knowing the proper etiquette for placenta deliveries, I suggested she put it in the basement refrigerator. Which she did, telling me that the towel—actually a receiving blanket—was for Maisie. With this, Maisie could begin to get familiar with the scent of the new baby. Ever the reporter, I decided to ask a bunch of questions as I wondered if bringing home one’s placenta was a trend among new parents.

“Why do new moms want to save their placenta,” I asked the doula as we headed up the basement steps. The practice is becoming much more common, she said. Some newly post-partum moms make vitamins out of theirs, or simply eat it. Yes, Mandy Moore, Alicia Silverstone and Kourtney Kardashian reportedly all saved and ate their placentas. When I did a bit of research, I learned that medical experts don’t actually recommend this practice. There is no scientific evidence that consuming the placenta has any health benefits. In fact, some research shows, it could even be harmful to do so.

But another suggested use I found in my research was to bury the placenta and plant a tree over it. That, ultimately, is what my daughter and her husband decided to do. They installed a little weeping beech over it in a corner of their yard. Five months later, the tree is certainly thriving. From time to time, I comment to my daughter and son-in-law about the robust health of “the placenta tree.” They always agree about how nice and full it looks. Other family members say how great it’s looking, too, although I’m the only one who refers to it as “the placenta tree.” Give them time.

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