Ashley Opliger faced a spiritual crisis in 2014, after experiencing a stillbirth. But her journey through immeasurable pain eventually led her to cling to faith and comfort tens of thousands of families facing similar scenarios.
Opliger, founder of Bridget’s Cradles, a Kansas-based nonprofit providing hand-knitted cradles for stillborn babies and their families, told CBN’s Faithwire how her most tremendous pain sparked her life’s mission.
“We were just so excited to welcome a precious child into our family,” she recalled when reflecting on her first pregnancy in 2014.
Opliger and her husband, Matt, were elated for the birth of their baby girl Bridget when Opliger began experiencing hemorrhaging. Opliger, who was working at the time as a speech pathologist, took leave from work while trying to navigate the difficult situation.
“I … was on strict bed rest,” she said. “And I was able to stay pregnant all the way through 24 weeks.”
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Tragically, Bridget died in the womb, and Opliger faced the heartbreaking scenario of delivering a child who was “born into heaven.” Little did Opliger know at her moment of brokenness, but the tragic ordeal would become the basis for Bridget’s Cradles and would offer comfort to other suffering and bereaved parents.
“This entire organization is in memory of my daughter, Bridget, who is in heaven,” she said. “She was stillborn at 24 weeks, five days in 2014, and she is our first and only daughter and our first child.”
Opliger’s mother, a postpartum nurse, wanted to do something special before Bridget’s birth, so she decided to knit a tiny blanket. But as she worked on the project, she realized the blanket would be too big for such a tiny baby — and that’s when she came up with another concept.
“God gave her the idea to knit the sides up and turn it into a cradle,” Opliger said.
And that cradle not only comforted Opliger’s entire family after Bridget’s birth; it also became the impetus for Bridget’s Cradles.
“[It] allowed us to be blessed in this moment of incredible heartache,” Opliger said. “It was such a hard and sad day, but the cradle really allowed us to bond with her and love on her and hold her in a very signifying and respectful way.”
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The couple buried Bridget inside the cradle, and, before long, the tiny knitted keepsake became a launching point for a broader ministry. Others soon started requesting cradles as well.
“About six months after [Bridget] was born, we had a local news story that ended up airing nationwide,” Opliger said.
As a result of the report, hundreds of hospitals were requesting the knitted cradles — and hundreds of volunteers stepped up to the plate to help knit them. Opliger decided to launch Bridget’s Cradles, and the rest is history.
“I left my job. We started the non-profit in her empty nursery,” she said. “And now we have donated to over 1,200 hospitals in all 50 states, and [we’re] continuing to grow.”
Last year alone, the organization provided more than 20,000 cradles and had knitters from 45 states volunteering to help; the mission shows no signs of slowing down.
“God has really just provided and shown us the way,” Opliger said.
Find out more about Bridget’s Cradles.
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