KC Tregoning is a bereaved mom who found out about Bridget’s Cradles after receiving a tiny knit heart in the delivery room. KC attended her first Hope Online support group with us just one month after Alan had passed.
KC lives in Northern Virginia with her husband, Matt, and their three fur babies. She is the proud mom of Alan who reigns in Heaven. After a turbulent pregnancy, KC and Matt found out at their 31-week appointment that their son, Alan, had a condition that was not compatible with life.
KC is passionate about spreading awareness for families facing life-limiting pregnancies. She loves sharing Alan's story and how God walked alongside them throughout their journey.
In this episode, we discussed:
Navigating a life-limiting diagnosis in pregnancy
Choosing life even when the doctors encourage termination
Bonding with your baby during pregnancy
Picture taking after delivery
Recommended resources & organizations for life-limiting diagnoses
Community and walking alongside other women who have experienced loss
Pursuing adoption after loss
Grieving and planning for your baby’s first Heaven Day
The importance of attending a Christ-centered support group
God’s presence in grief and how good can come from this
Full transcript below.
MEET OUR GUEST
KC lives in Northern Virginia with her husband, Matt, and their three fur babies. She is the proud mom of Alan who reigns in Heaven. After a turbulent pregnancy, KC and Matt found out at their 31-week appointment that their son Alan had a condition that was not compatible with life.
KC is passionate about spreading awareness for families facing life-limiting pregnancies. She loves sharing Alan’s story and how God walked alongside them throughout their journey.
She found Bridget’s Cradles after receiving a little tiny knit heart in the delivery room. She attended her first Hope Online support group just one month after Alan had passed.
Connect with KC:
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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 1,300 hospitals in all 50 states and comforts over 30,000 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:
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Episode 41: Facing a Life-Limiting Diagnosis in Pregnancy with Hope and Grace with KC Tregoning
Ashley Opliger: [00:00:00] You’re listening to the Cradled in Hope Podcast on the Edifi Podcast Network. I’m your host, Ashley Opliger. I’m a wife, mom, and follower of Christ who founded Bridget’s Cradles, a nonprofit ministry in memory of my daughter, Bridget, who was stillborn at 24 weeks.
Cradled in Hope is a Gospel-focused podcast for grieving moms to find comfort, hope, and healing after the loss of a baby. We want this to be a safe place for your broken heart to land.
Here, we are going to trust God’s promise to heal our hearts, restore our joy, and use our grief for good. With faith in Jesus and eyes fixed on Heaven, we do not have to grieve without hope. We believe that Jesus cradles us in hope while He cradles our babies in Heaven.
Welcome to the Cradled in Hope Podcast.
Ashley Opliger: [00:00::52] Welcome back to another episode of Cradled in Hope. I am so honored to have my good friend KC Tregoning, who is a bereaved mom, who found out about Bridget’s Cradles after receiving a tiny knit heart in the delivery room. KC attended her first Hope Online support group with us just one month after Alan had passed.
So I am so honored to introduce KC to you and let you hear her story in carrying her sweet little boy, Alan. KC lives in Northern Virginia with her husband, Matt, and their three fur babies. She is the proud mom of Alan who reigns in Heaven. After a turbulent pregnancy, KC and Matt found out at their 31-week appointment that their son, Alan, had a condition that was not compatible with life.
KC is passionate about spreading awareness for families facing life-limiting pregnancies. She loves sharing Alan's story and how God walked alongside them throughout their journey. I'm excited for you to hear her story now. Let's jump in.
Ashley Opliger: [00:01:50] Welcome, KC, to Cradled in Hope. I'm so glad that you're here with me today.
KC Tregoning: [00:01:55] Thank you for having me, Ashley.
Ashley Opliger: [00:01:57] Well, I got to know you from Hope Online, from our support groups, and it's been such a blessing to get to know you and hear Alan's story and see you really blossom in sharing his story to help other women and to share the hope that we have in Jesus. And so I wanted you to come on and share his story with us and talk about your journey of walking with Jesus through your grief. So thank you for being here, and I would love for you to share Alan's story with us.
KC Tregoning: [00:02:26] Alan was born on November 1st, 2022. So at the time of this recording, we are about to be 10 months post losing him, which is crazy that we're still in that first year of grief. But like many pregnancies that are life-limiting pregnancies, at our 20-week anatomy scan, we went in and everything was going good.
The woman who was doing the sonogram got really quiet on us and kind of weird, and she ran out of the room. She's like, “I need to go get the doctor.”
And we had a sonogram before and at the end of our sonogram, when we met with the doctor, we were in a front room. This time we were in a back room with a door and tissues, and we were like, “Uh-oh, what's going on here?” We really had no idea what was going on.
We had a wonderful doctor, a maternal fetal medicine doctor come in and he said, “There's some things going on that aren't normal and I'd like to review those with you.”
And we said, “Okay.”
And so he listed out a couple different things going on; every time he would list out something that was different than a normal developing child, he'd say, “But that can be fixed with surgery.” So we were looking at a cleft palate, we were looking at some things going on with his brain, he would need a shunt, just different things. Right?
And I remember going through the list. And I was like, “All right.” And at this point, we didn't know the gender. We didn't want to know the gender. We wanted to wait til he was born.
And after our doctor was done giving us all that, he said, “This is where most women decide to terminate.” And I was so confused and caught off guard because we had just sat and watched Alan on the screen for 45 minutes bouncing around.
And so we were like, “How can he be so sick if he's moving all around?” And so that was a conversation we had and we quickly told him termination was not an option for our family. That's not something that we believed in. And he was very much appreciative of that, and he didn't bring it up again.
And so that was very devastating, as you can imagine. And he said, “I know you guys were waiting to find out the sex of the baby. Do you want to find out now?”
And we didn't know what challenges we were going to face. We didn't know if the gender of the baby might play a factor of it. So we said, “Sure.” And he told us it was a boy.
And I remember just being so devastated, because it was like, “I can't even protect him from what's going on.” And so we walked out of the hospital after we had our sonogram and I couldn't get it together. I was crying a lot and I was just beside myself.
And Matt looked at me and he goes, “Oh, we're going to have a son.” And he was so ecstatic.
And I'm so thankful for little moments like that because I don't think I had that in me to be able to stop and be like, “Oh, wow. We’re having a little boy. That's amazing,” And I'm so thankful that God gave Matt that moment and gave us that moment together.
And so that kicked it all off. We live in Northern Virginia. We have very good medical system up here. We were assigned a care coordinator and for the next 11 weeks we went through different testing locally with all the different types of specialists. And it got to the point where they just finally told us, they were like, “He's fine.”
And I remember looking at this doctor I hadn't met before and I said, “What do you mean, ‘He's fine’? He's far from fine. What's going on with X, Y, and Z?”
And she was like, “Oh, I don't know. Let me go look at it.”
And it was so confusing. And so that's when we threw up the white flag and we said, “We really want to go to Children's Hospital, Philadelphia,” which is one of the best children's hospitals here.
And so we drove the night of our third wedding anniversary up to Philadelphia, woke up super early the next morning, started at 7:00 AM with a three-hour sonogram. You could see every single little tiny hair on Alan's head. I had to do a fetal MRI, which was not fun at all, being stuck in a tube that's made for kids, and that was another hour. We had to go through some other testing, a huge genetic screening. And it's a full-day event when you go up there for something like that.
And we're so thankful for Children's Hospital, Philadelphia and all the doctors that we worked with that day. And at the end of the day, we were meeting with the OB who would be delivering him. [He had an] impacted airway, meaning when he was born, he might have not been able to breathe because he had an underdeveloped jaw. And so they were going to have to do a special type of delivery for him.
And so she came in and we were talking, and I remember her saying to us, she said, “Well, what have the doctors been telling you?” And we recited everything that we knew. And I had his big binder filled with all the different medical notes over the whole time since he was conceived, and I pointed out everything.
And she goes, “Well, I don't know how to tell you this, but he does not have a compatibility with life. We don't think he's going to survive.”
And Matt and I were so confused, we couldn't even register with what she was saying to us, and we were like. “What do you mean?” And I remember looking at her and then looking back at Matt, who was sitting behind me, and then looking back at the doctor. And then I looked at Matt and he was crying.
And I said, “Okay, I did hear that right. That is what she said. She said my son's not going to live.” And we were very confused.
They diagnosed him with something very rare that I cannot even pronounce. The acronym is AOC. They said it's only been seen 60 times in 30 years and no baby has survived it. And it's a severe craniofacial difference. And so we were like, “Okay.” And so they reviewed it with us.
We were 31 weeks pregnant at the time. They said, “You'll have to wait until 36 weeks to deliver, but this is what we're looking at.” And they said, “Do you want to see pictures?”
And my first instinct was, “No, I don't”. And Matt looked at the pictures and he said they were pretty devastating and awful. And that was a very hard moment for us as well.
So we went back home to Virginia. For the next five weeks we saw specialists. We saw a bereavement council of several different doctors who would be a part of our delivery. We had to get a new OB/GYN, because the one we were with could care less the situation we were in, which was very mind-boggling.
But in the end, we got the most amazing OB/GYN, who ended up delivering Alan. And we saw God come through for us so many times in those five weeks of waiting, and we got to spend five weeks with Alan. He was very active. We felt him kick a lot. He was moving.
Because of the differences in his face, he was unable to take in his amniotic fluid, so I got really big, really fast. Many people were like, “Oh, you're carrying twins?”
And I was like, “No.” So there was a lot of things that happened and just so much craziness.
And so by the time we went in to deliver, they told us, they were like, “He's going to look a specific way. He probably will not survive birth, so don't expect him to be alive afterwards.” And they said, “If he is alive, he won't live longer than an hour,” and just all these things, and they were trying to prepare us.
And Alan was born at 2:40 in the morning and he lived for 90 minutes. So he defied his odds, which is not surprising, knowing his mom and dad. And we later came to find out that he was misdiagnosed, which I'll talk about in a little bit.
But the whole time he was alive, I talked to God a lot in the five weeks of finding out he was going to pass to when we were going to deliver him, and I told God how scared I was to see him. I said, “I don't want to hate what my son looks like,” because they were telling me all these awful things and he was going to look so deformed, in a way.
God told me, “You don't have to look at him. You can just hold him and you can love on him, and you do not have to look at him. You just need to do what makes you the best mother for him for the short time you have with him.”
And that's what I did. We held him. He stayed on my chest the whole time. I did not see his face until after he had passed.
And so after he had passed, our lovely delivery nurses who were with us, they were like, “Are you ready to see him?” And that was the first time I was probably ever honest with my emotions to a complete stranger. I said, “No, I'm really scared.”
They said, “Do you want us to describe him to you?”
And I said, “Yes.”
And they said, “Well, he has a full head of hair,” which I knew from the heartburn and because I could see that part of his head. And they said, “He has a beautiful, big smile and bright blue eyes like his dad.”
And I said, “Okay.” And I remember looking at him and being in complete shock because he looked absolutely different than how they had described, and it was so mind-boggling to me. And it was a really hard moment. And so I just remember being in complete shock, and I don't know how much time passed, but they put him in his little bassinet and they were taking pictures of him. And Matt had finally fallen asleep after being a champ and taking care of me for 24 hours straight.
And I just remember thinking like, “God, how am I supposed to go to sleep? This is so unreal.” And I just remember being in shock and still on my epidural too, so I couldn't even move.
And He just said, “Remember the time he was born, 2:40 is when he was born.”
I was like, “All right.” And I passed out, and woke back up.
And so we got to spend about a couple more hours with Alan's body before we decided that it was time to let go. We got to do a lot of wonderful memory-making with him. We have his handprints and his footprints, and we have some locks of hair.
We got to bathe him, we got to love on him, we got to change him, just the most beautiful things. Our hospital really did think about everything, and so we're very thankful for that. And even to this day I’m so thankful for all the little memory-making pieces that we have of him.
And so that was our time in the hospital, because of what happened, we had genetic counselors involved in our case. And at the beginning of the pregnancy, we did an amnio. They were convinced he had some type of Trisomy and he didn't, It came back negative, and they didn't know what was going on. They couldn't diagnose it. And so when he was born, they asked to come and see his body.
So it was the head geneticist of the hospital and our genetic coordinator, who we'd been working with. And they saw him and they took some pictures of him for Children's Hospital Philadelphia. They were going to compare notes. They were going to talk about the case. We had given consent for all this, and they came in and they left.
And so the next full day that I was in the hospital, when I was postpartum, it was pretty hard. It was a really rough first night, and it was just a lot of confusion. I was really confused as to how this had happened. Of course, I was worried that we did something wrong and we let our baby die, and it was really hard.
And the next morning, Matt and I woke up, it was the first time we had actually slept through everything. We were watching TV and the commercial for Smile Train came on, and they were talking about these kids in a different country who had cleft palates, how you could donate money, they could get the surgery. And I remember watching it and I was like, “Matt, Alan did not look like that. They said he had a cleft palate. They said he had all these things and he doesn't have any of that.”
And he was like, “I don't know, KC, I don't know. I don't know what to tell you.” And I could tell he was frustrated with me because he was frustrated with the situation, and we were still so exhausted.
And right as I was about to lose it, Savannah, my genetic counselor, came in and she said, “Hey, I'm here to collect your swabs,” and stuff that we had to send in for our bigger genetic tests.
And we gave them to her and she said, “I have something to tell you.”
And we were like, “What’s going on?”
She said, “I think we misdiagnosed Alan.” And at that moment, I have never felt so much weight come off of me. I felt so relieved. I was so thankful that God had sent her in there to tell us that. It really was the biggest gift He could have given us.
And she said, “There's some things that didn't line up, and sonograms are not 100%. And we looked, I researched all day yesterday and tried to find a case that matched what you guys went through and what Alan looked like, and there's a few things I found.”
And she presented some cases to me and I said, “Did that child live?”
And she said, “No.” And every time she would present a case, it was the same thing. “No, that child didn't survive.” And she said, “I just want to reassure you that we all made the right decisions, and you guys made all the right decisions, and nothing you could have done could have prevented this from happening.” And that was, again, such a relief and such a blessing, so that I'm still so thankful she did that for us.
And so about six weeks later, genetic tests came back. Alan was diagnosed with something called Treacher Collins syndrome. If you've ever seen the movie Wonder or read the book Wonder, it's about a little boy who has that same condition. It's very rare. There are not many people in the world that have it. And that is what he had.
And it made total sense when we looked at the pictures afterwards and compared the diagnosis. It made complete sense. We were like, “Yeah.”
So the hard thing about Treachers is that it's a spectrum, like many other diseases and genetic conditions, and that there are people who are here on earth living with that condition and have very minor disabilities. There's some people who are living who have very severe disabilities, and then there are people who do not survive it, such as Alan. So that was also a whole process of grief that we had to work through.
But every step of the way, we felt God and felt His presence throughout all of it. It really was such a beautiful experience.
Ashley Opliger: [00:16:57] KC, I'm so sorry for everything you went through, and I know that it was a rollercoaster of emotions, obviously, with the misdiagnosis and being told one thing and trying to prepare your heart and your mind for one scenario, and then it changing, and then even after he was born, it changing again. There was obviously a lot of anticipatory grief and both praying for the best and then preparing for the worst all at the same time.
But throughout all of this, there's this thread of hope that you and Matt had throughout your pregnancy with him, even at the very beginning, at 20 weeks when you first discovered that there could be something wrong and you deciding, “We're going to choose life for him because we want to see what God has for him and his life, and we want God to choose the day and the hour that he goes to Heaven, whether that's in this pregnancy or after birth,” or however many days that he would live on this earth. And you decided for God to make that decision.
And that's a hard decision, because oftentimes when doctors find these life-limiting diagnoses, they do encourage women to terminate and to have an abortion. And obviously, for those that are listening, you know that I am very pro-life and value the sanctity of human life, that God has given each baby inherent value because they're made in His image.
And I know you feel the same, but I want to ask you, how did you make that decision to choose life? And was that hard to do? Did you have to weigh anything as you were thinking about that? Or what did that look like for you?
KC Tregoning: [00:18:31] No. It's such a good question. And you know, it's something I've reflected on a few times.
I was actually raised Catholic and so we have always been a pro-life family and when we were put in that situation at 20 weeks where they were telling us everything that was going on, I think God protected us from what doctors were trying to convince us to do, which would be to terminate. He shielded us from that.
I think that it's a blessing that we didn't find out until 31 weeks that he wasn't going to make it. I do know that there are so many women who are put in the same situation as us, and they're told at 20 weeks, “There's no way this child could survive.” That is a hard place to be, and I'm very glad that God waited to reveal that to us because the pressure is intense from doctors and I feel like that is a very important thing to say.
Because now, being on the other side of this and being pro-life before, this has driven me to be even more pro-life, because with every doctor that encourages termination for medical reasons, I wish they would turn around and say, “But here's a mom who went through it, who made it to the other side. And yes, it was very hard, but you can do this if you want it to.”
And that's the type of thing that we need to be hearing from doctors. If they're going to encourage medical termination, they need to also say, “But there is a lot of hope in carrying a child that you know is going to die.” I mean, it really is one of the most amazing and beautiful things I've ever gone through.
And people are so quick to say, “Oh, I could never have done that. Oh, my marriage wouldn't have lasted.” Well, I didn't have a choice, and I'm thankful for it. And I'm thankful that we went through it because even when you terminate for medical reasons, you're still going to go through a loss.
And many times those women do not get to do those tangible, memory-making moments and bonding with their child, whereas studies have proven it is worse for their mental health. And so I'm thankful that I got that full-circle moment with Alan, where I got to give birth to him. He was alive. I got to do the memory making. I got to process my emotions.
It’s scary. It's extremely frightening, but it's one of the most beautiful and amazing gifts that God has given me and many other women I know who have gone before and after me.
Ashley Opliger: [00:20:54] Absolutely. And I think too, at the end of the day, in both situations your baby has passed away, and in both situations you're going to be grieving your baby and the hopes and dreams that you had for them.
But in one circumstance, then you have the added guilt that you made the decision to end their life. And I can only imagine how much more guilt and shame and grief that making that decision would add to someone as they're walking through this.
And so I think there's a lot of freedom in saying, “This is going to be hard either way, but I'm going to trust God to determine the day and the hour. And He also might perform a miracle. Let's leave room for a miracle. Let's leave room for healing.”
And some people, they might say, “Well, Alan passed away. That wasn't a miracle.” But he lived for 90 minutes. He was a little fighter. And the fact that his physical condition was different than what you expected and that your eyes got to gaze on his little face, if you would've chosen to terminate, you would not have gotten to see him and love on him and have those sweet memories.
And I feel as though God really honored your decision in giving you those moments. Even though those were hard moments and there was a lot of pain and heartbreak there, those were also precious moments of getting to hold your son on earth in the hours that you got to be with him.
And so what encouragement would you give to moms in a similar situation, if they have been given a diagnosis like that? Do you have some practical ideas that you can share with them as they are pregnant and expecting, ways that they can bond with their baby and enjoy their pregnancy even though they're preparing for the worst, but they're still leaving room for God to work?
KC Tregoning: [00:22:35] Yeah, absolutely. There are resources out there that I didn't know about until after I had lost Alan. [There] are specific organizations that will walk alongside you if you are in a life-limiting pregnancy. The first one is Abel Speaks. They are an amazing organization and they are really there for their couples who come forward and say they have a baby with a life-limiting diagnosis.
And then I was just listening to your podcast from a couple years ago of the bereavement doulas. Labor of Hope is another one, which is amazing. So there are resources. I have found, at least up here, the medical community will not be forthcoming with those resources, but there are resources out there that can help you through that process and thinking through everything.
I will say don't be afraid to ask your doctors or whoever's in charge of your case of, “What do I get to do with my baby after they have passed?” And when I say that, it's more in forms of memory-making. “How long do I get to hold him? What options does your team have for me to capture those moments?”
We didn't want a professional photographer in the room, specifically because we didn't know what he was going to look like and I was very sensitive about his looks; I still am to today. But one of our nurses that was in the room for the delivery, she just had my phone on pictures the whole time. We have every single minute of his life documented and we have one of the only family photos that will ever have been taken of the three of us by Amy, one of our nurses. So you ask those questions, think about those things.
A lot of the times when they would ask us what type of memory-making we would want, the first thing we wanted to say was, “No, we don't want that.” But we really thought, “Let's just say yes to everything. because we'll never know what we'll need afterwards.”
And I'm so glad we did that because even with his handprints and footprints, we have those around the house. So some days I'm like, “Did that even happen? Was that real?” And then I look over and I see his little handprint and his footprint. I'm like, “No, he was here and he was so real and he was so tiny and beautiful.”
And so it's things like that, so definitely don't be afraid to ask. There are bereavement doulas too, that are specialized in this, like we talked about earlier, so don't be afraid to ask for a list of those. So there are people out there that will help you through this process, especially while you're in the wait and the in-between.
Ashley Opliger: [00:25:05] Yes, and I would say as well, I was not given a life-limiting diagnosis for Bridget, but I was given a poor prognosis because of the hemorrhaging that I had going on in my pregnancy. And so in some ways I was in this situation of preparing for the worst, but praying for the best.
And during that time, I was trying to do things to bond with her and then after she was born, had this time to make memories with her and everything. But then as I was writing our website, I have a whole page called Expecting Loss, and I'll link that in the show notes.
But it's basically ideas walking through pregnancy of things that you can do. And they're simple things, like pick out a little children's book and read that same book every day so your baby can hear your voice. And another one was singing songs to your baby or sitting in their nursery while you read or sing to them.
I also thought it would be neat to eat some of my favorite foods and talk to Bridget about, “Mommy's eating ice cream. Mommy loves ice cream,” things like that. Just because we know babies can taste and they can hear at certain number of weeks. And so things like that, to try to bond with your baby and really enjoy those times, even though it's hard because you know what the outcome might be.
So I have that on there, and then have a list of things that you can bring to the hospital for memory-making at the hospital. I love that you mentioned photography. You'll never regret doing it, but you might regret not doing it. And so even if you get those pictures and maybe you don't want to look at them for a while.
In fact, when Bridget was born, the genetic doctor took separate pictures aside from the ones that we had from Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. I actually didn't look at those pictures for five years, and it was on a little CD, and it just took me a long time to actually look at those, but it was almost like a gift five years later, I get to see more pictures of my daughter that I didn't see before.
And so you'll never regret doing those things. Even if you need to put them in a box and put them away for a while, those are going to be something that you'll treasure forever. And so we have a list of those ideas on our website.
We also have links to the organizations that KC mentioned, Labor of Hope, Abel Speaks. Also You Made Me Mom, Amy Balentine we've had on our podcast before. She walked through a life-limiting diagnosis and helps women through that.
But I think what you're saying is you don't want to go through this alone. You need community. And so can you walk through, did you have any women that were walking you through it? And then after Alan was born, have you had opportunities to walk other women through it?
KC Tregoning: [00:27:35] Yes and yes. So with Alan and not knowing what his condition was, I didn't even have the term life-limiting pregnancy.
I was at church one day and we have a discipleship program and I was a part of it. And every year in the summer we meet up and we all get together and we get to share our testimonies about the program.
And I stood up, and I went through this program a year prior to getting pregnant, and I said, “This strengthened my foundation with God, and I'm so thankful for it.” I said, “You're all probably looking at me thinking that I’m such a cute pregnant soon-to-be-mom, but I don't know what's going on with my son. I don't know if he's going to survive. And we're in a really sticky situation.”
And that was the first time I stood up publicly and said something like that. And that was 100% the Holy Spirit. That was not KC at all. And they all prayed over me. And such a beautiful thing came from that. The woman who runs our women's ministry, her sister had gone through a stillbirth a year prior to us losing Alan, and she pulled me aside and she said, “When you're ready, I have somebody you can talk to. She didn't go through the same thing, but you have her.”
And I said, “Okay.” And when things got really hairy, I reached back out to a staff member at church and I said, “I don't know what to do.” And she was the first one to tell me about the life-limiting pregnancy and that being a word.
And so I have gone forward to tell many of my doctors. I said, “If women are in the same situation as us, you need to tell them that many people in our world call this a life-limiting pregnancy.” Because I was Googling; stillbirth was coming up, miscarriage was coming up, life-limiting was not.
And so I'm very passionate about making sure that women know that that's what that is called. So since I have walked through several different situations with women who have come behind me, who have had life-limiting diagnoses, and they've all had their own stories and they are all such beautiful, amazing women who God blessed them with beautiful, amazing babies.
And I have forged a lot of friendships for women who have also come before me as well, so I have mentored women. And something our next door neighbor did for us, she did a prayer time, so the whole time I was in the hospital, somebody every hour was praying over us. I make sure to do the same for the moms that I work with.
I get them in touch with resources that they need before; we talk through that and what that might look like. And then we just talk about our stories and our babies. And the one thing I always say, which always makes me feel better and always makes them cry, but that makes them feel better too, is I said, “Well, at least our babies are together in Heaven and they get to play together and they have a friend and we know that they have each other. That is just one of the most beautiful parts of all this.”
And it's true. As a community, our babies all have each other, and yes, they're in Heaven. They're in their purest form, they're not suffering. They're with God. They're having a much better time than we are, but it's also so wonderful to know that they're all together.
So yeah, I've walked alongside many women who have come behind me, and I have a feeling that there will be many more that I walk alongside.
Ashley Opliger: [00:30:47] We hope you are enjoying this episode so far. We want to take a quick break to tell you about some resources our ministry provides to grieving moms.
On our website, bridgetscradles.com, you can find hope-filled resources on grieving and healing including memorial ideas, quotes & Scripture, featured stories, and recommended books and other organizations. We share ideas on how to navigate difficult days such as due dates, Heaven Days, and holidays.
In addition, every month I lead 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.
Lastly, we would 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. You can also join our private Cradled in Hope Facebook group for grieving moms to find community. We would be honored to hear your baby’s story and be praying for you by name. Now let’s get back to our episode.
Ashley Opliger: [00:31:58] Well, I think that's beautiful that you are taking the same comfort that God gave you through your journey and trying to encourage other women because as you know, grieving together is better than grieving alone, and the enemy obviously wants to keep us isolated and lonely as we're grieving. And so to combat that is having community and support and love around you as you're walking this very, very hard journey.
And speaking of this journey, you're still on a hard journey. You're walking through this season of waiting. You're hoping to have a living child one day and wanting to grow your family, and God has asked you and Matt to consider adoption and really has put that call on your heart and in your lives to grow your family through adoption. So would you just share about how God led you down that path and where you're at with it right now?
KC Tregoning: [00:32:52] Yeah. When Matt and I went on our first date, I said, “I really want to adopt. I see my family looking completely different than me in all different ways.” Right?
And he said, “Yeah, I can get behind adoption.” You know, very typical man answer, especially for a first date.
And so fast forward and when we got our positive pregnancy test, I was so shocked at first. And then I said to him, “But we're still going to adopt, right?”
And he said, ‘Yeah.”
And I said, “Can we look at adopting after this baby's first birthday?”
And he said, “Yeah, of course.” And so adoption has always been on our heart. It's always been a part of the family plan.
And after Alan passed, I was like, “We need to look into this.” It was definitely a part of my healing journey. And we went to a class at church; it was a four-week session on what the difference between fostering and adopting is, and it was a great class.
And we walked away really feeling solidified like, “Okay, this is what He's calling us to do.”
And at the end of our class, one of the volunteers said, “We know this is a scary path. We know this is an uncertain path, but if you feel like God is calling you to this path, not everybody feels that way and you need to lean into that.”
And so that was a big moment because I was just like, “Oh, doesn't everybody want to help children around them? And doesn't everybody want to adopt? Doesn't everyone want to foster?” And I didn't realize it was a calling until that moment. And so it's very funny how God works.
Matt was a little skeptical at first. The cost of adoption, we are doing domestic infant adoption in the US and the average cost is about $50,000. That is a whole nother story and it's extremely expensive. And the first thing Matt would say is, “I don't know if we can afford this. I don't know if we can afford this.”
And I was like, “Okay.” And we just kept forging down the path. We took the first few steps that you have to take legally to adopt. And finally when we got home study approved, which is the first real step you have to have in any adoption to be cleared to bring a baby or bring any child home, I was looking at him and I said, “I don’t know if we can afford this,” because it became all real to me at once.
And he said, “It's fine. God will provide.”
And that's when I realized, “Okay, we are definitely on the right path.”
There are so many God moments that have happened to us, that have pointed us into the direction of adoption that really have resonated with us.
One weird thing was we went to a concert and we bought the concert tickets months before, and the concert actually got moved because the venue was flooded, so all the tickets got changed. I ended up sitting next to a man who was probably 50 years old and we were talking and he was like, “Yeah, I'm adopted.” And I hadn't brought up that we were adopting. It was just part of the conversation.
I said, “No way! My husband and I are adopting,” and we had this beautiful conversation about adoption, how much he loves his adopted parents, and how close he to this day and all these things.
And I was like, “Okay. That doesn’t just happen.” And so that was one thing.
And so there was just a lot of other little moments where I was like, “Okay, this is the path we're supposed to be on. This is what God's calling us to do.”
What I didn't realize was when God calls us down a path, it doesn't necessarily mean it's going to be easy. And when I say that, adoption is very complicated and has a lot of broken pieces and a lot of people involved in the process, and it's a very hard process.
And so it's almost taught us more about ourselves. It's taught us more about our grief. It's taught us how to handle situations a little bit better. So I'm really thankful for that as well.
But I will say it because I feel like it's important, especially to any women who have lost a baby, who are considering adoption, Alan was our first child. We currently do not have any living children. And I think it’s important to say that I wanted to adopt since I was young, but I also went into this thinking, “This is going to be much easier than pregnancy after loss.” And I am here to tell you that it is not. It is just a different type of hard.
And I think that's really important too for us to understand because there's a different type of grief that comes with adoption. There's many times where you'll be told no, as our family has. We've gotten four no's, and that is really hard, and I grieve those losses very hard. And it takes you back. It brings you back to the moments of being told no with your child.
And so I'm not saying that to discourage anyone from adoption. I think it's beautiful. I'm so excited to be on this path. I can't wait to see what God has in store for our family, but just understand it's a different type of hard.
Ashley Opliger: [00:37:38] Yes, and I do believe that God already knows the child that is meant for you and Matt, and God has this all orchestrated in His timing. And it is so hard to wait.
And really you're still grieving heavily. You're only 10 months out from Alan's birth and you have his Heaven Day coming up in a couple of months. Will you share where you're at right now in your grief journey and what God is teaching you in this season?
KC Tregoning: [00:38:06] I will say, not being more than 10 months out, everything ebbs and flows. We know now that the shock wears off after three months, then you go through the whole grieving process again. And we are not only coming up on Alan's first birthday on November 1st, but we're also coming up on September 22nd, which is the day we were told he would not survive.
So it's going to be really interesting to see how that first set of anniversary dates go, especially with those five weeks in between the diagnosis date and him being born.
Those were five really tough weeks. So you have to allow grief to have space in your life and you have to do what feels right in those moments.
So I've gotten really good at that. I will make a plan specifically for his birthday. I've already made a plan of the things I want us to do that day. But I also have a default to say, “If I don't want to do that that day, I'm not going to do it,” because we just never know how we're going to feel on those days and we have to leave room for it.
I feel like we are an incredibly strong space as a family. We've learned a lot about each other and ourselves as individuals, and it just takes time.
And I've learned how to allow myself to grieve the way I need to. And sometimes you're going to wake up and it's just going to be a bad grief day, and that's okay. Sometimes it's triggered, sometimes it's not, and you just don't know what you're going to get. But you do know that God loves you endlessly and that you are strong enough to get through those hard days because we know that there are better days ahead.
So I think we're in a really good spot as a family, I will also say by default that did not come from just the two of us. That comes from a really strong community of support of friends and family and also mental health professionals. We do see a therapist and that is something that is extremely important to our family. And there's no shame in having that type of support either, especially with support groups of having other moms who have lost as well.
We all have our different paths of how we got here, but we're here and we have each other. And I'm so thankful for Bridget’s Cradles because I attend the Hope Online gathering, so I get to meet women from all across [the] United States who have been impacted by child loss, and I really enjoy hearing their stories and their perspective.
And so that is something that has brought me a lot of comfort, especially in my darkest of days. My first Hope Online gathering was a month to the day after losing Alan. So we have women that come on a few days after they've lost. We have women who come on a few years after they lost. It’s really amazing to see us all come together.
So Bridget’s Cradles has been great. The podcast itself has been so supportive. It's gotten me also out of some of my darkest days and made me feel not like a crazy person. It's really brought sanity to me because I have heard other women say how they felt and I could resonate with that.
And then especially just the little things that Bridget’s Cradles does for us, from having our group where we can post and talk about different things. I've posted different situations I've been in and moms have given me advice. People post encouraging words in there. It's just a great and wonderful community, and I wish so badly that we lived closer because I would love to spend a day in headquarters with all the volunteers and just hanging out and sharing stories and talking about our kids.
Ashley Opliger: [00:41:39] I wish you lived closer too, but I'm holding out hope you're going to fly out to Wichita someday, and I'm going to get to meet you face to face and welcome you here. So one day, Lord willing.
But thank you for sharing all of that, and I do think it's important to have a good support group and a body of believers around you pointing you to hope, and certainly faith-based counseling, where they can address both the emotional and spiritual aspects of grieving.
Because when you believe in God and you're walking this journey with Him, there are a lot of spiritual aspects to grief as well, and questions you have about God and things that you're working through and your theology and what you believe about the Bible. And so it's really helpful to have a Christ-centered counselor that can walk you through the cognitive behavioral aspects of grief and the emotional, spiritual, all the things.
So thank you for bringing that up because I do feel like that's very important to have an outside person that can help you through those really dark weeks and months after losing a baby. But is there a Bible verse that you clung to in that healing journey, a favorite verse that you just feel like is your anchor through your grief journey that you want to share with us?
KC Tregoning: [00:42:52] I would say I have two. I have one verse that God gave me for Alan in the hospital, and then I have one verse that was given to me in the hospital.
The first Bible verse, the one that God gave me in the delivery room with Alan, it's Luke 2:40. 2:40 is the time he was born in the morning, and that Bible verse is, “And the child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom and the grace of God was upon him.” So that was His little way of telling me like, “Alan is okay and he's going to do great up here.” So that I cling to endlessly.
And then in the hospital you are given a lot of memory items to take home and I actually found a bracelet that was hidden in one of the boxes. I don't know how it got there. It didn't have anything tied to it, but it's one of my favorite verses. And it's Proverbs 3:5-6 and it's, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do and He will show you which path to take.”
So profound, especially as we were waiting those first six weeks of grief for his genetic tests to come back. So that is definitely one Bible verse I cling to on the regular.
Ashley Opliger: [00:44:08] I love that, especially the, “Lean not on your own understanding,” because if you're a mom walking through this right now, or you have walked through this, it is confusing and heartbreaking. And you sit there and you wonder, “How could anything good come from this situation and how is God going to redeem this? There's nothing good that could come from my baby dying and walking through this difficult pregnancy and this rollercoaster of appointments and a poor prognosis or a life-limiting diagnosis.”
And it really feels unfathomable that anything good could come from it. And so that's what I love about the, “Lean not on your own understanding,” is because in the moment, we can't fully understand what God is going to do.
And I know for me, there was this moment when I was on bed rest. I was on bed rest for 11 weeks and I literally would just get up to change my pad, and I'm sorry if that's TMI, but I was bleeding constantly from the subchorionic hemorrhage.
And I was just so depressed, getting up and going to the bathroom and seeing all this blood and wondering, “Okay, God, like how is this good? How are You going to make this better? I don't understand how anything good could come from me losing my only daughter, my first child.”
And so there was this moment that I stood out of bed and I was standing there and I can remember this moment clear as day, and I said out loud, and I was by myself. I said, “Nothing good will come from this.”
And it was almost this declaration of saying like, “How dare You, God? How could this happen? And I don't believe that anything good could come from this. This is the worst thing that could happen.” And just feeling very abandoned by God at that moment.
But when I'm sitting here, and people can't see where I'm at, but I'm in our headquarters and I'm standing on this ground of God's faithfulness of what He has done and how He has brought good from it.
And same thing for Alan. You walked through this incredibly heartbreaking journey, and you and Matt had to make difficult decisions and face all of these hard things, but at the end of the day, he changed both of your lives and he is changing the world and he is impacting people for Jesus. And his little 90 minutes on earth have made a huge impact.
And I know at the beginning you couldn't fathom how much good could come from this situation and from his life. And I'll speak for myself, but I think I could speak for you too. You would probably go through all of that again, just to hold him for 90 minutes, because I know I would go through it all again just to get to be with Bridget for those 24 hours. And she was already in Heaven when I got to hold her, but just to even hold her again for 24 hours.
And so I just want to end with this hope, and if you could share for the mom who's walking through this now or has recently walked through it, when she feels like there's nothing good that can come from this, and she's questioning God and she's wondering how she's ever going to find joy again and how God is going to redeem this. Will you share some hope and encouragement to her to close out this episode and then end us in prayer?
KC Tregoning: [00:47:09] Of course. There's just so much. I don't know, I feel like I'm such an optimistic person. I feel like yes, this is literally the worst thing that we could ever imagine going through, but there's so many amazing things and there's just so much hope that comes with it.
So what I would say to someone, especially if you are fresh in your grief or maybe you have received that diagnosis, just know there is an army of women who are ready to stand shoulder to shoulder with you and walk alongside you in this process and going through everything you're going through, and that we have been through it and we will help you as well.
And just remember that God always has you as well. You might have your army of sisters down here who will help you get through this. But remember that God will never, ever leave you and that He's right there in your pain and that He is grieving right alongside you, and that ultimately He has our babies and He is going to love them and they're going to get to be in Heaven with Him forever and ever. And one day we will get to be up there as well and get to hug and squeeze them and be reunited with them finally.
So with all that being said, I will close us out in prayer.
Dear Lord, thank You so much for Ashley and the Bridget’s Cradles organization. You have created the most beautiful things out of our ashes, and we are so thankful for You and all You have done and all the women that have been touched by the Bridget’s Cradles organization and all the women we will continue to serve.
Lord, I ask that you keep all of these men and women and family members who have been impacted by any type of loss close and near. You know when we're aching and we ask You to come alongside them and help them feel Your closeness to them during this time of need.
We all are here to help hold one another up, and we are so thankful that You allow us to help one another when we are in pain and suffering down here on earth. We know that there are so many amazing blessings that You have given to the women who have come forward and devoted their life to You. And we continue to seek You in all the things that You do, and know that we can not depend on our own understanding, so we know You'll show us which path to take and who will be on that path with us. So it is in Your Name we pray. Amen.
Ashley Opliger: [00:49:45] Amen. Thank you, KC, for that beautiful prayer and for sharing Alan's story and your story of hope with us.
KC Tregoning: [00:49:52] Thank you, Ashley.
Don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss new episodes when they release on the 1st 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 also download a free PDF for each episode, called the Hope Guide, which 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.
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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.
Cradled in Hope is part of the Edifi Podcast Network, a collection of faith-inspiring podcasts on Edifi, the world’s most powerful Christian podcasting app. To listen to Cradled in Hope and find other podcasts by leading Christian voices, download the Edifi app in the Apple and Google Play stores or online at edifi.app. Thank you so much for listening.
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