Wichita mother turns grief for stillborn daughter into life's work for others

WICHITA, Kan. For one Wichita woman, a painful reality has become a life's work.

Ashley Opliger still remembers the day she met her baby daughter, Bridget.

"It was just very difficult to feel her weight, love on her or bond with her," Opliger says.

Bridget was stillborn at 24 weeks.

"She was just so tiny and fragile," Opliger says. "...About one week before she was born, my mom really wanted to do something special for Bridget because we did not get a very good prognosis."

Ashley's mother, Teresa Golik says she grieved losing her granddaughter and had additional pain with empathy for her daughter and son in law.

Working through the grief, Golik had the idea to knit a small cradle so that Bridget could be safely held and loved by her family.

"Just making those memories, that we had only 24 hours with her," Golik says. "That whole time she was in her cradle."

Golik's creation has become Opliger's life work. Opliger now serves as president of the non-profit, Bridget's Cradles, which makes and delivers cradles to hundreds of hospitals across the country, at no cost.

"For us to be able to impact thousands of families across the country through the original cradle that my mom made for Bridget is really special and a legacy for her," Opliger says. "Also really positive and healing for us to be able to do it."

Casey Siegrist helps run Bridget's Cradles and like many involved, it's a cause close to her heart.

Her son, Jack, did not get the chance to be held in one of Bridget's Cradles. Jack was stillborn just weeks before Bridget. Opliger and Siegrist met because their children were buried next to one another. Now, as friends, they heal through helping others.

The need for the cradles is overwhelming and the company making them is in need of local volunteers to add the finishing touches.

If you'd like to help Bridget's Cradles, you can find out how to do so here: Bridget's Cradles website.