Presnells witness a multitude of miracles

By Laura Presnell | Dec 13, 2013
Riley and Cassidy Presnell

Presnells witness a multitude of miracles


By Laura Presnell

In the summer of 1999, my husband Billy and I felt it was time to start a family.  We had both just turned 29, been married almost two years, and had good jobs and a new home.

As would happen several times over the next decade, we were reminded that God’s timing is not always the same as ours, but it is always perfect.

Not until a full year later did I get pregnant, only to have an early miscarriage a week afterward.

That same month, Billy’s dad, Joe, was diagnosed with esophageal cancer.  Circumstances at work enabled me to cut back to a part-time position and on Mother’s Day, 2001, we were thrilled to announce I was pregnant again.

Now this may not seem like a big miracle, because it really isn’t, but we began to notice the little miracles that the Lord often carries out in our lives.  I was able to accompany my in-laws to Duke for Joe’s surgery, which I couldn’t have done if the first pregnancy had lasted full term.

The news of a second grandchild (Billy’s brother already had a son) gave Joe something to fight for as the cancer spread to his lungs.  On a rainy morning two weeks before Christmas, I went into labor.  Things seemed fine during the day, but by late afternoon, the baby’s heart rate plummeted and labor stopped progressing.

My doctor performed an emergency C-section and Riley James Presnell was born at 5:45 p.m.  It was very scary for Billy, who had to wait alone outside the operating room, but miraculously, the baby arrived perfectly healthy, and I was fine afterward, too.  Throughout the winter Joe was able to enjoy spending time with both of his grandsons, but the cancer continued to rage.  During this time, family and friends who came to visit him were often uplifted by the presence of the beautiful, happy baby.  Sadly, Joe’s life on earth ended April 10, 2002, the day Riley turned 4 months old.

When Riley was about 2, we thought it was time to add to our family again.  Three long years later, I finally learned I was pregnant again, only to have that pregnancy end in early miscarriage as well.  I clung to the promise of Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

In June 2007, a test showed I was expecting again and this time things seemed to be going better.

Riley entered kindergarten at Jonathan Valley Elementary that fall, thrilled at the idea of a baby brother or sister.  A week before we were to find out which one we were having, I began showing signs of miscarriage again, and an ultrasound confirmed that the baby was dead.  Since I was now in the second trimester, my doctor scheduled a procedure for the next morning to induce labor.

However, Iabor began on its own, and I delivered the baby, a boy, at home during the night while Riley was sleeping.  Even as Billy and I deeply mourned this loss, we marveled at the miracle of God’s creation.

Psalm 139:14 says “I will praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

We named him Christopher Scott and pointed out to each other his perfectly curved ears, his tiny tongue, the nail beds already formed on his little fingers and toes.  His whole body was less than 6 inches long.

Our family and friends were also devastated by this, and though I wanted nothing more than to stay in bed with the covers over my head, Riley needed his mom more than ever.

So I got up, went back to the grocery store, back to work at the library, back to my life, but oh, how I grieved that fall and winter.  I would wake during the night, my face wet with tears.

Lamentations 3:22-23 says, “Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end.  They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness!”

Each morning I would pray and ask the Lord for just enough mercy, grace, and strength to get through that day, then the next day, and the next.

Riley had already begun asking questions about Jesus and about salvation, but obviously this increased after the death of his brother.

He would say, “Mom, Jesus is probably holding Christopher in a rocking chair,” or “Mom, Jesus might be giving Christopher a bath right now,” and I could picture it in my mind also.  Eventually he prayed for Jesus to enter his heart and be his Savior and this was a miracle and a comfort to me as well.  What more can a mother want than to know that her children will live for eternity in Heaven?

On May 26, 2008, Billy’s 38th birthday, I presented him with yet another positive pregnancy test.  He said, “I don’t know whether to get excited or not.”  I replied, “Yes, we will get excited, even though this will be a test of faith for us all.”  We agreed that this was it.  No matter the outcome, there would be no more pregnancies.  It was just too hard.  We decided to wait to tell anyone, especially Riley.

Thankfully my new doctor didn’t say much about my age; at 35 a woman is considered of “advanced maternal age” and I had just turned 38. He did order some extra lab work that showed I had several blood-clotting factors.  He suspected that a clot had crossed the placenta, abruptly ending the previous pregnancy.

He prescribed a blood thinning medication that I had to inject in my abdomen every day.  I also had to undergo a lot more specialized tests and procedures.  When we finally shared the news with Riley, he was certain that this time he wanted a baby sister.  After all, he said, he already had a baby brother in Heaven.

He prayed every night that God would help the baby “to live and to eat well,” so I tried to watch what I ate.  When an ultrasound revealed a healthy baby girl, we were all (cautiously) thrilled.  Our church family had a special prayer for us, and we know many others were praying too.  A C-section was scheduled for January 22, 2009, and Cassidy Lauren Presnell entered the world at 11:41 a.m., truly a miracle baby.

Friends and strangers alike frequently commented on how much she looked like a living baby doll, with her beautiful blue eyes and sweet smile.  She loved to look at books and listen to music and color.  As her third birthday approached, we noticed that even though Cassidy could run and jump and climb and knew her ABC’s, numbers, shapes and colors, she was not developing typically in other ways.

She barely spoke unless she was repeating phrases she had heard from books or television.  She did not call any of us by name, and rarely responded to her own.  She did not actually play with her toys, preferring to line them up instead.  She had no interest in or understanding of how to dress herself or go to the potty or use silverware.

Her pediatrician referred her to a developmental specialist at the Olson Huff Center in Asheville, well-known for their expert care, but also their long wait times to get appointments.  Another little miracle occurred when they had a cancellation and Cassidy was seen within two weeks.

In March, 2012, she was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, and suddenly, our whole world changed.  I began reading all I could about autism, and Cassidy was evaluated by several specialists including speech, occupational and behavioral therapists.

Again our church family had a special prayer time for us.  Cassidy began an intensive therapy schedule, but I truly believe her therapists helped me as much or more than they did her.  They taught me so much about how to work with her, how to help her learn to communicate her wants and needs, and how to change my own actions and speech patterns in order to connect with her better.  Sometimes other family members and friends reject an autism diagnosis, but not ours. Her grandmothers, aunts, uncles, cousins and even the children’s leaders at church supported us wholeheartedly, all wanting to learn how they could help her.

In August, 2012, specialists with the Haywood County Schools Exceptional Children’s Department began working with Cassidy also, and at the end of the school year we were all impressed with how much progress she had made.  She even learned to use the potty this summer, a definite miracle to Billy and me since we could stop buying diapers.

This fall, as Riley began sixth grade at Waynesville Middle, Cassidy entered the Pre-K program at Jonathan Valley.  She has excellent teachers who are incredibly patient with her.  Other staff members demonstrate their love and concern for her daily; most of them have known her since she was born.

She has learned to follow directions, complete tasks and greet people by name.  She still has some behavioral challenges and developmental delays, so when she looks up with a smile and says, “Bye-bye, Ms. Cindy” to the receptionist at the end of each day, Ms. Cindy knows she is witnessing a small miracle.

One day when it was very cold outside, but Cassidy didn’t want to wear her coat and told her teacher emphatically, “I don’t like it,” Ms. Edwards knew that she had also witnessed a little miracle.

And a few weeks ago when Cassidy looked at me and said, “I love you, Mommy,” words I wasn’t sure I would ever hear, it was a huge miracle to me.


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