Two years ago, Meghan Hughes Petty suffered through an expectant mother’s worst nightmare.
The day before she was scheduled for a regular checkup with her obstetrician, she felt like something wasn’t right. Her son, Miles, wasn’t moving as much. She could feel him shifting in the womb when she walked, but otherwise, he seemed uncharacteristically lethargic.
Her Google queries were mildly reassuring. She was late-term and many online commenters quoted a common adage that babies naturally become less active toward the end of a pregnancy.
Petty’s husband, Jamie, suggested a wait-and-see approach. The checkup, which corresponded with Miles’ due date, was only a few hours away, and her doctor would have an answer, he said.
So they waited, but the news they received the next day was devastating.
“The doctor listened [with a stethoscope] and said, ‘Let me get the Doppler,'” Petty recalls. “She said, ‘I’m not hearing anything.’ A mom knows what a heartbeat sounds like. You go there enough and hear it enough when you’re pregnant that, when it’s absent, it’s pretty clear what happened.”
Miles had died two days earlier.
The National Stillbirth Society estimates that 1 in 160 pregnancies ends in a stillbirth, compared to about 1 in 2,000 babies nationwide who die due to sudden infant death syndrome. As is commonly the case in stillbirths, Miles had entangled himself in the umbilical cord while shifting about within the womb.
In the months following her son’s death, Petty experienced insomnia fueled by a constant quest to eliminate the question marks surrounding her son’s death.
“You don’t sleep after you lose a child,” she says.
She spent her evenings combing the Internet for some explanation on how her family’s tragedy could have been avoided. An Iowa-based nonprofit called Count the Kicks provided the answer.
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