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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Celebrating Josiah

It has been a wonderful year getting to know our son, Josiah, despite his rocky beginning.

We went in for our detailed anatomy appointment at 19 weeks, full of cheer and excitement, as we anticipated learning the gender of our sixth child.  We'd been through this type of visit numerous times before but due to the amount of time the tech spent on the area of the heart, I knew something was not quite right.

The call came in while I was at work.  "Mrs. Reese, we discovered some abnormalities with your baby's heart.  We need you to come in for more testing."  I was immediately struck with fear and a sinking feeling became evident in my stomach.  I hung up the phone and went to a co-worker's office and sought prayer.  Tears flowed as we grasped hands asking God to intervene with His peace.

The trip to the doctor's office was a somber one.  "There is a hole in your son's heart which needs to be repaired.  We will need to conduct an amniocentesis to be certain of the cause."  I reached for my husband's hand as the tears slowly rolled down my cheeks.  I had never had an amniocentesis conducted for any of my other pregnancies but chose to focus on remaining calm.  The testing revealed there were a few issues with our son's heart...and something else.

"Mr. and Mrs. Reese, there is a 99% chance that your son has Down Syndrome and we won't truly know the concerns and limitations of his heart until he is born."

The words fell from the doctor's lips and onto the floor, splattering like a rotted tomato.  It was difficult to focus on the rest of the words that were floating into the air.  I kept rubbing my stomach and praying over our unborn child.  "God...please..."

Over the next few weeks, we prayed, we researched, we talked, we cried and we prayed some more.  We knew it was important to enlist the support of family and friends so we slowly began the process of sharing what we had been told with those who were close to us.  I remember not wanting to accept what the doctor had said and was clinging to the hope that there was a 1% chance that our baby boy was going to be just fine.

On May 8th, 2015, I went in for a routine maternity check-up and was told to get to the hospital because there was fluid around our son's heart.  The doctor wanted to begin the process of delivery before we were forced to make some hasty decisions.  I checked in late that evening, Friday night, and began the wait for Josiah.

Unfortunately, my body was not quite ready to release Josiah and the wait turned out to be much longer than we had ever anticipated.  We thought he was going to be born on the 10th which happened to be Mother's Day but that was not the case.  They tried a number of different techniques to get my body to respond to the induction process but nothing seemed to be working.  His heart rate dipped twice and we were informed that if it dipped again, he would have to be taken via C-section.

His heart rate dipped again and the room suddenly became a flurry of hospital staff, whisking around me and my husband to prepare us for delivery.  Our five children and my mom were there, as was tradition, and I could see the look of alarm on their faces as I was being wheeled out of the room and they were being ushered to a sitting area.  This was not the way it was supposed to be!  I could see Steve's face, slightly tear-streaked, as I was rushed past him to OR.

"You're going to be Ok," one of the staff whispered to me while patting my arm.  "We do these procedures on a daily basis."  I had delivered all five of my other children vaginally. Needless to say, I was full of mixed emotions.  I was exhausted and now just wanted him here, safely.

It all happened so quickly.  Then he was lifted out of my body and offered for Steve and me to see.  On May 11th, Josiah David Reese made his grand entrance into this world-Finally!

We were told that surgery was not immediately needed on his heart but he had to remain in the NICU after his birth due to the complications experienced during the birthing process.

Leaving the hospital without him was one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do even though I knew he was under the best care.  We visited the hospital daily and asked regularly about when he would be released to go home.

We were told he had to be able to breathe on his own, pass the car seat test and gain weight before he could be discharged.  They were initially concerned about his hearing but he eventually passed all testing.  He was in NICU for a total of three weeks.

Subsequent doctor's visits after discharge indicated surgery was imminent but they wanted to give him time to grow.At four months old, Josiah underwent open heart surgery.  Once again, he was in NICU and had to remain in the hospital.  My own heart tore a little when I saw him for the first time after surgery.
He looked so small, helpless and sweet.  My little man.

We soon came to realize that Josiah was a fighter, a "Little Warrior," as his Grandma affectionately calls him.  His smile is contagious and his laugh is so cute!  We cannot imagine our lives without him.

What about the Down Syndrome diagnosis, you ask?  DS is NOT our son.  He has some characteristics that are associated with Down Syndrome and is experiencing delayed growth in certain areas but we are not boxing him in a diagnosis.  Yes, we are certainly remaining informed about his growth and development but we are choosing to focus on his abilities and not limiting him before he even has a chance.

I will admit, I was greatly disheartened when we first received the news.  I did not want to hear it, discuss it or accept it.  In fact, if I am truly honest, Josiah almost was a statistic, a child never born.  I thank God for His grace, peace and mercy.  I would not have been able to live with a decision to abort, even though it was an option freely offered by the doctors.

Each time I look at Josiah, I am humbled by God's selection of us to be Josiah's parents.  He is an active baby, crawling around to keep up with his siblings and grabbing everything!  He is also extremely vocal and enjoys chatting, especially with his Daddy.  He is so busy!!  He is a gift...a gift for our family and for the world.  I love me some Josiah David Reese!

About the Author:

Shatanese Reese is a freelance blogger and author of a future book who resides in Atlanta, GA with her husband and their six children. She enjoys walks on the beach and colorful sunrises. Shatanese’s goal is to find the extraordinary in every day moments. Follow Shatanese on YouTube, FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram, and Periscope.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Give it ALL to God

It is the month of May.  Within these past five months, I began a new job, there have been three proms, several track meets, we experienced our first cruise as a family of eight and are nearly finished with the process of building a home from the ground up.  That list of events alone is enough to place a strain on any person.  Oh...and did I mention we are preparing for a high school graduation, a Pre-K promotion event and celebrating three birthdays solely during the month of May?  Yes, I have "Calgon" on speed dial!  These events are all stressors- certainly happy ones, but stressors nonetheless. defines a stressor as an activity, event, or other stimulus that causes stress.  I was beginning to feel the weight of these stressors when my husband told me to give it to God.  Sounds simple enough, right?

How difficult is it to give everything to God?  Are you able to place whatever may be plaguing you at His feet and just leave it?  I have gotten pretty good at leaving my stuff and junk at the feet of the throne.  It's the picking it back up part that gets me in trouble.

God's word tells us to "not to be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7.

Experiencing stress can make anyone take some unhealthy actions to cope, i.e. binge eating or an exploding temper.  What do you do when you feel stressed?  What can you do?  What you should you do?

The first step to any change is recognizing there is a problem.  Usually, my eye begins to twitch and I say to myself, "Ok...something is going on.  My body is trying to tell me that I am experiencing stress.  What is causing me to stress out?"  I then begin to assess each area in my life to determine the source.  Is it a close relationship?  Is it on my job?  Is it an issue with my health?  Is something awry with my finances?  Where is that stressor?  (Can you picture me searching high and low?)

The second step is to identify ways to alleviate the stress, if possible.  It may not be possible to alleviate the stress and finding ways to manage the stress will be more beneficial.  What can you do to chill out?

Could you relax by listening to music, getting a massage or participating in your favorite hobby?  Perhaps you can exercise by taking a walk or doing some cardio.  Talking to trusted loved ones is an option.  I highly recommend writing it all down to get it out of your head.  Anything you can do to minimize and eventually eradicate what is causing you to be anxious is a step in the right direction.

Ultimately, the most important step, is to give it to God.  I have found that my most earnest prayers occur when I simply lie prostrate on the floor and say, " me."  His presence and peace are far more effective than any brand of bubble bath.  Let go of those stressors and give it ALL to God.

About the Author:

Shatanese Reese is a freelance blogger and author of a future book who resides in Atlanta, GA with her husband and their six children. She enjoys walks on the beach and colorful sunrises. Shatanese’s goal is to find the extraordinary in every day moments. Follow Shatanese on YouTube, FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram, and Periscope.