Afterbirth 

Lizbeth Larkin foretells the future

How placentas foretell the future

We seek to know our fate. Each of us, at one time or another, have been tempted by the thought: if only we knew the future. And so, over time, we have sought the mystical, the prophets, the palm-readers and sooth-sayers, despite the fact that science would disdain such endeavors.

Now, someone else has entered the fray of prophecy, using a different set of tools. Lizbeth Larkin, of Spokane, Washington, is a practitioner in the business of telling the future. Her means of divination? The placenta.

The placenta, of course, unites the fetus to its mother's uterus. It is responsible for bringing the fetus oxygen and other materials needed for nutrition. At the same time, it carries carbon dioxide and other waste products from the fetus back to the mother.

"It's an essential component to gestation," Lizbeth Larkin remarks. "Without it, we wouldn't exist."

How, though, did the placenta come to be such an important organ in Larkin's work?

"It was my own first childbirth experience that led to this," says Larkin, an attractive, 37-year-old mother of four. "I had just pushed Jotham out into the world and was hugging him to my chest when the midwife instructed me that my job was not yet complete. The placenta had to come out, too."

And so it did, and as the midwife began to remove the placenta from the childbirth bed, Larkin stopped her. "I was curious. I'd seen other people's placentas, of course, but I wanted to see mine — or, rather, Jotham's."

As members of Larkin's family passed the newborn boy around the room, Larkin had a moment to herself, and so she studied the placenta in some detail. "It was fascinating," she recalls.

"All those lines and squiggles and circles and shapes. Absolutely fascinating. I know I was exhausted from labor and all, but I got a little woozy, looking at it. I had my partner, Race, put Jotham's placenta into the freezer."

Weeks later, Larkin removed the placenta and studied it again. It began to dawn on her, she says, that "the placenta was like a palm-print of the person, perhaps a fractal of their lifespan that could be read. I mean I've always been interested in palm-reading and all that, but I'd never heard of a placenta reader — because there is no such thing. Or wasn't, at least."

And so began her instruction.

Larkin became facile in all the sooth-saying arts, especially palmistry. She augmented her work in fortune-telling with studies of reflexology, the ancient shakra arts, geo-psychical topography, and polarity procedures. She examined pictures of the physical surface of the placenta, focussing on the mounts on the surface of vascular organ, the lines on the mounts, as well as the lines interlacing the mounts and valleys. She attended physiology, gynecology and biology courses at the local college. Soon she was immersed in books, papers, videos, audio recordings, pictures.

"Race about had a fit," Larkin says, laughing. Race Kinsey, a 38-year-old contractor who was born and raised in Spokane, says "I did have my doubts about her. She'd be sitting there with little Jotham nursing, surrounded by all these books on placentas and palms and I don't know what else. But I'll say this for her: She knew she was on to something and so she stuck with it."

Books and pictures and college classes are one thing; perusing the real thing is another. Of course, Larkin had one placenta on site—Jotham's was waiting in the freezer. She began her study with Jotham's placenta, but she soon realized a "vested subjectivity that warped me not a little. My predictions of his childhood tendencies were a bit colored by my desires. So, I had but one choice: seek out other placentas."

Larkin quickly passed the word, requesting placentas from any homebirths taking place in the Spokane area. Within weeks, she had a couple dozen placentas in her freezer. "Race started to ask after my mental state," she laughs.

Race, for his part doesn't recall anything but mild frustration. "I mean, we'd be getting people coming by at all hours of the day and night. Literally, one guy showed up at two in the morning with a placenta covered in tin foil. I felt like I was making a drug deal or something."

Larkin was grateful for the placentas, and each day spent hours "reading the placentas like textbooks. And as I was in contact with the people who had offered the placentas to me, I kept a chart on the personality and personal milestones in that person's life."

Larkin knew it wouldn't be easy. She had to trace the trajectory of the placenta owner's life over many years, studying the organ in question, and matching up the life-experiences with the perceived topography. Before long, however, she began to see patterns of repetition in the placenta surface. Larkin says that "vectors and spatial relationships soon grew clear, even predictable. I developed, then, a system of sussing out, a divination, by which I could make predictions as to the individual's future."

For example, one child, Sarah (Sarah's name has been changed for purposes of this article) presented more than just an intellectual problem. Larkin sensed this child was heading for disaster. "I quickly identified the upper right quadrant of the placenta as an indication as to the individual's risk-taking behavior. Sarah's area was incredibly active. Then, I began to get these reports from her parents, that she had climbed out on to the roof of their home, she ran away when she was four, she tried to take the family car when she was six, that sort of behavior.

"Knowing what I know now, I could have warned her parents by the first or second day of Sarah's existence: Watch out for her!" When it comes to predictions related to mature individuals — marriage, family, fortune, business, etc. — Larkin admits her craft is "too much in the early stages of development. I'll need an entire generation of kids to age and experience life before I'll be able to predict those larger scale and more specific milestones. For now, I'm good at tendencies and trajectories. I'm not much help in the traditional fortune-telling way: 'Madame, will I be married to a rich man?' You know, that kind of thing."

Larkin's client base numbers in the hundreds. She is contacted nearly every day to either attend a birth or receive the placenta or a picture of it for viewing. She has even had clients photograph the placenta, scan the image into their computers and e-mail the document to her. "That's a new arena for me," she admits, pointing out that she has just established a website (www.placentareader.com).

"I'll be able to read placentas from all over the world." For now, Larkin continues to put finishing touches on her placenta chart (see Figure 1.1), which will be available in various forms (posters, calendars, coffee mugs, placemats, etc.) by the end of the year. "I can't believe it, really," she says, reflecting on the entire experience.

"The placenta has been virtually ignored for millennia. It was an afterthought, something you had to figure out how to dispose of. Nobody knew it could be so important after birth."

Does Larkin have any plans for the future, in addition to her placenta studies and marketing of her chart? "Well," she shyly admits, "there is another arena I'd like to get into — the umbilical cord, or the navel-string as it's called. If you think the placenta has been ignored all these years, consider the umbilical cord. Other than cutting it at birth and the ritual associated with that, the cord is as disdained as the placenta."

Larkin adds: "I think the navel-string has many prospects: it could be turned into jewelry to be worn by the baby and/or the mother—or maybe it's an actual divining rod once it dries and stiffens. Who knows? The possibilities are endless."

The placenta through history
Contrary to Lizbeth Larkin's assumption, the placenta has not always been "virtually ignored for millennia."
 
In fact, a cursory study of the subject reveals a number of fascinating practices, regarding the placenta.
 
In pre-Christian Damascus, for example, the gnostics believed the placenta to be "pearl of the heart" as one of their poems says. The "pearl" was removed from the childbirth site by the midwife who took it, swaddled in fine fabric to the top of the nearest hill, where it was buried, "to draw its magic back to God."
 
The theory was, according to these gnostics, that the placenta was the repository for the soul, while the fetus was developing. At birth, the soul traveled from the placenta to the baby and so the placenta was a kind of hollowed sacred chamber and was treated with great reverence.
 
The Phoenicians, on the other hand, thought of the placenta as "a coveted steak," according to one historical document. Phoenician men, who otherwise had little or no interest in the childbirth process, would wait in line for hours — even occasionally resorting to fisticuffs or worse — for a chance at stealing away with the placenta.
 
More than one ancient Phoenician poem speaks to this activity. Here's an example:

I shake the oval pie [the placenta]/
at the sky/
then light the fire's light/
Oh blackify the sweet meat of the insides/
keep the wolves away/
keep the wolves away/
my tongue is hot with kisses
 
The Indonesian people, meanwhile, apparently ignored the placenta completely. Such was the onus of evil placed upon the organ that wherever the placenta was dropped, it remained until it decomposed beyond recognition. It is suggested by historical documents that childbirthing women were encouraged to deliver outside, in the fields. It's easy to imagine this was a practice so the placenta could reside outdoors, away from family foot traffic. If a placenta was dropped inside, family and visitors had to avoid it — as if it were a landmine.
 
The Shilluk kings of the White Nile, according to legend, baked the placenta in the sun until it attained a leathery finish; then the former organ was fashioned into fancy hatwear.
 
The Tlinget people of Alaska believed the polar bear placenta was the highest prize of all. Anyone who presented a polar bear placenta was accorded immediate status in the Tlinget tribe.
 
In the Central Highlands of Scotland, the placenta of a recent human birth was treated as sacred and was the centerpoint at the regular Druidical festivals that took place. The placenta's juices were squeezed over the bonfire, as dancing and music reached a near-frenzy. Then, the placenta was fried, basted with eggs and served to all. The dish was called am plannach beal-tine —the Beltane placenta.
 
The Bataks of Sumatra, as the legend goes, used the placenta as a kind of frisbee or discus in their athletic competitions. The ancient Mayakes believed the placenta to contain a litter of magic teeth; these teeth, removed from the placenta, could be buried in the ground. Eventually these seeds would sprout as live mice who, apparently, had the gift of human language.
 
The wombwall checklist
It will come as no surprise that many in the scientific field are skeptical of Lizbeth Larkin's placenta-reading endeavors. For example, Scientists at the National Institute for Reproduction Systems (NIRD) in Atlanta, Georgia, have long studied the gestation process and its effects on the individual's life.
 
According to Dr. Doris Dubbins, head of NIRD, "The placenta, to the best of our research, has little or nothing to do with the trajectory of the individual's lifepath."
 
In an article in last year's fall issue of the New England Journal of Pertinent Discoveries, NIRD first published their theory that personality and destiny are defined by, in Dr. Dubbins words, "a kind of checklist on the wall of the womb."
 
Dubbins points out that NIRD has "done an enormous amount of arthroscopy in the past few years, and everyone we've looked at represents hours of video. Of course, dealing with issues of reproductivity, we are constantly video-taping the interior of the womb with an arthroscamera."
 
"I was dealing with the case," the MITT-educated scientist continues, "of a woman in her last trimester who was experiencing some difficulties unrelated to the pregnancy. We had explored the area of the womb with our arthroscopy technology and when I was studying the video later, I saw something really weird."
 
She dismissed the "something really weird," she says, because "who would believe that I had seen what appeared to be words, written on the wall of the womb." Dr. Dubbins went home that night to her own family of three children — all "as different as night and day," she remarks — and was haunted by the image of her patient's wombwall. The next day, when she went to work, she immediately studied that video again. "I used our computer to enhance the womb image and magnified it some 100X before I realized that what I had seen was in fact real. I called everyone into the room and we just stared, disbelieving."
 
What Dubbins discovered was what appeared to be the womb wall's checklist. Written in a cursive hand, the checklist was comprised of a series of boxes, arranged vertically.
 
Across from each box was short description. For example, across from the first box was the phrase: "tempestuous, hot-tempered individual likely to succeed in business but not marriage."
 
The second box had this description: "quiet, with an emphasis on the arts, you will marry a spouse with a history of mental illness." These two boxes were, in fact, "checked," that is, there was a kind of mark placed in those boxes.
 
The patient in question indeed had two children — "one real spirited and one introvert" in her words. NIRD scientist were astounded. They began going over the thousands of hours of video of wombwalls and magnified the images, discovering these same kind of checklists in every single case.
 
Predictably, they found that the checklists were written in the native language of the mother. Researchers investigated over 500 of the mothers. In each case, the number of checked boxes corresponded with the number of children in each family. Extraordinarily, the descriptions on the checklist matched the personalities of the children in question.
 
Dubbins went so far as to have her own womb probed by an arthroscamera so that she could see her own checklist. As predicted, the descriptions matched her own children's characters.
 
"My teenager Tim is, as my womb stated, 'terrific at science, but not so successful in affairs of the heart,' 12 year old Susie is 'introverted except when dancing before an audience,' and my five-year-old, Lester has 'trouble concentrating, but extremely savvy at making money.'"
 
Finally, Dubbins remarks that NIRD's findings "make Larkin's placenta research obsolete. I mean, why would nature provide two ways of foretelling the future?"

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