Oh, You Shouldn’t Have | Johanna Stein

“Oh, You Shouldn’t Have” comes to us from Johanna Stein’s new book  How Not to Calm a Child on a Plane, on sale now on Amazon, B&N, andIndiebound. See more at jojostein.com

It’s late December and 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, by 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 incense-burning individuals may charitably refer to its appearance as that of a flower or “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 Rorschach it triggers in me thoughts of a friend, who for reasons that 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 immensely successful in her professional endeavors; on the other, she is one of the most depraved people I have ever met, qualities upon which our deep friendship is based, qualities that lead to the day when she put a petrified turd 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, of course. Disgusted, without a doubt. But mostly, I was impressed.

And ever since that day, I have been hoping for an opportunity to exact my revenge.

And here it is, in Delivery Room 6B, staring me in the face, about to be tossed out like so many pound of glop. I imagined how the deed will go down: I will hand K a hefty box ties 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.”

Long pause.

“Why?”

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.

“I can’t do that,” she drawls. “I’d lose my job.”

But I will not be kept down by the man, even if that man is a woman with a blonde ponytail in a blood-spattered nurse’s uniform. I am thirty-nine years old, God-damnit. 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 is 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. No, 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 thirty-six 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 gift wrapped 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 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 Nurse Ratched my word. So it comes home with us, along with the baby, some balloons, and about fifty 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 to 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 from Los Angeles to Chicago.

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-Häagen-Dazs hiding place.

I consider burying it in the yard. Not for hippie voodoo reason, just to get rid of the damn thing. But there’s already an offer on our house, and I worry that the housing inspector will uncover the evidence, causing the buyers to back out on the basis that the house has been built on a disturbingly fresh 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 and the frozen entrée under another, and the tree 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.

Sweet Caroline, there is a God.

So off we go, into the belly of the beast! Well, 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 chance her aunt thinking it’s a tray of leftovers and trying to reheat it – that’s a form of collateral damage that I’m just not willing to risk.

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 cab 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 toward 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 in to the hole and 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. Batter and bruised, I pump a halfhearted 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. She is staring at me.

I am dripping wet, bare feet caked in mud, blood streaming down my leg. I am holding a shovel there is no question that I look like a careless and slovenly 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 absolutely right. If you believe in that crap – which K does – that’s exactly what I’ve done. Not only have I gotten my revenge, I’ve essentially provided K with the hippie-voodoo means to produce a child, including a placenta that 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” approach. My birthday is in October. Until then, I’ll be stocking up on gift boxes and eating plenty of roughage.


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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: jojostein.com and twitter.com/johannastein.

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