Join us for a conversation with Lindsay Johnson, founder of Aspyn Arrows, about pressing into the pain after infant loss. Lindsay shares the tragic story of finding her one-month-old daughter, Aspyn, unresponsive in her crib. Following her daughter's death, she struggled with suicidal thoughts. She leaned into her faith and God brought beauty from ashes. In this episode, Lindsay shares her story and more about Aspyn Arrows (the nonprofit organization she started to educate families on safe sleep practices and empower them to sleep with peace of mind by providing them with Owlet Baby Care monitors). In this episode, we discussed:
Praying hard prayers and trusting God's will
What to do with baby items in your home after you've lost an infant
How death still hurts even when you have the hope of Heaven
Seeing God work in the middle of grief and why it's a blessing
Books that Lindsay found helpful in her healing journey
How to redirect your thoughts when the pain is too heavy to carry
The difference between longing for Heaven and being suicidal
The benefits of being in community and staying physically active
Talking about your baby and special family traditions in their memory
Parenting living children after the loss of a baby
Why guilt is not from God and how to forgive yourself
Postpartum anxiety with subsequent pregnancies after loss
SIDs and other sleep-related deaths and about Owlet monitors
Each episode has a special Hope Guide that you can download by clicking the button below. It is packed with hope-filled resources and extra information from the episode!
Discussion / Application Questions (leave your answers below in the comments!)
Lindsay talks about the prayer she prayed the night of Aspyn's death: "But even if You don't (save her), I still believe." It's hard to trust God's will. Is there a part of your story where it's still hard to surrender the "even if You don't" parts? What would your life look like (and your heart feel like) if you prayed this prayer and could trust God with your pain?
In this episode, Lindsay says that even with the hope of Jesus, grief still hurts so bad. In what ways can you resonate with her words? Write a list of the ways that you experience HOPE and also the ways you experience the HURT. It's okay to feel both. We are human and it's necessary to grieve even when we have hope (Remember 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14).
Lindsay says that she sees each day as one day closer to Aspyn, not one more day without her. This perspective has given her hope as she looks forward to Heaven. How would this perspective shift breathe new hope into your grief? Is this hard for you? In what ways can you turn places of sadness (like Lindsay mentioned - her daughter's grave) into places of rejoicing?
Graphics to share on social media or pin on Pinterest! Find more here.
CONNECT WITH OUR GUEST
Lindsay Johnson is the founder of Aspyn Arrows, a nonprofit dedicated to educating families on safe sleep practices and empowering them to sleep with peace of mind by providing them with Owlet Baby Care Monitors.
Lindsay is married to John and they have four children: Aspyn, Phoenix, Memphis, and Waverly. Aspyn passed away at one-month-old due to SIDS in 2015.
Connect with Lindsay:
CRADLED IN HOPE PODCAST
New episodes will be shared on the 1st and 15th of every month with bonus episodes released throughout the year. Don't miss a single episode...subscribe wherever you podcast!
Please also leave a review to help spread the message of hope with other grieving mommas!
MEET OUR HOST
Ashley Opliger is the Executive Director of Bridget's Cradles, a nonprofit organization based in Wichita, Kansas that donates cradles to over 1,090 hospitals in all 50 states and comforts over 26,000 bereaved families a year.
Ashley is married to Matt and they have three children: Bridget (in Heaven), and two sons. She is a follower of Christ who desires to share the hope of Heaven with families grieving the loss of a baby.
Connect with Ashley:
Follow Bridget’s Cradles:
Follow Cradled in Hope Podcast:
JOIN OUR CRADLED IN HOPE COMMUNITY FOR GRIEVING MOMS
Episode 11: Pressing into the Pain after Infant Loss with Lindsay Johnson
Ashley Opliger: [00:00:00] You’re listening to the Cradled in Hope Podcast where we believe that the hope of Heaven, through faith in Jesus Christ, has the power to heal our hearts after the loss of a baby. It’s a pain no mother should have to endure and we want this podcast to be a safe place for your broken heart to land. Here, we are going to trust God’s promise to restore our joy, use our grief for good, and allow us to spend eternity with our babies in Heaven.
I’m your host, Ashley Opliger. I’m a wife, mom, and follower of Christ clinging to the hope of Heaven. My daughter, Bridget, was stillborn at 24 weeks in my first pregnancy in 2014. In her memory, my husband and I started a non-profit ministry called Bridget’s Cradles, and God has given us purpose in our pain and we’ve seen beauty come from ashes.
Although we wish you didn’t have a need to be listening to this podcast, we believe God has a reason for you to be here today. We pray this time would be a source of healing for you as we remember that Jesus cradles us in hope while He cradles our babies in Heaven. Though we may grieve, we do not grieve without hope. Welcome to the Cradled in Hope Podcast.
Ashley Opliger: [00:01:27] Hello, and welcome to another episode. I'm excited to introduce you to Lindsay Johnson. We met through a friend several years ago, and I've been blessed by her friendship and inspired by all that she is doing in memory of her daughter.
She lives in Oklahoma, just a few hours away from me here in Kansas. And she is a mother to four children, three on earth and a daughter in Heaven named Aspyn. Aspyn passed away from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, known as SIDS, one month from the day that she was born.
In her memory, Lindsay and her husband founded an organization called Aspyn Arrows. Their mission is to educate families on safe sleep practices and empower families to sleep with peace of mind by providing them with an Owlet baby care monitor. I know you will be so encouraged by Lindsay's vulnerability in sharing her story.
Welcome, Lindsay. We’re so glad that you're here.
Lindsay Johnson: [00:02:20] Thank you. Ashley, I have not got to meet you in person, but all the virtual conversations and meetings we've had and communication has been incredible, and I'm so grateful to be here. So thank you so much for having me.
Ashley Opliger: [00:02:34] Yes, I feel like I know you. And isn’t that weird sometimes when people online, you feel like you've already met them? And we were supposed to meet up when I was in Tulsa recently, and it didn't work out.
Lindsay Johnson: [00:02:43] I know.
Ashley Opliger: [00:02:43] But we're so close. We’re just a couple of hours away. I know we'll get to meet.
Lindsay Johnson: [00:02:48] I hope so, with everything, I would love to get together in person. I definitely know what you mean, though. It's fun to meet people and then be like, “Oh, that seems like somebody I've known for a lot of years.”
Ashley Opliger: [00:03:00] Yes. Well, Lindsay, will you introduce yourself and tell us about your motherhood journey and your experience with loss?
Lindsay Johnson: [00:03:07] Absolutely. So my name is Lindsay Johnson and I am from Jenks, Oklahoma. And my husband and I have been married for 12 years and we have four beautiful children.
Aspyn is my oldest, and we're going to talk a little bit more about her. She's with Jesus, and that story is beautiful, and I can't wait to share it. My son Phoenix is four, and my son Memphis is two. And I have a beautiful little girl who is seven months old just last week, and her name is Waverly. And that is my crew.
I do work outside the home. I'm a pharmaceutical sales rep and my husband works with oil and gas here in the Tulsa area. And so in our spare time, which is very little, we also run a non-profit organization called Aspyn Arrows. And I'm so excited to share a little more about that with you guys on this episode now.
Ashley Opliger: [00:04:00] We are very excited for you to share about Aspyn Arrows. And that organization started in memory of your beautiful little girl, Aspyn, and I would love for you to share her life story.
Lindsay Johnson: [00:04:13] Absolutely. So I mentioned that I've been married to my husband for 12 years, so we weren't the youngest when we got married. We were like late 20s and we were ready to start a family. And so we prayed and were excited to get going with that journey. And unfortunately, it didn't happen easily for us.
And so we started doing a lot of different medical procedures, a lot of different medications because we were faced with a medical diagnosis for myself of something called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). And they named it Stage 4, which is one of the worst versions of that, and then also endometriosis Stage 4.
And so we were told by a couple of different physicians, without any medical intervention, it was really unlikely if not impossible to become pregnant. And so we started doing something that is called IUI, which is like a baby step before you would go into in vitro fertilization.
And so this was all taking place over four years. Three different surgeries for myself, like I said, lots of medication, lots of fertility treatments, all to no avail. And I remember in October of 2014, we were moving forward with the most extensive procedure, which was IVF, in vitro fertilization. And we were told on our next appointment, we were right at the start of getting going with that.
And they said, “Okay, next appointment, we'll need a check for $14,000.” And we were just blindsided by that. And for us, it was a huge shock and also a huge stop sign. We just knew that wasn't something we were capable of doing, for one. And it really brought to our minds the realization that maybe children were not in our future.
And that was really hard, but it was time to start working on ourselves individually in terms of health and working on our marriage, because if anyone's gone through fertility, for one, I'm so sorry and I'm thinking of you because it is so challenging. And for two, you can only imagine how challenging that is on your marriage.
I feel like it's one of those things, that it's just part of the process. You get married, you start a family and that's just part of it. And for us, that wasn't happening. And it wasn't because we didn't want to. It was because something medically wasn't working, and it was just really awful.
So that was October of 2014. We stopped all medication and, like I mentioned, just focused on our marriage and I like to say recalibrated what our future would look like. And four months later in January, on the 24th, we found out that we were pregnant with our first baby, with zero medications, zero medical intervention. And immediately, I mean, I get chills telling you that because immediately I knew God had something really special for us.
And so I had the most incredible pregnancy. I was that annoying pregnant lady who's, “Yay! My ankles are swollen.” Like even the worst symptoms, I was cheering for them, because I had worked really hard and prayed really hard and begged God to allow us to become pregnant. And so when we did, it was just like the most incredible blessing.
And so every month was wonderful and sacred. And then she was born on September the 25th, 2015, so her birthday is coming up. And it was a Caesarean delivery, due to some of the surgeries that I had had in order to do the fertility treatments. That was going to be my only option, was to have a Caesarean delivery.
And she was seven pounds, seven ounces. Perfect. So healthy. In fact, I was really surprised that it was so simple. And I don't know what I had in my head thinking about giving birth to her, but it was the most incredible, perfect experience. And she was perfect and healthy.
And 30 days into her life on October the 25th, I went to nurse her. My body told me it was time to go nurse her, and I found her unresponsive. And I don't know if it’ll ever get easier saying that, but from that, my husband immediately started CPR on her and we called 911. He was on the phone and I was hysterical and very confused, and it felt a lot like an out-of-body situation, out-of-body experience where you're watching what's happening.
And I remember running, my in-laws live two doors over, and I ran to get help. I don't know why, what I thought they were going to do, but I just wanted to get help while we were waiting on all of the emergency vehicles and emergency people to be there. And so I ran over to their house and knocked on the door to try to get their help.
And as I was coming back, running back to our house, here came the fire truck and the ambulance and all of the EMS crew. And I just remember waving my arms and telling them, “Here! Come and help! Come in here!”
As they were coming into the house, this part always chokes me up, I just remember falling to the ground in the grass in the front yard, and praying this prayer that would, little did I know at the time, that would point me in the direction of my grief, how I would handle this, how you would face this tragedy.
And I fell to my knees and I just said, ”God, I know that You raised Lazarus from the dead, that You are capable of doing this.” And I didn't know that she was gone, but I knew things were not good. And so I just prayed.
I said, “God, I know that You can bring her back. And I just have the faith that You will.” And immediately I felt the Holy Spirit just say through me, “But even if You don't, I still believe.” And that was a hard prayer.
It was a hard prayer in that moment. It was a hard prayer as the night continued. It has been a hard prayer to walk out at times, but I know that God allowed that to be my heart posture in that moment for such a time as this.
We went to the hospital and immediately they took us to the family room, which if you've gone to the hospital in a tragedy situation, the family room's not good.
And it wasn't much longer that the doctor came in and he knelt down in front of us and explained that there was nothing else that they could do, that she had passed away. And I just remember breaking down and really feeling like, “What just happened?” All of it was so fast and quick.
My mom had came to the hospital, of course; all of our family was surrounding us when we were told that information. And I remember going to my mom and saying, “Go ahead of us before I get home. I don't want to see anything in my house ‘baby’. I don't want to see her bottles. I don't want to see her Pack and Play. I want everything gone.”
If you've had a child, they immediately take over your home and everything is ‘baby’ right around your house, and I just didn't want to go and see any of it. I wanted to come home and just pretend like none of it had happened, the whole thing.
And as soon as I walked in the door, I just wanted to be in her room and surrounded by all of her things and to smell her clothes and to hold the things that she touched and to be close to anything that was part of her.
Ashley Opliger: [00:12:05] Oh, Lindsay. I’m so sorry.
Lindsay Johnson: [00:12:11] You can’t cry. Now you’re going to make me cry.
Ashley Opliger: [00:12:12] I know. I know.
Ashley Opliger: [00:12:18] It’s so, so sad and so heartbreaking as a momma.
Lindsay Johnson: [00:12:22] Yeah. I just remember, too, immediately reaching out to one of my closest people, friends. She is my therapist, but we've also developed such an incredible relationship that I call her a mentor, a friend. I don't even know how you describe someone like this, but she had prayed with us during our fertility treatments and helped our marriage stay strong during so much strife during that time.
And I messaged her at three in the morning on the way home from the hospital after we'd been told that Aspyn had passed away. And I knew that I was going to need a lot of help getting through this.
And I think anytime you lose a child, there's just nothing that you can describe that is similar. And I think that feeling like we had gone through all this fertility treatment and there was this feeling of, “Oh, God has blessed us,” we had become parents. And then to have it taken away just adds a different type of level of grief and pain that I felt that night.
And I immediately, though, had this sense of, “This is bigger than what's happening.” And I can't really describe that other than things that I would say to my mom and my husband and my dad and just family and community around us was just that I felt humbled that God would choose this to be part of my story.
And six years later, I look back and I go, “Wow. If that's not the Holy Spirit, I don't know what is, because my flesh tells me, “I don't feel humbled by my daughter dying. I feel angry.” But my heart was humbled. I felt, “Wow! What is God about to do?” I was anticipating what He was about to do.
And I remember I wrote her obituary. It was very important to me that I wrote it and that it came from me and my heart and my husband, of course, us together. And I remember looking at John and going, “How on earth do people experience this type of grief and this type of loss without knowing without a shadow of a doubt that you will be reunited with your,” daughter, in my case, family member, friend, whatever it is in other people's experience. We just felt like even with the hope of Jesus, this hurts so bad.
This hurts so bad. How do people do this without knowing that God eventually gets the say? That all of this worldly nonsense that we deal with, this broken world that we're living in, it doesn't win. God wins. Knowing that, it still hurt. And so for people that don't know that, how do they function?
And so we thought it was a little bit weird, but based off of those thoughts and feelings we were having, we were going to offer an opportunity for people who attended her funeral service, memorial service to accept Christ as their Savior.
And I got a little pushback from some family members. I think they were thinking I was just a little, I was grieving so heavily that I wasn't thinking straight. And I said, “No. I know what's going on here, and I'm certain that people need to know that this can happen to anybody.”
And it's not about, IF you will face something that's hard in your life, it's about WHEN. Right?
And I'm so grateful for the foundation that I have in my relationship with Christ before this happened. And I'm even more grateful for getting to learn more about God's character and who He is through this tragedy. But we opened a call to Christ at her memorial service and five people gave their life to the Lord.
Ashley Opliger: [00:16:22] Wow.
Lindsay Johnson: [00:16:22] And so I think of that and, in full transparency, in so many ways that gave me hope. It filled me up. It reminded me that God's still moving. God still loves me. I can feel God's love, because there were times when I didn’t. I didn't feel God's love. I felt very abandoned by God.
And I'll hit on that a little bit more when we talk about grieving, but that was kindness of God to allow us to see beauty from ashes, because we don't “deserve” in air quotes, we don't “deserve” to get to see God work. It's a gift. And even in the hard and even in the tragedy of losing Aspyn, it was an absolute gift to get to see people find Jesus because of that loss, through that loss.
Ashley Opliger: [00:17:11] Yeah, there's no greater gift. Through our loss, through our trials, no matter what it is that we're going through, it could also be another struggle, a different type of pain, a different type of loss, we live on a broken earth with sin and evil and it's running rampant in our world right now.
And so everybody on this earth is facing something. We're either about to go into a trial, we're in a trial or we're coming out of a trial. That's life.
Lindsay Johnson: [00:16:22] True. So true.
Ashley Opliger: [00:17:40] And as hard as it is, I've even had to remind myself after losing Bridget: This is not going to be the last trial or the last loss or pain that I experience on this earth. I am going to continue to experience brokenness and loss and death and sickness until I go to Heaven.
And even when you have the hope that you are going to go to Heaven and God's going to make everything right again, He's going to make everything new and He's going to wipe all of our tears away, it still hurts because we're human.
We are grieving our children and of course we're going to grieve our children. They're so precious to us. I love that you said that even with the hope of Heaven, it still hurts, that how could you possibly grieve without that hope? To think that this is it, this is the end, it's a permanent separation, there's nothing more, I can't even imagine walking through that.
So would you mind sharing more about the days, the weeks, the months after Aspyn went to Heaven? Those really hard weeks where the grief is so deep and you're questioning God and you're angry and it feels like the world is spinning and moving on, that you're in this state of grief and trying to find your bearings again and figure out this new normal. And how are you going to survive? And what is your life going to look like now? Can you share about what that grieving process looked like for you?
Lindsay Johnson: [00:19:00] Absolutely. So this is the part that gets really raw. And I'm going to be super honest with you. I wish I was the type of Christian that just never felt betrayed or frustrated with God, but that's not true.
And because He created me and He molded and has created my heart, there's no point in pretending, because He knows our heart better than we do. So this is just the truth of it. And I will say that I was gifted two different books that really helped me.
And if I give you the highlight reel of my grieving, when I was the healthiest and the most on top of the pain mentally, it was when I was really reading these two books.
The first book is by Angie Smith and it's called, I Will Carry You. And I just believe it's a God thing that He allowed someone to gift me that book, because the way she walked through the grief of her daughter was very inspiring to me and it gave me a lot of hope.
And then secondly, Through the Eyes of a Lion by Levi Lusko, which we just talked about how hurting with hope still hurts. We've said that, and that's one of his quotes. And it's near and dear to my heart because I felt that so strongly.
So I want to remind you that I'm a pharmaceutical sales rep for a career. And when I was on maternity leave, I gave all of my offices, about 125 I believe, birth announcement of my daughter and because I would be away from their office and not seeing them for two, three months. And so I usually see about 8 to 10 doctors a day and I drive all over Western Oklahoma.
And so to paint a picture of what my next few months looked like after losing her, I was driving in and going into these offices and they were congratulating me on my beautiful baby. And I had to tell them 5, 6, 7, 8 times a day that my daughter was dead.
It was so painful. I would drive on Highway 412 because I covered Western Oklahoma. And there is a portion of the road that goes over, it's like a bridge. It goes over Keystone Lake. And I contemplated driving off of that lake on numerous occasions, because it was too much.
We're not physically built to hold this type of grief. We're not made for this world. So yeah, I would be lying if I didn't tell you that there were numerous and plenty suicide thoughts. And thankfully, because I have hope in Jesus, I could redirect my thoughts and I could focus on what is good and pure and lovely, the way He commands us to do.
But I mean, it wasn't easy. There were so many times that I felt just it was not worth it. The pain was unbearably hard and heavy. It just felt like it would be easier to not be here and not deal with it.
And because I have the hope in Jesus, and this is the weird thing. As a believer, I'm sure you understand this, but I'm looking forward to being in Heaven. And it gets a little weird if you don't have that faith, because people will go, “Well, that's kind of morbid to think like that.”
But really, even to this day, I think every day that goes by, I don't look at it as one day on earth without Aspyn. I look at it as one day closer to being with her. And that's a beautiful hope-filled thought and feeling for me. But I know that to someone who doesn't have that faith in Jesus and Heaven, then that would sound a little bizarre.
Ashley Opliger: [00:22:33] But we actually just talked about this in, we have a Hope Online support group and moms from all across the country join me once a month on Zoom, and we just talk about our babies. We talk about our grief. We talk about the hope of Heaven.
And we were talking about the difference between being suicidal but yet longing for Heaven, because there is kind of this gray line. Right? Because we were all saying, “We're so ready to be in Heaven. We want to leave this broken world behind. We want to be with our children again.” And if God took us home today, we're okay with that.
But there's a difference between longing for Heaven, being excited and yearning for Heaven, and being suicidal. But I think it's where your thoughts are at. Are you contemplating taking your life versus saying, “Okay, I'm here on earth. I don't like being here, but I'm going to walk with God through my grief, knowing that my hope lies in Heaven. I wasn't made for this earth. And when God calls me home, then I'm ready to go. But not taking it into my own hands.”
But I say all of that, but also acknowledge that what you went through was very real. And I've talked to so many women who do have suicidal thoughts after going through the loss of their baby. It's a grief that we're not meant to hold. It's the worst grief a mother can experience on this earth to lose her own child, to bury her own child. It's not the way God had intended this earth to be.
And it's very real. And I'm glad that you're talking about it because so many women have these thoughts, think about driving off the bridge or off the road. Or just the episode before yours, she was talking about how she would take pills and drink wine at night, just hoping she wouldn't wake up the next day.
And it's hard to talk about these things and it's uncomfortable a little bit as Christians, but I'm hoping that when women are listening to this and they're having these thoughts, they realize they're not alone and that there is hope.
And that focusing on God and His Word and on good and noble and pure, whatever's lovely, those thoughts. And also getting help, going to the doctor if medication is needed, going to a counselor and processing through your grief, there's no shame in seeking outside help, if you're having these thoughts.
We also do link the suicide hotline on our Hope Guide as well and on this blog, because it is so important to find hope and to reach out and to tell someone if you're walking through this. For you, did you tell anybody? How did you combat those thoughts? How did you get through that season?
Lindsay Johnson: [00:25:02] Absolutely. So a neighbor of mine introduced me and invited me to a workout class that was at five in the morning. If you would have asked me before babies if I would've ever done a 5:00 AM class, I would have said, “No, that is not for me.” Turns out I met my absolute best friend to this day in that class, and another friend of mine who has become, both of them are pastors and have ministries.
And I was surrounded by a community that was ordained by God, and that lifted me up and prayed for me and cheered me on as I walked through that grief. And there is something for me personally, when I move physically, I have a more healthy mindset, and it allows me to be the best version of who God has created me to be.
And I always know that when I'm spending time in the Word and when I am moving my body physically, those are two cornerstones that God helps me. When I'm doing those things. I'm the best version of who He's created me to be.
So I was surrounded by community. I spent a lot of time working out to stay active and to keep my mind healthy. I spent a lot of time with my therapist, talking through those feelings and walking through, processing every piece of it.
And this may be familiar to someone, or this may not, but time can feel very cruel after you lose your child. I remember walking into Walmart for the first time and looking around at everyone, just shopping for their groceries. And I just wanted to scream and go, “My daughter just died and you guys are just getting your groceries!”
And at the same time, logically, my brain is still functioning and saying, “Well, what are they supposed to do? Stop their lives? Because they're complete strangers to you.” And I just remember at the beginning of the process of grief, for me, a huge piece of it was: I was so fearful people would forget her.
And so if you were a Walmart cashier that was checking me or a person that I bumped into at the gas station, you heard about my daughter who passed away and who's now with Jesus.
And since then, I'm happy to share my story. I love talking about her, but I have a different level of: It's sacred, and I want to share it to people that have open ears and want to hear it and maybe are a little more interested.
But part of the process for me was talking about it to anyone and everyone that was around me. And I know that it made them uncomfortable. But it was between two things. I could make a stranger feel uncomfortable, or I could stay silent and make myself feel uncomfortable.
And so the choice was for me, I had to share my story. And I hope in some way that I was able to inspire or tell people about Aspyn or do something that God would be proud of in that. But I do know that when I look back, how the pendulum shifts. It might've been swinging a little too far on telling every single person I saw. But that was just part of what I felt was right for me.
And that's something I would encourage people to do. As long as it's not harmful and it's not doing anything necessarily wrong, I think there's nothing wrong with talking about your child and sharing if that's part of your process and how you move forward because your child, just because they passed away does not mean they're not real.
I will, to this day, always tell you I have four children. Just because one of my babies is with Jesus doesn't make Aspyn not part of our family. It's a rare occasion we don't bring a photo of her into a family photo. I mean, all of my children talk about Aspyn. They all know who she is.
We go and visit her grave and it's not a place of sadness now. It's a place of rejoicing. It's a place of knowing this is a piece of our family that of course, we wish she were here. But how sweet is it that she's with Jesus? A part of our family is holding hands with Jesus. I mean, that is incredible! And it feels good to know that we're going to be back with her again.
So that is part of my grieving story. I would encourage anyone to press into the pain. Like I mentioned earlier, when I initially heard Aspyn had died, my first response was, “I don't want to see anything. I don't want it. I just want to pretend like it didn't happen.”
And then as soon as I really thought about it, I wanted to just be around all of the things. I wanted to be anywhere she had been. I wanted to review anything that she had been a part of. And so I think that everybody's experience is different, but for me, that's the way that my grief went.
Ashley Opliger: [00:29:47] There's a quote that reminds me of what you're saying. It says something along the lines of, “When a mother has a living baby, your motherly instinct is to protect and nurture your baby. But when your baby dies, your motherly instinct is to protect and nurture their memory and their legacy.”
Lindsay Johnson: [00:30:06] Oh, it’s so good.
Ashley Opliger: [00:30:06] And making sure that people remember their life because you remember their life. You think about them all the time. And when you're around people, you want to talk to them. You want to make sure that they remember and they know about your precious baby. They are part of your eternal family. You will get to see her again and your whole family will get to see her again.
And we're the same way. We put Bridget's name on our Christmas cards every year. We have a stocking for her, little ornaments, just different traditions that our family does every year for holidays, for her birthday, her Heaven Day.
And that's just really important to us because we’re celebrating and remembering her life, but also rejoicing in the fact that she's not gone. She's alive right now. She's more alive than we are. She's in a better place than we are.
Lindsay Johnson: [00:30:49] So true!
Ashley Opliger: [00:30:49] And we get to see her again. For me, with my little boys, even though they don't have a sister on earth, I am raising them to know they do have a sister and they will see her again.
I believe that it's easier for us as parents, and I can't really speak because I don't know any other story because this is the story that God has written for our family, but for us to be able to share the Gospel with our boys and for them to have a really raw understanding of life and death and Heaven and earth, because they do go to a cemetery and they do understand death because we talk about it so much more than we would have ever talked about if we didn't have a family member living in Heaven.
Lindsay Johnson: [00:31:31] Yeah. Ashley, I mean, the list goes on, the gift that it is to be walking this story that God has written for our family. And it's very odd to even say it out loud that in so many ways now, six years later, I can see what God has allowed to happen in our family of having Aspyn and losing her is a gift.
It is truly a gift. We parent differently because of our perspective. We do so many things differently and it has been the most sanctifying experience. And it's taught us so much about God's character and who He is. And if I could go back and carry Aspyn in my belly for nine months and have her still for a month and still go through that pain, I would do it a million times over.
I would do it a million times over because I can see now very clearly. And this is six years later, so take it easy on yourself if this sounds very foreign to you and you've just lost a child, because I would have never thought I would say the things I'm saying right now even two and three years ago. Right?
I mean, time changes things. It doesn't heal it. God heals. But it changes things. It gives you the ability to see things differently. And when I look back, I'm so grateful.
I'm so grateful for a lot of things, but everything that God has allowed to happen up to this point, we can just see His hands all over it and know that He was allowing us to really thrive, even in that pain, and to learn so much.
Like you said with your boys, it is incredible to me the childlike faith that my kids have in the tangible reminder of Aspyn in Heaven. Phoenix has told me unprompted on numerous occasions when it rains that Aspyn’s taking a shower. And they just know, and they believe it because we've told them that Aspyn is in Heaven with Jesus. And that's that. It's so matter of fact, and it's beautiful, and we would never have that if we didn't have our hope in Jesus. And so I'm just so grateful for what God has shown and taught us through this whole experience.
Ashley Opliger: [00:33:53] We hope you are enjoying this episode so far. We wanted to take a quick break to tell you about some other hope-filled resources our ministry provides to grieving families.
On our website, bridgetscradles.com, you can find many resources on grieving and healing including memorial ideas, quotes & Scripture, blog articles, featured stories, recommended books, and other support organizations. We share ideas on how to navigate difficult days such as due dates, Heaven Days, and holidays. We also have a page with ideas on how to care for a friend or family member who has experienced pregnancy loss.
In addition, every month I lead free Christ-centered support groups for bereaved moms called Hope Gatherings, both in-person and online. You can find a list of upcoming dates and sign up for our next support group on our website. You can also join our private Cradled in Hope Facebook group for grieving moms to find friendship and support. We would be honored to hear your baby’s story and be praying for you by name.
Lastly, our Pinterest page has beautiful graphics of quotes & Scripture from this episode, along with many other resources that you can pin and save. We would also love for you to connect with us on Facebook and Instagram. You can find us on these three pages: @bridgetscradles, @cradledinhope, and my personal page @ashleyopliger. We’d love for you to follow along and spread the word about the Cradled in Hope Podcast. Now let’s get back to our episode.
Ashley Opliger: [00:35:31] Lindsay, I'm going to ask you a hard question, because there might be a mom listening who lost a baby after birth due to SIDS or another incident during sleep, and maybe their story looks a little different than yours.
You had put Aspyn down, there wasn't anything else in her crib. You had done all the things that you were supposed to do, and this tragedy still happened. But there may be a mom that's listening who fell asleep while she was nursing, or maybe after a long night, the baby was in their bed and passed away because of that situation.
And now this mom is grieving her baby but also has this added guilt and shame and regret from a choice that they made, obviously they didn't do this intentionally, but that played a part in this. And my heart is just as heavy for those moms because I can't imagine walking through that and having that guilt.
And my obvious answer to that is that you have to have grace for yourself and that God has grace for you. But because I'm not a mom who's experienced this personally myself, I thought you might want to share a little bit about that because I know that you, through your ministry, talk to so many moms that have experienced these types of sleep-related deaths.
And it’s so incredibly hard, no matter how it happens, even with miscarriage and stillbirth. No matter what the cause is of death, we're all in this together, because we've all lost our baby and we've lost our hopes and our dreams for our baby's life. It doesn't make it any easier, but I can see how in those circumstances, moms might feel this added weight and a compounded grief because of that situation.
Lindsay Johnson: [00:37:20] Well, I think that any mom who experiences a loss is going to feel some level of guilt, whether it is, I don't know that any guilt is warranted. Right? I believe that guilt is 100% from the enemy and it's meant to distract you from what God has for you.
And so I guess I can start there and say: That would be another opportunity for you to redirect your thoughts and to give that to Jesus because He knows you're having those feelings anyway. Because He created you, He knows your heart. And so if you can ask Jesus to meet you where that guilt is, He will, and I believe that He will help you walk through that.
But my thought is that as a mom, we are created to protect and to love and to nurture our children. And so whether it was, if you felt like it was your fault or that you felt like you did something that contributed to this, I think that whether you did or didn't have those feelings, you're still going to probably face some of that guilt.
And the only way that I would know how to deal with that would be to give it to Jesus and to pray that He would help me be reminded that this is part of your story. He works for the good of all of those that are called according to His purpose, Romans 8:28. We know that. And so even when things happen that we wish didn't, we know that if we will allow God to come into that situation and walk with us through that, He will use it for His good and He will help you get through that.
I mean, while I can tell you in my situation there wasn't a direct correlation to anything that we did that quote-unquote “caused” this, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome has so many different facets. There's no cure. It's the most unexplained disease. All that you can do as a parent is to do your best in terms of keeping a safe sleep environment and breastfeeding if that's available to you.
There's a few little things that are available in terms of studies that say potentially will reduce your risk. There's no concrete line as to what is causing this to happen for children and what will reduce the risk or not allow it to happen.
And so in that case and with my faith, I believe that when these kinds of things happen, that all you can do is pray that God will help you walk through that and to remind yourself and encourage yourself in the Lord that guilt is not a part of anything that God wants you to have and to feel when something like this happens.
Ashley Opliger: [00:39:57] Yeah, forgive yourself. If you're a mom, that's listening, what I want to say is you are a good mom. You loved your baby. You still love your baby. And we know that you did not do something intentionally; having grace for yourself and forgiveness, because even in stillbirth, there are all these different causes of death.
So many moms will tell me, “Well, what if I would've known to go get checked earlier when the baby stopped moving? I couldn't feel the baby move. I would've gotten checked earlier. What if I would've been paying attention or didn't take that long car trip?” Or, “I took a hot bath the night before. Was it hot or was it warm?”
There are so many things that the enemy, all these lies that he’ll plant to put that guilt and those questions in your mind. And what I always tell moms is that no, you did not do anything to cause this. You love your baby. If you would have known a way to protect and save your baby, I am certain that you would have. You just didn't know. And how do you know what you don't know?
For me in my situation with Bridget, I have PCOS as well. And I'm pretty certain now that I've had so many doctor's appointments and testing in different labs and everything, I do think it was a hormonal imbalance that caused some of the issues with the hemorrhage and the placental abruption.
And with my subsequent pregnancies with my two boys, I was on progesterone the whole pregnancy, and I had healthy full-term pregnancies. So in my mind, I think, “Well, if I would've had progesterone, I could've saved her. She could have lived.” But then I have to go back and say, “But I didn't know that. I didn't know that I had a hormonal thing. I didn't know that I should have been on progesterone.”
Lindsay Johnson: [00:41:35] And how can you be accountable? How can you be accountable for something that you're unaware of? And the thing is when I think about all the rules in terms of quote-unquote, “safe sleeping,” there's contradictory information about all of it.
And so some firmly believe in co-sleeping. And there's been times when I've thought, what if I would have noticed that she wasn't breathing, if she would have been laying next to me? What if I would've noticed earlier and I could've stepped in and saved her?
So I think you're exactly right. I think every mom that's experienced loss is going to have some of these thoughts. And I think it's what you do with those thoughts is what can make or break you in that situation, and giving them to the Lord refusing to allow the enemy to penetrate your mind in that way because there's nothing that the enemy would like more than to control your mind.
And so I think you're exactly right. When you aren't aware of something, you don't know what you don't know. And the fact is you loved your child and you did everything that you could nurture and to take care of your baby.
Whether you experienced a miscarriage or stillbirth or an infant death, I mean, all of that, you can't take that on yourself. It's just, you were not meant to do that and that's not the right thing to do, for sure.
Ashley Opliger: [00:42:59] Yeah, I agree. Well, Lindsay, will you share a little more about how God got you through those dark days and then what led you eventually to start Aspyn Arrows in her memory?
Lindsay Johnson: [00:43:12] Okay. So three months later after losing Aspyn and the dust had started to settle, we took a pregnancy test and found out we were expecting. And we were not trying, clearly. We had thought, “Wow. God had allowed us to get pregnant and then we lost our baby. And we just have to believe He's in control because something we do know is that we're not in control.” That's where we were three months out.
And sure enough, we were pregnant again. And so I found out on the same day the following year that I was expecting. So January 24, 2015, I found out I was expecting Aspyn. January 24, 2016, I found out that I was expecting my next baby, and that would be my son, Phoenix.
He was born three days shy of what would have been Aspyn’s one-year birthday, in the same hospital on the same weekend, one year later. To tell you that we were beyond thrilled and excited but equally, if not more, terrified would be an understatement.
And so we'd heard about the Owlet monitor and I was actually looking for anything that could help us have peace of mind, because in our experience, a hundred percent of our children had died of an unknown cause, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, in the middle of the night.
And so we were thinking, “We're so excited to have this new baby! Thank You, God, for this blessing. But do babies just die in our family now? What do we need to do to try to help this not happen?” One of the things that we did think could help at least give us peace of mind was this Owlet monitor, and I'll share a little more about that.
And so time continued to go on. Our son Phoenix used the monitor every single night. And we looked up about six to eight months into his life and thought to ourselves, “This monitor has saved us.” When you don't sleep, you become a zombie. You don't think right. It's harder to control your thoughts.
So when you are having anxiety, which is amplified when you're not sleeping, then it's harder to control it, because that's harder because you're so tired from not sleeping. And we didn't sleep well with the monitor, so I can't imagine how we would have survived without it.
And I'll go ahead and tell you what the monitor does, just so that can be clear. It's a little sock that the baby wears on its foot. And it is a pulse oximeter in a sense. It tells you the child's heart rate and oxygen level, and it communicates that to your phone via an app.
And it's all cordless, so it can fit in the footed jammies and you can lay the baby in their bed and just go into your phone and know at your fingertips exactly what oxygen level your baby is breathing and where their heart rate is.
And if the baby has any struggles in terms of a high heart rate or a too-low heart rate or too little oxygen, you're going to receive a red alert. There's going to be a loud noise. Your phone's going to go off and you'll be immediately notified.
This just gave us a little more comfort in knowing if, God forbid, something did happen, we would at least know immediately. That was something I struggled with. I thought, “How long had she been there unresponsive that I wasn't there to be with her?” And so this was a huge help for us.
So fast forward a year into Phoenix’s life, and I just remember thinking, “How do people who've experienced tragedy, whether it be infertility, whether it be any type of loss, how do they have another child and not utilize a device like this,” because it's so scary. It's such a fear.
And I looked at my husband and I was like, “These things are $300.” We are very fortunate to both have jobs that allow us the resources to buy one of these.” And I said, “What about all the families who don't have those resources?”
And that’s when it happened. It was on New Year's Eve, I'll never forget, in 2017. And January 2018, my husband looked at me and was like, “You're doing it, aren’t you?”
I'm like, “Yes. We are starting an organization and we are going to help mommas. We're going to share our story. We're going to talk about safe sleep, the things that we can do that are in our control. And three, we're going to empower parents and give them a little peace of mind by providing this monitor for them.”
And just like that, the entire organization Aspyn Arrows was born. We chose the name Arrows because in Psalm 127:3, it says that the children are like arrows in the hands of a warrior. And that's what we feel like Aspyn was and is in our lives. She's an arrow that we're able to hopefully point people to Jesus through her life. And that is Aspyn Arrows and that is exactly how it got started.
Ashley Opliger: [00:47:41] So beautiful. Lindsay, I love that you are wanting to give other families that peace of mind, but also the potential that you could be saving a baby's life.
I don't even know if the company shares that kind of information about how many lives have been saved through those notifications, but I will say from my own experience after I had Branton, our four-year-old, he was five weeks old and he had started sleeping longer stretches, like five hours.
And I was so anxious, I would go in there and put my hand on him and would try to hear if he was breathing. And then I couldn't sleep, because I'm like, “Wait, he's sleeping longer. Is he okay?”
And I had such horrible anxiety that I ended up buying one at the time. It was just like on Facebook Marketplace. And that helped me so much. He wore it until he was a year old. And then we saved it and we were going to use it again for Brenner, but it was a really outdated model and it wasn't syncing with our wi-fi.
And we didn't check it until we brought him home from the hospital and we put it on, and it wasn't working. And I was like, “Oh my goodness, he can't sleep without this. I'm so anxious.” And so I contacted you and you were so generous to send me one overnight. And I got it and we've been using it the past seven months with him, and it's been such a blessing.
We use it every single night. It's just part of our bedtime routine with him, the diaper change, jammies, Owlet, sleep sack, and then he's in his crib with nothing else in there. And I will say that really has given me peace of mind.
Because of the app. I can check his heart rate and everything, his O2 levels. But then there's also that base station that the wi-fi syncs to, and so that will make a really loud noise and it'll go off on his monitor if anything happens. And I really recommend Owlet devices to parents with young babies. And I really love what you're doing and making that accessible to people.
But I didn't know the story behind the name Arrows, but that’s such a testament and honor to her life and everything that she came to earth for and that she's continuing to do, with those five people at her service that came to know the Lord because of her life. But there's so many more that have been touched and will continue to be touched by her life.
So I want to share real quick, you are being generous again to give an Owlet device. You're going to do a giveaway, which you just said is over $300, so that's a huge, generous giveaway. And I will share those details on our Facebook and Instagram page. And we'll also put it in the Hope Guide about how to enter that giveaway.
So, thank you so much for doing that. That will be a huge blessing to a family. And I think that will be just another wonderful way to spread the word about Aspyn Arrows.
Lindsay Johnson: [00:50:20] Absolutely. I love what you do at Bridget's Cradles. And I just think about the mom that would be impacted by your ministry, and that's the exact mom that we want to help as well.
That's the exact mom that we know has a different heightened sense of tragedy that they've experienced and walked through. And we want to love on them and provide monitors for them if they cannot afford them for other children that they have. And I'm so honored to be able to play a small part in what God's doing through Aspyn's life.
And I'm grateful that you're allowing us to do the giveaway because it's such a great opportunity to join our organizations because I just truly feel like they work hand-in-hand, for sure.
Ashley Opliger: [00:51:01] Yes, and you're so right. I've talked about this on a previous episode, but people would always ask me in my pregnancy with Branton, “Are you so anxious in your pregnancy because you've lost a baby before and you've experienced that loss?”
And by the grace of God, I wasn't as anxious as I thought I would be in the pregnancy, even though I had been in this ministry and had heard so many stories of all the different ways that babies can pass away.
I mean, when you're in this ministry, it's hard to be pregnant because you realize there are so many different things that can go wrong in pregnancy. And you really have to keep your mind focused on God and whatever is good and lovely and pure and right, because there are so many ways that the enemy can fill your mind with the spirit of fear.
And we don't want to have that spirit of fear. We want to have faith. And I was able to do that during my pregnancy with Branton, but there was something about bringing him back home and realizing. “He's here. I'm caring for him. I'm protecting him.”
And I wasn't expecting to deal with postpartum anxiety. I was thinking, “I've had my rainbow baby and it's going to be a joyous time.” But I really did have a lot of anxiety during his first months of life, and going through all of that and just wanting to be a good mom and learning everything and protecting him.
So it's something that’s probably not talked about enough is the anxiety that can come after loss when you've had another baby, if you've had a rainbow baby. And I think the Owlet device can alleviate some of those fears and anxieties and give you a little more peace of mind, especially when they're asleep.
So I'm really grateful for what you do. I'm grateful for this giveaway. I hope that it blesses a family. And would you mind sharing how our listeners can get connected to you on your website and social channels?
Lindsay Johnson: [00:52:42] Absolutely. So we have a Instagram page and we also have a Facebook. They have the exact same handle. It is @aspynarrows, and Ashley will link that. But the spelling is A-S-P-Y-N. Arrows is plural with an S at the end and it's dot com for our website. So we'd love to have you come and check out our social and our website.
Ashley Opliger: [00:53:02] Aside from our giveaway, which we'll post those details, but let's say a mom is having a rainbow baby or knows of a new mom that she wants to let them know about your services. How do they sign up? What does that look like?
Lindsay Johnson: [00:53:17] Great question. You go to our website and you'll hear about our story, and down toward the end of the page, towards the bottom, you'll see the ability to click and apply. And that will direct you to an application that will get sent to me or to our team and we'll look through those.
It will ask you if you've experienced any type of tragedy and if so, what, and a few other questions. And from there you will hear from us within two weeks, if we are able to help you.
If we are not, we're working on a system to be able to redirect you to other places that may have just a discounted Owlet or possibly going to their website to see if there's another foundation that can help you, but we don't have that quite set up yet. That's coming soon. But right now, that's the way you can apply for a monitor.
And the need is great, so if you're listening and you have the ability to buy your monitor but would like to donate to our organization, you can go directly to either our Facebook or our website and you can donate.
For every monitor that we buy, we're awarded two additional monitors from the company because they believe in us. They believe in our mission. They are an incredible organization that is truly out to help mom and dad sleep with peace of mind at night, knowing that their child is overlooked with a monitor.
Ashley Opliger: [00:54:39] We will link all of that. And we will also link how listeners can donate to your mission and your cost so that we can get more monitors out into the world and to families who need that peace of mind.
So, Lindsay, thank you for sharing your testimony and for sharing Aspyn's life story with us,
Lindsay Johnson: [00:54:56] Oh, I'm so grateful to be here. It truly was an honor, and I feel so humbled again, just thinking that God would use me through this situation and hopefully point people to Jesus, so thanks a lot.
Ashley Opliger: [00:55:07] Thank you for listening to the Cradled in Hope Podcast. We pray that you found hope & healing in today’s message. Don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss a future episode. New episodes will be shared on the 1st and 15th of every month. You can also find this episode’s show notes and a full transcript on our website at bridgetscradles.com/podcast.
There you can download a free PDF for each episode, called the Hope Guide, that is filled with notes, Scripture, links, discussion questions, and so much more. Be sure to leave your email address so that we can keep you updated on podcast episodes, upcoming support groups, and other hope-filled resources.
If you’re interested in volunteering or donating to Bridget’s Cradles in memory of a baby in Heaven, you can find information on our website on how you can get involved and spread hope to other grieving families.
One way you can spread hope is by leaving a review of this podcast on iTunes [or Apple Podcasts app]. Consider the two minutes of your time as a way YOU can personally share this hope with a mom whose heart is broken and needs healing. Thank you so much for listening and sharing. Until next time, we will be praying for you. And remember, as Jesus cradles our babies in Heaven, He cradles us in hope. Though we may grieve, we do not grieve without hope.
#bridgetscradles #cradledinhope #cradledinhopepodcast #christianpodcast #christianpodcasters #christianpodcasts #miscarriagematters #infantlosssupport #grievingprocess #stillbirthawareness #miscarriagesurvivor #pregnancylossawareness #grievingmother #infantlossawareness #angelmom #miscarriagesupport #iam1in4 #stillbornstillloved #pregnancyandinfantlossawareness #bereavement #childloss #1in4 #stillborn #stillbirth #griefjourney #miscarriageawareness #lifeafterloss #infantloss #babyloss #pregnancyloss #miscarriage