Have you ever heard of a live miscarriage?
In honor of Disability Pride Month, I’d like to share my story on how I discovered one of my illnesses and how that led to my journey of self discovery and a deeper intimate connection with my partner.
I’d like to preface this with a content advisory for talk of pregnancy loss and sensitive imagery. I’m not sure if it’s true or not, but I’ve been told this is the first documented intact miscarriage of a live embryo and although it can be difficult to look at, I think it’s important to have these images available for others to see. When I first shared these images and videos, I know it helped a lot of women who have experienced loss at this stage, because they had no way of knowing what their baby looked like. But please proceed to watch and listen with care and feel free to reach out to us if you’d like to talk about your own experiences with loss.
Some time in 2015, my husband and I had stopped preventing pregnancies, but I was only having a couple of cycles per year and I was having various health issues. As my health kept declining, I was struggling with massive bouts of anxiety and depression, weight gain, intense exhaustion, lack of menstruation, and chronic pain all over my body. I saw multiple doctors who kept telling me that it was just depression and that I could try anti depression medication to see if it helped my cycles return to normal and come back in a year. It wasn’t until I started losing my hair that the providers I was seeing offered me blood tests to rule out other diseases.
Finally, I was referred to an endocrinologist who read my previous blood tests and right away spotted extremely high levels of thyroid antibodies that my other doctors missed. I was diagnosed that day with Hashimoto’s Disease, PCOS, and likely endometriosis. The DAY after my diagnosis, I took a pregnancy test and it was positive.
I was in complete shock and immediately felt overwhelming apprehension. I just knew right away that something wasn’t right. But after a week, I was hit with all the pregnancy symptoms. It was getting hard to hide it from our 3 and 5 year old, so we decided to tell them. Seeing their little faces light up was one of the best moments of my life. But, just as quickly as the early pregnancy symptoms came on, the spotting started. At first it was just light brown spotting, which I had had with my previous pregnancies. I scheduled our first ultrasound and tried to wait patiently for that tiny flicker of confirmation. The spotting continued daily but started to turn from brown, to pink, to red.
As the days went by, the bleeding increased and it was harder and harder for me to stay positive. One morning, after my husband had already left for work, I woke up and started losing more blood along with tissue. I texted him that I was sure we were losing the baby now, and he came home. He took my big kids to ice cream so I could be alone and they could be distracted.
The cramping became so intense at this point that it felt like real labor. I wasn’t expecting that. I drew a bath to help with the pain and what happened next is the most surreal experience I’ve ever had and probably ever will. I felt a gush before undressing…when I pulled my pants down, I saw the tiniest placenta with an intact sac attached.
As a doula and birth photographer, I have seen close to a hundred births, blood, and placentas, but have never seen anything like this.
I got in the tub holding this little water orb, and held it in my hands, just looking at it endlessly. Inside, I could see where a blueberry sized embryo was attached. I wanted to see it more clearly, so I gently tore the sac open and saw a teeny tiny yolk sac and the embryo on top of the placenta.
I took my time holding this sweet little bean and was absolutely in awe of what was happening.
In my hands, I saw movement and the heart was still beating.
If you look very closely at this video, you can see the last heartbeats that I was able to capture.
After this was taken, the yolk sac tore and the tiniest pool of blood spilled out and the heartbeat faded away just like that.
I remember curling up in bed that night and showing my husband these videos and photos…I remember him holding me and the sense of change that blanketed us.
We just went through our first really shitty thing together. After recovering physically, I remember sex was different again. It changed from trying to conceive once again, to supporting each other through the deepest grief we had experienced so far. It changed from hope to healing. Studies show that sharing the burden of grief through intimacy can help with the healing process and can give you a much deeper connection with your partner. Oxytocin, or the love hormone, increases trust, bonding, and stress relief. And intimacy doesn’t necessarily mean sex- but having an intentional intimate moment with your partner when you’re experiencing grief, whether that is sex, or it’s just talking or being held, can really help provide massive emotional support and help in your healing journey.
I hope this helps families who have suffered their own loss know that your loss is meaningful no matter how early. I hope it helps you reach out for support from your partner and know that seeking intimacy through grief is okay and healthy. I hope you know that after suffering grief and loss, there is another side, and you can love and trust your body again.
And I hope you know you are never alone.