This week marks the start of our Count the Kicks new baby movement awareness campaign. As a charity we want to spread awareness and educate mums-to-be about the importance of baby movements. This is an issue that is close to all our hearts - many of us involved with the charity - including me - have lost babies of our own to stillbirth or miscarriage. Our recent poll on the issue of baby movement shows that as many as 49% of pregnant women still don't understand what baby movements they should be checking for. That is why this campaign is so important.
My own story illustrates the importance of understanding what to do when things go wrong. Although I can't save my son Toby now, I can help other women to avoid the pain and grief I experienced when I lost my baby.
I was 18 weeks pregnant and on holiday in the Lake District with my husband, daughter and our friends when it happened. Although the hospital was over an hour away I knew something wasn't right and that I had to go in to check that he was okay. I hoped that when I got there, they would tell me that it was all fine and I could go home but they took my worries very seriously. As I had feared, they couldn't find a heartbeat or any movement, but because their equipment was old, they asked me to return the following day. I knew then that he was gone and when I returned the following day, a second scan confirmed my worst fears. There was no heartbeat.
The hospital explained to me that I would have to give birth to my baby because of his size. I felt numb and completely terrified at the prospect. I couldn't really take in what was going on but decided that I wanted to go home to have my baby locally so they let me leave. When I got back home, I went to my local hospital and I was induced. I was given a pill on Wednesday and asked to return on Friday. However, on Thursday I woke up in agony, covered in blood and after eight hours of labour Toby was born at 9am. We said our goodbyes and they placed him in a basket and took photographs for us. Someone came to talk about the funeral and, eventually, we went home. I'd already been through three early miscarriages and I had been so sad after each one, but this grief was on a whole new level.
After I lost Toby, I found it hard to get out of bed or take an interest in anything. I could just about get my daughter to nursery but that was about it. I started searching the internet for forums and websites about stillbirth and miscarriage because I couldn't talk to anybody about what I had been through.
I found Count the Kicks and liked the way they talked about the issue. Because the charity was local to me, I started volunteering for them and I found it helped me to cope with the death of Toby. I became pregnant again quite quickly after losing Toby but found it hard to enjoy the pregnancy after what had happened. In the end, my pregnancy went full term and I was overjoyed when my beautiful son Joshua was born on time and perfect in every way.
After volunteering for Count the Kicks for 18 months I took over the charity in 2013. I now run it full time and work hard to make sure that we reach pregnant women across the country through our website and active Facebook and Twitter pages.
It is a sad fact that every day 16 babies are stillborn in the UK. We have one of the highest figures for stillbirth in Europe and although the figure has dropped, there is still a long way to go. Count the Kicks educates mums to be about healthy pregnancy. Get to know the pattern of your own baby's movements and use one of our kick counter wristbands to help you to keep track of how often your baby kicks. Once a pattern is established, you will get to know if the movements change. Above all, don't take risks. If you are at all concerned about your baby's movements or about your pregnancy, seek professional advice straight away. Don't worry that you may be wasting your midwife's time - you are not. It is better to be safe and be checked. You can read more about symptoms to look out for and about our campaign on our website: www.countthekicks.org.uk