Kelly’s bedroom under the eaves of her house had sloping ceilings and a tiny doorway into a creepy attic crawlspace. I was jealous because she had her own half bath and cable TV. I spent many middle school and high school New Year’s Eves in Kelly’s bedroom, eating microwave popcorn and watching the Times Square Rockin’ New Year’s Eve party on her 13 inch TV screen. Back then, the excitement was in staying up all night and seeing how far we could get into the new year before we crashed.

As I’ve grown older, crashing into the new year takes on a new and more serious meaning.

Some people are approaching 2017 with fear and frustration, but I am choosing to be optimistic and hopeful about the year ahead. I’m excited about the changes I see approaching for my work and family. I want to confront new experiences and move forward with the new lessons I learn. I’m looking forward to pursuing new challenges and welcoming new opportunities to help others.

And I’m choosing to believe that though anything that happens in the future may be out of my hands, God has the whole world within his grasp.

“Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you,” God promises. “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27), “For I am with you always , even until the end of time” (Matthew 28:20).

I am choosing to trust God’s promise that he will never leave nor forsake the people who love and trust in him. We may face many challenges in the year ahead. We may experience uncertainty, confusion and even crises in the new year, but we know God will be with us throughout every moment.

So be still and know that he is God! (Psalm 46:10) I pray this year that you know God’s presence and feel his unending care for you. Be comforted that God is always with us, and he will never change.

What are you looking forward to in 2017? How are you preparing to move forward into the new year?

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I can't sleep.

I've never been a steady sleeper. When I was a kid, I often crawled out of bed in the middle of the night, crept downstairs to the dark kitchen, then sat on the cold linoleum floor and ate slabs of Wonder Bread straight from the bag.

As I got older, I developed new strategies to deal with my sleeplessness. I watched hours of Letterman and Leno. I read volumes of The Vampire Chronicles. And most frequently, I wrote in my journal.

My journal became my confidant on the long nights when my mind refused to rest. In my journal, I could pour out my thoughts, worries, fears, and frustrations. I could tell my journal anything I needed, wanted, loved, or regretted. After pouring out my thoughts and feelings onto my journal pages, I could usually find some semblance of peace and return to bed for a few hours of sleep before work.

Journaling helps me clarify my thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. Writing puts my life into perspective, turning problems and turmoil into more easily managed black and white lines on a page. Journaling brings a sense of logic to life events that are often unpredictable and out of control.

Because I am a believer in the power of journaling, I have written Writing Down the Highway: Guideposts to Journaling for Self-Discovery to expain why, when and how journaling can help single mothers and all women write for self-expression.

On January 1 my ebook Writing Down the Highway will be available by download to new subscribers. Please complete the sign-up form in the sidebar or pop-up box.

Also watch for the new Journaling Prompts page for ideas to begin your own journaling journey.

Letterman and Leno are off the air now. I finished The Vampire Chronicles long ago. But I still journal, and I still sometimes eat bread in the middle of the night.

What are your experiences with journaling? Have you found journaling helps you express your thoughts and ideas?

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As I am busily preparing to celebrate Christmas with my family, please enjoy this post from my previous blog, lizology101.

Have a very Happy Christmas!

I spotted this little leftover snowman after last season's Christmas shopping frenzy. When I showed my daughter the picture, she said, "Notice he's still smiling!"

If a dented clearance-sale snowman can keep his smile, we all have many reasons to put on a happy face.

"We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed" (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).

Smile when you are bent, bruised and damaged; because you know you are still valuable to God.

Smile when you feel alone, abandoned and rejected; because you know you still have God's company.

Smile when you are unsure, afraid and uncertain; because you know God still has a plan for you.

Keep your smile because you are keeping your faith, and know God smiles on you!

Be happily blessed today!

 

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“This is what my client needs to feel comfortable,” Mandee explained to staff when she presented them with Jenna’s prepared birth plan. “How can we make this a good experience for her?”

Jenna experienced PTSD related to a past hospital stay, so the idea of having her baby in a hospital caused anxiety she wasn’t prepared to face alone. But with Mandee as her doula, Jenna could begin to prepare herself for the birth of her new baby.

Mandee accompanied Jenna on three tours of the hospital, walked with her through the hallways, introduced her to nurses and other staff, and helped her explore the delivery rooms. She explained Jenna’s PTSD to the nursing staff and asked them to work together to make Jenna feel more comfortable in the hospital environment. Jenna’s birth plan requested that few people be present in the room at any time, that staff ask for consent before touching Jenna, even during routine procedures like checking monitors and IVs, and that a specific nurse with a particularly mellow personality be assigned to Jenna during her delivery.

It is a doula’s job to tactfully advocate for her client mom throughout her pregnancy and the birth of her child. Mandee spends time discussing options with her client moms and lets them make their own decisions about their birth experiences. Then Mandee helps communicate her clients’ wishes and expectations to medical staff.

Mandee often approaches the hospital staff to help negotiate during a mom’s labor and delivery. “What would it take to get Mom off the monitors for half an hour and take a walk?” Mandee suggests when walking may help speed up a mom’s slow labor. “What would it take to wait another hour before starting Pitocin?” But Mandee encourages each mom to express her own needs and expectations to staff so she feels she is the one in control of the situation.

“You are the client paying the health care provider for a service. It is your birth,” Mandee reminds her clients. “You have options. You can walk out anytime and go somewhere else. You can request a different doctor. You can transfer to a different hospital. You can refuse or accept any treatment.”

“If you went to a restaurant and didn’t like the food, you would ask for a manager or go to a different restaurant. You can switch to a different medical provider if you don’t feel confident in your level of care.”

Mandee approaches such conflicts in a graceful and tactful way during a time that can be scary and intimidating for a mom in labor.

This ability to resolve problems gracefully is an important trait for moms to identify when hiring a doula to help in the delivery room. Mandee describes several characteristics moms can look for when shopping for the right doula.

  1. The right doula will be tactful when handling conflicts and making suggestions.
  2. She will be able to offer solutions and ideas for any possible problems before they arise.
  3. A doula will listen to Mom’s preferences and not try to force her own agenda.
  4. She will work to maintain a pleasant, calming atmosphere.
  5. And a great doula will have a good reputation with hospital staff.

Mandee suggests several actions moms can take when interviewing and hiring a prospective doula.

  1. Ask for references, and call the doula’s former clients.
  2. Ask those former clients: “How was your birth experience with this doula?” “How did she interact with medical staff?”
  3. Take a prebirth tour of the hospital. Ask staff about their interactions with the prospective doula.
  4. Make a list of questions to ask the doula. Some questions to ask may be: “What relaxation techniques do you use during labor?” “How can you support me?” “How can I feel empowered throughout this process?”
  5. Ask about concerns specific to your situation. A doula should have the resources to work through problems and find possible solutions before arriving in the delivery room.

A doula is hired by the client mom, not the hospital, so payment for services is made directly to the doula. “A doula shouldn’t ask for the balance paid at the first meeting,” Mandee advises. Mandee meets with the mom for a free consultation, then asks that a deposit be paid when she and the mom agree to work together. She allows moms to make payments to her throughout the pregnancy, with the balance paid off by 36 weeks.

Doula services are generally covered by health savings accounts and by insurance programs in some states. Mandee requires that payment is made to her directly, then she provides paperwork for the mom to file a reimbursement claim with her insurance company.

newborn-1571624_1920Moms like Jenna can take many steps to relieve any worry and tension before labor and delivery. Talking with a doula, building a positive relationship, exploring hospital hallways, and connecting with hospital staff all contribute to making childbirth a more comfortable and positive experience.

“If you don’t know your options, you don’t have any,” Mandee explains. “Educate yourself. If you don’t know what you can change, you can’t change anything, so know your options and decide what’s right for you.”

Several online resources help moms make informed decisions and find the right doula for their childbirth experience. Check out: Doulamatch.net, Findadoula.com, and The International Childbirth Education Association.

What questions could you ask before hiring a doula? How will hiring a doula make a difference to your birth experience?

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“Try walking the hallway,” the nurse told me, her only suggestion for speeding my slow labor.

Then she disappeared down some distant stretch of the corridor, and I walked alone, slowly up and down the hospital hallway. At midnight, the other maternity patients slumbered behind their closed doors. My daughter’s dad snored in the vinyl recliner after his long shift at the grocery store. The floor felt hard and cold through my foam rubber slippers. After a few faltering trips down the hallway, I retreated to my bed where I remained throughout the rest of my 38-hour labor.

I didn’t go to the hospital expecting the busy nurses to hold my hand throughout my entire labor. I didn’t know I had alternatives to the traditional maternity ward experience, and I didn’t know I could have had someone else there to walk the hall with me.

A doula is a professional labor assistant, serving a woman in labor by providing emotional support and coaching throughout the childbirth process. A doula holds a laboring mom’s hand, walks the halls with her at midnight, and generally supports a woman to deliver her baby in a safe and welcoming environment.

“It’s my job to give a mother information,” says Mandee, a doula who has assisted with over 100 births. “When you know the pros, cons, risks and benefits; you can decide what works for you.” With the right information, a new mom is able to make decisions for her birth and baby and feel in control of her childbirth experience.

Mandee’s connection with a client begins well before meeting in the delivery room. Mandee meets with moms early in their pregnancies to establish and build a trusting relationship. She gives her clients information resources about prenatal nutrition, supplements, exercise and medications; but she asks clients to do their own research and ask questions of their doctors. Mandee is available for moms to call, text or email throughout their pregnancies when they have questions or concerns.

A doula helps clients write a personal birthing plan to detail a mom’s expectations and preferences. She works to support and encourage a dad’s or partner’s role in the delivery room. She provides a listening ear for moms to calm their nerves and help them feel prepared for the often unpredictable process of delivery.

Mandee asks that her clients call as early as possible when they go into labor. She and the mom discuss when it’s time to meet at the hospital or other birthing environment. She will assist at any birth where a medical professional delivers the baby: in hospitals, home births, and birthing centers, but Mandee points out that a doula is not a midwife. A doula doesn’t perform medical procedures like medication administration or cervical checks.

Instead, Mandee focuses on helping the client mom feel more comfortable and relaxed during labor. She advises Mom about her medication options, food and drink possibilities, and positions to make labor easier. She gives massage and provides aromatherapy, flickering candlelight, music and essential oils to relax the atmosphere. She walks the halls with her client mom, assists her in squats and other exercises, helps her soak in a warm tub. When Mom feels more relaxed and comfortable, she will generally experience an easier labor and birth.

“The cervix is a muscle,” Mandee explains. “When we’re afraid or tense, labor will take longer. Women who deliver with doulas generally have labors at least three hours shorter than average.”

Once the baby is born, Mandee stays with her client for several hours. She will help Mom understand any repair procedures, coach Mom through holding the baby skin-on-skin, or help get breastfeeding started. Mandee assists moms with bathroom trips, showering, and getting comfortable to rest after delivery.

And Mandee’s connection with her client continues for up to two weeks after delivery. She is available to answer Mom’s questions and recommend resources to help with breastfeeding and settling into new family routines. Mandee’s support and encouragement help moms recover emotionally and physically, especially when Mom has experienced crises or complications during pregnancy and delivery.

“I am the mom’s support system,” Mandee explains. “It helps to have someone available that they feel comfortable with. I help her feel confident to make her own decisions, to choose her own steps or her own timing.”

newborn-1017390_1920Looking back, I know I would have appreciated having a support system to help me through those 38 hours and the weeks of adjustment later. If I’d had someone else to walk those hallways with me, my journey might not have seemed so long.

For more information on hiring a doula, check out American Pregnancy and Dona.org. And watch this site next week when Mandee explains how to choose the right doula to assist your labor and delivery.

How would a doula help with your pregnancy and delivery? What questions would you ask when connecting with a doula?

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