Motherhood Trials · Postpartum Care

Easing Postpartum Emotions

I think one of the most surprising parts of parenting is how often you do all the things you swore you’d never do. #iconsumedmyplacenta

**Fair word of warning: there is a photo of my placenta in this post. It’s sitting in a surgical pan on a table in the delivery room. While it’s really frickin’ cool to me, it may bother those who can’t stand the sight of blood. So if that bothers you, don’t read on.**

When I saw the “Placenta Encapsulation Services” table at The Great Cloth Diaper Change event in 2013, I quickly looked the other way and skirted around a few people to avoid walking by. People seriously do that?! I thought. Ewwwwww!!!!!!! I could never do that.

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After the birth of my son in 2013, I experienced what most women do: a frickin’ train wreck of hormones that wreck havoc on your emotions and mental state. I’d be holding him and just start crying. When my husband would ask me what’s wrong, all I could think to say was, “I can’t believe this came out of me. He’s so beautiful. How am I going to do this?” I couldn’t leave the house without help for months because I was terrified of putting him in his carseat wrong. It would take me fifteen minutes just to get him buckled, and by that time, he’d either pooped or spit up or needed to nurse again, so I’d unbuckle him and sit back down in the recliner. I couldn’t hold him as I walked down the hallwayย  in our upstairs that overlooks the entryway on the first level because I was sure I would trip and toss him over the banister. I would lay awake staring at his sleeping body in the co-sleeper next to me, occasionally reaching over and touching his chest to make sure he was still breathing. The list goes on, but I think you get it.

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I was so worried about watching out for postpartum depression, that I didn’t know to look for postpartum anxiety. I didn’t even know that there were other perinatal mood disorders to be wary of. I didn’t tell my doctor because I thought that what I was going through was just part of postpartum life. I didn’t realize there were avenues to help like group meetings and medications if it came to that. Even though I knew what I was afraid of was ridiculous and completely unlikely, I couldn’t stop feeling paralyzingly anxious about it. Thankfully, my hormones eventually evened out as my milk regulated, and I was able to walk down the hall with him and eventually the stairs as well.ย  A friend who is a CPST came over and showed me in person how to use the carseat quickly and safely, so I was finally able to leave the house, just me and the baby. And I figured out the biggest parenting secret of all time that eventually lessened the rest of my anxiety to a tolerable level:

No one actually knows what they’re doing; some are just better at pretending than others, but we’re all hoping that we are doing our best.

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Fast-forward to the months preparing for my second labor and delivery experience. I had learned that a doula would be a great fit for me, and so I hired one. I also learned from a few friends just how much of a difference placenta encapsulation and consumption had made in their postpartum lives. After a very emotionally rough time struggling with secondary infertility, I was even more scared of postpartum depression and other perinatal mood disorders. I had been used to the fear of the other shoe dropping throughout my pregnancy and was worried at how it would choke me once he was born. The idea of being rendered useless to my children and my husband during a time I had so desperately waited for and wanted to enjoy was crippling. I was willing to try anything to help me ease those mood swings to keep me from falling down those potential rabbit holes of darkness and anxiety. So I signed up to have my placenta encapsulated.

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Indianapolis Doulas is the agency I hired my doula through, and I quickly found out that they also were certified for placenta encapsulation as well. They sent me my placenta transport kit in the mail (a cooler, plastic bags, and instructions for transporting from the hospital) and I packed it in my hospital bag. At the hospital after giving birth to both baby and my placenta, my doula packaged it up for me in the bags and the cooler, and we kept it in the refrigerator in my postpartum room until it was time to go home a few days later.

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The day after I got home, Colleen (a doula and one of the owners of Indianapolis Doulas) came to my house with the CBS4 news team (Colleen had asked me if I’d be willing to help with a segment they were doing on the process, and I said yes) and prepared the placenta for dehydrating.

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She cleaned it, made a print with it on paper, boiled it with lemon and ginger, and set it to lay in the dehydrator overnight. She even laid the section of umbilical cord that had been previously attached to the placenta before cleaning it in the shape of a heart in the dehydrator as a potential keepsake (even though it’s not something I ended up keeping, they do this for every client when possible).

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Can you believe how big this thing is? I know they say, “You have a dinner plate sized wound inside you. You have to heal from that. That’s why you’re so tired and weak during the postpartum period,” but it still blew me away to visually see the sheer size of my placenta.

She came back the next day to grind up the dehydrated placenta and put it into capsules.

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I began taking the capsules that day. They didn’t taste like anything, and I had no ill-tasting burps in the hours following or anything: what was one more pill? At first, I wasn’t sure if they were really doing anything. Then, I forgot to take them with me when we went to my in-laws over the weekend. It was like night and day.

The days I had forgotten, I was not fun to be around at all. Anger was fierce and quick to surface; helplessness and sadness crashed over me without warning, and I was more thoroughly exhausted than I had been in the days prior. I had a constant headache too.

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The days I remembered to take them, I felt more balanced, more in control, calmer, more myself. It’s not that I didn’t have mood swings at all, but the waves were much smaller than the storm of emotions when I didn’t take them. It was like I was able to tread water instead of feeling like I was drowning. I feel like it gave me more of a leg to stand on to enjoy that part of the newborn stage a little more with my son rather than feeling like I was just “getting through it.”

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I’m now 4 months postpartum, and it’s been two month since I’ve had pills to take. At first, emptying that bottle left me feeling apprehensive that I would feel different the minute I had nothing to take, but it didn’t. The storm of postpartum emotions had ebbed enough that I still felt like myself even when the bottle was empty.

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Some say it’s a placebo effect, others say it truly restores balance to the minerals and hormones in your body. All I know is that it worked for me. Placebo or not, I’m glad I went against my previous judgement and consumed my placenta. And if you’re considering it, I honestly would recommend giving it a try. If it might help you, why not, right?

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