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Episode 17 - Real Talk on Pregnancy Loss with Rachel Lewis


Join us for "real talk" on pregnancy loss with Rachel Lewis, author of Unexpecting: Real Talk on Pregnancy Loss. Rachel has five children in Heaven and regularly writes about life after loss. She is the founder of Brave Mamas, an online community for grieving mothers.

Rachel shares about her new book, Unexpecting, which walks grieving moms through loss, lament, love, and legacy after the loss of a baby.

In this episode, we discussed:

  • Birth trauma and PTSD after pregnancy loss

  • Foster care and grief following reunification

  • Wrestling with doubt and finding authentic faith

  • The Book of Job

  • Heaven being "home" and familiar

  • Continuing Bonds grief theory and how bereaved parents grieve differently

  • Ways to create a legacy for your baby in Heaven

  • How to parent your baby in Heaven in community

  • Mount St. Helens and an analogy of finding beauty from ashes

  • Turning the question after loss from Why? to What Now?

  • All about her book, Unexpecting: Real Talk on Pregnancy Loss

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!)

  1. Rachel and Ashley discuss wrestling with doubts and faith, and Ashley shares a C.S. Lewis quote about how your beliefs don't become real until it's a matter of life and death. Has the loss of your baby confronted you with this reality - to decide what you believe about God, Heaven, and life/death? Has it caused you to doubt or dig deeper into your faith? Write about it here.

  2. In this episode, Rachel talks about how we lose a lifetime of memories when we lose a baby, but that we can still parent them. She gives memorial ideas and ways to involve your community. Write some of these ideas down that you think would be helpful to you in your healing journey.

  3. Rachel describes an analogy of Mount St. Helens and finding beauty from ashes. In what ways have you seen God redeem your pain/grief? Have you seen anything beautiful or a blessing come from the devastation/rubble of your loss? Read Isaiah 61:3 and then journal your thoughts.

Graphics to share on social media or pin on Pinterest!



Rachel Lewis is a foster, adoptive, and biological mom. She has five babies in Heaven, three in her arms, and one foster child in her heart.

She is the author of Unexpecting: Real Talk on Pregnancy Loss and the founder of the Brave Mamas online community.

Connect with Rachel:

Facebook: /thelewisnote

Instagram: @rachel.thelewisnote




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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:

Facebook /ashleyopliger

Instagram @ashleyopliger

Pinterest /ashleyopliger

Follow Bridget’s Cradles:

Facebook /bridgetscradles

Instagram @bridgetscradles

Pinterest /bridgetscradles

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Episode 17: Real Talk on Pregnancy Loss with Rachel Lewis

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, and welcome to Episode 17 of Cradled in Hope. Before we start this episode, I wanted to let you know that we send an email out on release day for each episode that includes links to listen and the downloadable PDF that we call the Hope Guide, which is full of Scripture, links, and other helpful resources, as well as more information about our guest.

If you haven't done so already, go to our website at and sign up for our email list, so you can be alerted on the 1st and 15th with a special email.

Today, we have Rachel Lewis on our show and we can't wait for you to hear this conversation. Rachel is a foster, adoptive, and biological mom. She has five babies in Heaven, three children in her arms, and one foster child in her heart.

She is the founder of Brave Mamas, an online community offering support to thousands of bereaved moms, and she is a well-known contributor to Still Standing Magazine and Pregnancy After Loss Support. She is the author of Unexpecting: Real Talk on Pregnancy Loss, a book that she just released last year.

We are looking forward to you hearing more about her heart behind the book and hearing her story. Let's jump in right now.

Ashley Opliger: [00:02:50] Welcome, Rachel. We're so glad to have you here.

Rachel Lewis: [00:02:52] Thank you so much for inviting me to be on. It's such a joy.

Ashley Opliger: [00:02:55] Where are you joining us from? Where do you live?

Rachel Lewis: [00:02:58 I live across the Puget Sound from Seattle, Washington. And it is just as gray and just as rainy as you always imagined Seattle to be.

Ashley Opliger: [00:03:10] And how do you deal with that? Do you like it or is it depressing?

Rachel Lewis: [00:03:14] Oh, it's depressing.

Ashley Opliger: [00:03:15] Oh, no!

Rachel Lewis: [00:03:16] It's been a very long winter so far, even though winter only started recently; lots and lots of rain. I didn't grow up here. My husband did, so he's quite used to it. My children are very used to it. And I was a military kid, so I grew up all over. And I spent quite a bit of time in Hawaii and Georgia, so I'm more of a warm weather, lots of sun kind of person.

Ashley Opliger: [00:03:38] Yeah, that’s a big difference from Hawaii, huh?

Rachel Lewis: [00:03:16] Yes.

Ashley Opliger: [00:03:38] I visited Seattle once and I loved it, but it was for a short visit. I don't know that I would be able to cope with so many dark and rainy days, I'd probably need one of those. what do you call, like the therapy light lamps that you put on? Do you have one of those?

Rachel Lewis: [00:03:57] I don't, I've considered getting one, but no, I don't. And I guess the thing that keeps us here is there's this brief summer that is glorious and beautiful. And so there's the mountains right nearby. There's lots of water everywhere. There's a million things to do outside. And so those couple of months, keep all the rest of us here, I guess.

Ashley Opliger: [00:04:25] Yes, you soak them up, for sure. Well, Rachel, thank you for joining us. I would love for you to introduce yourself and share a little bit about your motherhood journey.

Rachel Lewis: [00:04:32] Well, I would say that my journey to motherhood has been complicated. Very little of it has been easy.

When I first got pregnant, it was 10 months after my husband and I got married and it was unplanned. And if I'm being honest–and my daughter knows this–she understands all of this, but I didn’t feel prepared to be a mother. And I just wanted to go back to being not pregnant, somehow just for it not to have happened. While I was pregnant, that's how I was feeling and just very disconnected.

And what was interesting is all growing up, I wanted to have four kids. I wanted to be a mother. The idea of mothering was incredibly important to me. And so my initial reaction to this pregnancy was shocking to my system. Like, who is this person? How did I become this?

And so I had a subchorionic hemorrhage at eight weeks. And what was interesting about the way other people responded is that I technically hadn't even miscarried yet and people were already giving me platitudes about miscarriage and loss.

So when I hemorrhaged, we went to the doctor, they said I had a 50/50 chance of miscarrying, that there was nothing I could do. But we all know that when you tell a mom there's nothing you could do, she's going to do something anyway. She's going to try.

So I called into work. I put myself on bedrest and just stayed as still as I could for a whole week, until I went in to the doctor to see if we had miscarried or not. And we had not. Our daughter was still alive.

But during that week, people were already saying, “Well, it will happen when the timing is right.” Or, “This is just nature's way or God's way of taking care of babies that are unhealthy.” And so it was just interesting that the people were already dismissing this pregnancy and I hadn't even lost the baby yet.

And so we went on to have a threatened premature labor at 28 weeks. So I was back on bed rest again, really mostly until the end of my pregnancy. And that happened at 36 weeks, and I had a severe amount of pain and nausea.

I went to the hospital. They did not catch what was going on, and so they sent me home. And a couple of days later, I went back in and this time it was very obvious that I had preeclampsia and that had turned into severe preeclampsia with HELLP syndrome, which, as nice as I could put it, it's basically your body trying to kill itself because you're pregnant.

And so they said, “You're going to have this baby today.” Her heart rate dropped during my trial of labor at the hospital. For eight minutes it was like in the fifties. And so after that, they were like, “We've got to get this baby out right away.” And they did, had emergency C-section, and she lived, and I lived. even though I left that hospital with PTSD.

And I didn't recognize that there was something else going on and that I had a lot of risk factors for also postpartum depression, because I was just a new mom and I didn't know what to expect.

And so many people kept saying, “Well, at least the baby's healthy. That's the only thing that matters.” And that kind of discounted my whole experience of almost losing my life and almost losing my baby's life in the hospital. And so that was sort of the stage that was set for my motherhood, just not what I expected.

And I had already known that I'd always wanted to adopt. I figured that out in middle school, that this is what I wanted to do. And my husband had always been on board. And so we decided that rather than continue to have biological children, because we did not want a repeat of this experience, that we would just go ahead and move forward with adoption.

And it was actually right after getting our license for foster care that I found out that I was unexpectedly pregnant again. And I think that because this was unexpected, but also something I had just sort of given up on, the idea of being pregnant again, I just jumped in with two feet.

I was over-the-moon excited! It was a second chance at being excited and embracing a pregnancy I felt like I didn't have. And so for the weeks that we were pregnant, I was so full of joy and happiness. And it was like, someone had just plastered a smile on my face and nobody could get it off if they wanted to.

And all that changed when I had an episode of severe pain. My co-workers actually peeled me off the floor in the bathroom because I was in so much pain I could hardly stand. And they took me to the ER and they said, “Well, we actually can't find the baby. We don't know where the baby is. And this could be a threatened miscarriage or your dates could be off, or this could be an ectopic pregnancy.”

And so yet again, I was in a situation where they didn't know what was going on with the pregnancy. And I thought, “Well, I know it worked last time. Last time I prayed a lot. I sang a lot of worship songs. I had support and this is what happened. And then at the end, I got to keep my baby. And of course, if I got pregnant again, God loves this baby as much as He loved the first baby, and so the same thing's going to happen.”

And so I prayed those prayers, and I sang those same worship songs, and I did all the things that I thought a faithful person would do. And in the end, my baby was in my fallopian tube and my tube tore. And again, I was rushed into surgery and my OB was able to save my life. She was able to save my fertility, but she was, of course, unable to save my baby.

And that experience felt a lot like spiritual whiplash, because I just had this expectation and, I guess, this theology of, “You scratch my back, I'll scratch Yours.” Like, “If I do all the right things, then You're going to come through for me and make sure that the people that I love, that they're safe,” and realizing, “No, I'm actually just as vulnerable in this world and the people that I love are just as vulnerable,” was sort of terrifying and hard.

And I was plunged into a very deep grief, and that was the beginning of a season of a lot of loss. Nine months later, we tried to get pregnant again and I had a miscarriage at eight weeks, and we had our first foster care placement call.

It was going to be a brand new newborn baby girl, who was born healthy and was guaranteed to go toward adoption, which is unheard of in the foster care world. And we had everything packed and ready to go pick her up from the hospital, and we got a call saying, “Never mind, the social worker changed her mind and picked a different family.”

And that was just a couple days before the first anniversary of our loss of our ectopic baby, whom I named Olivia. Just weeks later, we ended up meeting our daughter through foster care. And this was joy that we were able to meet her and love her. And we fostered her for about a year and a half before we were able to adopt her.

And then shortly after adopting her, we heard about a five-month-old baby boy. And we were not planning on fostering again, but the story of his life and why he was in foster care was so heartbreaking, I felt like I couldn't call myself a Christian and say no in the same sentence.

And so we said yes to him and he lived with us for a year and a half right before we had to return him home. He was almost two when we returned him home, and we did not see him for a very long time. For two years we didn't see him.