The Story I Don’t Share but Should

When getting to know my family, the first thing people notice is that my daughter is adopted and that my kids are six months apart.  Naturally, there are questions, and yes! We are that family that you hear about that tried to have children on their own, couldn’t, then decided to adopt and then poof!  (as if it were that easy) I got pregnant. People snicker with a kind heart, and say, I know a family like that or I bet it happened because you stopped stressing over it.  I usually just smile and agree, not wanting to share my whole story and make people feel uncomfortable, but really, I should share my story.  The story about what happened before these two beautiful souls entered our lives. My story that could save lives.

Newly married at the age of 25 in 1999, moving to a different state, buying our first home, and starting a new job as a Pediatric Intensive Care nurse at Mayo Clinic, you could say I was going through some changes.  But finding out I was pregnant, in a patient’s room (who was gravely ill BTW) was the biggest change to end that calendar year. Overall, my pregnancy was what most clinicians would say was typical, but really pregnancy is not typical.  Can I get an AMEN!?!?! It is an exhilarating, scary, fantastic roller coaster ride, with puking and screaming, and crying tears of joy, and yelling “I want to get off this *&% ride!!!!!” All worth it in the end when you get to hold your precious baby and take them home, at least for most women.

My due date came and went, my bag was packed, the nursery done, I was anxious!!  And big!!! And ready to be done. All the time thinking about what needed to be finished, or cleaned, or organized, and not thinking about what my baby was doing.  When I realized he hadn’t been moving, I would poke at my abdomen, drink cold water, not thinking that I should go in and get checked. Now, being a healthcare provider, I am not proud of the fact that it took me some time to get myself to go in. Thinking I was just an overly cautious, first-time mother-to-be, some would even say paranoid.  But that sense that something was wrong was growing fast, and as much as I didn’t want to listen to it, it was getting louder and louder…

I go to the hospital and they tell me we will just take a listen… silence…. Let’s get an ultrasound, silence….  Let’s get someone in here to double check.  And then reality strikes, it’s too late.  I’m so sorry

Being told I had to go through labor, not having my epidural work, finding out I’m allergic to penicillin the hard way, was nothing compared to the emotional pain it carried.  Every time my husband called a family member, it was gut-wrenching to hear their reaction for the first time. Every time a healthcare worker came into my room, the look of pure solemn and grief on their faces knowing they drew the short straw today was unbearable.  And finally, every time an hour went by, I was hoping, praying, that they were wrong, that I would hear a heartbeat, or feel a little kick. I made deals with God, if only you give him back to me, I’ll be a better person. I was angry — I did everything right, and I don’t get to take my son home!!!  But alas, the moment came, he was born, and the silence was maddening…. Just silence.

The what ifs are endless and crushing, but as time goes by (Charlie would have been 19 this year) the pain softens.  You never forget, but it doesn’t consume you anymore. After going through my own grief, I really wanted to help others.  I would get connected with other women who had gone through a similar experience, and it was helpful for both. But perhaps, if I can help prevent other women from going through this, that is the key.  That is what heals you and makes this life we all share eventful and worthwhile. So when I heard about Count the Kicks through Healthy Birth Day, Inc. I knew I wanted to help. Count the Kicks is a public health campaign to prevent stillbirth by tracking babies’ movements in the third trimester of pregnancy. Research shows a change in fetal movement can be the earliest and sometimes only indication that a baby is in distress in utero. More than 24,000 pregnancies end in stillbirth every year in the U.S., according to the CDC. If my story makes others uncomfortable in order to save other women from going through this, then it’s worth it.

What I like about the Count the Kicks app is that it gives parents-to-be the ability to download and send kick counting data directly from the app and is available in 10 languages: Amharic, Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Hindi, Russian, Spanish, Swahili, and Vietnamese. It is completely free, available at iTunes and Google Play online app stores, and has been downloaded 70,000 times in all 50 states and 140 countries. What’s most impressive are the stories of babies saved because moms used the app to track their babies’ movements in the third trimester.

Here’s a quote from a success story. “We saved her life by using the app and coming in. We are extremely thankful that the app exists and that Ruby is here with us. I can’t say thank you enough, because she is alive,” said Emily Eekhoff, who used the Count the Kicks app to track her baby’s movements, and ultimately help save her baby in 2017.

The what-ifs came naturally back, what if I had this technology, would he be here?   But instead of thinking about the what-ifs to my impossible question, now it’s what if all pregnant women had this app and used it, would stillbirths be a thing of the past???  What a happy ending to my story it would be!!! I’m hopeful that nineteen years later, being a Count the Kicks volunteer, I can help spread this important education to as many expectant parents as I can to make sure their birth stories end happily   Thank you.

By Amy Romanin, RN, community volunteer, wife to Matthew, and mother to Charlie, Lily & Jack