It's no wonder they call pregnancy and childbirth miracles.
It takes a lot for a mother to carry a fetus for nine months and give birth to healthy, normal baby. Pregnancy is risky and complications can occur at any stage, and while doctors are able to spot these right away, there have been instances in which the problem goes unnoticed.
Thirty-three years ago, Taylor Muhl was born after her mother opted for a natural pregnancy without ultrasounds. Aside from a large birthmark taking up half of her stomach area, Muhl appeared healthy.
As she got older, she began to experience severe autoimmune issues, and this would be how she lived for years. It wasn't until she was in her 20s that a doctor diagnosed her with a rare disorder known as chimerism.
The condition, named after the Greek mythological creature, occurs when a person has two separate sets of DNA in their body. In Muhl's case she has been living with the DNA of her fraternal twin sister. This happened because at some point during her mother's pregnancy, the two fertilized eggs fused to together to form one egg with two different genetic codes.
“For more than half my life I didn’t even know I had chimera," Muhl said to the Huffington Post. "I was told I had a birthmark. My mom was like a flower child so she had me naturally at home with two mid-wives. Her whole pregnancy she ate all fresh, healthy food, no caffeine."
Ever since she was little, Muhl has been obsessed with the idea of having a twin sister. She would ask her mother on multiple occasions if she ever had a twin, and would pretend to be twins with her friend and dress exactly like her. So finding out that she was a chimera brought her sadness.
“My first reaction was shock,” Muhl told People in another interview. “Then my second reaction was sadness because I was like, ‘Oh my gosh! I could’ve gone through life with a twin, with a sibling that hopefully I could’ve been close to.’ There was some sadness.”
Living with her twin sister's DNA is by no means easy.
Now, the model and singer has two immune systems and blood streams. This is the reason why she experiences autoimmune problems, including a number of different allergies and food sensitives. Muhl's body thinks her twin's cells are "foreign," so it is constantly working to get rid of it, rendering her sick more often than the average person.
Contrary to what Muhl and everyone else around her believed over the years, the darker side of the line running down the middle of her stomach is her twin sister, not a birthmark.
“I actually felt relief. I felt freedom because for the first time in my life I knew why my stomach looks the way it does. This is why I’ve had so many health challenges,” Muhl explained. “I felt like for the first time I could really breathe. Prior to that, every doctor said my stomach must have just been a birthmark … Finally, this is making some sense.”
It took a lot of courage for Muhl to publicly open up about her condition because she was afraid that her revelation would affect her career in the entertainment industry. She would keep her stomach hidden so no one would ask her questions about it.
Now, she no longer has to hide and she admits that it's a great feeling to finally be herself in front of everyone.
“This has probably been the most freeing year that I have ever lived in my entire life," Muhl confessed. "What was so hard for me was pretending that I wasn’t sick and it’s something that I did for the last seven-plus years. It really does start wearing on you. Now I don’t have to worry about any of it. It’s all out there.”
Chimerism is a lifelong condition, so Muhl has developed ways to ensure that it won't get in the way of her day to day life. She has adopted a holistic approach to life and embraced a healthy and active lifestyle. Muhl is also a dancer so that also helps her stay fit.
Muhl has been using social media to show off her unique body and tell the story behind it. She hopes that her story will inspire more people to be themselves and to also share their stories because someone else may be going through the same thing.
Do you know anyone who suffers from this rare condition? Let us know!