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42 | Radical Life Change after Stillbirth | Matt and Haley Phillips

Join us for a conversation with Matt and Haley Phillips about how God radically changed their lives after the loss of their baby boy, Fletcher. From quitting a job to downsizing their house to starting a nonprofit, the Lord shifted their lives in a huge way.

Matt and Haley started a nonprofit in their son's name called The Fletcher Foundation. Their mission is to walk alongside families who have experienced miscarriage or stillbirth, particularly by providing financial assistance for medical bills related to their loss.

In this episode, we discussed:

  • Being young in marriage and experiencing pregnancy loss

  • How to show up for someone who has lost a baby in practical ways

  • The importance of proximity and presence in the midst of suffering

  • Scripture as a balm to the soul

  • Advice for bereaved dads on how to be vulnerable in your grief

  • Processing grief differently in marriage

  • Allowing God to radically change your life after loss

  • Channeling your grief for good

  • The story of the Fletcher Foundation and what they do

  • Our babies in Heaven are still arrows in our quiver

Full transcript below.



Matt and Haley grew up in Minnesota, but now live in central Iowa. They have been married for eight years and have three earthly children and one baby in Heaven named Fletcher.

After they lost Fletcher, they started the nonprofit, The Fletcher Foundation, which walks alongside families who have experienced miscarriage or stillbirth particularly by financially assisting families with medical bills after loss.

Connect with Matt and Haley:



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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 1,300 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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Instagram @ashleyopliger

Pinterest /ashleyopliger

Follow Bridget’s Cradles:

Facebook /bridgetscradles

Instagram @bridgetscradles

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Episode 42 | Radical Life Change after Stillbirth | Matt and Haley of the Fletcher Foundation

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: [00:00:50] Welcome back to Cradled in Hope. And before we start this episode, I want to acknowledge that today starts the month of October, which is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.

And for our nonprofit, we have many things that we do throughout the month to honor babies in Heaven and honor families who are grieving the loss of a baby, and a lot of that is through our big event that we host every single year called Wave of Light, and that is on October 15th, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.

And regardless if you live in Wichita, Kansas or in the surrounding area or not, there's many ways that you can participate. We actually have several families flying in this year to come and be part of the event.

And so first of all I want to welcome you no matter where you live. If you want to drive in, fly in, we would love to have you. But if you can't make it to Wave of Light, there's different ways that you can participate, and one of those is by sponsoring lights.

So, if you haven't had a chance to see what our Wave of Light is all about, we do a Hope Walk through a course of 50,000 pink, blue, and white lights that are shining in memory of our babies in Heaven.

And each of these light clusters, there's five 10-foot tall light poles and there's pink, blue, and white. And a family can sponsor a light cluster in memory of a baby or babies in Heaven. And right now we are actually already sold out of the blue light clusters, but we have 13 pink light clusters left and 20 white ones.

And so if you do want to sponsor lights in memory of a baby boy, we don't have the blue lights, but the white lights are just as beautiful and very angelic and pretty at night. So all you have to do is go onto our Wave of Light website, which is, and there you can sponsor lights.

It is a donation of $100. That hundred-dollar donation goes directly toward comforting other families through the ministry of Bridget’s Cradles.

So that donation is really something that you're making in memory of your baby to sponsor the lights, to then go on and help other families be comforted with the gift of a cradle, with support, all the various things that we do in our ministry, that will go toward our mission.

Those sponsorships are due by October 8th, so you only have about a week to sponsor lights. And once those remaining light clusters are accounted for, we will close that. So if that is something that you're wanting to do, we would suggest getting on there and filling out that form as soon as possible.

What's included with that is that if you are present at the event, then you obviously will get to see your lights. And there's a sign in front of the lights with your baby or babies’ names and it's lit up, and we actually encourage families to put pictures and teddy bears and little mementos around your light cluster, and then that's yours to enjoy and take pictures with during the event.

If you cannot attend [the] event, let's say you live out of state, we actually will take professional pictures of your light cluster and your sign during the day and at night, and we will send those to you after the event, so you'll have all of those digital images.

We also will include your baby or babies’ names in our printed program and that program will be mailed to you after the event. And so those are just some of the benefits of that.

I also want to say that we also have our Shine Their Light fundraiser going on during the month of October, so this started, we launched the fundraiser Shine Their Light on September 1st. It will go all the way through October awareness, and this is an opportunity for families to fundraise in memory of their babies.

It's what's called a peer-to-peer fundraiser. If you don't know what that means, it's basically where you get to fundraise to your peers and your friends and your family. And you have your own page, and so what's really special is you actually get to create a page with your baby's picture, if you want, or a picture of your family with your memorial item, like a teddy bear.

Or you can make a little design or graphic that you want to be your logo. We have families do lots of different things with the image, but you get to customize the text and share your baby’s story. You can add photos. You have a wall where people are donating. Your friends and family can leave comments as they're donating.

You can post updates to your page. You get to set your own fundraising goal. You can either do that as a team or as an individual. So a team would be like you’re fundraising and maybe your mom or your sister or a friend is going to be on your team and help fundraise with you. And so they would be a team member on your team.

But if you're a couple and wanting to do this, you would just have an individual page and then people would go to that page and donate. So this is a great way, if you've been wanting to honor your baby during this month of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness and you want those donations to go directly to other families to share Christ-centered support with them and the gift of a cradle in the hospital, this is a great way to do that.

This is our only fundraiser that we do throughout the entire year and we really do rely on the funds that come in through this month to be able to fund our mission year round.

And so we are trying to raise $50,000 through this fundraiser, and as of the time of this recording, which I'm recording this intro a little bit after I've recorded the episode with Matt and Haley, but we have raised around $23,000 of our $50,000 goal. So we are going to be roughly raising around $25,000 through October, and we need your help.

And every single dollar counts, and so you don't have to set a large fundraising goal, but if you can participate in some way, and also if you want to pray about maybe giving a gift yourself, my husband and I, this is part of our annual giving to Bridget’s Cradles. We always do what we call a stretch gift, just being above and beyond generous.

And so that's something that we do every year for this fundraiser and at the end of the year as well, but something to pray about giving to the Shine Their Light fundraiser, because we are just so passionate about comforting other people in our own pain and using our pain for a purpose. And we feel strongly that this is an opportunity for you to do that.

So, Shine Their Light, all of that information is on our website. If you go to, you'll find all the information about Wave of Light, about sponsoring lights, and about the Shine Their Light fundraiser. If you have any questions about how to set up your page, how to fundraise, please contact us.

You can send us a message through our website or over email, You can also send us a DM through Facebook or Instagram and we'll get you set up. You can go on there and look at other team pages so you can see how other families are doing it. But this would be an amazing way for you to take part in October Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.

Thank you for letting me share about all the things that are going on. We hope to see many of you at our Wave of Light event on October 15th. It starts at 6:30. You can register on our website.

And for those that will be participating from afar, we want you to know that we are praying for you and remembering your babies in Heaven with you. And we would be honored to have your baby's name at our event on one of these signs because we do not take that lightly and that is something that we really do try to provide the sacred space and give you opportunities to honor them.

And I forgot to mention your baby's name will also be on our feature film at the end in our ending credits, so you also have a YouTube video that you'll get to share with your baby's name. So lots of different ways that we want to honor babies in Heaven this month.

Okay, so I've covered all of that. I just wanted you to know because that is coming up just in two weeks on October 15th, Wave of Light. By the way, the family that raises the most by three o'clock that day, they will be honored on stage at the event.

And if you don't live here in Wichita, Kansas, we will still find a way to honor you on stage at the event, and we'll also do a blog story about you and your baby, post it on social media, and we have different sponsorship levels. You can take a look at that on our website as well. As you are fundraising and you hit different levels, there's different benefits that go along with that.

But without further ado, I want to transition now and introduce to you our guests for today's episode, which is Matt and Haley Phillips. They are from The Fletcher Foundation, an amazing organization that I found out about from one of our volunteers here in Wichita. Her husband serves on their board and they're just an amazing organization that helps families through pregnancy and infant loss.

So I'm going to introduce you to them and then you'll get to hear all about their organization and their story in our episode. So Matt and Haley, they grew up in Minnesota, but they now live in central Iowa. They have been married for eight years and they have three earthly children, and then they have one baby in Heaven named Fletcher.

After they lost Fletcher, they started the nonprofit, The Fletcher Foundation, which walks alongside families who have experienced miscarriage or stillbirth. I am so honored to introduce them to you, and so let's jump into our conversation now.

Ashley Opliger: [00:10:16] Welcome, Matt and Haley, to the Cradled in Hope Podcast.

Haley Phillips: [00:10:19] Thanks for having us.

Matt Phillips: [00:10:20] Thanks for having us.

Ashley Opliger: [00:10:22] Well, it's so good to connect with you. We have mutual friends here in Wichita that are part of your organization. And so we're really excited to get to hear Fletcher's story and how you started The Fletcher Foundation and more about what you do. So, if you wouldn't mind introducing yourselves, telling us Fletcher's story, and we'll lead into all about your foundation.

Matt Phillips: [00:10:46] Yeah. We're Matt and Haley Phillips. We've been married, it's going to be eight years as we're recording this tomorrow, September 12th.

To get us to The Fletcher Foundation, losing Fletcher, Hudson was born right after our one-year anniversary, so he's turning seven this week. And then one year later, in October, we lost Fletcher at 20 weeks, and after that is when we started The Fletcher Foundation.

Haley Phillips: [00:11:16] Our first pregnancy was a surprise and we loved every minute of it. It was super easy. It was an easy pregnancy. And so from that, we were like, “Great, let's have another kid.” And so shortly after that, even before Hudson was one [year old], we knew we wanted more kids.

We got pregnant with Fletcher and [it] was just such a different experience that time around. So I'm sure a lot of people, you make it to this 12 week mark and you're like, “Great. We're going to tell everybody.” So at 12 weeks, we felt great about that.

Right after we had an announcement, I started bleeding so heavily. I was in the emergency room a couple of times in the next couple of weeks and there was nothing really that they could do. I had a very large hematoma in my placenta, which was causing all of that, lots of pain, and that lasted until he was born.

At the time, I worked for a company, a large retailer, and that job was incredibly physical. It was 50 to 60 hours a week and it's retail. You're on your feet. So I ended up going on short-term disability, was home, so I was on bed rest, essentially, and feeling okay, probably because I was just resting most of the day. Really, out of God's provision, we still had childcare for our one-year-old, so he was gone, so I really just took care of myself.

And one night we were getting up, getting ready to go to a small group, and I called Matt and I said, “Something is not right. I am having contractions. Something is just not right.”

Matt Phillips: [00:13:04] Yeah. You called me when I was driving home from work.

Haley Phillips: [00:13:05] Yeah. So at that time, I mean, we still do, but we just had an amazing community of people around us. Our family didn't live in Iowa at that time. So we had no family.

We've been married a year or two years, we have a one-year-old, so we dropped him off and people just came in and helped us with our son, which was a gift, but we dropped him off.

We went to the hospital and they were able to delay delivery, but ultimately they could not stop it. And so I was in labor for almost two-and-a-half days, And then eventually my placenta did abrupt, which caused me to deliver him at 20 weeks.

So, unfortunately, medically they're not going to intervene or do anything more at 20 weeks, since viability is 24 weeks. But although this baby may not be alive, I think God just creates a deep hope for life in you. So I think that's something that we both … The finality of it, when you go into labor and your body is producing so many hormones, and it's to have adrenaline to take care of this life, and there just wasn't that at the end of delivery for us.

So I think it was super shocking and we were young in age and young in our marriage and new parents. And I think we had a lot of naive thoughts about, “It will be fine. We will make it to viability. We might be in the NICU.” I just think we were very underprepared for not only that experience, but also the grief and how that would shape us and shape our marriage after that experience.

Ashley Opliger: [00:14:57] Yeah. I am so sorry for your loss and everything that you walked through. As you were sharing your story, it sounds actually very similar to ours. I had a subchorionic hemorrhage starting at 13 weeks and was on bed rest until 24 weeks, and then had a placental abruption and she was born at 24 weeks. And so very similar story.

And also my husband and I, it was in our first year of marriage and our first child and so very young in our marriage.

And it's definitely an experience that causes you to grow very quickly together and exposes a lot within your marriage. Because when you're grieving, you're the worst version of yourself in some ways, and you have to be very real and vulnerable with your spouse.

And that is an opportunity, I think, for some people to grow apart, but it's also an opportunity to grow together and to get to know each other and lean in and figure out ways to communicate through that deep grief.

So I'd love to hear from both of your perspectives, just being young in age and young in your marriage, how you walked through that together and also individually with the Lord.

Haley Phillips: [00:16:14] Yeah. Although it was very traumatic and obviously the biggest trauma I'll probably ever experience on earth as a mother, I did feel an incredible amount of peace right away.

I think it's like my parents are strong believers. They actually drove down. They were there. They held Fletcher. That gave me a lot of peace and a lot of, not closure but it was so validating to be like, “This is your grandson,” and this was an experience that we shared together, and I think that was something that helped Matt and I, somebody who was physically there with us in the hospital to have that experience with because it is so unique and it is so hard to explain or even feel.

So I think that was something that helped carry us through that, my parents being close with us in faith, but also close in proximity. There's something about just being close in proximity. We had an amazing community, specifically of women who, I think they knew how to love well.

And in that, like, “Hey, I don't know what you need.” I didn't know what I needed. I would say, “Here's three options. Let me know what option you're going to choose from. I would love to meet you in this way,” whether it was a meal or, “I'm going to come take your kid to the park,” or, “I'm going to leave you alone and you can tell me what you want me to pray for you for.”

So it was great because I didn't know what I needed. A lot of people say, “Oh, let me know what you need.” You don't know. So I loved being met in that way and I think it put me in a really healthy trajectory with having people like that, who physically just showed up, cleaned my house, I didn't even know, I was in bed, didn't tell me. I think those things were just like God's love was so physically near in people, that help in that grieving process.

And I'm also more of a verbal processor and Matt is not. And so it was challenging where I felt like I was having all these thoughts on the hour or every day, I think Matt was internally processing.

And also, I won't speak for him, but he kind of felt like, “Well, I'm going to have to keep it together. I’ve got to get us to the next step,” or, “She's having a bad day. I can't have a bad day.”

And so I think that probably unknowingly just put a lot of pressure on him. Or if I couldn't meet the needs physically of our one-year-old for a couple weeks after, you did just have a baby, not being able to meet those needs, a lot of the physical, the caretaker role, a lot was on Matt.

Matt Phillips: [00:18:51] Yeah, I would agree. I think you process things a lot more externally where I'm more internal. And I feel like, as your husband, I wanted to care for you really well in that season, and part of that probably limited how vulnerable I was with my emotions because I wanted to keep it together and be strong for you and take care of Hudson.

And yeah, I think processing and grieving for me is more internal, but that's all I knew growing up. We really handled things internally. We didn't talk through things. We didn't process things as a family, so that's how I knew how to do it. But I think I realized between now and then talking about it with people is deeply therapeutic is probably the best word.

It feels really good when somebody is like, “Hey, how are you feeling about Fletcher? I know it's been a few years, but I know you never stop thinking about it.” It feels so good when people acknowledge his existence, acknowledge he was born, acknowledge what we went through. I don't need anyone's sympathy, but I do enjoy talking about him and his short life and his memory. And it's something that I feel like I'll never see to the other side until I see him in Heaven.

Haley Phillips: [00:20:15] And you correct me if I'm wrong, but a lot of Matt, I think his personality and a lot of it comes from he's a fixer. He wants to be a fixer. And I think it's hard for men in that situation. They want to fix it. How do you stand in the gap and not fix it?

And I think a lot of that was so much good, intentional energy a year later into The Fletcher Foundation I can't fix it, but I'm going to help people in the same season of life. And so I think a lot of that produced a lot of good productivity and putting that energy into the foundation.

Ashley Opliger: [00:20:53] Yeah, it's like your grief needs a place to go. And in a lot of ways when you are serving and helping other people, that is one avenue and outlet for your grief to go because you feel like you're doing something with it and you're doing it in memory of your baby.

And so there's a few things that you both touched on that I want to talk about before we move into talking about The Fletcher Foundation. But Haley, you mentioned about people loving well in that season and showing up for you in very practical, tangible ways.

And you mentioned some people saying, “Hey, here are the things that I want to help you with,” and giving you options. Because when people leave it open-ended, “Let me know if you need anything,” like you said, first of all, you didn't know what you needed. And secondly, even if you did know what you needed, it's unlikely that you would feel comfortable actually asking for help.

It is hard to say, “Hey, actually, it would be really nice if you could clean my house or go get me groceries,” or whatever it is. When you're in a vulnerable state of grief, you don't feel like being the one asking. And so it is really nice when people give you those options because you're more than likely going to take those people up on that.

So would you just maybe share some more about how to love people well? If someone's listening to this podcast and they are listening on behalf of a friend or family member that's walking through pregnancy and infant loss and they want to show up well and love this person well through the season, can you give some more ideas on how to love well, maybe things that you personally experienced?

Haley Phillips: [00:22:31] Yeah. I think I am an extrovert. I just wanted to be around people and my friends knew that about me. So my parents were here for a time. I also had this incredible, like, “If people keep coming, then I have a little bit more time before I have to get back to my real life.”

And I really wanted people around. I do need two weeks of being with people to get my bucket filled before I have to deal with the next season of life. And it did lead to a lot of life changes for us. We made some crazy changes in our life after Fletcher.

But my parents came, they stayed with us for a few days. Matt's job graciously gave him paternity leave. I was granted six weeks of maternity leave, which was a true gift. So my parents were here.

When they left, I had a friend from Kansas come up. She said, “You don't need to host me. I'm not going to stay with you, but I'm going to be with you during the day. So you have all the benefits of having me and none of the burden of having me,” which was a true gift.

We ate out. We took my kid to the park. I had someone to help me with just doing daily activities. I felt like I could nap and she was fine. She was fine with me napping. I think it was just being there, just being there in proximity-wise.

My small group came over. They said, “Hey, we're gonna come over. We have a few gifts for you. They came over, they sat on my family room floor. They gave me a book. They gave me a candle. They gave me a journal. They gave me snacks, postpartum. I'm still very postpartum, let me tell my story, sat with me, read Bible verses over me, prayed with me.

My co-workers came, same thing. Each one of them brought me a meal. They stocked my fridge. They sat with me. They said, “We have your store covered. Don't worry about a thing.” So I think I had a lot of physical ways, but they all, I think, just like saying, “Hey, I'm dropping a meal by. Let me know what a good time is,” just not getting someone an opportunity to say no was great.

They're like, “Hey, this week, we're going to order takeout to your house. Let us know what a good night is and what you want. Send us your order. Let us know if anyone's staying with you. We would love to take care of them too.” Because we did have a lot of visitors.

Before I even got home from the hospital, somebody had already come, cleaned my house. She knew my parents were staying there. She just showed up. She said, “I just want to do anything.”

So I think it's just having those people giving options where, “I can physically be with you. I can do an act of service, or if you're not feeling like you have the capacity for any of those, tell me how I can lift you up in prayer.”

And I will say the best thing I think each person was not use their own words, but point me to Scripture, because there is no mistaking God's Word, where I think people could say things that you could feel like are hurtful. “Oh, that hits a deep point. That's not what I want to hear right now. I don't want to hear this.”

I think using God's Word was always just balmed my soul, just pointing me back to the Father. Instead of somebody's opinion, they always used Scripture and that was just a true blessing to me and really did push me, like, “Oh I do have to deal with this. I do have to come to God with this. I do have to now wrestle with my Father over the deep pain,” and that was super healing and also encouraging for me at the time.

Ashley Opliger: [00:26:05] Wow, Haley, you just shared so many wonderful ideas for people. And as you were talking, I was summarizing them into four words, and they all start with P. And this is what I came up with, is Practical, that so many of the things that people were doing were just very practical to meet needs in your grief.

You said Proximity, which is just being close and near, which is also the third P was Presence, people like your friend, willing to just sit with you, even be in your living room while you're napping, just her presence of being willing to sit in your sadness with you.

And then four, it's a phrase, Pointing to God and Pointing to the Hope of Jesus. And you can never go wrong when you're pointing people to Scripture, because like you said, so many people can have well-intended thoughts and things they want to say to try to make you feel better, because that's what people do is they want you to feel better.

And so people will try to find the silver lining in it, or they'll say things that they think are helpful that may be a little bit insensitive. But when you're sharing. True Hope that's founded in the firm foundation of Christ, you can't go wrong.

So I love everything that you shared and I just think what a beautiful picture of the Body of Christ surrounding you after Fletcher passed away and went to Glory with Jesus.

Because truly, that's just what the Body is meant to do is to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. And that's what I'm seeing the community and your family and friends doing in your life. So thank you for sharing all of those ways that people can support families that are walking through this.

And then Matt, I want to dive into some things that you said. Everything that you were saying about feeling the need to be strong and to want to fix things, we hear that time and time again, when we do a couples’ support groups, and when we've had other fathers on our podcast.. We had a podcast with the 5 Love Languages for Grieving Parents, and we talked a lot about how men and women grieve differently.

And not to stereotype men and put men in a box, but your story is very similar to how my husband processed things and how many other men do, but underneath the surface of your strength and of wanting to just have it together for your wife and your family, there is that need to want to share about your son and want to talk about what you went through and also need to have a place for your grief to go.

So I want you to talk to any men that might be listening to this podcast. And maybe it's a wife that is listening to this podcast and she's going to say, “Hey, now I want my husband to listen to this because Matt's here talking about this.” But would you speak to the fathers about what that process was like for you opening up and how you enter into those kinds of conversations? And then let's lead into the conversation of finding a place for your grief to go and how that looked in your life.

Matt Phillips: [00:29:01] Yeah. I think as men, we have a very hard time being vulnerable and talking about our feelings.

I talked about it previously; growing up, we didn't talk about our feelings. We didn't talk about what we felt. We didn't talk through things. So after we lost Fletcher, that really wasn't an option.

Haley had all these feelings. I had all these feelings. And I don't remember the exact time period, but there was a time I processed a little bit differently. And after I got back to work, after you got back to work, I went back into the routine is when I started feeling things.

I remember one time I was sitting on the little swing we had on the deck after I got done mowing the lawn with our one-and-a-half-year-old. I always wear the little carrier and mow the lawn with him and I just sat there and just started crying and thinking, “Okay, I'll never be able to do this with Fletcher. That's something I'm never going to be able to experience.” And it just hit me a lot different than it did for Haley.

Haley right away was super emotional about it, understandably, and it took me a little bit longer to get there. But after that, I remember being a lot more vulnerable with Haley, making sure I explained to her how I was feeling, how it was impacting me.

And it's so important to talk through that because I've seen and talked with a lot of men that don't process it, don't process it in a healthy way. And then you can have negative emotions. You can get angry about it. You can create conflict with your spouse about it. You can have a lot of resentment about it.

And being Christians, we're rooted in Christ. We know that our baby is waiting for us in Heaven. We know it's not our fault. It's not our spouse's fault. It's sin why these things happen. And I think just after I got to the point where I could be real with myself, process it, that really changed our marriage. That helped me be more vulnerable, emotional to you than I probably was any time before that in our marriage.

Haley Phillips: [00:31:03] And I think you recognized 10 months, a year later, that, “I really do need more support.”

I think at the time you were like, “We're doing fine. If Haley's doing fine, I'm doing fine.” And you had reached out to a mentor to talk through those things and have someone to go to, a confidante where you could share feelings. Because Matt was very worried about upsetting me or stirring up emotions I wasn't having, because I was just in a different place, not wrong, not right, just a different place.

And so Matt did have somebody that he met with and was able to pour truth into him and create that kind of atmosphere for him to go, and so he could come back and say, “This is what I’m feeling and this is what I’m thinking about it.

And I think Matt was afraid of having the raw emotional impact to me and wanted to be super thoughtful about what he was going to say.

Matt Phillips: [00:32:02] Yeah.

Haley Phillips: [00:32:02] Because he didn't want to hurt me, stir up something or hurt a wound that was beginning this scab or whatever it was.

Matt Phillips: [00:32:10] Yeah, and to go back to answer the question directly, I think if I had advice for the dad that has been through miscarriage or the friend of the dad that's gone through miscarriage, I’d tell the dad, “Hey, don't be afraid to be vulnerable. There's so many men out there that their wife, their spouse has had a miscarriage or stillbirth or some type of loss, and they are looking for someone exactly like you to connect with.”

I was at a daddy-daughter dance at the church, and one thing I've really been trying to do is when people ask me how many kids we have, I make sure I say Fletcher's name. I say, “We have Hudson. We have Fletcher, he's in Heaven, we lost him at 20 weeks. And then we have Quinn and Sutton, our two youngest.”

And another guy's like, “Wow, that's really interesting you said that. We've got our daughter that's here. And we also lost a baby, we had a miscarriage.” So there's so many men out there that you can connect that are willing to be emotional with you and you need to let them. You need to process

And then the advice I'd give to the friends of the dads that have gone through miscarriages, like what Haley was saying, when we say to a man, to a guy, “Let me know what you need,” most men that I know aren't going to take anyone up on that. We don't want to bother people. We don't want to be an inconvenience.

Similar to Haley's friends, you've got to show up in some way. If it's a golf buddy, take them golfing. Take them out to a restaurant for appetizers. Just pick something, do something. Because saying, “Hey, let me know what you want,” they're not going to take you up on that. Men don't want to bother other guys.

Ashley Opliger: [00:33:47] Yeah, I definitely can see that. And coming back to the idea of meeting people where they're at, sitting in their sadness with them, being present with them, that applies to both men and women. It's going to look a little bit different for each of us and how we grieve and also our personality, whether we are more extroverted or introverted, but I think that over all, the message is just showing up, being very practical and finding some need that you can meet.

Ashley Opliger: [00:34:18] 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,, 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: [00:35:28] I want to come back to your marriage and what you said about how there was this big turning point in your marriage, Matt, when you started being more vulnerable with Haley and you had someone else that you were processing and sharing vulnerably with, and then you were able to come back and share that with Haley.

And so what advice would you both give to grieving couples as they're navigating this, especially if they're younger in their marriage? What advice would you give for couples?

Matt Phillips: [00:35:58] Yeah, I'll share two stories and then talk a little more.

I remember right when we lost Fletcher, when we were in the hospital, the person that came in to help you through your grief, she walked in and she obviously didn't know that we were Christians. I don't know what her faith was.

But we're sitting there, I think we were holding him at that time. I remember it was the middle of the day and she walked in and she was like, “Hey, how are you guys doing?”

We were like, “We're doing okay.” I don't think non-Christians, I can be way off, would say that, I think as Christians we have this hope in Jesus. We know where Fletcher is and we know we're going to see him again. And if you're not a Christian, I don't know how you could have any type of hope or there'd be anything redeeming from such a tragedy.

We told her, “We're doing okay. We're doing all right.”

And she's like, “It's okay to be angry.”

And Haley and I looked at each other when she said that because we were so thrown off. And sure, maybe you could say we were angry with what happened, but we really weren't angry. There was really a peace about it, that knowing that the first time Fletcher’s eyes opened, he saw Jesus. We know that's where he is. And we weren't angry at each other then, and we weren't really ever angry after that.

Fast forward a couple weeks after that, our pastor at the church we went to at that time saw on Facebook what happened. {He's} like, “Hey, Matt and Haley, I'm so sorry. When can you come in this week? I want to talk to you.” And I feel like he gave us really good advice.

One piece of advice that he gave us was, “Be kind to one another.” We were married for two years at that point, eight years now, and I feel like those first five years of marriage are tough as you're learning each other. And I feel like that's really good advice, whether you're going through a tragedy or not.

I mean, there were definitely times where being the fixer, Haley was more emotional about something regarding Fletcher, and I just wanted to fix it. I wanted to solve it and she just wanted me to be there with her.

And maybe I'm speaking out of turn. I'm sure sometimes I probably frustrated you that I wasn't being emotional with you and trying to fix it instead of just being present. And the reason that advice I think was really good and something I remember is because we need to have grace with one another.

Haley has never processed through a miscarriage before. I've never processed through a miscarriage before and we're going to feel a lot of different things. And if we're not sinning, feeling that is okay. And I think we did a good job loving and respecting each other and giving each other grace on a hard day, or if we were short with each other on a certain day.

And I feel like that's only because of what Jesus did on the cross. Jesus paid the price for our sin. Jesus gives us grace for our worst things. How can we not give each other grace for being frustrated in a moment or being super emotional and not able to be connected with?

Haley Phillips: [00:39:00] Yeah. I think too, when Matt started to share all these things, I think God really started to … We were healing apart and then we started to grow together.

And not that you can't heal together. I think you can. That's just not really where our story was. And as soon as Matt started healing and processing through things, there was just this growth in our marriage where it really changed so much of how we see life. We had just built the house. We sold that house.

I left a really great-paying job to stay home with our son. I just didn't want to spend my time at work. And that's not everybody's story, but that's just what we felt at the time. That's where I needed to be. I felt like I had missed a lot of the first year-and-a-half of Hudson's life, either working or in the hospital. So I just was like, “It's not worth it to me. I don't care about my nice car. I don't care about this house we just built. What is it worth?”

And so I think God has started to really refine our perspective on parenting and how we are going to use our resources. And so we did. We just made some really wild decisions.

We moved into a tiny little house. We paid off all of our debt. I nannied so that I could also bring my son with me while I was nannying. We just did a lot of things to really put ourselves. “Okay. Life is short. How do I want to spend my time?” And we put all the money that we saved into The Fletcher Foundation. So I think that God really started to grow us in that way of our perspective.

And then you do have an opportunity to make something good of something that was so hard because the hard is not bad. And so I think it was just how God started to grow us together in that season.

Ashley Opliger: [00:40:49] Amen. Well, I love how you said you were healing separately and then you were growing together, and it just makes me think of the classic triangle analogy, which you always see.

The husband and the wife are the bottom part of the triangle, And as you are growing closer to the Lord, who is at the peak of the triangle, you're also growing closer to each other. And that's what I'm seeing here in your story. As each of you were seeking the Lord and doing your own healing work with Him, He was drawing you near to Him and drawing you near to each other.

I also just love how this experience of grief and your son's life gave you this eternal perspective to really reprioritize everything in your earthly life. And I can relate to that so much because on Bridget's empty nursery floor, I had this moment of surrender where I was like, “Okay, God, I'm all in. I want to be completely sold out for You.”

And I always tell people that's the moment that Bridget’s Cradles was born. Obviously, it was born at her birth and God had known about it long before she was even born, and had orchestrated the events of my mom knitting the cradle while I was pregnant and all of those things.

But I feel like that moment on the floor was when I really surrendered and say, “Okay, God, I will quit my job. I will do whatever it is that You want me to do.”

And I do feel like when you walk through something as traumatic and as life-changing as losing a child, you do have this refocus and God just really makes it clear what's important in life.

Because when you bury a child or when you walk through something like this, your own mortality becomes a reality. Because now I'm going to the cemetery and visiting Bridget and I can imagine one day I'm going to be buried there if Jesus doesn't come back first.

And so I just think to myself, “I want to make these days count and do everything I can for His glory until I get to see her.” And so that's what you guys are doing. And I love that God made some very radical changes in your family because of his life, and then this beautiful foundation was born.

So I would love for you now to tell us all about The Fletcher Foundation, how it was started, what you do, who you serve, everything.

Haley Phillips: [00:43:05] Yeah.

Matt Phillips: [00:43:05] Yeah. So I, the fixer, after we lost Fletcher, I knew I wanted to do something because I'm a fixer. And I didn't know exactly what that was, and it was just something that was on my heart. I don't know if it's the same day or in the same week, but a couple of different points connected to me.

One, we were getting hospital bill after hospital bill after hospital bill for him. And the total of the bills from him were more than our living son, Hudson, that we had. And the delivery wasn't anything more than a routine delivery.

There was really no difference between delivery of Hudson and Fletcher other than Fletcher was born stillbirth and obviously Hudson was born alive. So it was throwing us off why there was any difference.

And then another thing that happened is at work, shortly after this, somebody was complaining about the cost of paying for a hospital bill for having a baby. They were complaining about it, and I remember sitting in my cubicle, just processing that and how it made me feel.

And I remember coming home and telling Haley, “Hey, I want to start a nonprofit and I want to help families after they go through miscarriage or stillbirth pay for their hospital bills.”

So it's fresh in my mind that this person was complaining about the cost of the bills and they got to bring their baby home. We have to pay all this money and we didn't even get the baby to make it worth it. So that's when the idea for The Fletcher Foundation really started.

We had no idea what we were doing, to be honest. We just knew what we wanted to do. We got a team around us that helped get it kicked off, our original board, me and two other gentlemen, one that was connected to people, one that knew a little bit about finances, and the three of us figured it all out.

So what we wanted to do with The Fletcher Foundation is we wanted to pay the hospital bills of families that have had a miscarriage or stillbirth. So they would go to our website, they would fill out an application, they would hit ‘Submit’, we would review it, and as long as that bill was for a miscarriage or a stillbirth we would pay a portion of it, as much as we could at that time.

I remember the first year in The Fletcher Foundation's existence, we had three hospital bills. We had three applicants and I remember sending three $1,000 checks towards their bills and they were so thankful. And I remember sitting down, looking at Haley, “Wow, we're helping people.” It just felt so cool that God put us in a position to make something out of losing Fletcher.

Haley and I co-founded it together. I serve as the president, but Haley's right there through all of it. She's on the client team. So Haley is the one that actually interacts with the clients when they apply, make sure they have the correct paperwork, communicate with them via email or phone call if needed, make sure their check gets sent.

We've grown a ton in the four or five years. So our first year we did three clients, and then last year we helped over 100 families.

One other really cool thing that we do is we send what we call a Hope Box. Everyone that applies, we use the term accepted, so anywhere in the United States, if they apply, they have a miscarriage or a stillbirth bill, we're going to send them something.

Nobody gets left behind. We want to make sure that these families are seen, they’re acknowledged, and they're going to get something, but they also get a Hope Box. You can talk about the Hope Boxes.

Haley Phillips: [00:46:42] Yeah. So I work with one other person on the client team. It was important to me that we kept it small and we read every single story. There's just something about reading people's stories, I think it reminds you of what you're doing. It just puts you in a place of, “This is why we do this.”

So we read every single story. We do manage their bills and their paperwork, but we send them a Hope Box. I got a book from someone when I had Fletcher and I just read it over and over and over again.

It's a picture book, and I remember reading with Hudson and it's, “Mom, Don't Cry. There Are No tears in Heaven.” And I think it's just a good depiction of what it is as a momma to lose your baby, but also you have a Heavenly Father. So that is a book that's in our Hope Box.

We send a journal, we send Kleenex, we send a baby blanket, depending on if any, we have volunteers, whatever they send us or whatever is gifted us, we put this in this box and we just want to celebrate that life and remember, “That life matters. You are a mom. You will always now forever be a mom,” and I just wanted to always validate that.

And then also we always, on Mother's Day, send flowers to every single mom. It has looked wildly different when we went from three applications to now hundreds, but that is something that is really memorable for our clients.

Mother's Day can be super exciting. It also can be super painful for some mommas, and so we always want to go back and commemorate that with them and just bring them through that first year of loss. It's hard.

We have done things at Christmas at times; depending on volunteers or whatever we have available to us, we really try to impact that first year of loss.

And then if they do have children, we try to send resources around, “How do I talk to my children about this,” and, “How do you introduce your children to death,” essentially.

And so we do have good partnerships with other resources, places around us that have been able, we're not the experts on that, but they have great resources to point those people to.

We take applications from anywhere in the United States, so we're not just Iowa. We'll take anything in the United States.

Ashley Opliger: [00:49:03] I love that. So if there's a mom or a family that's listening and they have a bill after the loss of a baby, how do they find you? How do they apply for funding and to get a Hope Box? Can you point us to your website and talk through that process for our listeners who might want to partake in your services?

Haley Phillips: [00:49:27] Yeah. They can find us on We do just have a type-in-box application. They can share as much or as little of their story that they want. The details are in God's hands, but it is sometimes really therapeutic for people to write down their story and have someone on the other side that understands and has been there.

So they apply, we usually ask for whatever the hospital gives them, we also ask for an itemized bill and then we process that on the client team. They'll get an initial email from us. At the end of the month we look at all of our applications and we look at our budget for the month or our gifts that have come in and we disburse them among our applications. So nobody's walking away without something.

And it really depends on that month. Sometimes we have six applications, sometimes we have 24 applications. And we just really leave it in God's hands and we give the money. And God has always provided, has always shown up, has always provided. In fact, sometimes I get wildly generous and have to just, I'm like, “Oh, God will show up. God will show up. We just have to do this.”

And so I think it's been month after month and year after year, God has richly blessed, I think just the small faithfulness, things nobody sees, I think God blesses that. Not mundane, but just the faithful small work. It's not showy, but God has really shown up for us in that.

Ashley Opliger: [00:50:57] Absolutely. I love that. There's so many times with ministry, people see the social media page or the website, but they don't see all of the small acts of obedience day in and day out, from starting the nonprofit to all the things that takes to maintain and sustain a nonprofit and the funding, just watching God provide.

At the beginning of our ministry, we had a small bin where we had all of the cradles and there were times when hospitals would ask for cradles and I wouldn't know if I would even be able to pull open a bin and there'd be enough cradles in there. And now fast forward to where we're at now, we have thousands of cradles. We received over 31,000 cradles last year and we have bins from floor to ceiling of cradles.

And so every nonprofit has some sort of story like that, but I do believe that when you're faithful in the small things, God continues to grow it and bless it. And He sees that the acts of obedience that you guys have just poured into the ministry and how generous you've been with people. And in a way you're testing God, and He says, “Test Me in this,” and He continues to show up and provide.

Can anyone also, if they want to donate to this mission and cause to help other people pay their bills, can you share about how they would do that? They would just go to your website and donate online?

Matt Phillips: [00:52:20] Yep, right on the top of our website there's a ‘Donate’ button. We don't get any big or small government grants or state grants. We’re all friends and family. Or if you have a company donation match, a lot of companies have, “You give a certain amount towards a certain nonprofit, we’ll match it.” So all of our gifts are through that.

You can set up a monthly donation for $5 a month, it would just come right out of your credit or debit card. Or you can do PayPal, if you can have Apple Pay, Android Pay, all the different things are all on there.

I believe in The Fletcher Foundation. I think we're obviously biased but a great organization. One of my favorite things is that nobody takes any money out. Nobody takes a salary. All of your money. It's going to go right to the client. And I don't think a lot of nonprofits can say that.

Haley Phillips: [00:53:11] Yeah.

Ashley Opliger: [00:53:11] We can, yeah. But I would agree with you, that is not common. It is not common. So we're in the same position. All of our full-time and part-time team members are all volunteers. I don't have a salary. No one else in Bridget’s Cradles has a salary, and so we literally do give 100% of our donations directly to our programs and services.

And that's not to say that I don't think that nonprofits that do pay their executive directors or what not a salary, there's anything wrong with that. I do believe that people should be able to earn money. But at the same point, I do think there's something really unique and beautiful about organizations like ours, where you can say that everyone that's involved is truly doing it because they have a compassionate heart and a passion for the mission.

And I always say I'm earning rewards in Heaven. That's my payment. I don't need earthly money and I love working for free. And I know that sounds interesting, but when you're passionate about something, it doesn't bother you. And I do think there's also a credibility to your organization when you can say that, because you know that those donations are going directly to the families that you're trying to serve.

Haley Phillips: [00:54:07] I think that too it really helps us, as co-founders, just have an open hand. It's not ours. It's God's. It's really not ours. So by not taking anything from it, I don't feel like I have this wild ownership of something. So I think we don't take things personally. We just keep going and it really doesn't belong to us. It belongs to God.

And so that has really helped just everything, because running a nonprofit, especially during COVID, after COVID, it's not for the faint of heart by any means. And so I think it's just helped shape it. God will do what He wants to do and we're just along for the ride.

Matt Phillips: [00:55:04] There's no personal gain.

Haley Phillips: [00:55:06] Yeah.

Matt Phillips: [00:55:04] We just want to serve people and meet them where they're at, be there on their hardest days. And paying a portion or paying a bill isn't going to make the loss go away. It's not going to make the pain go away. It's not going to make you not feel emotional. We just want it to be one less thing that you think about, whether we can pay off a small bill or make a small payment on a bill.

And a lot of our clients tell us it's not about how much money we paid. It's that we were there and just wanted to try to help take one thing off their mind. That's all we want to do. We want there to just be one less thing they need to worry about. And we don't need any, all glory to God that we're in this position that we can lead this organization and help these people.

Ashley Opliger: [00:55:58] Amen. I think it's so beautiful what you're doing and how God led you to this, to meet this very specific need. And it's like what Haley said, it's not just paying a hospital bill. It's also validating them in their grief and saying, “I see you in the midst of this, and this is really, really hard. And we're here for you. We're someone else on your team that's trying to make this an easier road for you.” And I just love that.

And I obviously love that you're believers and that you're pointing people to Christ through all of this. And we are just so honored that you are on our podcast. And I want to encourage everyone who's listening, if you have this need and you have a bill that needs to be taken care of, please reach out to them. We're going to link their website in our show notes. You can go on our blog to find them.

But as we close this episode, would you guys just share one final message of hope to all of our listeners? Maybe a Bible verse that you clung to in the midst of your grief. And then afterwards, if you would close us in prayer.

Haley Phillips: [00:57:04] Yeah, I think when we were pregnant with Fletcher, after having him, we always relied on Psalm 127, where it talks about children being like a quiver. Right? And that God uses these arrows that He has given you. And we just relied heavily on that passage of Scripture. And kids are this arsenal to go out into the world and share the Good News of Jesus.

What a gift that God gives us that, as parents. And I think something that as we've grown in our faith and just matured, it talks about in the psalm, God does not withhold any good thing. It doesn't say, “I will not give you hard things,” but, “I will not withhold any good thing from you.”

And just the deeper knowledge of, “His life was good; my baby's life was still good because it was from God.” And so I think it comes with, I think, just time and growth, but how God leads you deeper to Him through continuing to be in grief as a parent, but at the end of the day, your Heavenly Father completes that work in you and can complete that work in you to meet you there. So I think that would be the most joy we have found in this process.

Ashley Opliger: [00:58:16] Sometimes when people will share that verse, people will think of it as pertaining only to living children. And our babies in Heaven are just as much these arrows, that their lives matter even if they don't take a single breath on this earth. And they can impact this earth just as much as living children. And they're part of our quiver, and they're part of our Kingdom family that we are together doing this ministry for the glory of God and to share the Good News of the Gospel.

And we obviously are going to raise our living children to be disciples and to share the Good News that way. But also our children in Heaven, their lives are testaments to God's faithfulness and they are just as much these beautiful arrows that have an amazing impact on this world. So thank you for sharing that Scripture.

Now, do you mind closing us in prayer?

Matt Phillips: [00:59:10] I'm happy to.

Father God, just thank You so much for this day. Lord. Thank You for sending Your Son to die on the cross for sinners, Lord. Thank You for the grace You've shone on me as a dad, as a father, as a husband. I just pray that Your hand is over The Fletcher Foundation, Bridget’s Cradles, Lord, and just that You are glorified in everything that these organizations do.

Thank You so much for Ashley and her time and giving us the space to talk about The Fletcher Foundation. Lord, just thank You so much for this day. Lord, we love you. Amen.

Ashley Opliger: [00:59:48] Amen. Thank you so much, both of you, for being here.

Matt Phillips: [00:59:54] Thanks so much for having us.

Haley Phillips: [00:59:54 Yeah. Thanks for having us.

Ashley Opliger: [00:59:58] Thank you for listening to the Cradled in Hope Podcast on the Edifi Podcast Network. We pray that you found hope & healing in today’s episode.

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

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.

One way you can help is by leaving a review of this podcast on iTunes [or the Apple Podcasts app]. Consider the minute of your time as a way YOU can personally share the hope that you’ve found here with another 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.

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 Thank you so much for listening.


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