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Episode 10 - Walking Through the Valley of the Shadow of Death with Anesha Stanley


Join us for a conversation with Anesha Stanley, founder of Keys of Hope Foundation, about walking through the valley of the shadow of death after recurrent pregnancy loss. Anesha shares how she struggled with suicidal thoughts after losing five babies to miscarriage and life-threatening ectopic pregnancies. As she walked this painful road of depression, God began to guide her out of the valley and renew her joy. In this episode, Anesha shares her triumphant testimony of overcoming the darkness of grief and how God led her to start a nonprofit to serve grieving mothers in her community. In this episode, we discussed:

  • Anxiety, depression, PTSD, and nightmares after pregnancy loss

  • Suicide ideation in grief and how to find the right counselor

  • What does "justice" look like for a grieving mother?

  • How to rely on God in your weakness and surrender your children to Him

  • The power of worship music in the middle of grief

  • Scripture that came to life for Anesha in her darkest days

  • Self-care routines and how they can bring peace to your mind and body

  • How to strengthen friendships after loss

  • The six "Keys of Hope" that are the foundation of Anesha's Hope Classes

Each episode has a special Hope Guide that you can download by clicking the button below. It is packed with hope-filled resources and extra information from the episode!

Discussion / Application Questions (leave your answers below in the comments!)

  1. Anesha talks about how she experienced PTSD symptoms and severe anxiety and depression after her losses. Have you experienced this in your own grief? What resources that Anesha spoke about have you already tried and which ones can you try in the future (e.g., counseling, worship, support groups, self-care, etc)? Write down an action plan of ideas and commit to one this week.

  2. In this episode, Anesha says that worship music played a significant role in her healing journey. Worshipping God in the middle of her pain was a powerful source of hope and joy. What worship song(s) have spoken to you? Spend time in worship and journal about what God did in your heart.

  3. The sixth and final "key of hope" that Anesha shares is VISION. She recommends that moms create a vision board and dream about their future. Listen to this part of the episode again [57 min mark] and create your own vision board of hopes, dreams, and ideas for your life. How is this helpful to you in moving forward and honoring your baby(ies) in Heaven?

Graphics to share on social media or pin on Pinterest! Find more here.



Anesha Stanley is the founder of Keys of Hope Foundation, a faith-based nonprofit with a mission dedicated to breaking the silence, supporting families, and promoting awareness of pregnancy and infant loss.

A survivor of two life-threatening ectopic pregnancies and three miscarriages, Anesha is passionate about equipping women with support and resources of hope after loss.

Connect with Anesha:

Facebook /keysofhopefoundation

Instagram @keysofhopefoundation



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Ashley Opliger is the Executive Director of Bridget's Cradles, a nonprofit organization based in Wichita, Kansas that donates cradles to over 1,090 hospitals in all 50 states and comforts over 26,000 bereaved families a year.

Ashley is married to Matt and they have three children: Bridget (in Heaven), and two sons. She is a follower of Christ who desires to share the hope of Heaven with families grieving the loss of a baby.

Connect with Ashley:

Facebook /ashleyopliger

Instagram @ashleyopliger

Pinterest /ashleyopliger

Follow Bridget’s Cradles:

Facebook /bridgetscradles

Instagram @bridgetscradles

Pinterest /bridgetscradles

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Episode 10: Walking through the Valley of the Shadow of Death with Anesha Stanley

Ashley Opliger: [00:00:00] You’re listening to the Cradled in Hope Podcast where we believe that the hope of Heaven, through faith in Jesus Christ, has the power to heal our hearts after the loss of a baby. It’s a pain no mother should have to endure and we want this podcast to be a safe place for your broken heart to land. Here, we are going to trust God’s promise to restore our joy, use our grief for good, and allow us to spend eternity with our babies in Heaven.

I’m your host, Ashley Opliger. I’m a wife, mom, and follower of Christ clinging to the hope of Heaven. My daughter, Bridget, was stillborn at 24 weeks in my first pregnancy in 2014. In her memory, my husband and I started a nonprofit ministry called Bridget’s Cradles, and God has given us purpose in our pain and we’ve seen beauty come from ashes.

Although we wish you didn’t have a need to be listening to this podcast, we believe God has a reason for you to be here today. We pray this time would be a source of healing for you as we remember that Jesus cradles us in hope while He cradles our babies in Heaven. Though we may grieve, we do not grieve without hope. Welcome to the Cradled in Hope Podcast.

Ashley Opliger: [00:01:26] Hi, sweet moms. I am humbled to welcome a special guest to the podcast today, Anesha Stanley from Keys of Hope Foundation. Anesha shares her story with such vulnerability and bravery, and I know you will be inspired by her testimony. In this conversation, she shares with us how she walked with God through the valley of the shadow of death. Let me first give you a brief introduction.

Anesha Stanley is the founder of Keys of Hope Foundation, a faith-based education and support nonprofit with a mission dedicated to breaking the silence, supporting families, and promoting awareness of pregnancy loss, infant loss, infertility, and maternal wellness.

A survivor of recurrent pregnancy loss, three miscarriages, and two life-threatening ectopic pregnancies, and a secondary infertility diagnosis, Anesha is passionate about equipping women and couples with the support and resources of hope, healing, self-care, and empowerment for life after loss.

Anesha is a pregnancy loss and infertility grief coach, full-spectrum doula, childbirth educator, loving wife, and mom to five angel babies and one rainbow baby. I am honored to introduce Anesha to our listeners today.

Welcome, Anesha. So glad to have you here.

Anesha Stanley: [00:02:44] Hi, Ashley. I'm so excited to be here with you as well. Thanks for having me.

Ashley Opliger: [00:02:52] We are excited to hear your story and your testimony of obedience to start a foundation called Keys of Hope. Before we go into that conversation and we hear all about your wonderful organization, I would love for you to share with our listeners your motherhood journey and your experience with loss.

Anesha Stanley: [00:03:13] My husband and I were high school sweethearts, and we've been together since I was 16 or 17, and he was 17 or 18. So we were really good friends first, and then we got married. And for us, we decided that we wanted to wait, because our relationship was long-distance.

We wanted to wait before we had children because we wanted to finally come together and learn how to live together, and travel, and just really enjoy ourselves. And we just wanted to put things in place first, like purchasing a home, and I opened up a bakery before that.

Ashley Opliger: [00:03:47] Wow.

Anesha Stanley: [00:03:47] So I had a couple things that I wanted to do. So we just really wanted to enjoy life for a moment. And so we did that for about six years into our marriage, and then he actually approached me about starting to conceive and start our family. And I thought that was amazing that he was like, “Hey, I'm ready whenever you're ready.”

And I was ready too, and I was like, “Okay.” I'm just one of those heart checkers with that. It's like, “Okay, God,” I'm always like, “What do You want? What's going on? Lead me, guide me as the timing,” almost like, “Get in, make the floor wet so I know that this is You, and this is what You want me to do,” kind of.

And so I just said, “Okay, let's get started. We'll start in the winter.” And so we did, and we got pregnant. And it was easy, it happened in 2013. And so we got pregnant, but unfortunately, we had a miscarriage. We lost our first baby, and that was very devastating for me because you hear about it, but to actually sit in that position and sit in that chair, to say like, “Hey, I am that one in four now.”

There was a lot that my mind and my emotions had to wrap itself around and try to understand and how to process that. And then I finally understood why people didn't talk about pregnancy loss at first or share the news of a pregnancy earlier on. That, like I said, was very difficult for us. And I just was really in mourning for a while.

And then I became pregnant again. I didn't even know I was pregnant. I was halfway through the first trimester before I even found out that I was pregnant, only because I was still heavily grieving my first baby. And we found out we were pregnant, everything went well. And we had our rainbow baby, our daughter in 2014. I was due December 22nd. I had her December 23rd and we came home Christmas Day.

Ashley Opliger: [00:05:43] Oh, wow.

Anesha Stanley: [00:05:43] So she’s our Christmas present and it’s just awesome. And I knew she was going to be a girl because I would ask God about the sex of the first baby. Like, “If You can tell me the sex of the first baby,” but instead He gave me a dream of a little girl in a pink snowsuit.

So when we found out we were pregnant, went for the gender appointment to find out the due date and everything, and He told me December, and I said, Little girl, pink snowsuit. So I said, “Okay, makes sense. Thank You, Lord.” So I had hope and I knew I had something to hold onto and it was just really promising.

So I had my rainbow baby. She's a six and sassy first-grader right now. I love her dearly. And because of that, that was like one of the most beautiful times in my life, just being pregnant with her and enjoying her, and embracing my body, and getting to know me during that time.

We just decided that we wanted to wait. We wanted to enjoy her because we knew what that looked like to have had and then lost. And now that we have her, we want to enjoy her a little bit more. So we decided to wait for two years before we started to try again. And so then that time came and we tried again, we got pregnant again, and unfortunately, I had another miscarriage.

And at that time, my aunt, my dad's last surviving sister and sibling and family member from his immediate family that he grew up with, she had passed away. And so I had to help him with the planning and everything. So I had to tuck my feelings and what I was going through my circumstance, and I just threw myself into work just to avoid or suppress all the feelings.

And so that went on for a couple of months. I got pregnant again in the summer of 2017, but then we went in for an appointment on November 1st and I knew something was off because I just didn't really feel well. And we were monitoring the HCG levels and they were going up, but not up as much as they should have, tripling or multiplying.

And we get to the appointment, we hear the heartbeat, but unfortunately, it's very faint. And then there's no heartbeat.

Ashley Opliger: [00:05:43] I’m sorry, Anesha.

Anesha Stanley: [00:05:43] And so by that time, this is the third time and I'm like, “Oh my goodness.” Like that time I'm crushed. And so my doctor did a lot of taking us through this door and taking us through that door while he's waiting on tests and different things to find out what's going on.

And I just sat there just really heartbroken. That time I was really heartbroken. And that was because going into that pregnancy, I prepared myself. I did everything that they teach you to do in church. I prayed. I've stood on the Word. I quoted Scriptures. We prayed every morning, noon, and night.

We did everything and I still felt like, “I'm failing. How can this be? I've done everything by the book. Why is this happening?” And so we found out it was an ectopic pregnancy, so we were sent to another hospital for a treatment called methotrexate, which is a form of chemotherapy.

So as if hearing my baby's heartbeat faint, and then the baby passed away on a monitor wasn't enough, just to hear that chemotherapy or this form of treatment or chemo is what they're prescribing as the treatment, I was like, “This is just too much to bear.”

And so that whole situation was a whole fiasco because of the way I felt like I was treated at the hospital. That's a whole nother story, but it was just too much. I left there and I was just done. I was done. I was done with anything and everything.

I was just like, “Okay, God, I can't pray.” And I feel like God and I have a great relationship, especially at that time. I'm a worship leader. I'm very heavily serving in a church, all those things I grew up in, in church, but our relationship is rock solid. But that time it crumbled and I was really upset with God.

I was mad and I would get up in the mornings and I would say, “God, You’re God, You already know what to do. So I don't want to pray. I'm not going to pray.” And I didn't pray. And that's just what I told Him, because I was really upset because I couldn't understand what was going on.

And so that started a whole nightmare. And literally, I had a nightmare, the same nightmare for a whole year, every night. I also started to spiral and suffer from extreme anxiety, depression, PTSD, which PTSD, I only heard about that being something that veterans struggle with, not women or mothers. But of course, it's post-traumatic. Right?

And so I experienced that and then just a combination of so many things that were going on at that time and my feelings and my loss of faith. Unfortunately, I also had two bouts of suicide ideation. And so I had this whole plan together because it just was too much for me. I didn't have anybody or know anyone personally to talk to about what I was experiencing.

And so when I would reach out to some people, “Oh,” they'll say, “just focus on the child you have. You're fine. You're young. You can have a child again. Don't worry about it,” as if I just need to sweep everything under the rug and not worry about the fact that my other three children matter or what happened to me, the experience of hearing the heartbeat, and then my child passing away, and then the treatment, like everything.

They weren't in my shoes to understand. And so that really hurt, not having someone being able to say, “Hey, I've been there. I know what you're going through. I can help you.”

And I would always tell my husband, “I wish I had someone who can gauge me like a thermometer to say, ‘I know where you are. You're going to be fine. You’ve just got to get over this hump.’”

I've tried counseling. Some of the counseling sessions did not work because one lady, she found out that I was a believer and she just jumped churchy on me. And my thing was like, “If I wanted churchy, I would go to my pastors. I'm coming for practical information.”

And what I didn't know then is that I ended up going home and researching about grief and loss, and what I was wanting or looking for out of that counseling experience was understanding that there are five different stages of grief.

And you can be in all of them at the same time, and how that it’s okay to not be okay, and just how to process your feelings, and how to actually embrace your feelings and sit where you are in that, and understand what's going on, and try to see how you can move forward. I didn't get that.

And so everyone else also around me was becoming pregnant, like close friends and family members. And I'm sure you will understand, but it's difficult to watch TV, and then all of a sudden here's a commercial for Pampers or something that comes on. Or you go to the store, or you go back to the doctor's appointment while you're there, but then you see other pregnant women.

And it's not that you're mad or jealous of those pregnant women. It's just a reminder of your experience and you're just, “Okay, I just want to get out of here.”

It's a lot. It actually initiates triggers and that sometimes is a lot to handle. And so that's what I battled with a lot during that time. I used to feel bad because I felt like I couldn't even mother my child during that time because I was heavily depressed, very heavily depressed. And so thank God I can speak on it a little further down, but I was able to connect back with God and He did something amazing in me.

But that was our third loss. And then we really weren’t trying to get pregnant, but we're married. We're young. My husband's handsome. And it is what it is. Right? So we get pregnant again, like maybe eight months later.

I again didn't know I was pregnant, but when I found I'm halfway through, I'm very close to the end of the trimester, and then we lose the baby again. And that time my husband and I were really numb.

We were like, ”Okay, whatever the doctors say we need to do, we’ll just do. Make the appointments, go through the procedures and process for choosing what's best for us.” And so we're just numb at this point.