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

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.

Her story was one of the catalysts of my survivor's guilt during my early recovery.  Even now, I think about her often.  I think of her during ridiculously mundane moments like when I stop for an iced coffee with my son wrapped around my hip before a play date or when I lift his gaze to the sky and point to the full moon rising above the horizon.  She never got to do these things with her boy.  She missed so much of her son’s life while she was still alive.  I wonder if the glimpses she had of him from the confines of her bed comforted her or made her pain exponentially worse.  I know the intense grief of being away from your child when you aren’t well.  Not seeing my newborn son for those eleven days while I fought for my life was by far the most crushing part of my ordeal and yet she endured this repeatedly and for much longer stretches over those eighteen months.  Why am I able to walk away from my fiery trial when my biggest fear became her reality?  I shake my head at the unfairness of it all, the unfairness of her diagnosis, the unfairness of future plans that will go unfulfilled and the unfairness of a young boy who will grow up without his Momma.  It cuts me to the core because it so easily could have been me.    

This isn’t how it was supposed to be!

These amazing bodies that heal themselves weren't meant to betray us like this.  New mothers aren’t supposed to fight for their lives after delivering life.  They certainly weren't meant to start their battle with a dormant brain cancer one week after delivering a long-awaited miracle baby.  The timing is just so awful; it's unnecessarily cruel.  

God, where are you?  This isn't how it was supposed to be for them!

Why are you allowing this?

Why aren't you intervening??!?

Why do some moms like me live and others don't?

I confess that I have been angry at God at times because of things like this.  I run through all of the questions and admit to the shameful arrogance of demanding an answer from the God of the universe for the horrifying things that have happened to the people around me.  I’m perplexed by the stinging and unexpected contradiction of women dying while trying to give life.  And honestly, I feel like the suffering from things like medical conditions, mental illness, diseases and infertility are just the tip of the iceberg because there is unspeakable suffering humanity has brought on itself.  There is abuse of all kinds, neglect, murder, genocide, civil war and brutal regimes that target their own people.  The list can go on!  There is such incredible suffering in this world and it has permeated every facet and walk of life.  There is no escaping it.  Over the last four years, God has been patient with me as I grapple with the huge range of human suffering and vent my frustrations to Him.  He has been gently impressing this idea on me over and over again.

This isn’t how it was supposed to be.

It is sadly comforting to know that God’s heart hurts too.  Just as Jesus saw the bitterness of death and wept when Lazarus died in John 11, He is still moved by the suffering of His creation today.  God aches watching the wretched chaos sin has unleashed on the perfect world He originally formed.  As it pains a parent to watch a wayward child reap the harvest of bad decisions, so too God grieves for us.  My heart is weighed down by the few things I see and hear in my day to day life; I can’t imagine the depth of His sorrow knowing He sees all of it.  Our suffering reminds Him that death is the consequence of our sin, that sin has twisted every good thing He made, how it's grown exponentially, multiplied and overtaken all of humanity and impacted all of the world’s systems like the cancer it truly is.  Our suffering reminds Him that sin not only affects all of us spiritually but how the ramifications of it also impact our bodies biologically, mentally and emotionally.  It's when I start on my tirade of how unfair life is that I hear God’s gentle voice of rebuke.  Then a different set of questions come to mind because our suffering brings our innate need for Jesus to the surface.   
You want to talk about our bodies betraying us?

You want to talk about life being unfair?

Then look no further than the The Perfect One who was made sin for a fallen world.  It is the ultimate unfairness.  As I meditate on Jesus being sent to die for sins He did not commit, I wonder if He turned His tearful eyes toward Heaven while He hung on the Cross and whispered the same words to God the Father that I do sometimes. 

This isn't how it was supposed to be. 

Who has believed our report?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant,
And as a root out of dry ground.
He has no form or comeliness;
And when we see Him,
There is no beauty that we should desire Him.

He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.

But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah 53: 1-6


Mood:  hopeful sorrow
Listening To:  Bathing Beach EP, Novo Amor

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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 hardships that challenge their faith. She also enjoys sharing her latest adventures and creative exploits. Casey and her husband live in the Northeast, USA and in their downtime like to explore new places 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.

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