Episode 14 - The Power of Community for Grieving Mothers with Foreknown Ministries
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Join us for a conversation with Alyson and Kelsi of Foreknown Ministries about the power of community for grieving mothers. Alyson and Kelsi are best friends who lost their babies two weeks apart from each other. In the deepest of grief, they leaned on their faith and friendship.
Now they host weekend retreats, digital support groups, and a texting community for women who have experienced pregnancy loss. They believe in having a "cross" of support: vertical from God and horizontal from community. In this episode, they share advice on how to make friendships with other grieving moms and point you to find hope past the grave.
In this episode, we discussed:
Walking through grief with a friend
Having answers and finding closure
Viewing the time you were pregnant with your baby as a gift
How God led them to start Foreknown Ministries
Circling through the stages of grief and dealing with grief head-on
Finding intimacy with God in your grieving season
Relearning God's character and letting Him put your broken heart back together
Weekend retreats and why they are helpful
How to get involved in their texting community to receive daily support
Shame and how Satan uses it to keep us silent and alone
The power of being vulnerable and sharing your baby's story
Full transcript below.
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!)
Alyson mentioned that she viewed the nine months she carried Cora as a gift and a blessing. Ashley shared that the world views miscarriage or stillbirth as a loss, but that from an eternal perspective, we can view our babies' lives as a gain. How can this perspective shift help in your healing? Can you see it that way? Write a list of the blessings that have come from your baby's life.
Kelsi shared that God is the One who made your heart so He is the only One who can put the broken pieces back together. Have you allowed Him to do that? In what ways have you tried to find healing on your own? What barriers are preventing you from entrusting God with your heart?
We talked a lot about finding healing in community and forming friendships with other grieving moms. Do you have a support system of moms you can turn to in your grief? If not, what steps can you take to try to find your community (e.g., support group, weekend retreat, etc)?
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CONNECT WITH OUR GUESTS
Alyson Brown and Kelsi Cole are the founders of Foreknown Ministries based in Colorado Springs, Colorado. They are best friends who lost their babies two weeks apart from each other and started a ministry in their memory, Cora (Alyson) and Whitson (Kelsi).
Through weekend retreats, support groups, and a texting community, Foreknown Ministries offers encouragement, strength, and hope to parents who have experienced pregnancy or infant loss.
Connect with Foreknown Ministries:
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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.
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Episode 14: The Power of Community for Grieving Mothers with the Foreknown Ministries (Alyson Brown and Kelsi Cole)
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 nonprofit 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: [00:01:26] Hi friends. I am so honored to welcome my friends Alyson and Kelsi of Foreknown Ministries to Cradled in Hope today. They are seriously the sweetest two women you will ever meet and I'm excited for you to hear their stories.
In 2017, Alyson and Kelsi were pregnant at the same time and due just a few weeks from each other. As best friends who worked together, they found themselves going from planning an arranged marriage between Alyson's expected daughter Cora and Kelsi's expected son Whitson to planning their children's funerals less than two weeks apart.
After spending the spring and summer grieving together, the Lord gave them the same dream separately. After leaving early from a rough day at work, they both confided in each other that they had the exact same dream: them speaking to grieving parents who had been through the same thing. That was when they knew that God wanted to shine His light on the dark topic of pregnancy and infant loss and that is when Foreknown was born.
Through events like weekend retreats, support groups, a texting community, and individual coaching, Foreknown Ministries seeks to offer encouragement, strength, and hope to parents who have gone through pregnancy or infant loss. I can't wait for you to hear this conversation with Alyson and Kelsi.
We will jump into the conversation and when you hear them introduce themselves, you're going to hear Alyson share her story first of losing her daughter Cora, and then Kelsi will share her story of losing her son Whitson. And then we'll have a conversation about grieving with hope and the start of their wonderful ministry, Foreknown Ministries. Let's get started.
Ashley Opliger: [00:03:06] Welcome, Alyson and Kelsi. We are so glad to have you on the podcast today.
Kelsi Cole: [00:03:12] Thank you for having us.
Alyson Brown: [00:03:13] Yeah.
Kelsi Cole: [00:03:13] Excited to be here.
Ashley Opliger: [00:03:15] We love everything that you do with Foreknown Ministries. And we can't wait to hear the story of how God birthed this beautiful ministry out of the two of you and your stories and your precious babies in Heaven.
I would love to start and hear each of your stories of motherhood and your story of loss. And then we'll talk more about your ministry.
Kelsi Cole: [00:03:37] Absolutely.
Alyson Brown: Thank you. So back in 2018, I was due with our second daughter, Cora. I had a beautiful two-year-old, Millie, at home and my husband and I had been married for quite some time so we were super excited to expand our family.
My pregnancy with Millie, our oldest, was just very typical, standard, no issues. And so when I walked into our second pregnancy, I was not expecting or suspecting that there would be any issues at all.
I had gone through the majority of my pregnancy. I was actually two days out from being induced on January 24th of 2018, and I noticed that I was not feeling as much movement from Cora as I was used to.
And so I called my doctor and I had just had my last appointment a couple days prior and everything was great. And so she said, “Just run up to the hospital, get checked out there because if anything's going on, they have all the equipment that you need. But I'm sure that everything's fine.”
So I texted my husband at work and said, “I'm just going to head up to the hospital. Doctor thinks everything's fine. I'll let you know what we find out.” So I throw my suitcase in the back of our car, thinking, “This is fantastic. I'm going to be induced even earlier. This is great.” I was just so excited.
I text Kelsi and let her know what was going on so she could be praying, and I was just super excited that day. And so I go into the hospital and I have a nurse come and look for a heartbeat, and she can't find one. And she said, “I'm sure, it's fine. Let me just try again, sometimes it's hard to find heartbeats at this stage.”
And she still can’t find one, so she calls in the head nurse, I don't know what her title is, but she comes in to do a heartbeat check and she also can't find one. And so I’m three checks in and still not thinking anything is wrong. It's just completely oblivious to me.
And so she finally puts her hands on either side of my shoulders and she looks me in the eyes and she says, “I'm so sorry, but she's gone.”
And I just remember feeling everything stop. The excitement is gone, the shock and the just searching for clarity and understanding is completely gone. And I'm also all by myself in the hospital, and they immediately call my husband and they say, “Please come to the hospital. We need you to be here. We'll tell you what's going on when you get here.”
And in the meantime, they said, “Do you want us to call in a technician to do one last check?”
And I said, “Yes.”
And so they bring in one last technician. Thankfully, my husband is here at that point. And they gently say, “Yeah, she has passed away.”
So we immediately go into a process of being induced and, thankfully, being given all the medicine so you don't feel anything. Then later that day I ended up delivering a perfectly healthy little Cora Belle.
It was really not only a hard time for us as parents, but also having the realization that now I have to explain to a two-year-old why her sister is physically here, but she's actually not here. So it was a day full of challenges and the pain of walking through something that you never expected.
But she was beautiful, and we had family drop everything that they were doing and fly into town and be with us that next day and help us with planning a funeral, which was something that you don't ever think about doing in your 30s for your child.
Ashley Opliger: [00:07:44] No. I am so sorry, Alyson. That is so heartbreaking to go through such shock and be expecting to meet your living, breathing, beautiful little girl and introduce Millie to her sister, and then just to be completely blind-sided and be put in this situation where you're in shock and you're navigating all of these questions.
I was reading your story on your website and how you said now you're being asked questions of all these things that you're not expecting as a mom to have to answer of what you're going to do at the funeral home and planning a funeral. That's something that no mom should ever have to be planning for her baby. So I'm just so sorry that you walked through that.
And I'm curious then, Kelsi, because you obviously both knew each other as you experienced this. So Kelsi, would you mind sharing your story? And did you experience loss before Alyson or after?
Kelsi Cole: [00:08:43] Yes. Unfortunately, my story is a little bit more complicated. It stretches back almost 10 years ago next month in December, but I'll pick up after Cora went to be with Jesus.
So Alyson and I were best friends, co-workers. We worked, still are, still are besties. We worked within 10 feet of one another, and we were pregnant together and we were due just a few weeks apart. And when Cora went to be with Jesus on January 24th of 2018, it was less than two weeks after that that I went in for my last appointment, just three days before my scheduled C-section. And the same thing happened.
Ashley Opliger: [00:09:32] Oh my goodness.
Kelsi Cole: [00:08:43] And it was one ultrasound tech after the next, and I knew when my doctor came into the room frantically with a little bit of a tear in his eye, I knew I had gone through the same horrific thing that Alyson had just walked through.
And so within those two weeks, so many emotions overwhelmed us both of, “Can we even still be friends? Am I going to have to quit my job because it's emotionally just going to be so hard to see each other all the time? What is going to happen? What is the future of our friendship going to look like and our team at work? How are we going to move forward?”
And so as all of those emotions overwhelmed our hearts, sadly and tragically, God was knitting together a much, much bigger plan than we could ever imagine. And so it was really the spring and summer of 2018 that we remembered our children, we celebrated them, we grieved together. We had hills and valleys pretty much every hour.
And after just a few weeks of, truly we went from working together, planning an arranged marriage between Alyson’s daughter, Cora, and my son, Whitson, to planning our babies’ funerals.
Alyson Brown: [00:11:03] I'll never forget when Kelsi called me and said that the same thing had happened to her.
I just remember thinking, “How on earth do we get back up from this?” I collapsed on my bedroom floor just like, “God, where are You? Why are You allowing this to happen?”
But fast forward several years and we can see the beauty that He has allowed us and called us to create through our community, and how He has strategically placed so many people on our path to shore us up, to continue pushing us towards the Lord, that it's such a gift to use their stories to help others.
Kelsi Cole: [00:11:49] Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Ashley Opliger: [00:11:50] Yeah, and He gave you each other to walk through your grief journey together. And your due dates were so similar and close together, I'm sure you walked through those milestones together.
Kelsi, would you mind sharing more about Whitson's life story and finding out after the fact about Trisomy 12? Is that correct?
Kelsi Cole: [00:12:06] Yes, that’s correct. Yeah, absolutely. So when we delivered Whitson on February 10th of 2018, early that morning they moved my scheduled C-section up, it was supposed to be on the 12th on Monday morning, to that very next day, Saturday the 10th.
And just like Alyson, I said, “Please check again. I had very high amniotic fluid and so I felt him move up until I delivered him, which of course messed with my head and my heart. But I delivered him at eight pounds, at a little bit before 38 weeks.