January 2017 – Matt and Ashley Opliger were newlyweds when they found out they were expecting their first child. Feelings of excitement and nervousness mounted. All was well with mommy and baby until the beginning of the second trimester when Ashley was diagnosed with a large subchorionic hemorrhage. She was sent to a specialist and put on strict bed rest, but her condition still led to premature labor and a stillborn delivery.
Following the devastating news of Ashley’s prognosis, Ashley’s mother Teresa decided to knit a small blanket for the baby to be wrapped in upon her arrival. But as she was knitting, she began thinking about the tiny size of her granddaughter and decided to sew the sides of the blanket together to create a cradle. She added lace around the edges, a cross at the top, and a footprint charm at the bottom.
On October 22, 2014, Bridget Faith Opliger, weighing only 13 ounces, was placed in the knitted cradle after being born into heaven at 24 weeks and 5 days gestation. Yet her unborn life changed the world and continues to do so today through Bridget’s Cradles, a nonprofit organization that provides hospitals with knitted and crocheted cradles for babies born during the second trimester of pregnancy.
Bridget’s life and death gave Ashley’s life new purpose. She knew God wanted to use Bridget’s story – and cradle – to minister to other families suffering from pregnancy loss and stillbirth. So Teresa began to knit more cradles, and Ashley began to organize Bridget’s Cradles. Today, more than 250 hospitals in all 50 states receive the donated cradles.
“This nonprofit ministry came to be because of her life, and I am so thankful to God for the purpose He has given her and for the huge responsibility He has placed on us to live it out for her,” Ashley told AFA Journal.
Bridget’s Cradles has a three-fold purpose: to bless grieving families with cradles in which they can place their babies for holding and for burial, to provide support to bereaved families through online support resources and encouragement, and to raise awareness about pregnancy loss.
“The loss of a child is a monumental and life-changing event,” Ashley said, “and we believe our cradles function as a means to provide comfort during this heartbreaking time for bereaved families.”
Bridget’s Cradles volunteers have donated over 10,800 cradles and 13,300 prayer squares year to date; the latter are given to families who have experienced first or third trimester losses. The squares are knitted or crocheted with prayers, and a keepsake charm is attached to each square and cradle.
Both the squares and cradles are made by hundreds of volunteers across the country. They are then sent to the ministry’s base in Wichita, Kansas, where dozens of local volunteers add the finishing touches before they are distributed to hospitals that request them.
“Having cradles available to hospitals, particularly labor and delivery staff, allows us to maximize our impact and exposure to bereaved families who … are currently going through loss or will in the future,” Ashley explained.
“Bridget’s Cradles has become my life’s work and calling,” added Ashley, who left her career as a pediatric speech pathologist to devote her time to the ministry. “It’s the joy of my heart to carry out what God has asked me to do. My eyes and heart are set on Heaven, and I look forward to the day I will hold Bridget again.”
Bridget’s Cradles is a Kansas-based ministry with nationwide reach. It operates solely on financial and material donations as well as the time and talent given by volunteers. An administrative team makes sure 100% of all donations are used for operational costs and supplies.
P.O. Box 130
Andover, KS 67002.