How a simple count helped one mother save her unborn baby’s life

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Born from grief, a movement nurtured by mothers has grown to help bring life and spread news of a practice so simple, yet life-saving.

Now 14-months old, Laura Smith’s daughter Lucy was active inside the womb with movements Smith loved feeling after struggling with infertility.

“When I first started feeling her, it was very reassuring,” she said.

When Smith reached her third trimester, her doctor shared information about a program called “Count the Kicks” and encouraged her to track her baby’s movements. It became a morning ritual to hit the snooze button and focusing on her baby.

“It never took me more than a half hour to get 10 kicks,” Smith said.

But one morning, at 32 weeks along, everything changed.

“I pressed the snooze just like usual,” Smith said. “I set up to do my kick counts and I felt absolutely nothing. Not a wiggle, not a nudge, not a kick. Nothing.”

Smith got up out of bed, started her day and tried again about an hour later. Still no movement.

“For the past month and a half I had woken up every morning and felt my baby move, so why was today different? There was something not right and Lucy was trying to tell me there was something not right,” Smith said.

It’s an instinct Emily Price wants every pregnant woman to trust. She’s the executive director of Healthy Birth Day, the non-profit behind the “Count the Kicks” program Smith read about at her doctor’s office. The public health campaign was launched by five mothers who banded together after each experienced a loss due to stillbirth or infant death.

“Every year in this country we lose 24,000 babies to stillbirth. That is one in 167 pregnancies, and what is vitally important is to not second guess yourself,” Price said. “’Count the Kicks’ wants to be that voice in your head that says, ‘Go in.  Call your doctor.’ There are not second chances when it comes to your baby.”

“It would have been so easy for me to not follow those instincts,” Smith said.

But she did and it changed the course of her family’s life. She picked up her husband and headed straight to the doctor’s office where she underwent a series of tests and ultrasounds.

“We could see on the ultrasound that she was completely still. Within an hour of the ultrasound, I was in an urgent c-section,” Smith said.

The baby’s umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck four times. Once Lucy was born she was taken immediately to the NICU.

“She had to be intubated immediately. She wasn’t breathing on her own,” Smith said.

And she needed a feeding tube, but in the weeks ahead, Lucy thrived. After a six-week stay in the hospital, baby Lucy came home.

“When I would tell friends or family what happened, I got the same response from everyone, and that was that they weren’t sure -- if put in the same position -- if they would have responded the way I did,” Smith said. “I never would have thought to set time aside each day for the purpose of just bonding with my baby and feeling her movements. On top of that, it ended up saving my baby’s life.”

“Today she is just my ray of sunshine. She is a fun-loving baby,” Smith said of Lucy.

Smith is back at it, doing more kick counts — she’s expecting baby number two in March. And there’s now a count the kicks app you can download. For more information, go to https://www.countthekicks.org/

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