Monday, October 21, 2013

Pregnancy & Infant Loss - Count the Kicks!

October is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month.  While the subject of pregnancy and infant loss is emotional for many, it is so important to speak up so that we can bring awareness.  It is so important to me to try to be an encouragement and to let people going through a loss know that they are not alone.

October 15th of each year is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Day.  I shared some of my story on the blog in honor of this occasion.  The post included a link up where you could share your stories.  It's still open for those of you who may wish to share.

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Today I would love to introduce you to Karina.  Karina is an Ambassador for an organization called Count the Kicks.  The goal of this organization is as follows:

Count the Kicks aims to reduce preventable stillbirths by teaching expectant parents the importance of, and method for, self-monitoring and tracking babies' daily movements during the third trimester. Recent research shows this simple, no-cost practice significantly decreases stillbirths. Like other highly successful campaigns (i.e. Back to Sleep, prenatal vitamins), this innovative approach focuses on prevention, doesn't require costly medical testing, and saves lives.  The ultimate goal of Count the Kicks is to improve the chances of delivering a healthy baby and to reduce stillbirth rates, which occur in one out of every 150 pregnancies nationwide. 

Please help me welcome Karina as she shares her story with us today.


It’s always hard for me to tell my story.  I don’t like it.  I don’t like that the story is that my son died.  I want the ending to be that because he died, I go on to help thousands of babies live.  But we’re not at the end of the story yet, I’m still very much in the middle of my journey, if not even still at the beginning.  I’m a newly minted Count the Kicks Ambassador, I hope to have a lot to report in 5 years, but right now I’m green.

Karina - Count the Kicks Ambassador
I'll tell you what I do like: my kids.  I love my children more that all the Christmases and all the wishes on stars and all the Queen's diamonds!  And that includes my two living children, Roark and Phoenix, as well as my dead son, Milan.  It's this great and powerful love that makes me write this blog post when I'd really rather be doing anything else besides bumping up into the cold truth that I'm the mother of three with one in the ground.

Phoenix & Roark
I also adore the founders of Healthy Birth Day and the other Count the Kicks Ambassadors.  I'm so proud to be included that it's like sitting at the cool table in junior high.  It's like I got picked and in many ways, that's exactly how it feels with Milan.  I have searched my soul, asking, "Why did this happen to me?" and I think I was chosen so that I would do something about it.

I was 39 weeks pregnant when Milan died inside my body.  I was round with a dead baby as I was Googling what had happened to me.  We were shocked, all of us.  I had no idea stillbirths still happened so frequently and I'd never heard of what happened to Milan; umbilical cord accident, what was that?  My doctor hadn't talked to me about the possibility of stillbirth or the importance of tracking his movement.  He was my second baby, I was super healthy and he was as good as delivered by the way I was treated.  Except he wasn't ok.  He was healthy and I was healthy and he was also wrapped up in his cord.

Milan's umbilical cord went up from this belly, fully around this neck, down his back, up through his legs and then around his middle.  When he dropped to be born, he cut off his air supply.  We inspected the umbilical cord after he was delivered and it was kinked and dented, he'd clearly been wrapped up like that for awhile and had grown into it.  He'd been moving, he'd even kicked hard a few hours before he died, but I hadn't been tracking his movements so I can't tell you if they were off.

Milan's Gravesite
After he died, after I had to go through the labor of a baby I buried less than 24 hours after his birth, after I slept in puddles of milk and my body finally gave up trying to feed a baby that wasn't there, I found Healthy Birth Day online.  Was anything being done to try to save my baby from what killed him?  My doctor had said, "This never happens" and that made me feel awful.  Was I really a freak of nature?  It wasn't hard to find out that she was wrong.  The CDC states that there'sclose to 26,000 stillbirths every year in the United States and that breaks down to 1 stillbirth in every 160 births.  Everyone seems to know about SIDS, but the CDC states, "In 2010, 2,063 deaths were reported as SIDS".  So if stillbirth is such a big deal, why isn't anyone talking about this?

Well, we are.  Healthy Birth Day is a group set out to prevent stillbirth and Count the Kicks is their effective prevention campaign.  Like I said, I'm a Count the Kicks Ambassador and my job is to get the word out so that other babies live and other mothers can avoid the pain I went through.  Counting and tracking a baby’s movements is a safe and simple way to monitor the well-being of a baby everyday during the third trimester.  Significant changes in a baby’s movement patterns may help identify potential problems before the baby's heart rate is affected.  It's free, it's easy and it helps mom bond with the baby.  More importantly, it WORKS.  

We just had a big fundraising event for Count the Kicks on October 3rd.   We launched the new web app so that moms across the country can track their babies’ movements online,  That night, just as the speaker was getting started, a baby was being born, a baby who would have died if this mother hadn't being counting the kicks.  Today, I got the email thanking us, telling us the whole story of how this mom had been tracking her baby's movements and how she contacted her doctor when she noticed a change.  She paid attention and saved her baby's life.  It gives me chills and makes me smile.  

Iowa has it down.  The Count the Kicks campaign is in 80% of the birthing hospitals and childbirth providers in the state.  Iowa also has the numbers to prove it; the stillbirth rate has consistently dropped since the campaign began, it’s in the public health records.  But I don’t live in Iowa and I want everyone to have this life saving information.  I know it seems impossible for something so simple to be so powerful, but some of the best things in life are simple, like seat belts.  Like sun screen, like a breast exam.  I trust in the love of mothers across the country, moms will do what they need to do to protect their babies from stillbirth, but they have to know what to do.

So I’m telling you and asking you to spread the word to the other moms you know.  Visit the Count the Kicks website and download the app.  I know stillbirth is a scary subject and it can be hard to talk about, but take it from me, it’s better to feel afraid than bury a baby.  Yes, it’s better to do something that nothing.  In Norway, tracking babies’ movements dropped the national stillbirth rate by a third.  That would over 8,000 babies a year in the U.S.  8,000 lives, 8,000 first words and first steps, 8,000 favorite ice cream flavors and kindergarten graduations, 8,000 people who will grow up and thank us for helping them live.


Thank you so much for sharing such an important message.  Our first loss was a stillbirth at 22 weeks.  I am eager to help spread the word about such an important organization.  Please, friends, check out Count the Kicks at their website and on Facebook.  Please also be sure to take a look at the short YouTube video below.

Thank you, Karina, for sharing your story with us today!

Remembering Our Babies 2013

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