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.

You should be here. You should be here welcoming your firstborn son into the world with your over-the-moon family. Instead, they were holding your funeral that morning. The sting of losing your life while giving life is a contradiction so deep and fierce... and it never fades. With news of every lost mother, I am gutted all over again and the wound gets even deeper. I say it a lot: this isn't how it's supposed to be! 

The way your family described you in your obituary, it sounds like you were a lovely woman. I'm sure you would have been a great mother to your little one too. I don’t know much else about your story other than HELLP syndrome took you far too soon. I don’t know if you were affected by denial and delay. Did your care team listen when you said something was wrong? Did they do everything they possibly could and this was an unavoidable tragedy? It’s crushing to think of all the work being done in New Jersey and yet one of my own neighbors- literally a mother in my own backyard- is gone. It’s hard not to feel like we failed you... like I failed you. I know that’s an enormous reach practically speaking, but that’s how close your death feels.

Tonight, I put my son to bed and cried into his little head in the dark like I have so many times throughout this journey... wondering how I managed to escape the clutches of maternal death not once, but twice. Why do we keep losing precious mothers like you? What is it going to take to make it stop? And every time this happens, it takes me right back to the late nights I rocked my infant son in the nursery chair in our old home, grieving and wrestling over my own survival while a former classmate battled terminal brain cancer after her son was born. I think of the countless new moms who never made it home, the moms who never met or kissed their babies before breathing their last breath. The guilt of surviving is a heavy burden to carry sometimes. The gratitude is tremendous because I am fully aware that I should be counted among you. I should be one of you, and yet, somehow, my family was spared. I feel a great debt to you as one of the moms who made it home. We all feel that debt. Every single survivor feels it.

I will reaffirm the promise I made to Alison and the other mommas that came before you. I will hold your name close to my heart. I'll remember you and your family when this maternal health work takes everything out of me and I feel like I don't have anything left to give. I will press on through the trauma anyway. I will breathe deep and keep going for the moms like you... for the families like yours. I will do everything in my power to make sure that more moms and babies go home together. And as for your sweet family, I want you to know the community will rise up for them, because that's what we do. When one of us hurts, we all hurt. And this hurt runs deep.    

Originally written in February 2020.
Mood: Sorrowful
Music: I Wonder As I Wander- Audrey Assad

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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 and survivor support group leader. She has shared her experience with many organizations and media outlets, including Propublica, The New York Times, the Empowered Health Podcast, and the National Blood Clot Alliance. She is a co-author of Nobody Told Me About That-The First Six Weeks, a book helping new families navigate postpartum. Casey and her husband live in the Northeast, USA and in their downtime enjoy hiking 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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