The miracle of birth never ceased to amaze me. I guess that’s why I ended up as a midwife.
There aren’t many midwives anymore. To tell you the truth, half a decade ago I’d have called it a dying profession. It is only due to the popularity of alternative lifestyles and new age believes that home births became somewhat popular again.
I’d worked as a midwife for more than three decades, when I met, Jana and Christian Meier. They were a young couple in their mid-twenties. Both of them had been born to wealthy families. It showed in their lifestyle.
They followed an all organic, low-carb diet, had a deep interest in spirituality, believed in alternate sleep cycles and God knows what else. That’s the reason they had contacted me about a home birth. The two of them thought that hospitals and medication were dangerous. That stuff could hurt the child’s health, Jana said.
To be honest I didn’t like this type of reasoning and thought they were quite weird. But who was I to judge them?
As with many other customers, I met up with Jana Meier quite a few times.
Many people who decided on a home birth had their own, unique ideas and wishes. They wanted it to be their perfect vision of childbirth.
When Jana Meier told me she wanted her birth to be as simple as possible, I was a bit surprised. I’d thought she’d was precisely the type who wanted some weird spiritual water ritual or whatever was popular at the moment.
Every time I visited her to discuss the details of the birth, she couldn’t help but talk about her lifestyle choices. She’d go on about special diets, certain healthy foods, ginseng, ginger and a few other ones I forgot. She even urged me to try them out myself.
I sat through those episodes awkwardly. The day Jana got out her books to give me more detailed information, I told her that I wasn’t interested. I was only there to talk about the procedures of the birth. She was taken aback but finally nodded.
When the day of the birth came I was still somewhat worried. You never know what would happen with these types of people. It turned out, there was no reason for that. The Meier’s followed all my instructions to the point. The birth went exceptionally well and soon the mother could hold her child.
I could see how the two of them smiled at each other and how ecstatic they were at the sight of their daughter. They were brimming with happiness.
The prejudice I’d had about the two of them before melted away. In the end we are all the same. We all love our children the moment they are born.
What was a bit weird, was that the two of them said they’d handle the rest by themselves. After a quick examination of mother and child, I yielded.
It was a week later that I visited the Meier’s again. It’s common procedure. Once a week has passed, I check up on my clients to see if everything is alright. If there are any complications or problems, I can usually give advice on what to do. If necessary, I can transfer them to a doctor I used to work with.
The Meier’s were doing great. There was no doubt that they’d prepared themselves. They must have read all sorts of books beforehand. Christian had even taken a vacation to take care of his wife and their newborn daughter. Jana was still a bit exhausted but seemed to be fine otherwise.
When the two of them invited me to a dinner party about a month later, I promised them I’d be.
To be honest, once the day of the party came, I was a bit reluctant to follow through on my promise. I wasn’t a vegan and I definitely wasn’t interested in their new age lifestyle.
In the end, it was professional reasons that made me go. Who knows, maybe Jana had a few female friends who also considered a home birth. It wasn’t the first time that I found new clients that way.
The moment I arrived I saw that that other guests were already there. I’d brought a little toy for the baby, which I hoped would be seen as a nice gesture.
The moment Jana opened it, I noticed a hint of confusion on her face before she smiled.
“Oh for the baby, of course, thank you,” she said and gave me a short hug. Then she led me to the dinner table.
Almost all the guests were the same age as the Meier’s.
I introduced myself as the midwife who’d helped to deliver Jana and Christian’s child. People smiled and introduced themselves in turn. When I heard that they all were academics or wealthy upstarts, you can imagine how out of place I felt.
What was a bit weird, was that the theme of the party was a new diet. I had thought it was supposed to be a baby shower. At this moment I realized that the baby wasn’t even in the room. Jana was busy preparing the food in the kitchen, while Christian talked to one of his guests.
It was all a bit weird, but the baby was probably asleep in the bedroom.
Finally, after some awkward small talk, Jana joined the table again. She brought a steaming pot of stew and put it down in the middle of the table.
It was a sort of creamy meat stew, Jana said. She talked about it endlessly, rambling on and on how healthy it was supposed to be. It was a new recipe that she’d prepared for just this day.
I don’t know why, but the moment I saw the stew I was a bit unnerved. The smell was weird, the consistency looked a bit too slimy and the meat didn’t look like any I’d seen before. I looked at it and told Jana in a low voice that I wasn’t supposed to eat anything too creamy. It was bad for my stomach.
When she heard this, she smiled and urged me to give it a try anyway. Who knows, she said, it might even be good for my stomach.
I sat at the table sipping from my glass of water, while the other guests started eating. After the first few mouthfuls they were almost devouring the stew. Soon people asked for second and third servings.
I on the other hand only looked down at the bowl in front of me. I sank the spoon into the creamy liquid and was careful not to put any of the meat pieces on it. Then I rose it to my mouth. It tasted weird, a bit too sweet, but also strangely sour. The consistency was as slimy as I’d expected. I almost spat it back out. After that, I didn’t eat any more of it.
Once dinner was over, everyone started pleasing the weird meal. They all said they needed to know what was in it and how to make it for themselves.
It was at this point that Jana started to talk about the placenta of the woman. It was one of the most nutritious and healthiest organs in nature. That’s why many animals were eating it to restore the energy they’d lost when giving birth.
Jana opened a book and told us that many cultures believed in the health benefits of the placenta. She said there were even those who thought that eating your own was a sort of cleansing ritual for the body.
Why was she talking about this? My eyes wandered back to the big pot in the middle of the dining table. Those weird meat pieces… don’t tell me… I almost gagged. Could it really be?
I got my answer from Christian.
Once the two of them had heard about the health benefits of the placenta, they had to give it a try. They couldn’t just use someone else’s though. There was just no other way, he said, the two of them needed to have a baby.
Unfortunately, he continued, the placenta wasn’t all that big. It wouldn’t be enough to sustain more than a few people. That’s why he and Jana had done something else.
With that he led everyone to a different room. It almost looked like a laboratory, I thought. Before I could react, Christian revealed a giant water tank to us. It was filled with strange liquid and I saw a huge chunk of tissue swimming inside of it.
It was quite a bit of work, Christian explained to the exhilarated crowd. By now the cultivation worked and the placenta was steadily growing. It was due to one particular ingredient, Jana said beaming.
I took a step back. I saw all those lunatic staring at the tank with wide eyes.
This was why the two of them had wanted a baby? That’s why they didn’t care about the type of birth! It hadn’t been about the child at all.
I thought back to the glowing eyes, to their blissful smiles. It had all been in anticipation of this, this… insanity!
The baby, I suddenly thought. I’d not seen or heard her this whole evening. Where was she? The words ‘special ingredient’ came back to my mind.
“Where’s the child?” I asked with a shaking voice.
“It’s only natural, Claudia,” Jana started. “The child was nourished by it for so long… it had to give back.”
In that instant I rushed to the bedroom. There was no sign of the child anywhere. There was no crib, and no toys. None of the things I remembered from the check-up where there.
“She’s not here anymore,” Jana said from the door.
My eyes grew wide. “Don’t tell me you-”
“Oh, believe me, we loved her Claudia, we loved her so much, but there was just no other way.”
“You are insane,” I said in a low voice and pushed myself past her.
I made my way to the dining room and I could hear Jana follow me.
“What are you going to do Claudia?”
“I won’t let you get away with-”
“With what? What are you even going to tell people? Do you think anyone even knows about the child? Don’t you think we’d planned this whole thing?”
I stared at her as she said this. Then she broke out laughing.
“Oh, Claudia, who do you think the authorities will believe? A young, educated, couple or an old midwife? Do you think anyone is going to take your insane story of child murder and placentas serious? Really?”
She gave me the most malicious, condescending smile I’d ever seen. For a few seconds we stared at each other.
Some of the other guests were back now but didn’t even react to what was happening.
“You won’t get away with it, I swear!” I spat at her.
I grabbed my jacket and my purse and stormed out. Once I was on the stairs I heard new bouts of laughter from behind the closed door.
The moment I was out of the building I went straight to the police and told them everything.
I’d love to tell you that their stormed their apartment and that this smug bitch and her insane husband had been locked away for the rest of their lives.
The truth is though, Jana had been right. There was no proof of any child at all. All the documents they’d provided and signed must have been faked.
In the end, the whole thing was turned around, and I almost got charged with false accusations. It was only due to Jana and her husband not pressing charges that the entire thing was dropped.
After this, I couldn’t work as a midwife anymore. For months I couldn’t think about anything, but what had happened to that poor baby girl. I was anxious that something similar might happen again.
As time passed I found a new job at a grocery store and I was slowly able to forget what had happened.
By now it has been more than year. I’d never written this whole story down, if not for something that happened about a week ago.
I was walking down the street on my way home when I saw a young couple walking towards me. I recognized them instantly.
The moment I walked past them, Jana Meier smiled at me.
“I hope it’s a boy this time,” I heard her say to her husband as the two walked away.