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

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.

They’ve been in practice for 30 years and they’ve delivered more than 5100 babies in that time according to the article. Conveniently omitted was any mention of their morbidity and mortality rates. I often wonder if anything changed after my case. Do they respond differently to pain complaints?  Are they taking the time to examine women when they voice concerns?  Do they support more thorough new parent education now?  Or do they consider me an outlier, an unlucky mom that, thankfully, no longer frequents their practice?

I’ve had nightmares about the other moms. I am certain there are others like me. The nightmares about them have been so intense and vivid that I wake up out of breath and in a cold sweat. If a high-risk postpartum patient with a near-miss under her belt called off-hours three times over 24 hours and was so easily dismissed, how many more low risk moms have been too? I never wanted to sue them, or pursue any case against them. I have no desire to ruin their reputation in the community either. I loved my delivering Obstetrician and still think of her fondly, but I also need to make sure what happened to me never happens to another mom again. I need to know they took it seriously. My hope is that seeing and hearing so much about the maternal health crisis in the national headlines, and from the 2020 Presidential Contenders, is resonating now. I hope they are listening, because they sure weren’t back then.

I often wonder if my former physicians have seen any of the awareness campaigns I’ve been involved in over the last few years. Does it strike a nerve? I hope it does. I hope it strikes a nerve in a way that they are constantly striving to improve the care they provide to future moms. I hope my presence in the national movement to save mothers is a perpetual reminder of the near fatal mistake that 'STOP! LOOK! And LISTEN!' could have helped to prevent. I want them to know they’ll be seeing a lot more of me too. I want them to know that I’m not slinking into the shadows, because the state of maternal health care in our state and country is unacceptable. And I am hell-bent on doing my part to change it. 

This experience has taken so much from me and my family. It has beaten me down in such an impactful way, that I often wonder if I'm permanently broken. Maybe not broken, but certainly changed. I'm not about to let the darkness of maternal mortality that set out to consume me twice get away without a good fight. It has ignited a blazing fire in my gut. I won't be satisfied until I set fire to the rain, because my eyes are open now. I can see. 

My heart is open 
Eyes are wide 
My mind is free 
My hands are tied 
I can see 
People hurting 
People preaching 
People watching 
Some are listening 
Some are hearing
Many talking
Others working
Are we broken? 
Are we broken? 
I will rise 
I will rise 
I will rise 
I will rise 
I am standing 
Use my arms 
Use my legs
Use my hands 
Use my heart 
Use my voice 
I am tired, I am strong
I am human, I will listen
I can think, I will love
If we love, then we'll love
We can love without hate

My heart is full 
My eyes are open 
I can see 
I can see 
I can see 
I can see 
Mood: Determined and hopeful. Beauty will rise from these ashes.
Music: Norah Jones- My Heart Is Full

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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, and the National Blood Clot Alliance. She is also a co-author of 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.

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