In 2014, Matt and Ashley Opliger were so excited to be expecting their first child, a baby girl. Ashley had chosen and loved the name "Bridget Faith" since she was a young girl. The excited parents were eager to decorate her nursery and prepare for her arrival.
However, early in Ashley's pregnancy (at 13 weeks), she began to have complications and bleeding. She was diagnosed with a subchorionic hemorrhage and was put on bedrest and medical leave from work.
As the weeks progressed, the hemorrhage enlarged and caused a placental abruption. Bridget's growth was restricted and doctors warned that preterm labor and stillbirth were likely outcomes.
During this time, Matt and Ashley experienced many different emotions - shock, sadness, and devastation at the thought of losing their baby. Despite their sadness, they chose to celebrate Bridget's life. They hoped and prayed for their baby girl to be healthy and full term, but they were also forced to prepare for the worst.
Bridget Faith Opliger was born into Heaven on October 22, 2014 at 24 weeks and 5 days at Wesley Medical Center in Wichita, Kansas. She never took a breath on this earth. Her sweet soul entered immediately into the presence of Jesus. She measured 10.5 inches long and weighed 13 ounces.
Matt and Ashley, along with their families, were in awe of how perfect and "wonderfully made" she was by her Creator. They held her in her cradle and loved on her for a full twenty-four hours. They kissed her, sang to her, and cried over how much they loved and missed her.
Bridget's earthly life was short in terms of human years, but her impact on this world will last forever. She transformed the hearts of her parents and set a fire in them to change the world on behalf of Jesus who holds her now in Heaven. Bridget was sent to earth for a purpose: to help others who are suffering on earth, spread the good news of Jesus Christ, and share the hope we have in Him of eternal life in Heaven. Because of her life, Bridget's Cradles ministry was born. Her parents, and little brother, Branton, miss her very much and cannot wait to be reunited with her in Heaven.
A week before Bridget was born, Ashley was hospitalized due to increased bleeding from a subchorionic hemorrhage. Doctors shared that Bridget was measuring small (diagnosed IUGR) and warned them that preterm labor and stillbirth were likely outcomes. Heartbroken, Ashley's mom, Grammy, wanted to knit Bridget a special, small blanket in the likely case that Bridget was born too early.
After making a small mint green blanket, she began to think that it would be difficult to wrap such a small blanket around a tiny baby. It was at this moment that Grammy had a "God moment" and knew she was supposed to knit the sides together to create a cradle. She sewed on lace around the edges, and adorned it with a cross at the head and a footprint charm at the bottom. Grammy was hoping she would never have to use this small cradle for her granddaughter, but she packed it in her emergency hospital bag just in case.
A week later, on October 22, 2014, Ashley went into labor and Bridget Faith Opliger was born into Heaven. The hospital nurses immediately swaddled Bridget in a regular hospital blanket, but weighing only 13 ounces, she was so tiny that it was difficult to see her or feel her weight. She was too fragile and delicate to hold without a blanket. That's when Grammy lovingly bundled her sweet granddaughter into the cradle that she had knit with love for her, and it was the perfect size for her.
"The cradle changed everything for us. It was an honoring, sacred, and functional way to hold our little girl. It made a heartbreaking situation more bearable, and it was a blessing and comfort to us in the midst of such a tragedy as losing our one and only child," Matt, Bridget's Daddy, shared.
The cradle was a respectful and dignified way to hold and take pictures of Bridget. Its design made it easier to hold her, love on her, and bond with her in the short amount of time they had with her. Matt and Ashley's family members each took turns loving on her in her cradle and giving her cute little nose lots of kisses.
Bridget was buried in her cradle on October 27, 2014. It gave her parents and family peace knowing her body was wrapped in a bundle of love awaiting Jesus' return to one day resurrect her from the grave.
Ashley shared, "We will forever be grateful for the gift of Bridget's cradle. Apart from God's love, nothing was more comforting to us on the day of her birth than her cradle. As a mother, to hold my sweet girl, wrapped in such love, was something I will never forget. It gives me great peace to know that her cradle holds her earthly body now until we are reunited with her in Heaven."
In Grammy's Words
"Before she was even pregnant, I knit a large mint green blanket for my daughter Ashley's first child. I made it mint green to match the color of Ashley's "blankie" that she had as a baby and child, which also matched her nursery. As Ashley experienced pregnancy complications with Bridget, my first grandchild, I knew she was going to arrive early and small. So I decided to knit a small blanket for her. We didn't know what the outcome would be – if Bridget would be stillborn or very small and in the NICU for months. Either way, I wanted her to have a special blanket.
After I knit such a small blanket, it seemed like it would be hard to use for her if it was just flat since I knew she would be fragile and small. I held it in my hands and turned it around and got the idea to sew the sides up so it resembled a cradle. I wanted her to be snuggled in and wrapped up safe and secure. I thought of Psalm 139 --"knit in your mother's womb"-- and wanted her to be tucked in the softness of a cradle made with love and prayers by her Grammy. It was very sad to have to use the cradle in the circumstances of her stillbirth but I felt better at the hospital knowing she had something to tuck her in so we could hold her.
The cradle was perfect for bonding, photos, and for her burial. It made us all feel better knowing she was nestled in like in her mother's womb. She looked so angelic and precious. I will forever have the memories and good feeling that Grammy could knit her something that made her feel cherished by her family." -Teresa Golik, Bridget's Grammy
In the months following Bridget's birth and death, Ashley knew that God had now given her a new purpose to use Bridget's life to change the world. The cradle was such a blessing to her family and she wanted other grieving families to be comforted with a cradle for their baby in Heaven too.
So, Grammy began to knit more cradles and Ashley began to create the ministry with the support of family and friends. Soon thereafter, the first donation of Bridget's Cradles was made to Wesley Medical Center, the leading birth hospital in Kansas, where Bridget was born.
Around the same time, Ashley met another bereaved mom, Casey Siegrist, whose son, Jack Monroe, was buried next to Bridget. Casey believed in the organization's mission and vision from the start. Ashley's friendship and support from Casey and her family was instrumental in the formative stages of the organization and continues to be a backbone of the ministry.
Bridget's Cradles became an official 501c3 nonprofit organization in July of 2015. Ashley resigned from her career as a Speech Pathologist to run the organization full-time. Word quickly spread about Bridget's Cradles and hospitals across the country began to request donations.
In 2016, the organization was blessed to welcome a full-time volunteer, Amanda Farris, into the role of Director of Operations. Under her experienced guidance, the organization continued to expand its volunteer and hospital base, and quickly outgrew its base of operations in the founder's home.
God continues to open doors and guide Bridget's Cradles in its ministry and mission. As of January 2020, over 900 hospitals in all 50 states have received a donation of cradles. For more information about the organization and our cradles, please visit these respective links.
If you'd like to participate in our mission, we are currently in need of knitting and crocheting volunteers and local sewing and administrative volunteers. If you'd like to support our mission in other ways, please visit here. We would love to welcome you to our team and have your support!