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

When One Of Us Hurts, We All Hurt

I drove by your house the other day. It’s only a few blocks away. I remember seeing it up for sale when we were shopping for a new home too. We bought our fixer upper about six months before you bought yours in the same little neighborhood by the river. My son and I have passed your house countless times on our summer walks. You’re so close that I felt like I had to come. As I drove by with tears in my eyes and a big lump in my throat, a little voice piped up from the backseat. “Where are we going, Momma?” And it hit me even harder just then. You'll never have moments like this with your future backseat driver. “We’re taking the long way home, sweetheart", I said.  Hearing those words, I realized we’ve taken the long way home in a number of ways that far surpassed my initial intention when they passed over my lips. I rounded the corner and the weight of what your husband and family are going through felt so massive and tangible. When I pulled in our driveway, I just sat in my car for a minute and cried for you... a sweet, new momma I will never meet.

Let's Talk About Racism In America

When the pandemic hit back in March and so much death and uncertainty loomed over our region and then our country, I found myself asking “do I have anything worthwhile to say right now?” My heavy heart said “no” at the time and so this blog took a bit of a break. Yes, maternal mortality and morbidity matter. Our stories matter. It just didn’t feel like the right time to write when so much suffering was occurring on such a grand scale. 

That sentiment grew stronger when the racial injustices over the past year began coming to light. Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. George Floyd. So many lives have been horrifically cut short, and I fully recognize this has been happening all along. It's just recorded in graphic, indisputable detail now thanks to cellphone cameras. It didn't feel right to continue writing about my maternal morbidity battle- and more specifically, highlighting the horrendous racial disparities for black and brown mothers caused mainly by systemic racism- without and before addressing the fire of racial injustice and oppression that is burning in our society right now.

Fill Up Your Cup


This past Monday, we took advantage of the glorious 50 degree day by spending the afternoon outside. We walked and scooted for over three hours at the park near our home with many stops along the way to explore the riverbed. We dug in the sand. We threw rocks in the water. We had dirt under our fingernails and loved every second of it. We talked about erosion, the water cycle and the seasons. He's so curious about the world around him. I love how much he learns from our small adventures outside. His vocabulary continuously explodes in ways that astonish me and his interest in things like the three states of matter makes his scientist momma awfully proud. It's actually one of his favorite things to talk about.

"Momma, I love spending time with you."

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.

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. 

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.

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. 

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. 

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.

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.  

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.  

Turning Over A New Leaf

I have been an incredible slacker with my blog lately.  I knew it had been a long while since I last posted but when I counted four posts over the course of the last year, it made me really sad.  It’s not because of a lack of things going on- far from it actually- I guess I’ve taken to Instagram a lot as my place to process and share news in real time. 

Shortly after my classmate died last year, I stumbled on her widower’s blog and still check in from time to time to see if he’s written anything new.  His posts aren’t literary masterpieces ready for publication, but yet, in a sense they are because they are raw and real.  And maybe, just maybe, someone out there was checking in with my little old blog and wondering why the heck I’m not writing anymore.  It dawned on me that the rawness is what I crave here.  I often wish I had used my blog more to process in real time but I guess the nature of my experiences also made me hesitate and make a bit of sense of it all myself before letting the world in. 

I think my biggest hurdle has been my initial goal to catalog my experiences chronologically.  It’s also my perfectionist mentality- and the quest for accuracy and precision- that has been drilled into me over the course of 15 years by the never ending review processes of working in biotech.  I write something and then I sit on it because it’s not quite ready for prime time yet.  Sigh.  I kid you not; there are dozens and dozens of blog posts and thoughts just waiting to see the light of day.

So, friends, I’m turning over a new leaf.  I’m getting ready to let an awful lot out and in ways I can’t even believe I'm about to post publicly.  My story will continue but all of the side musings and tidbits are coming out in between too.  It’s not going to be perfect but I can assure you, it will be the honest ramblings of a near-miss survivor.

Our Story Part 17: Waiting and Fading

This post has been a long time coming.  If you have been following along over the last two years, you've probably noticed there is a huge gap between Part 16 and 17.  Thanks to super vague hospital discharge papers, I didn’t know exactly what procedures I had, how much blood I lost, how much blood I received or where my internal bleeding originated.  Every doctor appointment since my hospitalization has provided snippets of the unknown, new information gleaned during routine medical history assessments, leaving me with even more questions and a lack of answers.  I think it was a combination of my doctors not wanting to overwhelm me with all of these facts during such a fragile time early on and my inability to register what they were telling me.  I was so deep in survival mode that I inadvertently shut out a lot.  Even now, random bits of conversations I had with doctors from the confines of my hospital bed will come back to me.

Same Song, Second Verse

I still vividly remember the first time I walked down the now familiar corridor to the elevators.  I was so slow and the 40 metal staples, embedded in my wounded flesh like a zipper, pulled and twisted with each step I took.  I grumbled to myself when an elderly person passed me.  After all, I was young!  Why was this so hard?  Maybe I wasn’t tough enough after all. 

Come on, I said.  Get it together.  

You don’t need a wheelchair again. 

Gosh, this hallway seems to go on and on.

There are times I wish I had the foresight to write what I was going through in real time.  There are so many things I have wanted to share that I’ve held back because I wanted my story to be chronological.  For some reason (I blame the science brain), I felt like if it wasn't in order, there is no way anyone could ever understand.  Ridiculous, I know.  So, when I tell you I have dozens and dozens of half written blog posts waiting to see the light of day, I’m not even kidding. 

Improving Maternal Health and Safety

On January 23, 2018, New Jersey families will be one step closer to having increased maternal health awareness, helping to ensure that fewer woman will lose their lives or experience catastrophic illness as a result of pregnancy or childbirth. All hospitals, healthcare providers, professional associations and New Jersey residents are invited to participate in the campaign to raise awareness regarding the rise in the incidence of maternal deaths in the United States. According to the Pregnancy Mortality Surveillance System, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 1993 and 2013 (the most recent year reported), maternal mortality rates have increased nearly 56% in the U.S. Unfortunately, New Jersey is not immune to some of the same issues that we see across the country. By creating what appears to be the first Maternal Health Awareness Day in the nation, the state is recognizing the importance of ensuring all women have safe pregnancies and proactively helping women and their families by empowering women’s voices throughout the birth process, providing increased education for women and their family members and implementing safety bundles through New Jersey’s participation in the national Alliance for Innovation for MaternalHealth (AIM). As a two-time Maternal Near-Miss Survivor, I am proud to support Maternal Health Awareness Day by co-hosting a Blood Drive with Woodside Chapel Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) to send more families home as healthy as possible.”

This Isn't How It Was Supposed To Be

The Golden Falcons- 1987
Late last month, I heard the news that a former classmate had died.  She was 38.  I haven’t seen her since our days playing high school soccer but my memories of her go all the way back to the 1st or 2nd grade.  I guess I felt a connection to her again after so long when I learned she also gave birth to her first child one month after me and after a string of losses due to infertility.  Both of our boys coincidentally share the same name and similarly, she was rushed to the ER one week after delivery.  But instead of pregnancy and delivery related complications like me, she was diagnosed with brain cancer and given 18 months to live.  I often saw updates on how she was doing and vividly remember the first night I started to pray for her while I was recovering myself.  I prayed she would get the same news I got: "You've been through hell but it looks like you're going to make it."  The news seemed to get worse for her.  She endured repeated surgeries and rounds of research drugs that may or may not have been working.  She fought hard for the chance to see her miracle baby learn and grow and while she got the chance to hear the sweet sound of laughter from her one and only son, the doctors had been right.  Brain cancer stole the hopes and dreams of a new mother and left a gaping hole in a young family.

Meeting Doctor Mills

With my Pulmonary Embolism Survival Anniversary and the New York City Walk to Stop The Clot coming up in less than two weeks, it is high time I posted about some other #stoptheclot related news from earlier in the year.  I had every intention of writing about this months ago, but you know... life with toddlers.  :)

If you have been following my story at all, you know the Emergency Room Doctor was crucial in the discovery and diagnosis of my bilateral pulmonary emboli when I was 24 weeks pregnant.  I shudder to think about what life would be like for my husband right now if we weren't fortunate enough to have a doctor who recognized the symptoms of blood clots. 

When God Says No Instead of Not Yet

It was a warm, spring evening at my nephew's end of the year school concert. We stood outside eagerly awaiting the kids to join their families after an adorable program. My little one, only 8 months old at the time, was fast asleep on my chest in the baby carrier. It wasn't long ago that I stood in this very spot at a previous concert, feeling so incredibly alone and very aware that I was the only woman of childbearing age without a child in attendance

I remember the gut wrenching feeling of those days. After all, there were many days that I put on my brave Auntie face so I could be a part of my nephew's lives knowing the experiences I lovingly shared with them could very well be the closest I ever got to having children of my own. I remember babysitting the boys with my husband and rocking my youngest nephew to sleep in the dark with tears streaming down my face all the while soaking up a small portion of his sweet baby love knowing this could be it! That despite my millions of prayers and pleas for a family, whether biological or not, God may not give me the desire of my heart.