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



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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?

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CONNECT WITH OUR GUEST


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

www.keysofhopefoundation.com

 

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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.


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EPISODE TRANSCRIPT


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.


It's just like, “Okay, you know what? Whatever.” Right? I'm trying to move forward, because right now it's like, “I don't know.” So a couple of months later, we become pregnant again for the last time. And this time was a little different.


We were pregnant and I say, “You know what? I'm not going to call the doctor. I'm going to wait to the end of August, which will be beyond the safe zone, and then I'll call,” because by now I feel like I'm a pro at this, and it's probably not a good thing to say.


But. I mean, I've dealt with it so much. It's like I already know what they want. I have a standing appointment at the labs. I already know what they're going to be looking for, checking for. I know my body. No one knows their body better than a woman who has lost a baby, or a woman who's going through fertility treatments and things like that. So I just said, “I'm just gonna wait.”


However, the beginning of August came and I started having some of the symptoms of a miscarriage and my body goes through the process. It's so crazy actually because that same weekend is the family reunion. So I have to tuck my feelings as if, “Hi,” and just to be cheery and cheerful and everything, but I'm dying on the inside.


I'm like, “Oh my goodness, what's going on?” It's the weekend, the doctor is out, so I have to wait until Monday to call. And sure enough, we called and get the appointment and get checked out and it did show that, “Okay. Well, you're losing the baby or the baby has passed. So we'll schedule an appointment in the next couple of weeks, so just sit tight.”


So I decided to sit tight. However, here it is that end of August when I was going to call the doctor; they called me and said, “We need you to come in right away because we see some things going on with your blood that doesn't look good.”


I get there, they do an ultrasound and they're just not finding anything. Then she decides that she wants to do a vaginal ultrasound, but I'm almost hesitant because by now I know about insurance and everything. And I'm like, “No, that decision is like tens of thousands of dollars.” I was like, “Wait a minute, what are you trying to do?” She's like, “No, I really feel like I need to just go farther.”


So I said, “Okay.” I let her go further. And thank God I did. She turned on the monitors and there was the strongest heartbeat ever.


Ashley Opliger: [00:16:15] Wow.


Anesha Stanley: [00:016:15] And I said, “Oh my goodness. Who are you? This is amazing!”

But the crazy thing is that a couple of days before that, that was the first time I heard the song called Reckless Love. And the chorus is what I fell in love with, the way that he was singing it. It was Tim Bowman doing it, how he was singing and I just fell in love with it.

And I'm just laying there, and I start singing the song to myself just to reassure my soul that everything's fine because again, I hear this heartbeat and I'm like, “Gosh, this child is a warrior.” Like, “Who are you?” Like, “Yes! I thought I lost you a month ago, but here you are.”


Unfortunately, she keeps looking. She says, “Something looks off.” She's measuring me and she explains that my tube is in danger of erupting. And because of that, this could be fatal for me.


Ashley Opliger: [00:17:07] Oh my goodness.


Anesha Stanley: [00:017:08] And so she calls the doctor and explains to the doctor what's going on. Luckily, my doctor is already in the OR. He gets on the phone with me and says, “Anesha, I need you here in less than an hour to save your life, or it's going to be both of you.”


So how do you do that? I just heard my baby's heartbeat. They're alive, they're strong. And I'm just like, “How? What?” “What's going on?” But a peace came over me and I said, “Okay.” So we had less than an hour to be in surgery, had surgery, and we lost our baby to save my life.


So that's my motherhood journey. I have five babies, five angels in Heaven, and one beautiful rainbow baby here on earth. I call her my rainbow baby ambassador for Keys of Hope, so she loves that.


And she understands what has happened. She understands. She's seen it all. But God also used her through that to help bring about His redemptive, or I call it His resurrecting plan for my life. So I'm thankful for her.


Ashley Opliger: [00:18:12] Yes. Oh my goodness, I am so, so sorry for everything that you walked through, such a difficult journey. And like you had shared with me before we came on here, you really were walking through this valley of the shadow of death.


Can you talk about these hard feelings and emotions of going through anxiety and depression and PTSD, which by the way, I completely agree with you. It is definitely something that moms go through after a loss. It is a traumatic experience to lose your child.


It's one of the most traumatic things that a person can experience on this earth is to lose their baby and to have dark thoughts of suicide. And it's something that's hard to talk about. And a lot of people don't understand how deep and dark the grief can get.


If you wouldn't mind just shedding some more light on that, because I do think there are so many women that are walking through this and feel those things and think those thoughts, but they're like, “I don't want to share this with anybody. I don't want anyone to judge me or I don't think anyone will understand this.”


For me, I didn't have feelings of “I'm going to act on this,” but I definitely had feelings of, “I just want to go to Heaven. I just want to be with Bridget. I'm just done with this earth. I'm tired of the brokenness and sin and death of this earth. I want to go Home.”


And I think as Christians, we're meant to long for Heaven. We weren't created for sin and brokenness, but obviously, God wants us to live out our days here in serving Him, and loving Him, and all of that. And it's not a good place to be where you're wanting to leave this earth. So would you mind just sharing a little bit more about what grieving looked like for you in that valley?


Anesha Stanley: [00:19:52] Oh, absolutely. Grieving was hard. It was the most difficult experience I have ever encountered. I was lost. I couldn't see anything. I felt like I was walking through a fog.


And I felt like some days, when I would be okay, as I'm starting to take a few steps toward faith and get back to some type of normalcy, later on learning that there will never be any normalcy, there'll be “recreate normal,” then something would happen that would knock me down or push me back a few steps.


But I was very angry. I was really upset with God because I felt like I was like David. And I was just like, “God, You're the only person who could have done something, but You did nothing. You didn't do anything. You allowed this to happen. But then. I don't know. Maybe You did do something. Maybe Your grace and Your mercy are keeping me from something, or You see something down the road.”


So it was like, I treated Him as if like, “Okay, I need You, but I don't need You. But I do need You, but I don't want to.” So I was really angry and upset with God, honestly. There is no justice for a grieving mother. If someone was to see you and have a fight or do something, then they will be able to say, “Yeah, Ashley said this,” or, “Anesha did that,” and get justice.”


But for that, it's like, I feel like the enemy just snatched my soul, my heart out of my body. And so from there, I just became heavily depressed, very sad, stayed in bed. Often I cried, I felt like the water was just like a leaky faucet. My tears just kept streaming.


And there were days where I felt like I wanted to pray because I would go to God to pray, but I couldn't and I would just saturate my couch or wherever I was at with just tears, just saturating with tears. But the beautiful thing is I later found out that there is a Scripture that talks about in Psalms how God will bottle your tears and those are actual prayers.


And so even though I didn't have the words to put with that prayer, I just cried, poured out my spirit to God and my heart to God, because I was really suffering again with the PTSD when my daughter was two at the time. So of course in the night she cries, and when she's crying, her crying sent me into fight or flight mode. I was in shock. It's like I didn't know what to do.


So my husband would have to get up and go in and take care of her and get her settled. But then he couldn't leave me alone because I felt like every noise in the house startled me. It scared me and it woke me up in fear and shock.


And so he had to come and check on me and I would always say, “Hey, I think I hear someone in the house,” because I had the same nightmare every night for a whole year. And it was someone was breaking into our home to separate me from my child.


Ashley Opliger: [00:22:29] Thinking about like the enemy of death, and that's actually something that's not talked about a lot is when moms who have lost a baby end up having rainbow babies. I don't think we're talking about the postpartum anxiety that can come.


Anesha Stanley: [00:22:43] Absolutely.


Ashley Opliger: [00:22:43] Because a lot of people that checked in on me when I was pregnant with my rainbow babies, like, “Oh, are you so anxious in the pregnancy after having lost Bridget,” and crazy enough, it was God's grace and mercy for me, I had a lot of peace in my pregnancy.


But what I didn't expect when I brought my first son home, who was our first rainbow baby after losing Bridget, was the crippling anxiety that I felt bringing him home, because as a mom who's buried a baby in the ground and has had a funeral service and has walked that road and can picture these worst-case scenarios, for me I had this anxiety of, “What if he dies in his sleep?”


And so I would just go in and check on him and put my hand on his chest. Like, “Is he still breathing?” And at five weeks old, I was like, “We have to buy this Owlet device and put it on every night.” And he literally wore it every night until he was one year of age.

And our seven-month-old that we have now, our second rainbow baby boy, we have the Owlet on him every night because it just gives me this peace of mind, because I think as a mom, once you've lost a baby, you do have those fears and that anxiety.


And what I've had to learn, and you could speak to this I'm sure as well, with your daughter, is that both our living children and our children in Heaven we have to surrender to God.


Anesha Stanley: [00:24:03] Absolutely.


Ashley Opliger: [00:24:03] We have to surrender and trust God with their lives, because I realized going through my grief with Bridget, I had to surrender her to the Lord emotionally and spiritually.


Obviously she passed away and went to be with the Lord, but I also had to, in my grief, surrender her in that way. And I also learned I had to do the same for my children on earth. I couldn't protect them or save them from everything on earth, but I needed to trust Him.


Anesha Stanley: [00:24:28] Absolutely.


Ashley Opliger: [00:24:28] So it's interesting that you brought that up because I do think that a lot of times people think that the rainbow baby is the solution to solve all of our grief and it’s replacing this baby and all of a sudden we're fine. But there's some lingering effects of grief.


Anesha Stanley: [00:24:45] Absolutely.


Ashley Opliger: [00:24:45] And I think it plays out a lot of times as anxiety.


Anesha Stanley: [00:24:47] It does. And actually, even to this day, I still have anxiety. I've gotten better, but there are nights if something happened during the day where it could have been a little dangerous or something, or maybe we were at the store and she was a few feet behind me and I would beat myself up in the middle of the night, like “Oh my goodness, next time we go to the store, I’ll make sure I grab her hand and she's with me.”


And it's just like, yeah, I have these things that the enemy is trying to always make me think that something possibly could happen to her. Or she went swimming this summer and she didn't want to wear her floating vest. And I was like, “No, you have to wear that.” And I had to explain to her why.


And it was just so much; that night I'm thinking about, “Oh my, what would have happened if …” It's just too much. And then that's when I have to say, “Be still my soul, be still,” or just come back at the enemy. “I cast down all imagination and every high thing that exalted against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity and to the obedience of Jesus Christ.” I have to quote that Scripture.


But at the time when I was still dealing with losing my children, yeah, it was unbearable. And I'm dealing with trying to take care of her, but I'm depressed. Again, I'm in bed. Everyone around me is becoming pregnant. And then I'm thinking like, “Why me? What did I do?”


Not that I'm not happy for them. I'm just trying to get answers and it's hard to not have the answers because the only person who can give you an answer is God. But it's just like, “Oh, how do I do this?” And so for me, I just felt like, “I can be done with this. This is too much,”


Because the people I do reach out to, they just keep saying, “Oh, you'll be fine. You're young. Try again. Focus on the child you have.” And it's not that I'm not. I am, but it is so hard to do that, and all these triggers and different things are happening around me.


And so that's when I just said, “You know what? Okay, this is what I'm going to do. I can't handle this anymore. This is too much.” I couldn't see my way out. I didn't want to die, but I just wanted the pain to end, but I didn't know how to get the pain to stop.


And so I had these two plans, these two separate times on what to do. And I said I was going to share it with my husband and just tell him, “Hey, you're handsome, you're young. You can find another person to marry.” Like I had this whole plan in mind about how I was going to talk to him about it, but not really tell him about it.


But it was my rainbow baby who actually saved me from actually going through with those plans. But I was broken and I would go to church and I would hear the Word being preached, but I didn't believe it.


And I was like, “I don't believe a word You say, because I did everything that You said to do.” I did everything and I still felt like I failed. So I was just like, “No.” I felt like I was living in Hell on earth. I was like, “This is just too much and too unbearable.”


And honestly, even in the Black community, we don't talk about counseling. We don't talk about mental health a lot, or there's not a lot of resources or a lot of highlighting these issues in our community to say, “It's okay to go talk to a counselor. It's okay to go get help. It's okay to try different resources.”


If anything, it's always, “God will do this. God, God, God.” But there’s nothing wrong with God and Google. There's nothing wrong with God and a counselor. Those are dynamic duos together.


And so once I just said, “You know what? I need to get myself some help,” and I tried again with a different counselor, that really changed the trajectory of the whole thing.


Ashley Opliger: [00:28:18] That's amazing. Something that you said earlier, there's a word that I wrote down that just stuck out to me. And you used the word justice, that there is no justice on earth for a grieving mom, because the desire of our heart that we want the most is to be with our baby, be united with our baby, to hold our baby, to love our baby. And so the injustice of it is that we are separated.


Now as Christians, we know this separation is temporary and that we will eventually get to see them again in Heaven and spend eternity with them. And so I think coming back to what you just talked about, of saying as a Christian you did all the right things and we expect that God's going to bless us in the ways that we want to be blessed.


And we've had other podcasts episodes where we've talked about this. When you're grieving, it really exposes these errors in our theology of expecting as Christians, that we should be blessed and not go through trials or pain or loss.


And really, when you study Scripture and you study Jesus' life, He and His disciples went through so much suffering and so much persecution and pain. And really, when we choose to follow Jesus, we can expect the same.


And it's hard for our minds to wrap around that, but knowing that the ultimate justice will come when Jesus comes back and when He restores this earth to Heaven and we get to spend forever with our babies, and He throws the enemy into the lake of fire for eternity, and we are done living in the brokenness of this earth, that is true justice.


And so I just love that you put it that way. And so we talk about this, you said you started going to counseling, which I'm a huge advocate for. I think it's so helpful.


Anesha Stanley: [00:30:00] Absolutely.


Ashley Opliger: [00:30:02] What did it look like for you to come out of that season of planning in your mind these suicidal ideas and going through just sitting on your couch and having so many tears that I'm sure you just ran out of tears at a certain point. How did that transition you to grieving with hope and feeling that you were turning a page in your story?


Anesha Stanley: [00:30:31] Absolutely. Well, one thing is I'll share this Scripture that I was led to one day when I was just trying to find some type of hope, and I just opened the Bible and it just randomly landed there, and it's Psalm 73:26.


And it says that “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” And so for me, that's what I felt like. I felt like my flesh was failing, my heart had failed, my mind had failed. I just didn't know who I was. I didn't know what life was at that time. It was just such a blur.


But then just to read that, to see that, “but God is my strength,” and knowing that His strength is made perfect in my weakness and He is my portion for everything, I need to rely on Him.


My daughter, at the time, she was three and she started noticing the depression, even when she came to me one day and she said, “Momma, you wear the same T-shirt and the same hat every day when you take me to school.”


Well, what she doesn't know is that I'm so depressed and I'm just really trying to make it through the morning, make it through the afternoon, make it through the night and start a new day over again.


And it's easier for me to just lay this shirt and this hat and these leggings right here to just get you up, out the door, down the street, and come back home to get back in the bed because I'm so depressed. And then I'll lay down the whole time you're at school and I'll come back and pick you up with the same thing. But I didn't understand or see those effects until she pointed them out, and she's a child.


And when I noticed that she was looking at me and she paid attention to what was going on in my circumstances, then it checked me to see or to think about, “If she noticed that, then what did God give her to me for? And what is it that I'm supposed to show her in righteousness, in the right way of life? Because she's looking, she's paying attention. I can't fail her. Just because I feel like I failed or there are some failures in my life. I can't fail her because this child is noticing me.” And so I really thank God that He used that.


And another thing that He did is: I'm a worship leader; at that time I couldn't worship. I just could not on my own. I couldn't sing. I couldn't pray because then I would start to cry. And so even at church, I declined leading worship many times because I didn't want my tears to seem as if I was crying because for a different reason other than being broken-hearted, because I didn't share my story with anyone at that time.


And I knew I would be a mess if I would try to get up there and lead worship. And sing these songs and these songs come from Scripture and Scripture is alive. The Word of God is alive and that two-edged sword will pierce through my heart. And I did not want to be caught out there. And that's what I felt like, “I will be caught out there,” because it seemed like I'm in an abyss and no one is out there with me.


I'm alone because no one has said, “Hey, this has happened to me.” And the only person that I knew that it happened to was my mother-in-law, but she passed a year before we got married. and my grandmother had just passed away like six months before I started experiencing the recurrent pregnancy losses back to back.


So my daughter was one thing. And then another thing was God actually used worship, the very thing that I couldn't do. He used that to, I would say, resurrect me. And so what happened was it was in January. I remember my mom asked us to come to church because one of my cousins was getting baptized. We decided to go to church with her.


And I was really deep into the depression then. And that's when I had the plan already rolling. We get to church and they started to sing a song that I hadn't heard in a long time and it's called The Great I Am. I believe Jared Anderson has a version of it and that's the last version that I’d heard of it. But LaRue also sings it too.


So they started to sing the song and my heart just became soft. And I was like, “Oh, I've always loved this song.” And so I'm listening to the words and I'm listening to the words and the next thing I know, I'm up on my feet. And I'm just thinking about the Great I Am.

And then there's a part in there that says, “I want to see dry bones living again.” and that part stood out to me.


And I said, “Let me get home,” not even home. I opened my Bible right then and there to Ezekiel 37. It talks about the dry bones and I read it, and then I got home and I read it again and I kept reading it.


And He began to speak to me and He said, “Speak to the dry bones. That's what you feel like right now. That's who you are. Speak to the dry bones. You have to speak the Word of God over you. Whether you believe it fully right now or not, you have to speak to the dry bones.”


And so I started doing that and I started to just speak how God is strong in my weakness. I can do all things through Christ, God is my strength, my fortress, my Redeemer. He's my strong tower.


And there is another worship song called Resurrecting, I think it was by Elevation, but it was The Collective with The Walls Group. They were singing it. And there's a portion that says, “by Your Spirit I will rise, from the ashes of defeat the resurrected King is resurrecting me.”


And so that portion spoke to me because I felt like I was in the ashes of defeat and the resurrecting King, He will resurrect me. And so I was like, “Oh, okay.” So those words became alive to me. So I just fell in love with that portion, that, I think it's like the hook or something. And so I just started to sing that over me, and over and over again.

And then He led me to other songs, just little portions. “Give me faith to trust what You say, that You are good and Your love is great,” or “Yes, I will lift you high in the lowest valley.”


Ashley Opliger: [00:36:24] Anesha, I love this!


Anesha Stanley: [00:36:26] That's what He did for me though, Ashley. I couldn't worship because I would go to Him and I would want to worship because I love spontaneous worship even around the house, just to walk. And my daughter, even as an infant, she loved that. I would just pick her up and walk around the house and just worship song on top of song, lyric on top of lyric, whatever, just singing my heart out. But I couldn't do that. I just couldn't get into that flow.


But God just began to give me these nuggets and snippets of songs. And I just began to sing those songs. Or even Reckless Love, how He gave me that song before losing, going into surgery to save my life but to, unfortunately, lose our baby, that's how He resurrected me.


And I felt like the woman with the issue of blood. She was prohibited from touching God or from being around people because she was seen as unclean. But the very thing th