TV reporter Emily Price was 32 weeks pregnant when she noticed something was off.
The movements of her unborn child had changed, so she brought it up with her doctor. After some tests, the doctor told her she was having contractions, and she needed to go to the hospital and get a shot.
“They said, ‘The shot is to strengthen your son’s lungs in the event that he does come early.’ They said, ‘It will strengthen his chance of survival,'” Price told USA TODAY.
“‘Survival?'” she asked. “And they said, “Yes, survival.'”
“As a parent that really hits home. At that point a kind of terror sets in,” she said.
Price was given medication and instructions to rest to help prevent delivering early.
Eight weeks later, her son Hayden was born healthy and happy after a 40-week term. “And [he] didn’t even spend a minute in NICU,” Price said.
But she would never have caught onto the fact that something was wrong if not for a story she covered a year earlier.
In 2009, Price reported on the launch of the “Count the Kicks” app, created by a group of moms who had come together in grief after losing their babies. She sat down at a local coffee shop with the five moms to hear their stories.
Price was floored to hear how each of the women had lost their daughters. Four of them had stillborns, and another lost her child eight days after birth. One had only been 10 days away from her scheduled C-section. Another was just a day shy of 36 weeks. All had seemingly healthy pregnancies, and lost their daughters within months of each other.
The women, Kate Safris, Kerry Biondi-Morlan, Janet Petersen, Tiffan Yamen, and Jan Caruthers, created a nonprofit organization to spread awareness of the issue.
They built a ‘Count the Kicks’ app that could help pregnant mothers easily record the babies’ movements.
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The women told Price that if even one person sees the story, it could make a difference.
At the time, Price had no idea she would be the one whose life would be changed.
“I didn’t realize stillbirth was an issue. I thought that was something our grandmothers experienced,” she said. A stillbirth is defined as the delivery of a baby who has died after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
A year later Price was in her third trimester, and because of this story, she knew that something was wrong.
“It saved our son,” Price said.
Priced called to thank the women afterwards, and decided to join their efforts.
And the campaign is working. Since the launch, the number of stillbirths in Iowa has decreased 26 percent. The awareness campaign has spread to 18 states. The app now gets 3,000 downloads every month.
Thankful parents who had learned about counting kicks and saved their child write in. Mothers moved by their loss do so as well, urging awareness.
Just recently, Emily Eekhoff from Iowa used the app to determine whether her baby was safe.
She tracked her baby’s movements and knew that it usually took less than 10 minutes to feel 10 kicks. But on May 30, at 33 weeks, she could hardly feel any movement.
“Even the kicks I felt were soft, subtle—not normal,” Eekhoff said at a press conference at Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines.
She and her husband went to the hospital and discovered that the baby’s umbilical cord had wrapped three times around its neck. Dr. Neil Mandsager, a physician who specializes in high-risk pregnancies, said that the baby, Ruby, would have died within a day if Eekhoff had not noticed this.
Eekhoff had an emergency C-section soon after at 33 weeks and five days.
Ruby spent 20 days in the neonatal intensive care unit, and is now healthy.
In April, Price became the executive director of Healthy Birth Day, Inc., the nonprofit umbrella organization that created “Count the Kicks.”
She is determined to help this effort forward. In the last eight years, the stillbirth rate decreased by a quarter in Iowa, but nationwide this number remains essentially the same.
“If we can reduce the entire country’s stillbirth rate by 26 percent, as we’ve done here in Iowa, we will save more than 6,000 babies every single year,” Price said. “That’s 6,000 families who will have been saved from the heartache of losing their child.”
Price said this turned out to be the best story of her career in all the ways that mattered.
“It was the difference between my boy being here and not being here,” she said.