Choosing to Keep My Placenta | A Healing Journey After Loss

I've always been fascinated by placentas. After all,
  • The placenta is the only organ created by and discarded by the body
  • The placenta supplies oxygen, filters out waste and delivers nutrients to a growing baby
  • There are two sides of a placenta - the maternal side, which is attached to the uterine wall, and the fetal side, which is connected to the baby via the umbilical cord
  • There is a long history of cultures using the placenta after birth
  • The expulsion of the placenta stimulates milk production 
  • The placenta protects the mother during pregnancy by creating antibodies against infection 
  • You can tell a lot from the placenta, such as gestational age of the baby, where someone's water broke, what type of birth they had  
  • Medical communities are studying the placenta for benefits to cure diseases such as cancer

All that sounds great, right? Well despite the cool facts, my personal history has made it a love/hate relationship.

Lazuli's placenta
With Onyx's pregnancy I had Hyperemesis Gravidarum - a horrible pregnancy related sickness that almost made me get a feeding tube. HG has been linked to the placenta, so whenever I saw posts on social media about the "magical placenta", I'd roll my eyes and be like "yeah, YOUR placenta is magic. Not mine!". It wasn't until Onyx's birth that things got especially complicated though. That is because I ended up having a placental abruption - meaning the placenta detached from my uterus early. It caused an excruciating amount of pain when I was in labor, almost caused me to hemorrhage and ultimately contributed to Onyx's death.

With Lazuli's pregnancy I also had Hyperemesis and my "ugh, damn placenta" feelings came back. Early on I was diagnosed with low progesterone and the concern was that my body (the placenta anyway) wasn't going to produce enough hormones on it's own to sustain the pregnancy so I ended up being on progesterone injections until 37 weeks. In my second trimester I was diagnosed with what is called Placenta Previa (low lying placenta that covered my cervix). I was already high risk, but that diagnosis caused more issues and a lot more anxiety. I had an increased risk of preterm birth (which I was already high risk for) and was more likely to hemorrhage. Two complications weren't enough though, because I was then told then I had a Subchorionic Hematoma, which increased my risk of having another placental abruption. Being pregnant after three losses was already difficult enough, so adding in complications made the pregnancy pretty miserable. 

I felt a need to blame someone or something and because most of my pregnancy complications were related to the placenta, I blamed the placenta. Being that the placenta was in my body though, I ultimately blamed myself. I felt like my body was broken. I couldn't understand why I couldn't just have a "normal" uncomplicated pregnancy. Why couldn't my body just do was it was supposed to be able to do? Why did I have to have all these increased risks? Why was this so called "magical" organ causing so many issues?

Cutting Lazuli's umbilical cord
Ultimately Lazuli ended up being born just shy of her due date and while there were some complications for me after she was born, her birth marked the start of a new journey, a healing one.

We delayed cord clamping until the cord stopped pulsing so she could get all the benefits from the placenta. My mom and I cut the cord together, connecting three generations and representing Lazuli's official arrival earthside. Instead of discarding the placenta (which is common practice here in the U.S.), I decided to keep it. It no longer served as a source of fear, instead, the placenta became a symbol of triumph.

Lazuli (3 weeks old) and her Tree of Life placenta print

 Lazuli's "tree of life" kept her safe and as a way so show some gratitude + mark an end to our pregnancy after loss journey, we plan to eventually bury it in the earth and plant a tree over it. It feels like a special way to honor her, our story and the cycle of life.