One of Count the Kicks’ earliest supporters is Tamela Hatcher (Hatcher is on the left side of this photo), a retired manager of Childbirth Education and Doula Services for one of the largest delivering hospitals in the state of Iowa. For as long as she can remember, Tamela has been passionate about birth. By junior high school she was reading every book that could be found at the library on birth-related topics. By high school she wanted to be a commercial pilot, a maternity nurse, or a teacher but realized early on that her strength was in education. Birth is like Christmas to her. There is anticipation, excitement, grace and the miracle of new life. Her favorite quote is from Dr. John H. Kennell. It says, “If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it.”
We asked Tamela to shine a light on the early days of Count the Kicks, its impact on families, and how she is teaching health care professionals as far away as China about the importance of kick counting.
What do you remember about the early days of Count the Kicks, our public health campaign to save babies?
Some life memories are significant, like where you were during 9/11. People can recall many details as it was noteworthy and life changing. For me, the first Count the Kicks (CTK) meeting was like this. It was held in the hospital public relations office with five people sitting around a long oval table that felt too big for our group. I remember listening to Kerry Biondi-Morlan, a founder of CTK, telling her story. She said there were many others like her in the Des Moines, Iowa area that had buried a baby that may have been saved if they had known about fetal kick counting. Her words touched my heart and called me to action. She was smart and passionate about guiding change. She shared materials that I could begin reading to follow the evidence and form my own opinions. Kerry had the grief-channeled energy. I had the direct access to thousands of expectant families that would best benefit from her message. I knew that we had the potential to become great partners in this joint cause.
Over the years, I have watched this organization thrive and grow their message. As a Childbirth Educator, I told expectant parents that they would spend much time over the next several years worrying about and keeping their children safe. In our classes, I would teach them about something they could do as parents to keep their baby safe and healthy even before they are born. Parents were very receptive, asked many questions, took the CTK pamphlet and seem excited and empowered to begin counting kicks.
How has the kick counting message changed over the years?
The message has spread and become more mainstream over the years due to the great job that Count the Kicks does to support medical professionals. Now, most parents have some knowledge about fetal kick counting before they even enter the Childbirth Education classroom. Today, the most time-consuming part of teaching CTK is finding out who has not downloaded the free Count the Kicks app, followed the message on Facebook or watched the excellent videos that have been produced to educate families.
Parents are busy and can get distracted. I always provide class time for families to download the Count the Kicks app. It is time well spent. I received the most powerful phone call a few years ago, from one of our class members. She had recently learned about, downloaded the Count the Kicks app and began using it. She told me through tears of joy that her son was saved because she heard the message in prenatal class and knew what to do when her son suddenly had a significant reduction in his kick counts. I am not a doctor, I am not a midwife and I am not a nurse but I have still had the opportunity to save one life…hopefully more. We all have the power to save lives through Count the Kicks!
Tell us about the time you’ve recently spent in China educating birth workers and how Count the Kicks is received there.
In January of 2016, I began preparing and educating birth workers to provide Childbirth Education and Birth Doula courses in China. I use the same Count the Kicks resources that I use in the USA. My dream is to get the CTK print materials translated and the videos closed captioned so that families can learn this important message in their first language. The birth workers include doctors, midwives, nurses, childbirth educators and birth doulas. They are very eager to learn about fetal kick counting and the wonderful work that our USA-based CTK organization is doing. I have directly shared the CTK educational campaign with 695 medical professionals in China. Many others have indirectly heard about it through these people. I believe we will find this life-saving campaign successfully replicated around the world. I have not heard of any babies saved in China due to Count the Kicks, but I am optimistic that it is only a matter of time.
Kerry planted the first seed for me, many years ago by being brave enough to tell her heartfelt story. It all started in that little PR room with the table that felt too big. For the last three years, this amazing organization has filled every table in an Iowa Events Center ballroom while sharing this message during their Every Woman Counts spring fundraising luncheon. They successfully helped reduce Iowa’s stillbirth rate by 26 percent and have maintained that success for nearly a decade. It has been gratifying, exciting and fun to watch them grow.
Tamela Hatcher is a retired manager of Childbirth Education & Doula Services for one of the largest delivering hospitals in the state of Iowa. Specialty areas include a Master’s Degree in Education, Bachelor of Science Degree in Family, Consumer, and Health Education, certified in International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA) and Lamaze International (LCCE). Tamela has taught more than 3610 couples in childbirth education since 1991. Designed and implemented the first, award-winning hospital volunteer doula program in the state of Iowa. Tamela has conducted ICEA workshops in China and the USA to help more than 600 people start their career as Professional Childbirth Educators and/or Birth Doulas. In 2016, she began serving as the Director of Education on the ICEA board.