‘Oh You Shouldn’t Have’ by Johanna Stein
So I’ve just squeezed a nine-pound girl child through my hoo-ha. She’s being cleaned in the hospital nursery while her new, freaked-out father keeps watch. I am still in the delivery room, feeling exhausted, slightly throbbing, but mostly happy that it’s over and I no longer feel like I am passing a solar flare through my lady parts.
My nurse, a sweet southern belle in pink floral scrubs, cleans up what looks like the aftermath of a murder. She is tossing bags of goo into a bin marked “human waste” or something equally demeaning.
On the counter sits a large plastic vat containing the placenta. Unless you’ve recently expelled one you may be unaware that it is the organ responsible for nourishing the unborn child. Think of it like a bag lunch that lasts nine months. While some patchouli-smelling individuals may charitably refer to its appearance as that of a “flower” or a tree of life, I would suggest that it looks like something between a rotting jellyfish, a giant hydroencephalytic brain, or some unpronounceable Hungarian dish that contains way too much sauce… depending on the angle.
As I gaze upon this remarkable and repulsive bloated sack of slop, I become mesmerized by its glistening folds, and like a flesh-and-blood Rohrshach it triggers in me thoughts of a friend, who for reasons which will become clear, I shall refer to only as K.
We have been friends for a long time, K and I. She is a complex person; on the one hand she’s lovely, thoughtful, intelligent and successful; on the other, she is one of the most vile and depraved people I have ever met, qualities upon which our deep friendship is based; qualities which led to the day when she took a shit in a box, tied it up with a bow, and gave it to me as a joke. And unlike her, I shit you not.
It was K’s birthday, so when she handed me the beautifully wrapped gift the only thing I could think of to say was, “but it’s your birthday”. I was shocked. Disgusted. But mostly I was impressed. And ever since that day I have been plotting my revenge. My poo revenge.
And here it is, in Delivery Room 6b, staring me in the face, about to be tossed out like so many pounds of glop. I imagine how the deed will go down: I will hand K a hefty box tied with ribbon. She will look at it and say, “but you’re the new mother…”
It will be sublime.
The conversation with my nurse goes something like this:
“Sooooo, that’s the placenta, right?”
“Yes. It is.”
“Can I have it?”
I consider telling her that I want to do what countless hippie pagans do with theirs: Boil it? Bake it? Bury it? Bathe in it? I don’t know. But I can’t lie to her. I feel that we have really bonded over the past few hours and something in me wants to impress her. So I tell her my story. My poo revenge story.
Wrong choice. Apparently seeing a human being spring forth from my loins hasn’t bonded her to me in the same way.
“I can’t do that.” She says. “I’d lose my job”.
But I will not be kept down by the man, even if that man is a woman in a blood-spattered nurse’s uniform. I’m thirty-nine-years old, goddamit. I stand a better chance of getting dry-humped by George Clooney during an autumn hayride than conceiving another child.
So I beg.
She stares at me with an expression that lives somewhere between contempt and fear.
“I am going to leave the room for a few minutes. What you do in that time is your own deal. I don’t want to know anything about it.”
And ten minutes later I am being transported to my private room in a wheelchair. On my face is one very wide grin, on my lap is one very large pillow, and below that, one very goopy, Tupperware-encased, contraband placenta.
When I arrive at my room I hide the placenta-ware in a dark corner and settle in. My husband is sitting on the bed, cradling our new baby daughter. It is then that I remember why I’m here. Not to get even with my box-crapping friend. I am here to be with the brand new human that my husband and I have created. So I turn my attention to my beautiful family. And for 36 hours the placenta sits in a plastic tub under a pile of blankets and luggage, doing god knows what. Rotting? Maybe. Creating another life, I don’t know.
So when K calls the following day to announce that she will “be there in five minutes” I stumble around in a panic. I’m not ready! I haven’t giftwrapped it! I should have refrigerated it! What if it stinks?! What if when she opens it the smell is so offensive she screams and draws the attention of a passing ethics committee… I tell myself that it doesn’t matter. This will be good. This will be just.
And then K walks into the room and when she sees the new baby she begins to cry, I begin to cry, the baby begins to cry and the whole thing is so moving I lose my nerve. Thirty minutes later K leaves with no knowledge of how close she’d come to being face-to-face with my insides.
Twenty-four hours later we are discharged. But I can’t leave the evidence in the hospital, I gave Hillbilly Nurse Ratchit my word. So it comes home with us, along with the baby, some balloons, and about 20 pairs of disposable panties.
And once we’re home I can’t throw it in the trash — it’s human remains, I can’t do that to my garbage man, though evidently I can’t wait to do it to a close friend.
So into the freezer it goes. I tell myself that I will follow through with the plan. But the sad truth is that it falls down the priority list, somewhere under “keep new human alive” and “try to find a pair of pants that fits my now hamburger-shaped vagina”.
Until my husband gets a new job and we are suddenly in the throes of moving to another city.
Now I am in a bind, one that gives me a newfound respect for serial killers. You don’t realize how hard it is to dispose of human organs until you’ve got one about to be evicted from its under-the-Haagen-Dazs hiding place.
I consider burying it in the yard. Not for hippie voodoo reasons, just to get rid of the damn thing. But there’s an offer on our house and with my luck the housing inspector will uncover the evidence and the buyers will back out on the basis that the house has been built on fertile Indian burial ground.
Meanwhile, we finish packing. My husband leaves to drive the dog and his stamp collection across the country. I tuck the baby under one arm, the frozen entrée under another, and the three of us head out to spend our last night in town at a skeezy hotel by the airport.
That’s when K calls, suggesting that we spend our last night at her house. She’s out of the country, but her Aunt Ellen is house-sitting and she won’t mind.
So off we go. Into a very nice guest room, inside the belly of the beast.
I consider leaving the placenta-sicle in K’s freezer, but after all this time that just feels lazy. Also, I don’t want to risk her aunt thinking it’s a tray of leftovers and trying to reheat it. Surely that must be illegal in most states.
There is only one conceivable option. I must bury it in K’s yard.
Now it is the morning of our departure. The baby is napping. The airport shuttle will be here in twenty minutes. It’s now or never.
It’s raining. Not wanting to endure a five hour cross-country flight with soggy shoes, I take them off, then grab the thawing organ. I run outside in my bare feet, heading straight to K’s gardening shed. I grab a shovel and in the pouring rain I run down the old wooden staircase that leads to the garden. It is then that I lose my footing.
Up into the air — I, the shovel, the placenta, we all go… slipping and sliding, down countless stairs, no shoes to stop me…. as I watch the shovel spin in the air above my head it occurs to me that I may die in the next moment. I will have made it through childbirth only to be killed by the placenta almost nine months later… and wouldn’t that be ironic.
The shovel comes down on top of my leg, leaving me with a three inch gash. I am alive. Bleeding, in pain, and laughing hysterically, but alive.
I continue down the stairs, limping towards the back fence where I find a small Charlie-Brown looking shrub, under which I dig a hole. I plop the big bloody ice cube into the hole, then bury it. I give it a couple of solid pats and say a small prayer that Aunt Ellen’s Chihuahua “Mister Pants” doesn’t dig it up. Battered and bruised I pump a half-hearted victory fist into the air, and run back up to the house.
Aunt Ellen is standing on the back deck. Holding a cup of coffee. Staring at me.
I am dripping wet, bare feet caked in mud, blood streaming down my leg… and I am holding a shovel. There is no question that I look like a sloppy murderer.
I can hear the cab honking in the driveway. And though there is no time for it, I tell Aunt Ellen that I’ve just buried a placenta in her niece’s yard.
She smiles. “How sweet. You planted fertility in her garden”!
My jaw tightens. She’s right. If you believe in that crap — which K does — that’s exactly what I’ve done. Not only have I not gotten my revenge, I’ve essentially provided K with the hippie voodoo means to produce a child, including a placenta which will one day most certainly find itself in my hands — or, knowing K, in my digestive tract, courtesy of a plate of home-cooked plasagna.
So here I am, back at square one of my poo revenge plot. I’m thinking now that it’s time I took a simpler “eye for an eye”, “dookie for a dookie” approach. My birthday is next month. Until then I’ll be stocking up on gift boxes and eating lots and lots of roughage.
Johanna Stein is a writer/director/comedian/forward/slash/abuser whose work has been seen in The NY Times, Parents Magazine, CBS, PBS, Comedy Central, Disney, Nickelodeon, The Oxygen Network, The Movie Network, VH-1, CBC and all over the Worldwide Internets. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, their daughter, and a dog who once ate a couch. For more info: www.johannastein.com