Afterbirth: It's What's For Dinner

My wife ate her own placenta. I had to watch. And then I had to write

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Illustration by Mark Matcho for TIME

Illustration of baby.

There is so much you can't know about your spouse when you get married, like that one day she will want to eat her placenta. But there are two things you don't argue about with a pregnant woman: what she eats and that being full of life indeed looks sexy. So when Cassandra told me that for $275, a woman would come to our house, cook Cassandra's placenta, freeze-dry it and turn it into capsules to help ward off postpartum depression and increase milk supply, I said, "$275 is a bargain compared with the $20,000 I'll have to spend to tear out our kitchen immediately afterward."

Most mammals, Cassandra explained, eat their placentas, to which I countered that most dogs eat their poop. I stopped arguing there, figuring that like many of Cassandra's hippie ideas--the compost bin, rubbing lemon on her underarms instead of deodorant--she'd give up on this in a few weeks. Even as the due date approached and she was still set on eating her placenta, I couldn't imagine that she'd remember to request it from the doctor after the most physically draining experience of her life. This is a woman who, 9 times out of 10, forgets the bag of leftovers at the restaurant.

Though I am exceedingly squeamish, when my son was born, I was shocked that I saw only the beauty of childbirth. Until the placenta came out. There are many normal human reactions to seeing a placenta, ranging from screaming to vomiting to warding it off with a cross. For those of you who have never seen one, the placenta is to the baby what Stephen Baldwin is to Alec Baldwin. It's what your liver would look like if it got into an accident on the autobahn with one of those aliens from Mars Attacks! and their bloody carcasses threw jellyfish at each other.

When the placenta did come out, Cassandra, dazed from 21 hours of labor, somehow made sure the nurses delivered it to us in a flat plastic container, which I put into an ice-filled Monsters vs Aliens cooler I brought. When I asked if I could keep the placenta overnight in the refrigerator out in the hall, the nurses looked at me like I was crazy. When you gross out people who work at a hospital, you have accomplished something.

In a fog, I drove the placenta home, where I wrapped the container in a bag and wrapped that bag in a bag and wrapped that bag in every remaining bag we had in the house. I slept at the hospital that night, grateful that my son will never remember what his parents just did.

The next day I drove back to the house to meet the placenta lady, Sara Pereira. To my surprise, Sara did not look unkempt, frumpy, heavy or in any way like a Wiccan. She got into placenta-cooking after taking a Chinese-medicine course and has already prepared more than two dozen placentas this year--and orders are picking up rapidly. When I asked Sara if her parents were embarrassed by what she does, she told me that her father sells bull semen.

By law, Sara has to cook the placenta at the placenta owner's home. But to my great relief, she brought her own equipment, gloves, sponges and even more detergent than I'd hoped, scrubbing constantly as she worked. If I ever kill a man in my own home, I am totally calling the placenta lady.

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