Every year on her stillborn son’s birthday, Felisa McDavid blesses an unsuspecting mother and her newborn son with a gift bag full of baby items.
McDavid’s son, Treylind, was delivered on Sept. 26, 2001, in a hospital near Charleston, her hometown. McDavid and her husband, Ray, were crushed when he arrived stillborn.
“I had a couple of miscarriages before we conceived him,” says McDavid, now a Forestbrook resident. “Losing him left me very distraught, of course. And I was not able to conceive after that; I’ve not been able to have children.”
As she mourned the loss of her son, friends and family tiptoed around her wounded heart. She couldn’t bear to hear about other pregnancies or deliveries, attend baby showers or share in the joys of other mothers with newborns. She steeped in grief for years.
“It’s been quite a process to get to the point where I could even talk about it,” she says. “Even members of my family were reluctant to tell me about their pregnancies.”
The McDavids desperately wanted children after they married on June 20, 1998.
An educator with a love for youngsters, McDavid has worked with children for 28 years. She now serves as principal at St. James Elementary School in Myrtle Beach.
After several miscarriages, the loss of Treylind following a full-term pregnancy left the couple bereaved and broken.
Felisa McDavid questioned how losing her son fit into God’s plan for her life. She asked God for direction on how to deal with the void and her feelings of hopelessness.
Although others in her situation might have chosen to adopt a child or give to charities, McDavid says she didn’t feel led in either of those directions.
Instead, she was pulled somewhere else – to the hospital where she’d lost her son.
“I wanted to know what I could do about this void,” she says. “I’m always trying to give back, and I’ve always loved children.
“God spoke to my heart. He wanted me to revisit the hospital where I’d lost my child. While I was there, I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to give something to one of these children?’”
As difficult as it was to walk into the nursery that first time since losing her son two years before, McDavid knew it was exactly where she needed to begin healing.
On the third anniversary of her son’s death, McDavid brought a gift bag to the hospital and gave it to a woman who had given birth the day before.
“We talked and I shared with her my experience,” McDavid says. “I had the gift in my hand. I asked her if she’d receive the gift. She said, ‘Yes, and thank you.’ I cried. She cried.”
A ministry was born.
The following year, McDavid, who moved to Horry County in 2003, reached out to the team at Tidelands Waccamaw Community Hospital to tell her story and explain her interest in continuing her work at the hospital.
“They just received me so well,” she says. “The nursing team made me feel good about what I was doing.”
A wonderful tradition
Her visit in September 2019 marked the 14th year McDavid has stopped by Tidelands Waccamaw on the anniversary of her son’s stillbirth to deliver a gift bag filled with rattles, bibs, onesies, stuffed toys and other items.
Every bag also contains an inspirational message from McDavid about the loss of her son and how the gift bag is a way to honor his memory by blessing another child.
Susan Follrod, a charge nurse at Tidelands Waccamaw, works with McDavid and the hospital’s labor and delivery team to arrange the gift deliveries year after year. Follrod also knows McDavid in her role as principal at St. James Elementary, where Follrod’s children attend school.
“I am amazed and humbled by Felisa and her faith, as well as the way she turned a tragedy into a blessing for others,” Follrod says. “It’s truly inspiring. I feel very fortunate knowing her, and how lucky the students, parents and staff of St. James Elementary are to have her as their principal.”
Shelly Laird, director of women and children’s services at Tidelands Health, says McDavid’s efforts speak to the resiliency of the human spirit and helps raise awareness about the tremendous impact of losing a child.
“I was touched to hear about it,” Laird says. “It demonstrates that tremendous good can come from tremendous loss.”
One mother's loss is another mother's blessing
For McDavid, the most rewarding part of her mission is the opportunity to meet the mother and infant who will receive her gift bag.
“There’s a connection I make to each child every year, and I pray for them on that day,” she says.
McDavid believes God allowed her loss so she could minister to others experiencing the pain she knows all too well. When a friend lost her child a few years ago, McDavid used her experience to offer comfort and support.
“I know the Lord does things for a reason,” she says. “I’ve gone through this process so I can help others. It truly makes me feel good that I can bless another mother.
“And actually, it blesses me more than I can ever bless them.”