A journey of hope and healing after a decade of infertility and two maternal near-misses.

Friday, October 11, 2019

At Least We Would Be Together

FLASHBACK

October 11, 2017

(Second PPH Anniversary)

It’s a dark, rainy Monday morning. My husband left for work hours ago and my little one has snuggled in close to my chest. I can feel his chest rise and fall with each delicate breath. His sweet little body still fits perfectly inside my arms.

It’s sleepy moments like this and countless others that were almost stolen from us two years ago when we skated dangerously close to the edge of losing our little family. Each day is truly a gift and it’s a fact that hasn’t been lost on me once over the previous 730 days. It’s a fact that many don’t understand and likely never will… but it’s forever a part of me and of our family’s story.

Two years ago today, I lay in a bed in the surgical intensive care unit waiting for the doctors to decide how best to address my internal bleeding. The hope was that reversing my blood thinner therapy, which had spiked more than double the therapeutic range, and replacing my blood volume with multiple bags of whole blood, packed cells and platelets would help my blood clot where it needed to on it’s own, but that wasn’t happening.

Up until this point, I found solace in the midst of the medical gauntlet knowing my baby was tucked safely inside my body. That if, God forbid, things worsened and we didn’t make it, at least Nathan and I would be together. I’d still be holding my long awaited miracle. Yes, I realize my poor husband would be alone.

That’s a terrible thought.

But the reality that my son had been born and was now apart from me made this new crisis all the more jarring. We were in the thick of it again, but this time I was in it alone. There wasn’t a baby in my belly to talk to or sing to or pray over for comfort. It was just me... and somehow that made it all the more terrifying. Our story was shaping up to be one of those sad and tragic Lifetime movies, like the one called “What She Left Behind”. Oddly enough, I still remember the title of that film. I only saw the commercial as a young girl but it was a paradox that stuck with me. I remember it like I saw it yesterday. The concept that a mother could die in childbirth was such an unbelievable possibility to me then.


It still is decades later.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Mood: Overwhelmed
Music: Vance Joy- Alone With Me


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About the Author: Casey Cattell struggled with infertility for more than a decade before giving birth to her son in 2015. She is a two time Maternal Near Miss Survivor writing to give hope to women in the midst of these hardships. She is a Patient Advocate, Heroes For Moms Ambassador, survivor support group leader and has shared her story with many organizations and media outlets, including the Empowered Health Podcast, the National Blood Clot Alliance and co-authored Nobody Told Me About That-The First Six Weeks. Casey and her husband live in the Northeast, USA and in their downtime like to hike with their young son. If you liked this post or were encouraged by it, please consider passing it on. Find Casey on Instagram and Twitter..

There Are Others

I've said it many time before: there are dozens and dozens of blog posts, notes and thoughts I have written over the last four years just waiting to see the light of day. Early on, I starting emailing myself in real time as a coping mechanism. It helped me document what I needed to, avoid ruminating on it and hopefully (someday) come back to it and develop it further. I still use this method to process and piece together timeline blog posts. Other anecdotes have been in the blog queue for the simple fact I haven't been ready to release them into the wild yet. Here is one of them. 

Buckle Up!


I just had a sinking feeling and wasn’t sure what it was. We took a much-needed impromptu stroll by the river tonight. I just needed to clear my head and breathe in the fresh air a little deeper.

Earlier today, I attended a maternal health meeting and met with a woman who works at my delivering hospital, and truth be told, it kind of threw me a little. She knows the characters in my story by their real names. There is no Dr. Fields* or Dr. Benson* for her. She sees my former physicians and knows them by first name. Talking with her also peeled back a layer in some ways, “I’m sorry this happened to you”, she said. I don’t know why hearing this acknowledgement is important, especially now. Talking with her helped me to compartmentalize better than I have been previously, to clearly see it’s not the hospital system that affected my outcome per se, it was literally one doctor. That fact should be a stark reminder to healthcare professionals everywhere: all it takes is one for a bad outcome. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Are We Broken?


I saw it and froze.  My chest tightened immediately, and I started involuntarily shaking. This was the physical response I had to seeing my delivering OB/Gyn practice featured in an online report touting the integration of midwives. And believe me, I know it's a good thing for midwives to be working alongside obstetricians. But when two of the three women pictured in the report were directly involved in my care just before I was diagnosed with the pulmonary emboli, it was hard not to notice every muscle in my body stiffen. This physical reaction would be far from the last one too. As I walked into the women’s restroom at the local ballpark just last week, I saw their 30-foot-long advertisement hanging on the wall above the mirrors. It caught my breath a little, and I had to laugh and shake my head. I really can’t escape them, can I?


Of course, there is an underbelly to the report and all the advertisements I have been seeing over the last four years, and it certainly hasn’t been touched on in the raving reviews I see online. The nausea starts up every time I read and see them. This report had pictures too, pictures of a room on the postpartum side of the L&D unit that looked exactly like mine. I could almost see my husband curled up with a blanket on the couch under the window like he was when our son was born. The second photo was of the nurse’s station and I knew the room at the end of that corridor was the one with the hydrotherapy tub. Nearly four years ago, I had been in that tub. My husband held my hair back and put a trash can to my face as I vomited over the side of that tub during labor. So much came flooding back in the matter of seconds reading this report, including the sound of her voice over the phone saying, “Your pain is normal.” 

Spoiler alert: it wasn’t.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

The Messy Middle:


Toward the end of May 2015, we had a mini photo shoot for a project related to my baby shower. If you can’t tell by the glow on my face, I was so happy! I was so hopeful! I was so excited! I was one of those women who LOVED being pregnant. This was the nearly two trimester long stage I call my “blissful pregnancy” because life was good!  

When we finally found out we were pregnant after nearly 14 years of marriage, my heart dared to dream. Just getting that statement out is excruciating, because I’m reminded of how many of those dreams have been crushed by this chaotic journey. These pictures still make me smile, but it’s mixed with a deep sadness now. They represent the calm before the perfect storm that would ravage everything. 

Thursday, February 28, 2019

To The On-Call OB Who Dismissed Me

February 10, 2019

Dear Dr. Benson*,

You came to mind earlier today and I figured its long overdue that we talked.  I know we saw each other in passing a few times during my appointments with Dr. Fields* that first year after my son was born, but we’ve never had the opportunity for dialogue beyond exchanging pleasantries in the hallway of your practice.  I suppose I am mostly to blame for that after moving on to my obstetric surgeon’s practice.  Leaving wasn’t personal, but it also kind of was.  I felt my surgeon would be the best person to answer all my questions since she and her team were the ones who patched me back together when all hell broke loose.  And seeing you in the hallways saying hello like nothing had happened, well, it was getting harder for me, but I digress.

My son had a 104 degree fever two days ago that prompted a visit to his doctor on Friday.  She determined he had an ear infection and prescribed amoxicillian.  All seemed to be well until he developed a rash on his upper arms last night.  Of course, I was on high alert considering he has anaphalactic allergies to a few things already, but the rash wasn’t anywhere else on his body and it disappeared shortly after his bath.  When the rash appeared on his face this morning, I knew it was time to call her.  Eerily, my off-hours call on a Sunday morning went to his doctor’s colleague, who is on call this weekend. 

And I thought of you. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Hitting Back On A Common Postpartum Phenomenon

Maybe you've had this experience too: coming home from the hospital after delivering a baby and feeling like you are not as prepared as you thought you were.  Parenthood is so much harder than anyone said.  No one receives a comprehensive education on how to be a new parent, and you might often say "nobody told me about this!"

I felt that sentiment myself in many different ways.  No one told me how determined and deliberate I needed to be with breastfeeding.  No one told me how time consuming pumping would be, especially in the beginning.  And then there are the obvious ones: no one told me about the rates of maternal mortality and morbidity in this country!  No one told me about the warning signs of life-threatening pregnancy and postpartum complications!  Who knows if that knowledge would have helped me seek medical attention sooner and changed the course of my near-misses.   

Since the very beginning, I have wanted to reach future moms and share the things I wish I knew before the nightmare of a lifetime unfolded.  I had no idea how I would begin to take on such a task.  I started where I could, with maternal health themed blood drives and it is the reason why I have been so open about our experience.  No one said "hey, here are the symptoms to look out for.  Make sure you seek immediate medical care if they occur."  I wish they had!  I've always wanted to turn around to warn the future moms and to help make things better for them, because sadly, many will face similar catastrophic circumstances too.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Our Story Part 18: Even Unto Death


I listened to two albums on repeat for most of my early recovery.  I heard the song Georgia by Vance Joy on Sirius radio the week before Nathan was born and downloaded the album a day later.  I don't know what it was about it that resonated with me even before all of the postpartum drama began.  Maybe it was the anticipation of delivery, knowing that it was high risk thanks to the blood thinners I was on.  There are so many lines on that album that ended up aligning with my battle in such a profound way.  Grief.  Heartbreak.  Suffering.  I’m sure he never thought a maternal near-miss survivor would extrapolate so much from what is very clearly a break-up playlist.  The other album was Inheritance by Audrey Assad.  I remember breaking down in my driveway with my infant sound asleep in the backseat of the parked car when I first heard His Mercies Are New and Even Unto Death.  They became a part of how I processed the trauma and a way that my heart overflowed with gratitude when I couldn't quite articulate my thoughts and feelings about everything yet.  Little did I know the melodies and lyrics would float along with me and bring me right back to those days long after they were gone.  If you have ever wondered how I dig up the emotion and rawness for most of my writing, it's a combination of music and my piecemeal journaling from the early days.  It’s amazing how they have the power to dredge it all up so easily.   

This is what I have been waiting two and half years to write.  My mind has played through it millions of times.  The thoughts.  The feelings.  The great uncertainty of whether or not I was going to have the privilege of raising the sweet little miracle I had prayed and pleaded for for more than a decade.  How would I even begin to tell this part?  Then after more than a year of avoidance, I listened to Even Unto Death on a whim and I knew.  Everything came flooding back with a vengeance.  

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Someone I Used To Know

November 21, 2017

I ran into her in the middle of the baking aisle and my first instinct was to give her a hug.  It’s been more than two years, yet seeing her again made it feel like it was yesterday.  It took a second for her to place me; we were in the grocery store after all, and then the gaze of recognition set in.  

“Oh my gosh!  How are you?  Wow, you look great!”  

All it took were those last three words for a mixed bag of weird, sad and heavy to set in.  Of course, I know she meant well.  Most of the weirdness was on my end.  Everyone who says it means it as a compliment but her acknowledgement of the changes she saw in me physically would feel so much different if they were because of a new set of fitness classes I had been taking.  Or running.  Or anything really.  Anything but the real reason behind the drastic transformation standing before her.  I could feel the tears welling up the second the words left her lips.  

Wednesday, August 1, 2018