My grandma had her first baby at the age of 17 and her last, my mom, at age 47. Eleven babies over three decades. Her fourth baby, James, was born still. I vividly remember my mom telling me about it. Stillbirth - what an unfathomable thing to experience. I would have never guessed 83 years later, almost to the day, I would endure the same tragedy.
It had been a perfectly healthy and uneventful pregnancy. When my doctor couldn't find a heartbeat just a few weeks before my due date, I was in shock. The next day I delivered a lifeless, beautiful baby girl named Grace, who died from a true knot in her umbilical cord.
I remember being numb, laying in my hospital bed in the maternity ward, wondering how this could still be happening to women.
My doctor told me stillbirths were rare, but my husband and I learned otherwise.
Sadly, each year in the United States, more than 26,000 babies are born still which equates to one out of every 160 pregnancies.
I was fortunate that another mom who had lost a baby just weeks before me, reached out to me. Then another. And another. Soon there were five of us, who each lost baby girls. We met in coffee shops to talk and grieve, but quickly turned our grief into advocacy to try to prevent other families from enduring the same heartache.
We founded Healthy Birth Day, Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to preventing stillbirths.
In 2009, we launched Count the Kicks, a public awareness campaign dedicated to saving babies. The campaign teaches expectant parents how to monitor their babies' movements daily during the third trimester of pregnancy to improve the chances of a healthy birth outcome.
Scientific studies indicate kick counting, a daily record of a baby's movements (kicks, rolls, punches, jabs) during the third trimester, is an easy, free and reliable way to monitor a baby's well-being in addition to regular prenatal visits.
Since the campaign's launch in our home state of Iowa, our state's fetal death rate has dropped by 26 percent. If we achieve that same success throughout the country, we could save nearly 7,000 babies in the U.S. every year.
Here's what the Count the Kicks! app does:
1) Gives expectant parents a daily reminder to Count the Kicks! at the same time each day during the third trimester of pregnancy.
2) Helps expectant parents time their baby's movements by simply tapping the "baby feet" on their phone each time they feel a kick, roll, punch or jab until they get ten movements.
3) Logs the baby's kick-counting history, so expectant parents can see their baby's normal movement patterns.
4) Urges expectant parents to contact their health care provider immediately if they see a significant change in their baby's movement patterns.
5) Helps expectant parents bond with their baby and could save their baby's life! Meet some of the adorable babies we've helped save and read their amazing baby save stories.