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

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.  


October 12, 2015, about 5am
The doctors soon came into my SICU cube and told me I would need surgery to find exactly where I was bleeding and that hopefully they would be able to stop it in time to save my life.  “I have a new baby to get home to.  I don’t have time for this.” I thought to myself.  It was then that the gravity of what I was facing began to sink in: I might not make it home again. 

I can only assume the doctors told my husband more than they told me simply by his response.  He sat at my bedside unable to speak much, clasping my hands with hot tears streaming down his face.  I had never seen him like this.  The excruciating uncertainty of our future manifested across his face as he held my hand over the railing of my hospital bed.  Here was a man trying to be strong for his dying wife, trying to hold it together enough to be a rock for me even though his mind raced around with heartbreaking thoughts.  Was he destined to be a widower with a newborn after all we had struggled through to bring this sweet baby into the world?  Is this where the story- OUR STORY-  would take a dramatically tragic turn? 

Jesus, the very thought of You.  It fills my heart with love

Jesus, You burn like wildfire and I am overcome

Lover of my soul, Even unto death

With my every breath I will love You

My heart started to flood with all kinds of awful thoughts like how could my son possibly grow up without a mother?   Is my husband destined to raise him alone after all of this?  What would he do?  My gosh, would he move in with my parents for help?  Who would take care of Nathan?  Who would sing the songs I wanted to sing to him?  Who would kiss his little head a thousand times a day?  Who would rock him to sleep every night?  Lord, are you really going to rip my family apart and leave my boys all alone? 

As my husband held my hand in the dim light, I prayed out loud to benefit us both - I prayed for protection and wisdom for the doctors- wisdom and skill far beyond their human abilities- just like I had done the week before when I was being wheeled to the operating room for my emergency c-section.  Obviously, I knew this time was so much different.  It was far more serious with painfully frightening consequences- my life was literally riding on the success of this surgery.  And I guess that reality should have really freaked me out but I just could not reckon how God would allow me to die now.  It may sound like a completely crazy thought process, but how on earth could a story so full of so many miracles have such a stinging ending?  How could that possibly give God glory?  And wasn’t that what all of these miracles were about anyway? 

I remember it so clearly.  With tears in my eyes, I turned my gaze toward the corner of my SICU room and it might as well have been audible.  It was that very moment that God met me right there and reminded me of one of His telegrams from our infertility journey- not just the phrase but the image as well.  He burned that image on my mind. "God didn't bring you this far to abandon you now."  I couldn’t close my eyes without seeing it.  It was such a simple reminder but it immediately lifted such an enormous burden from me.  As the saying goes, “meditating on God’s past provisions gives us strength and hope for the future” and knowing how far God had brought us already was exactly what fueled my faith that somehow everything would be okay.  I didn’t know what God would allow.  I didn’t know how this would end but if my death was the next part of our story, He gave me the assurance- He promised me! - that my boys would be taken care of.  I knew that I was no longer an indispensable part of ensuring that happened anymore.  I guess in that moment, I recognized that my role had always been finite.

Jesus, You are my only hope and You, my prize shall be

Jesus, You are my glory now and in eternity

In my darkest hour, In humiliation

I will wait for You.  I am not forsaken

A few minutes later, Doctor Wade* came in with a stack of papers in her hand.  I barely remember what she said but I’ll never forget when I heard “We might need to give you a hysterectomy if we can’t find the source of the bleeding.”  I was stunned!  My mouth may have dropped and hung open for a few seconds.  Here I had just given life from the very organ that they were preparing to take.  Removing my uterus and surrounding organs would essentially throw me into menopause a week after delivering my son.  “We need you to sign this form consenting to it, if needed” she said.  I looked at her wide-eyed and said “You do whatever it takes.  Let’s do this.” 

I always wondered what it must be like being wheeled down the sterile hallways of a hospital to the operating room.  And especially in cases when life hangs in the balance, how do the patients feel?  Is it surreal?  Is it frightening?  Are they overcome with anxiety and emotion?  What are they seeing and thinking when the anesthesia mask is placed over their nose and mouth and they take their last conscious breath?  As my gurney wheeled past my husband, I wondered if this would be the last time he saw me alive.  Would he play this part over and over again in his mind?  For me, it was peaceful.  Frighteningly beautiful and peaceful.  I remember being really calm, so calm that the nurses commented on it to us both afterwards.  Simply put, I had no fear of what lay ahead or behind.  It was like Jesus was the one that had been pushing my gurney down that hallway, gently whispering in my ear that everything would be okay because He was there.  I wasn't crying outwardly.  I wasn't begging the doctors to let me live, but my soul was quite literally pouring out like water to the One who had the power to save me!  My soul was groaning to none other than my Jesus!  If I didn’t wake up on this side of Heaven, I knew I would be in His presence and somehow, someway, He would bring my boys through this terrible, awful mess. 

Oh, I lose my life.  Oh, my breath be taken

I will wait for You; I am not forsaken

One thing I desire is to see You in Your beauty

You are my delight. Yeah, You are my only

While being wheeled in, I felt like God was asking me “Whatever the outcome, will you still love Me?  If I take you from your only son, will you still love Me?”  I didn’t understand why any of this was happening but it was easy.  My answer was yes!  “Lord, I don’t have the faintest idea of what You are doing but I trust You.  In a few hours, I will either see my baby boy again or I’ll be seeing You.  Whatever the outcome, it is well with my soul.  I’m ready to meet you if that is what comes next.”  And those words running through my mind caught my breath.  It was the second time in less than 4 months I had said them.

The operating room was much bigger than I imagined.  The nurses moved me to the operating table and began prepping me for surgery.  One of the them was annoyed I still had my sleep bra on and wanted to cut it off with a pair of scissors.  “But I like it.” was my response.  Another nurse stepped in realizing that the first nurse had been harsh.  Maybe I wouldn’t wake up from this surgery to ever wear it again but I suppose she thought it best to give the dying new mother some dignity in her last conscious moments.  She said “If we move these tubes, we can take it off and I’ll put it in this bag for you.”  I didn’t think I’d ever see it again even if I did come out of this but I appreciated her kindness.  “Thank you.” I said.  Then she slowly turned around with a mask in her hand and said “I’m going to put this over your nose now.  Take deep breaths and count to ten.” 

I don’t think I made it past three.



Even unto death, I will love You

With my every breath I will love You

Jesus, The very thought of You

The very thought of You…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Mood: Did I really just put that into writing? There aren’t words for this.
Music: Audrey Assad- Even Unto Death
Stay Tuned for Part 19: It Just Got Real

Previous Post:  Part 17: Waiting and Fading


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*names changed to protect privacy.


About the Author: Casey Cattell struggled with infertility for more than a decade before giving birth to her son, Nathan, 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.  Casey and her husband live in the Northeast, USA and in their downtime like to explore new places and 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.

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