“If love could have saved you, you would have lived forever.
I love you Liam Michael Felty, and I will never forget you.” -Mom
My husband Brad and I had been married for six years in October of 2011 and had just made a huge move across the country from Iowa to Virginia Beach for Brad’s job. I got pregnant with our first child in January of 2012. Brad got called for a civilian deployment so during the first half of my pregnancy I was being seen back home at the University of Iowa. I was already high risk due to a very rare thyroid mutation and was aware of the risks that mutation brought to having a baby. I had an amniocentesis done around 20 weeks and found out that not only were we having a baby boy (my husband Skyped in so we could open the envelope together) but that he also carried the same mutation as me. We had a plan of level 2 growth ultrasounds every 4 weeks and NST testing towards the later part of the pregnancy. I was feeling confident and I transferred care to Norfolk, Virginia after Brad was back from his deployment.
At my 28 week growth ultra sound he was measuring in the 60%. Neither my husband nor I are very big and so I was so excited that he was above average. At that point I felt like we had overcome all the hurdles that the mutation may have brought our way and the thought of anything else going wrong never crossed my mind. At my 32 week growth ultra sound he was measuring in the 35%. Of course that made me question a little but my doctors back in Virginia assured me that the 35% was still great and there was no cause for concern. My 36 week ultra sound was on Friday, September 7th and my doctors decided that I didn’t need one. I mentioned that he had dropped at my last one and was once again assured that the 35% was still good. Again, the thought of anything happening never crossed my mind as a first time mom. I trusted and was blissfully naive. I had an NST that day and went home. We had friends visit from Iowa and enjoyed the weekend at the beach and staying up late to play poker.
The morning of September 9th I remember he was very active at 2am while we were still playing cards. Around 8am when my husband left to take our friends to the airport I started having cramps. Then I had a very little bit of spotting and called my mom and the doc. I wasn’t in a huge hurry as I didn’t think there was anything wrong. I showered and shaved my legs got our hospital bag and I remember hugging my husband before we left the house and saying, “I am so scared.” He told me, “There isn’t anything to be afraid of he (he used his name as we had already picked it out) is going to be fine.” I told him that I wasn’t scared for our son, but for me. I knew at that point that I was in labor and was petrified of delivery.
I ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on the way to the hospital all while measuring contractions. We had called family to let them know that we were likely having a baby that day. Being our first kiddo, it was all very surreal. I got to the hospital and had already pre-checked in. We waited for what seemed like forever outside the double glass doors before the receptionist let us in. Even though I had done all the paper work beforehand it still took 15-20 miutes to get checked in. I wasn’t in a hurry as nothing was wrong, or so I thought. To this day I still remembering feeling him kick once while I was standing there waiting to get into a room. We were finally admitted and the nurse came in to hook up the heart rate monitors. She kept moving them around, trying different ones and I kept hearing a heart beat. She told me that was mine and that maybe baby had flipped. I thought, oh ok. She still couldn’t get a heart beat on him so we went to get a new machine. Tried again, nothing. At this point I am still blissfully naïve. After that didn’t work she left for a few minutes and came back with an ultra sound machine and a doctor.
I could see him. My husband knew instantly. I didn’t know until the doctor said, “I am sorry, there is no heartbeat.”
WHAT???? How is that possible. Try again! Nothing. I starred at the screen, at my baby boy who I had watched wiggle, move and kick so many times on a monitor. He was just laying there. At that moment it all sunk in and the darkness seemed to overtake me. The next few moments and hours were a blur yet I felt every sting of pain in my heart.
The doctor and nurse left to give us a few minutes. My husband and I sobbed. Then Brad made the dreaded call to each of our parents to let them know. That broke my heart in a thousand more pieces. Then Brad asked me, “what do we do now?” I told him that I deliver a baby.
The nurse came back in and took about 15 vials of blood and I made sure to tell her a thousand times that I wanted the epidural. When she left to get the anesthesiologist, what I had been numb to as far as contractions seemed to suddenly hit with full force. It was painful and I could hardly lay still. I am sure the emotionally trauma I was feeling only amplified the physical pain. Trying to hold still, hunched over, thinking about my son, sobbing while they tried to poke my back was awful. Once the epidural kicked in, I could finally relax a little bit.
I think for the next several hours, I was in shock. I didn’t cry anymore after that, until he was born. My brother arrived from D.C and I just remember laying silently in the bed. My mom arrived from Iowa just as I was about to start pushing. My brother waited outside the room. I pushed for about 45 minutes and at 11:11pm…..
Liam Michael Felty was born. He weighed 5 pounds 2 ounces and was 19.5 inches long.
I remember my mom asking me if I wanted her to see him first. She knew that I was nervous since we didn’t know what had happened. She assured me that he was perfect. After they got him cleaned off and swaddled my brother joined us and for several hours, we just passed him around. Held him, kissed him, took pictures, looked at his hair, his toes, his soft skin.
It was another surreal moment looking at Liam, my first born and thinking; this was a moment I had dreamed about my whole life, but I would only be holding him for a short time. At about 6 am the nurse came in and we told her that she could take Liam. She asked if we wanted more time and let us know we could keep him as long as we wanted. We both knew that wasn’t entirely true. I wanted to keep him longer but I knew we were only delaying the inevitable. He was changing. His nose was starting to bleed and I didn’t want to see that. So I kissed him…one last time. I told him that I loved him and I would never forget him. Then I handed him to Brad who did the same. He handed Liam to the nurse who put him in the bassinet and wheeled him out of the room. My heart left with Liam that day.
The next morning a bereavement counselor came to visit us. All I can remember asking her was, “What am I suppose to do now?” Since we had gotten pregnant right after moving to Virginia Beach, I didn’t find a job because I knew I wanted to stay home with my kiddos. I felt totally lost.
Brad’s parents arrived in Virginia when I got home from the hospital and we planned the funeral for back in Iowa. A friend gifted us their Net Jet so we could fly with Liam in his casket back with us. That was a huge blessing. If not, we would have had to put Liam with all the luggage on a commercial plane. Picking out the clothes he would wear and what he would be buried with was also a very bizarre moment.
We were at the funeral home getting ready for Liam’s funeral and I remember telling Brad how nervous I was. For what I am not sure but just the magnitude of burying and saying a final good-bye to my son, Liam, weighed on me. His service was beautiful and I still can’t believe I was in the front row. Where parents and family sit. Brad, myself and our immediate families and grandparents all signed his casket before we left. We had hundreds of people come through my parents home for an open house after the service.
Then the dust settled.
All that was over and we headed back to Virginia Beach. Brad went back to work and I remember just sitting in our empty house, alone with my empty arms and a broken heart. I would pace back and forth with a sense of urgency to do something. To make Liam’s death mean something, count for something, add validity to his short life on this earth but I had no idea what that was or how that would look.
Then I met Robin.
Brad and I attended our first NFTS Gala in 2015 at the Cedar Ridge Winery. I remember walking into the room of which I only knew a handful of people, yet I felt comfort. Just knowing that everyone there was connected to loss in some way, most having experienced it themselves let me know I was not alone. I sat down at a table with Liam’s name sticking out of the beautiful flower arrangement. Robin, No Foot Too Small, all these people who I hardly knew at the time were celebrating MY angel. Honoring and remembering Liam along with me. That meant the world to us!
In 2018 Robin came to Des Moines to host our first Moms Night. I joined several other women who shared their angel’s stories. Robin announced that No Foot Too Small was expanding across the state of Iowa and becoming a 501(c)3. I left that afternoon knowing, THIS was it! No Foot Too Small gives us a chance to celebrate, honor and remember Liam throughout the year in ways we don’t normally get to for children who are no longer with us. We get to take time just for him. We have a platform to add validity to his life. To find purpose in the pain. I can take Liam’s story, my experience of grief and have the bitter-sweet blessing of walking beside other women who are on the same journey.
Because of No Foot Too Small I have the opportunity to share Liam’s story as often as I want. To say and hear him name! I have also met some incredible women through NFTS, several of whom have become very dear friends. At each of our quarterly moms nights I am surprised as I found an even deeper meaning, connection and validity. I end up subconsciously sharing a different part of my story, of Liam’s story and just when I think I am alone in feeling a certain way; maybe about the guilt I feel not seeing the red flags or having that motherly intuition to save my son’s life. I have found that I am not the only one who feels that way. I found that even though I didn’t know I still needed it, I am navigating grief even almost 11 years later and I am so grateful for this group of women to do that with. The loss of a child is a forever grief. Each milestone we will miss with our angels, navigating subsequent pregnancies, and keeping their memory alive as the time we had with them gets further and further into the past.
No Foot Too Small’s mission of celebrating angels, uniting families, and building birthing + bereavement suites couldn’t be anymore on point. For those who have experienced this unimaginable loss and those who will, unfortunately experience it in the future. I am forever grateful for the community of support, the friendships forged, being able to help break the silence and pregnancy and infant loss and being able to carry my son Liam with me as I do what I can to help others.
Lindsay & Brad Felty
IN HONOR AND CELEBRATION OF LIAM, DONATIONS CAN BE MADE HERE. ON BEHALF OF THE FELTY FAMILY, THANK YOU FOR YOUR GIFT.