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

Trains, Cracks and Re-routed Tracks

He was very excited when I said “let’s go check out the little train station over there” while we were running errands. We walked over and then in true fashion, “Mom! What?!!? Don’t go on the train tracks! Did you look both ways to see if a train is coming?” Sometimes it's nice to be reminded that he is listening.

We were close to the hospital too, so I asked him if he wanted to see where he was born. I have a lot of mixed feelings about the place, but it’s part of his story. He deserves to see it. As we drove there, I pointed to where his daddy and I would go for dinner before our childbirth classes. I told him the funny story about the time we had to stop at WaWa for snacks on the way to class (or maybe a few times) because we were running late and I was nine months pregnant and starving. He hung on my every word. He wanted to know it all.

When we pulled in front of the hospital, the nostalgia of being pregnant crept in.

Sigh.

I loved carrying him so much. Yes, there were times when it was incredibly scary, and despite all those hurdles, I would have loved the opportunity to do it again. It seems unfair that a woman who loved it so much only got to do it once; then, it was harshly snatched away. It's something I am still processing. But then again, I’m thankful to have a seat at the motherhood table at all and be alive to sit in it! Growing him will always be one of the greatest privileges (achievement!) of my life. 

As I turned the car into the circle driveway of the hospital, I pointed to the wall along the lot we parked in front of when labor pains were in earnest. I showed him the ER entrance I waddled through and our postpartum room window on the fourth floor. He just soaked it all in. When we drove past the medical offices attached on the far end of the main building, I finally felt the lump form in my throat. I was surprised it took so long, but seeing the windows of their offices- and fully knowing the view out of them- was a bit of a jolt.

This really happened.

Sometimes, I’m in denial. Sometimes, it feels like an awful dream that we were fortunate enough to wake up from. Sometimes, it feels so very far away, like it happened to someone else we know. Then just like that, I can reach out and touch it.

What’s this place, momma?”, he asked.

I launched into an explanation that these windows are my former doctors’ offices. Dr. Fields* worked in those windows up there. I smiled remembering how giddy she was the day I walked in pregnant. How she wheeled in an archaic ultrasound machine because she just had to see this baby! Oh, Dr. Fields. I wish you had told me to go to a Maternal Fetal Medicine specialist after the pulmonary emboli. Would all of this have been different?

I continued... "and those windows on the first floor are the pulmonologist’s office." We liked them until the on-call pulmonologist I saw once post-delivery angrily called your dad during my emergency surgery demanding to know why I missed my blood draw appointment that morning. Yes, the one who quickly hung up and never called us again after learning “she’s actually in surgery fighting for her life right now. Yeah, that guy. Interesting that it's the on-call physician once again. (do they just not care about other patients?) I have some strong feelings about him... and the whole office for never following up... perhaps I'll send a strongly worded letter when I'm ready. Of course, I left all this out of the version I shared with my son. Someday I'll tell him. Today is not that day though.

As I drove around remembering, I had a deep realization that life can’t help but go on. There is a constant humming in the hospital realm. Patients in and out. New challenges to overcome. New lessons to learn from... like my friend’s case at this same hospital just the month prior. Her family comes to mind and what they went through guts me. This isn’t how any of this is supposed to be.

I’m likely a distant memory to my doctors, if I am a memory at all... but they are not to me. I used to think about my doctors- all of them- every single day following my hemorrhage. That frequency lasted for a solid year or two and has faded now, but I still think of them on occasion. I’m sure there is a lesson for medical professionals in there somewhere. Maybe a small, quiet reminder that your day-to-day grind is someone else’s major life event and milestone. That your words and actions (or inactions) will reverberate loudly long after you’ve said or done them. That good or bad, you’ll be a permanent character in someone’s story. What kind of character do you want to be? Are you practicing that way?




Life is full of lessons, little one. There are so many in our story. I hope to paint the beginning of yours beautifully, but accurately. There were wonder filled moments- divine interventions full stop- and then there were things that still keep me up at night years later. You, my love, will always be the best of them. This will always be the place I first heard your voice. The place I first laid eyes on you. The place my lips touched your sweet cheeks for the first time. It will always be the place you made me a momma, and I’m choosing to focus on the good while doing my part to leave maternal healthcare better for the mommas and babies coming after us.

We had a deep conversation about how God can use our greatest disappointments (Aka: broken bellies) for good things. Sometimes they are blessings in disguise (sometimes not), but they are almost always sure to benefit someone else someday. I’m pretty sure my initial analogy was a disaster.

Me: Do you understand what I mean?

Him: What are you even talking about?

That sounds about right. I prayed for the right words and tried again. I said something about broken train tracks and how it looks like a mess but God can put the tracks back together in new ways that are useful and good.

Me: Does that make more sense?

Him: Uh... (thinking). I don’t think so.

I’ve always felt like my near-misses blindsided me and knocked me onto a completely new and different life track. I thought that would be relatable to my little train boy. No doubt this will be a lifelong conversation, and well, he’s four. 

I’ll work on my analogies in the meantime.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Mood: Bittersweet
Music: For You by Coldplay

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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 2x maternal near-miss survivor writing to illuminate the aftermath of severe maternal morbidity and give hope to other moms in the midst of these hardships. She is a Patient Advocate and Heroes For Moms Ambassador. She has shared her story with many publications, including Propublica, The New York Times, the Empowered Health Podcast and is a chapter author of Nobody Told Me About That-The First Six WeeksCasey and her husband live in the Northeast, USA and in their downtime enjoy hiking with their son. If you were encouraged by this post, please consider passing it on. Find Casey on Instagram @caseycattell and @pphsurvivors.

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