Where Kicks Count Began: Chloe's Story

"I had the easiest pregnancy I could have asked for. I was fit as a fiddle and the happiest I’ve ever been. I had a planned c-section booked for Monday 30th November and we couldn't wait to meet our baby.

My final midwife check was the Tuesday before and all was fine. I remember her asking me about the baby’s movements at that appointment. I told her the baby had been moving less than usual, but as I'd read that babies run out of room to move, presumably that was why? She agreed with my presumption but told me to call the Maternity Unit if I ever felt worried.

But without knowing the relevance and risks, why would I worry?

The next day I felt very few movements and it started to niggle me. The baby felt heavy and hadn’t moved much. I just felt like something was wrong, that my instinct was telling me something. But all babies moved less before being born, didn't they?

That night, I knew. I laid awake all night poking and prodding the baby, who would always move when I did this. There was nothing. I felt for baby's elbow and moved it around - there was no opposition to me doing this. My baby wasn't asleep. My baby was gone.

Every story you read from here is the same. The drive to the hospital that seems to last forever. The haze of midwives calmly prodding and poking. The doppler checks, the monitors, the scans and then the "we're sorry".

My beautiful daughter, Chloe Joan, was born and taken straight to her daddy and my cousin at 9:40am. She was perfect in every way. 

Her cord had wrapped around her neck twice, the second loop was very tight. The midwives said they were 99.9% sure that was the reason for her death. Despite this, Chloe’s death is classed as unexplained.

The midwives explained that I would be welcome at any time during future pregnancies. That I must call them if I was worried.

But why wasn’t this made clearer with my first?

All I kept asking myself was, why didn’t I listen to my instinct? Why didn’t I realise she was telling me she was struggling? Why do people still say “babies run out of room to move" when that's totally untrue? Why were there no posters on the hospital walls, or stories in the many pregnancy magazines and websites I’d spent the last 9 months reading?

Why didn’t I do as my midwife told me and call the Maternity Unit when I first became worried?

Why hadn't they told me how important it was? Why didn't they tell me that observing a change in movement could be something that could save her life?

Why did I think that this could never happen to me?

I was shocked to find out that, in the 3 days I was in the hospital when I lost Chloe, there were another 4 families in the ward going through the same agony. Although I know they may not have been as late-stage as Chloe, the pain is not any less for them – 4 OF US lost our babies!

I started this charity because I had to. I wanted to teach expectant mums to be confident and empowered by knowledge, so none of them feel the pain I feel every day. I started this all for Chloe."

Kicks Count Continues: Toby's Story

In 2014, Sophia signed the charity over to me - Elizabeth Hutton. I volunteered for Kicks Count at the time and was determined to continue its success in honour of my stillborn son, Toby.

When I found out I was pregnant with Toby, I was over the moon.

I felt calmer during this pregnancy than my first. I had googled miscarriage risk and after a live birth my risk was as low as if I’d never had any previously. I felt so much more relaxed, I wasn’t going to spend 9 months fretting and instead just imagined all the things we would do as a family of four.

And then in May 2010 everything changed.

We were on holiday with friends in the Lake District and something didn’t feel right. I wasn’t feeling movement and just had a sinking feeling, one I can’t quite describe. We phoned the nearest hospital, which was an hour away in Lancaster, and were told to come in for a check-up. I expected them to just say “oh you’re fine, go home” but as I got seen by more people, the sinking feeling got worse.

It was a bank holiday Monday so the scanning department wasn’t open. They took me up to the maternity ward where there was an old scanning machine and hooked me up to it. At previous scans I’d seen our little wriggler moving like mad. There was no movement now. I could see him, completely still.

“The image is too grainy” the midwife said “you will need to come back tomorrow when we can scan you properly”

We headed back to the holiday home. I felt like I had really hit rock bottom. Normally my husband would be telling me to relax, that everything would be ok. But we drove the hour back in complete silence.

The following morning we were straight back at the hospital. The scanning room felt vast, so much bigger than any scanning room I’d been in before. I don’t know whether it was actually bigger in size or if it was just that I felt so small and vulnerable.

Usually, the sonographer would tilt the screen so you could see it. But this one turned it away from us. She was clicking and clicking. I asked “Is everything OK?” and her reply was,  “I just need to get a colleague.” When the other sonographer arrived they both looked at the screen and whispered to each other.

“I’m so sorry, there’s no heartbeat.”

In that second my world crumbled away. I fell into a whole world of pain I couldn’t have imagined, even when I knew in my heart he had gone. They spoke to me about the birth, about holding him, about taking photos. I didn’t hear a word. I was just trying to breathe. Trying to get through each second. In hindsight, I can only assume it's natures way of protecting you. Like there's no way to feel that kind of pain unless you absolutely have to.

All I could think was I want to be home. I’m in a strange place, I have none of my home comforts. I have none of my support network around me. I asked to go home and be induced in Guildford. 

On the drive back I was numb. I texted my friends to tell them what was happening and then asked what they wanted to drink at Emily’s birthday party in a few weeks. I don’t know what was going through my head. We were listening to a CD and although I wasn’t paying any attention, when I hear those songs now they take me straight back. One of them was Lucky by Jason Mraz. Nothing ever felt so ironic.

The room I gave birth in was much less clinical than the one I’d had Emily in. It didn’t have all the equipment and felt like a normal bedroom. After 8 hours our baby was born. My desperate hope that they'd made a mistake quickly evaporated. There were no little cries signalling his arrival. Just a midwife saying “it’s a boy

“You can hold him if you like” the midwife offered. But I couldn’t. I thought if I cradled him in my arms I would never let him go. So I spoke to him, “I’m sorry” I said and “I love you”.

When they said they'd clean him up and take photos for us I nodded numbly. When it came time to leave we were handed our memory book, the photos, and advice on funerals. Leaving the room I couldn’t go through the maternity ward doors. I felt like once I left that really was it. It was over. So I hovered. Walked slowly. Hovered some more. I could see people looking at me. The midwives at the desk, looking at me sadly because they knew what had happened. And other parents looking at me like I was mad.

Surely this can be prevented?

I spent the next two months researching stillbirth. At the time this was happening to 17 families EVERY DAY! The majority of those mums had noticed a reduction in their baby’s movements. A third of them could have been saved by being delivered in time. It seemed unreal.

Why had I never really considered this? There was an inherent assumption that stillbirths only happened in high-risk pregnancies, or pregnancies where you know there’s a problem from the start. But I knew now this could not be further from the truth. 

That’s why I joined Kicks Count and why I will keep fighting for all the babies like Toby who never got their shot at life.

I felt so strongly that this would work, that this would help. In Norway, this simple message had helped reduce their stillbirth rate by 50%. All we needed to do was make every single pregnant woman aware of Kicks Count."