Dear Placenta | Courtney Lund O’Neil

2 mins read

Placenta, you scared me. There you were, bulging and bright, right in front of me under the stare of the cold hospital room. 

You came shortly after an on-call male doctor in his seventies, whom I had never met, tumbled into the fluorescent room. He entered after twenty-eight hours of labor. My baby, stuck. Below my pelvic bones, bent sideways. Breathing, stunted. Machines, beeping red. 

When he rushed in, there was no introduction. Only a knife in hand, a violent episiotomy. A vacancy, a break-in, a whoosh. A grape baby sailed out, swiveling. The man handed my son to the women of NICU. Not to me, there was more to do, he said. In that moment, it seemed there lived only you, him, and me. He told me push. But I did not understand. I tensed, a sea of blood swayed in the blue tarp below. Had I not pushed enough? 

Push! He said. I need to sew you back together.

I pushed, placenta. I screamed. Delivering you was more haunting than releasing the baby. The longer you incubated, the more blood I lost, so I pushed as hard and fast as I could. I knew I’d have to squeeze out the baby, but you? I imagined you would slide out on your own. 

But you would require your own contractions, and after many heaves and huffs, the stranger grabbed you by your neck. Yanked you from my body, pulsing in his grip. An empty bag of something like me. You were alive in the stale hospital air. And huge. Bloated in veins and energy.

Courtney Lund O’Neil, Ph.D., is an educator at UC San Diego. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Columbia Journal, The Normal School, and elsewhere. She is currently working on her first book of narrative nonfiction.