When I delivered my children at home with nurse midwives, I did not save or cooked my placenta. But some cultures do.



Below is an interesting take about the Placenta.

These results [in mice] led to an extraordinary conclusion. Paternal genes, inherited from the father, are responsible for making the placenta – maternal genes, inherited from the mother, are responsible for making the greater part of the embryo, especially its head and brain… [David Haig] had begun to reinterpret the mammalian placenta, not as a maternal organ designed to give sustenance to the foetus, but more as a foetal organ desgined to parasitise the maternal blood supply and brook no opposition in the process. He noted that the placenta literally bores its way into the mother’s vessels, forcing them to dilate, and then proceeds to produce hormones which raise the mother’s blood pressure and blood sugar. The mother responds by raising her insulin levels to combat this invasion, yet, if for some reason the foetal hormone is missing, the mother does not need to raise her insulin levels and a normal pregnancy ensues. In other words, although mother and foetus have a common purpose, they argue fiercely about the details of how much of the mother’s resources the foetus may have – exactly as they will later during weaning. But the foetus is built partly with maternal genes, so it would not be surprising  if these genes found themselves with, as it were, a conflict of interest. The father’s genes in the foetus have no such worries. They do not have the mother’s interest at heart, except insofar as she provides a home for them. The father’s genes do not trust the mother’s genes to make a sufficiently invasive placenta; so they do the job themselves…. Modern evolutionary theorists, led by David Haig, now think of the placenta as more like a parasitic takeover of the mother’s body by paternal genes in the foetus. The placenta tries, against maternal resistance, to control her blood-sugar levels and blood pressure to the benefit of the foetus.’ Matt Ridley, Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters, Fourth Estate, 2000

‘In recent years, too, biologists have discovered a phenomenon called ‘genomic imprinting’, which says that a gene inherited from the mother may behave differently from the same gene inherited from the father.’ The Second Creation, Headline, 2001

‘Scientists have discovered a gene that plays a crucial role in the survival of female embryos. The breakthrough provides valuable information about the way genes are regulated in the developing embryo. It should also help improve the understanding of foetal loss, tumour development, birth defects and mental retardation. The scientists, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, carried out their research on female mice embryos. They examined a gene called eed, which when functioning normally keeps the X chromosome inherited from the father inactive, and many of its genes shut down in early placental cells. They discovered that female embryos without a functioning eed do not survive because they cannot form a placenta. Other studies have shown that the gene Xist is responsible for putting the molecular brakes only on the X chromosome. As female mammals have two X chromosomes (XX) and males an X and Y (XY), imbalance occurs because female embryos have twice as many X-linked genes. That is where Xist comes into play. It gets turned on early in the development of the female embryo. This gene is activated from the X chromosome that is going to be shut down – which in early placental material is only the X from the father. Once the paternal X chromosome is shut down, then the cells must continue to divide and keep it shut down. The new research has found that it is the eed gene which performs this function. Lead researcher Dr Terry Magnuson said: “Without eed functioning normally, the father’s X chromosome is shut down and then it comes back on. When that happens, too many X chromosome genes are active, there are problems forming placental tissue, and female embryos die.” The researchers also discovered that a partially-functioning eed gene can lead to the development of leukaemia, skeletal abnormalities and other problems. The gene also plays a vital role in telling cells where to go in the developing embryo. Without this gene functioning in the proper way, those cells move to the wrong place. And that can result in birth defects.’ BBC News, 2001

‘The embryos with an all-paternal genome develop a fine placenta, but no proper embryo; while those with an all-maternal genome begin by making a good-looking embryo, but only a poor placenta. For this reason parthenogenesis in mammals – development of a whole new animal from an unfertilised egg – really does seem ‘biologically impossible’ in mammals, even though it is common enough in other animals, including many other vertebrates. In the absence of divine intervention, virgin birth for mammals is not an option.’ Ian Wilmut and Keith Campbell, Mammals Cloned, The Second Creation, 2001


So, battle.

In the dark blood nest –

a strategic invasion

in the genetic sex war.

Now I understand why it felt like that;

struggle, sickness, surgery –

a subtle wounding of veins,

punctured, resealed –

warring hormones

struggling for small ground

like First World War boys;

nightmares, fear, fatigue.

Used as incubator –

sucked for your own red sugar;

bones dissolving for nutritious stock –

even your skin doesn’t quite fit,

permanently stretches sickle-moon scars.

Not blooming,

I was humble earth,

weary from being dug;

mined for gold and minerals,

providing permanent transfusion –

love already converting self-preservation

into self-annihilation.

‘We have got used to thinking of genes as recipes, passively awaiting transcription at the discretion of the collective needs of the whole organism: genes as servants of the body. Here we encounter a different reality. The body is the victim, plaything, battleground and vehicle for the ambitions of genes.’ Matt Ridley, Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters, Fourth Estate, 2000

Design Fault (Placenta)

Of course there had to be a male designer involved –

(Just think of their clothes for a size six; stilettos – the thong!)

The mystery of why women feel so ill in pregnancy is solved,

The placenta is made by male genes, that’s what’s wrong.

I suppose we should have guessed, considering its features –

Selfish, invasive, parasitic, doesn’t give a stuff for the woman;

Plots and punctures, sucks her blood like those vampire creatures –

Sounds familiar, ladies, I’m assumin’.

I’d just like to point out that, like periods, the design is faulty –

Inconvenient, unfair, one-sided, a palaver; really somewhat messy

Even if you can find a placenta-maker of reasonable quality,

Who doesn’t think showing he loves someone makes him a jessie;

Because where the genetics of sex are most defective,

Is that men can make sperm and placentas until they’re eighty,

But to find a good man women practically have to hire a detective –

Forty odd years just isn’t enough time for a matter so weighty –

And what do you do when your eggs reach their sell-by date?

When you want to at least try to be selective, find a decent partner;

Supporter, equal, suitable father – half decent-looking – a mate,

But to live with most of them, you’d have to be a blimmin’ martyr.

The alien has landed

The alien has landed –

co-ordinates of dreaming egg,

sperm assignation,

called this life from space;

from unknown dark

where it may have waited

through the sleep of time

for just this moment

that might never come,

but is here, now.

Not part of the mother,

but other –

harboured, independent

in total dependence;

but enslaving, despotic,

tyrannical – which nature it will shed,

switch off, following weeks

of forced parental labour –

after the painful hatching –

ill-fitting stranger, cuckoo-size.

Relying after, not on these chemical

whips and shackles, commands –

but the utter enslavement;

ruthlessness of such love.

How long has the silent war been lost by women

How long has the silent war been lost by women? So many bloody battles,

just to achieve a mockery of equality; after centuries of slavery, considered

property – rape laws that would shame cavemen, surviving to the Twentieth

Century – denied education, contraception. Half the population persecuted –

imprisoned in kitchens; denied expression, intelligence, washing the fucking

dishes – dusting, hoovering, polishing – instead of art, poetry, music, drama –

book on book on book. They are there somewhere, all these unwritten books, lost like the library at Alexandria – paintings unpainted, somewhere in a vast gallery; ideas with no fruition, like a genome without body, so much lost that should have been – they have an outraged reality that keeps them in existence.

And now the woman who ‘has it all’, bizarrely, instead becomes a woman

who ‘does it all’ – works as well as doing traditional shit. Whoever hears

men referred to as ‘working fathers’? Study on study – effects on children

of ‘working mothers’, but never ‘working fathers’, ‘both parents working’;

still considered the mother’s duty first – the mother’s guilt first. But why?

Everyone works too much for their children’s sake – because our society

is still set up as if a 1950s housewife fussed in the background; the hours

and set up do not therefore suit the rising place of modern women – who

should come into their own right now – without guilt, without choosing –

a spurious, ridiculous choice between ironing pants or running companies,

and nothing in between; it makes me so furious – I’m no bloody simpering

‘Domestic Goddess’, but the ‘Domestic Athiest’ – the Anti-Houswife when

it comes to the suggestion that housework is the special domain of women;

some God-given skill for separating piles of white, black, coloured clothes,

turning the dial to 30, pressin ‘ON’; something anyone with even minimum

IQ could readily achieve. I don’t believe in housework beyond the minimum

required not to breed lethal germs. Men and women are equally able to wash a fork or a baby, so fuck being a Domestic Goddess – as eternal she, feminine, the concept of home and family can be embraced, celebrated, expressed, in so many fabulous ways – not half-starved, but hating your body still, in a shining designer prison, where dreams become degenerate, mutate – dreams of a fully-fitted kitchen, power-shower, freshly decorated spare room – learning to make the brulee for the fucking crème…Bloody Hell! what terrible fate to have your dreams polluted, like those kidnapped women who begin to believe in the cause of their captors. The day I dream only of co-ordinated tea-towels – air freshener, new Nigella recipes, just take me away to the wilderness – the National Library, National Gallery, and leave me be to hatch out once again; these butterflies they would not let fly, keeping women eternal caterpillars – how our sisters suffered – such repression – and how betrayed each time some stupid cow says: ‘I’m not a

feminist but…’. Or acts as some man’s unpaid drudge – simpers at his crap jokes because he’s rich; fondles his great white belly, just because of his big car, house.

And all the while in the secret place beneath skin, hidden Genome jewellery box –

the only place where women rose and rose – secret ‘X’ marks the spot where, free

from lions, bison, wolves, advantage creeps – even under bonnets, corsets; forcing

the Y to keep his most aggressive weapons to himself. Sniping at this imperious – proprietorial co-habitee, with all power left to her – watching as he bollocksed up

the world, killed her sons, wrecked Earth, her planet home – all she could do was

work on the Genome’s silver threads, embroider her genes, disciplining his – just

waiting for the outside world, living world to catch up with the Genome’s unseen

truth. And now is that time – the casting off must happen; confining cocoons split,

slipped, women fly; and if men want to join them in the sky then they must fly too, not grump about their tea being on the table – where are my socks, no wife of mine is working – perhaps you can go part-time if that fits nursery better, when’s dinner, and all that ancient crap that will not totally die, is seen in its terrible death throes – forget it, if they want to soar as high – in bright blue freedom that this new century, born in gloom, must bring. The Genome has been found, deciphered – women seen inside the very core, as species within species, quite superior; fundamental victor – and that’s a fact. (Though of all genetic mysteries, one stubbornly remains – bizarre, undiscovered; what advantage it confers not clear, though Nature must have reason; in women only, on the ‘X’ chromosome – why did the gene for shopping develop?)

Perpetual ICE (interlocus contest evolution)

‘Perpetual ICE (interlocus contest evolution) between the Y and the rest of the genome can thereby continually erode the genetic quality of the Y via genetic hitchhiking of mildly deleterious mutations. The decay of the Y is due to genetic hitchhiking, but it is the ICE process that acts in a catalytic way to continually drive the male verus female antagonistic coevolution.’The enemies within: intergenomic conflict, interlocus contest evolution (ICE), and the intraspecific Red Queen, WR Rice and B Holland, Nature magazine

Was it war then, that led you to hurt me? –

men and women driven by nature-demons,

ghosts of their own creation that never rest.

Wars of attrition, not just to survive but triumph.

Women winning – but feeling the losers, always,

in the battles you can see; falling to the weapons

of neglect, or words adapted, like metal pens beaten

into arrows, that could have been wells of kindness –

engraved – laughter-carriers, or winged with poetry,

silver Mercury-cups bearing messages – so simple,

but marinated with love; transforming the physical

experience of the world, forged into ruthless swords.


A woman will watch confidence ooze from her own pores

like silver water, as if she was bleeding out mercury blood;

see it wash down the drain like reluctant soapsuds, creating

its own small black hole to suck more, happiness and peace;

yet will still stand there, washing and washing and washing.

Is it revenge, because every battle is ultimately won by men?

Even when women gain ground they cannot stand up, protect;

achieving jobs, they will work – but still never be thin enough.

They’ll succeed, exceed, overtake, but never be pretty enough.

Invent, dazzle intellectually – but be dismissed for a spare tyre;

made to feel ashamed of wanting babies – guilty about wanting

to achieve and have babies, with the startling bloody ommision

of the question; why are men are allowed both without comment

in so-called equal society? Who pressures a man to stay at home

all day every day bored shitless, just because he’s become a dad?

Why is it the woman’s job to fit it ‘all’ in, and not his? Who says?

These are the dirty tricks of a genetic war, played out in the theatre

of life, organic realisation; costumes, uniforms looking like ordinary

clothes, the different shoes and hair to show allegiance to each cause,

under flags of Penis and Breast, colours of skirts and ties – and you’d

swear that women were losing, have always been losing; as I surely lost

to you, others like you, scraping myself up, glueing pieces back together

with my own ground-up self esteem like cattle bones; Love saying, ‘I am

everything, believe in me always’- and Romantic Love sighing: ‘Trust me,

believe in me; I am the Cosmic Superglue you need, baby,‘cos without me,

your Humpty-Dumpty heart will never be fixed; trust me, honey, sweetheart’.

And we can’t help trusting after wine and smiling; chocolate, flowers, time –

over the top we go, gunned down once more – just a few making it over ‘No

Man’s Land’, taking the high ground, the victory – and as the wounded salve

their hearts with buckets of Chardonnay, sheltering in a warm golden bunker

with some other drunkish mates; as they talk, talk the matter to its bones,

down to the last atom of the whole godamn relationship, all ladies agree –

there is no explanation for this assassination of the heart – this emotional

torture; and not one woman has ever felt or seen how deep in the Genome

it is that we are winning the war – so incredibly, unbelievably, bizarrely –

the oppressed are becoming the victors in Evolution’s wars. Yes, women

are the long term team to back – as the people once defeated aristocracy –

David, Goliath; imprisoned black man became President. An army in heels,

pink warpaint on lips, emblazoning of eyes, singing high-pitched battle-cry;

skirts one day scary as the Kilt will be – marching proudly, handbags drawn.

And scientists it is, who will see the victory first, Crown of Evolution;

as once a woman’s skin and hair, not brain, was crowned – such irony

that women will win a war they did not – do not want, but must have –

like most women, I was always waving the white flag, trying to be kind;

and a truce is in our children – always peace is worth it, for our children.

I hope you bloody remember sometimes

I hope you bloody remember sometimes,

how you have made me see stars as eyes

brimming, twinkling with tears;

trembling with shining water –

trying not to cry melted ice.

As incandescent light tearily

burning up cosmic dust in white eyes,

time turning mouldered energy to lies;

men sending sentimental wishes

pointlessly to depressive rocks.

Remember then, from time to time –

in a lifetime chain of cold midnights,

how you have stolen night’s dark charms;

her ruthless comforts, sparse tapestries –

altered my chemistry, soft molecules;

caused permanent genetic affliction –

each girlish snowflake – frivolous crystal

skeleton crocheted in swarms, de-bunked

of magic, Christmas frisson –

for did we not dance in snow.

This tired morning Moon, so naked

under her pale gown of flimsy light,

is thinly hunched,

worn to the bone.

‘Testosterone levels correlate with aggression,but is that because the hormone causes aggression, or because release of the hormone is caused by aggression? In our materialism, we find the first alternative easier to believe. But in fact, as studies of baboons demonstrate, the second is closer to the truth. The psychological precedes the physical. The mind drives the body which drives the genome…‘But what about courtship behaviour? The traditional view of the peacock’s elaborate tail is that it is a device designed to seduce females and that it is in effect designed by ancestral females’ preferences…[Brett Holland] has a different explanation. He thinks peacocks did indeed evolve long tails to seduce females, but that they did so because females grew more and more resistant to being seduced…Sexual selection is thus an expression of sexual antagonism between genes for reduction and genes for resistance….the quality of the male’s ornament reflects the quality of his genes in some way. In particular it reflects the quality of his resistance to prevailing infections. He is saying to all who would listen: see how strong I am; I can grow a great tail…because I am not debiltated by malaria, nor infected with worms’…testosterone parts the veill and allows the female to see directly into the genes.’ Matt Ridley, Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters, Fourth Estate, 2000

‘More difficult for Darwin were highly evolved and complicated features which conveyed apparently no adaptive advantage to the organism in question. His colleague once wrote to him that “The sight of a feather in a peacock’s tail, whenever I gaze at it, makes me sick!” Why should a bird like the peacock develop such an elaborate tail, which seemed to at best be a hindrance in its “struggle for existence”? To answer the question, Darwin developed the theory of  sexual selection, which outlined how different characteristics could be selected for if they conveyed a reproductive advantage to the individual.’ Wikipedia