Guided journaling, giving back and gaining wisdom – Candice’s story
Last year just before Christmas, Candice Ouellet was released from the Lois Hole Hospital for Women after completing eight weeks of bedrest. She was being monitored for cautionary purposes regarding her pregnancy.
In early January, she was able to return to the hospital from her home in Devon to give birth naturally and safely to her fourth child—a happy, healthy baby boy.
But, as Candice recognizes, the story could have easily had a different ending.
“Chances were so low that things would work out as nicely as they did,” she said. And she decided to share her appreciation in several forms.
One form was a donation. Candice was inspired to give back to the Spiritual Office, supporting the work of Cheryl Krueger, Spiritual Care Practitioner at the Lois Hole Hospital for Women. Cheryl has been described by many as ‘wonderful, ‘a great listener,’ ‘someone who genuinely cares,’ and someone who has ‘such a heart for people.’
Cheryl was instrumental in leading the “Baby ‘N Me” guided journal program for pregnancy bedrest, with support from both the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation and the Lois Hole Hospital Women’s Society.
The journals are aimed at addressing an expectant mother’s mental health while on bedrest, as the experience can be very draining and can often lead to conditions such as depression
Learn more about the journals in “Low Tech, High Touch”
Knowing she would be on bedrest for a while, Candice decided she wanted to be productive with her time, helping others and using the time to educate herself in new ways. For starters, she wanted to limit her Netflix time (to which several people jokingly wished her luck).
And she did indeed pursue other beneficial activities, such as making numerous baby blankets for her parents’ church, reading and listening to podcasts, learning about nutrition, and offering her assistance to Cheryl for however she could lend a hand.
Part of Candice’s goal to better herself was so that she could better help those around her. “I learned to put routines in my day, and look at how I could do things for other people, too,” she said.
During Candice’s stay, the guided journaling also helped facilitate much personal learning.
The “Baby ‘N Me” journals include multiple activities aimed at promoting mental health and self-reflection, such as pages to track one’s moods throughout an extended hospital stay, make promises to oneself or one’s future baby, write love notes, and outline what can and cannot be changed.
Candice found that last portion particularly helpful. She recalls the amount of emphasis she placed on the ‘word of strength’ she chose: “SURRENDER.”
Retaining control can be a momentous challenge for any expectant mother subjected to bedrest, but especially so for someone like Candice, who likes to stay organized. In regard to her eight-week stay (which she admitted was “kind of like jail, in some ways,”), the journaling helped her realize she had to surrender to be at peace. She also credits her faith for helping her through, trusting that God had a plan.
“There are portions where you’re very much not in control, and the outcome would be what it would be, and I had to be at peace with that. It was a learning experience for me, I had to move forward no matter what. To control the things I could and let go of the things I couldn’t.”
That was the other way Candice wished to express her appreciation—by sharing her own perspective, learnings, and advice for women going through something similar. For the many people in Candice’s life and even the strangers who helped support her and her family (with childcare, meals, notes, calls, visits, and more), Candice wanted to pay it forward and help those she could.
Cheryl also strongly recommended another exercise in the journal, which is to consider one’s answer to the question, “What do I wish someone would say to me?”
“I realized that if someone asked me, “How can I help?” that was always so simple and helpful. For me, there was so much to figure out in terms of childcare for the kids (especially since my husband was still working part of the time) and so many people ended up helping out. So that’s something I try to ask of people in need.”
She added that, as a Christian, another very helpful exercise was to consider, “How can God use you through this?” For Candice, that meant making connections with people, being a light in a dark time, and always asking herself, “What can I learn from this challenge?”
“I really liked thinking about that: what can I learn from this?” - Candice Ouellet
As time has gone on, Candice has often found herself feeling grateful but also wondering, “Why? Why did it work out the way it did for me?”. She recognizes that many others have babies arrive very prematurely and need to stay in the NICU, or go through other, harsher circumstances. That’s another reason she donated, to help those women.
She’s also realized more and more that one’s support system is crucial—especially in the context of COVID. In her mind, the journals are another way of providing support, beyond one’s family and friends chipping in.
Candice wanted to offer the following advice:
“Focus on your support system, and share how you’re feeling. Stay hopeful and positive. It’s ok to feel worried and anxious, but don’t stay there.”
Leaning on the many kind souls around her, Candice was lucky to be able to resist ‘staying there.’ She is now fortunate enough to be at home watching over their “adventurous little guy,” who can often be found climbing—sometimes ending up on surprisingly high surfaces—and being watched over by his three adoring sisters (his other ‘little mothers).
She remains thankful for all those who supported her—thankful for the many wonderful nurses on the antepartum unit as well as countless other medical staff from during her stay, thankful for the steady strength provided by her faith, and thankful for the various supports provided by the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation.
Thank you so much to Candice for sharing her story and perspective, giving back to the hospital, and always giving back to her community.