Almost nine years ago, October 12, 2014, started out as any ordinary Sunday. I picked out my favorite black maternity dress to wear that day, and my husband, Jonah, and I made our way to church. I was 30 weeks pregnant with our first baby. We knew we were having a girl, which I still couldn’t quite believe, and we had just recently decided that her name would be Lydia.
Finding out we were pregnant with Lydia was a bit of a surprise -- and it was the best surprise. I absolutely loved being pregnant. Luckily for me, my pregnancy was mostly easy. People always told me that I made such a “cute” pregnant lady. I loved showing off my bump, and my baby, to the world.
At our ultrasound visits, Lydia loved to cover up her face with her hands and feet. I’m so grateful for that little glimpse we had of her personality. Bashful she was, but she also had a lot of spunk. I’ll never forget feeling her dance around in my belly after I drank a strawberry milkshake. Strawberries were her favorite.
Thankfully, Lydia always appeared to be healthy at every doctor visit, and I made it to the third trimester without any complications. I couldn’t wait to bring our daughter home. I spent the afternoon of October 12, 2014 sorting through the mountain of baby girl clothes we had accumulated to get ready for her arrival. I vividly remember standing in my laundry room that day, folding the tiniest baby socks and smiling as I daydreamed about what life would be like with our baby girl.
That afternoon, I mentioned to Jonah that I hadn’t felt Lydia move much that day. We both agreed that she was probably just sleepy, and reassured ourselves that she had moved less like that a few other times but later became more active again. Being my first pregnancy, I told myself I was worrying too much and that everything was fine.
But Lydia still wasn’t moving that evening, even when she was normally really active. I drank juice, ate ice cream, loaded up on all the sugar, but I still felt nothing from my baby girl. I called the doctor on-call late that Sunday night, and she suggested I go into the hospital for monitoring. “Just to be safe,” she said. Just to be safe.
The sweetest nurse took us back into a room and asked me to change into a gown. I felt very nervous, thinking maybe we would have to bring our daughter into the world early at 30 weeks. Never did I think anything beyond that.
But the Doppler on my belly that night was left with an unusual silence. Two nurses scrambled to find Lydia’s heartbeat, but all they could pick up was mine. A doctor was called into the room to do an ultrasound. He placed his hand on mine and said the terrible words so many of us have had to hear, “I’m sorry, there is no heartbeat.” In that instance, our lives changed forever.
I was induced the following morning, and Lydia Jaelle Barkley was born into the world at 7:56 pm on October 13, 2014. It was clear that the umbilical cord had gotten wrapped tightly around her neck and right ankle - so much so that it left indentations on her tiny body. She weighed 3 lbs. 8 oz. and was 18 inches long. She had dark hair, long fingers, the cutest button nose, my chin, and her daddy’s feet. She was more beautiful than I could have imagined. She was perfect. Jonah and I cherished every single second we held her in our arms.
Lydia was born silent into this world -- the loudest silence we’ve ever heard -- but the impact her life has made on us, and many others, has been anything but silent. Her legacy lives on. She is and always will be our daughter, Luke, Lilah and Benjamin’s big sister, a granddaughter, a cousin, and a niece.
After Lydia was born still, I began researching about stillbirth and was stunned to find that 1 in 167 pregnancies results in stillbirth in the United States. That is 24,000 babies and heartbroken families every year in the U.S. alone! Through this research I also came across the Count the Kicks organization, which was founded by five moms in Iowa who all lost their baby girls to stillbirth or early infant death. These courageous women discovered research showing that monitoring baby's movements during the third trimester of pregnancy can help expectant mothers to know when their baby might be in distress or in need of additional monitoring. There are countless baby save stories out there from mothers who noticed a change in their baby's movements, went to their doctor for monitoring to find their baby in distress, and ultimately ended up saving their baby by delivering immediately via induction or emergency c-section.
I was angry that I had never been told by my doctor to count my baby's kicks or monitor her movements. I had noticed she wasn't moving the day we found out she died, but I naively assumed she was napping all day since she had been so active the night before. I will always wonder if she could have been saved if we had gone to the hospital sooner.
One of my personal missions in life now is to make sure every expectant parent in South Carolina and beyond knows how important it is to monitor their baby's movements during the third trimester, get to know baby's movement pattern, and contact their doctor right away if they notice a change. (There's even app to do that, called Count the Kicks!) My involvement as a South Carolina Ambassador with Count the Kicks is one of the ways I choose to honor Lydia and help to save babies and families from knowing this heartbreaking reality. It is a blessing to raise money for Count the Kicks through the Walk of Remembrance: Miles for Margaret, Lydia and All Babies Gone Too Soon.
To our sweet Lydia - we love you always, we miss you tons, and we look forward to the day that we will see you once again (and never leave your side) in Heaven. <3