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Bulat Danilov
Bulat Danilov

10 : The Way She Was

I had beenbrought up to believe that life is always a gift, but it certainly didn't feellike one when I gazed in shock at a positive pregnancy test. As a mom who hadmy first baby in college, I know that an unexpected pregnancy can sometimes bringfear, shame, and doubt.

10 : The Way She Was

When a womanexperiencing challenging circumstances confides she is pregnant, the reactionof the first person she tells tends to set the tone for her decision-making. Avoidresponding with shock or alarm, and be calm and understanding. Let her knowyou're there for her and that it's going to be okay. Pay close attention to heremotional state, and act accordingly.

Thejourney through an unexpected pregnancy is not easy, and it's okay if you don'tknow the perfect words to say. Just be honest. Let her know you are there forher, and ask her how she is feeling and how you can support her.

Don't beafraid to ask her if she needs help with anything or to make specific offers tohelp. For example, you might offer to help with cleaning, finding a gooddoctor, or running to the store to pick up the one food that won't make herfeel sick. But remember to read her cues, and make sure you're not beingoverbearing.

In additionto the standard baby registry, you can help her get other kinds of support bylining up much-needed, practical help. Think outside the box. Food = love, so takeadvantage of websites that allow friends and family to sign up to make meals,send food deliveries, or simply donate money. Some websites can even helporganize other assistance like rides to the doctor, babysitting other childrenshe may have, or help around the house. You can also look into what programsand assistance may be sponsored by your local diocesan pastoral care or RespectLife offices.

It can behard to be happy about a pregnancy that many people see as unfortunate timingat best and totally irresponsible at worst. Even if your friend wants to behappy about her bundle of joy, she may not feel she "deserves" to show thathappiness. Get excited about her pregnancy in front of her, and she may just feelcomfortable enough to share her own excitement with you.

Manyamazing young mothers and birthmothers have experienced unexpected pregnanciesand still followed their dreams. Otherwomen have discovered that, even when unable to follow their lives as planned,something beautiful and good came out of the twists in the road, bringing opportunities,growth, and joy they hadn't imagined.

Point yourfriend to some of the many websites, blogs, and social media accountsdedicated to supporting young mothers. And let's not forgetMary, whose "yes" to bearing Jesus affected the course of history. The Blessed Mother is a great personto pour her heart out to, and she's a powerhouse of intercessory prayer.

An unexpectedpregnancy can be a difficult and frightening time, and it's important that yourfriend knows you are thinking of her and supporting her. Although the tipsmentioned can be helpful, don't forget the most important thing is to pray.Even if it's just a quick two-second prayer, prayer is the most effective waywe can help. Pray for her, for her child, and for guidance in how you can giveher the best possible support.

The author is now a married mother of fourwho works as an advocate for young mothers facing unexpected pregnancies. Shehad her first baby in college and is a proud Catholic who supports life inevery circumstance and at every stage.

HeartbeatInternational provides a directory of pregnancy services, which is accessibleat You can learn aboutsetting up parish-based support for women who are pregnant and need assistanceby visiting the websites for The Gabriel Project ( andElizabeth Ministry (, which have chapters across thecountry. For more information about how you can help, or for information abouthelp that may be available, such as pregnancy care centers, maternity homes,and other assistance, contact your local diocesan Respect Life office. A listof diocesan Respect Life Ministry offices can be found

Trans people may describe themselves using one or more of a wide variety of terms, including (but not limited to) transgender, transsexual, gender-queer (GQ), gender-fluid, non-binary, gender-variant, crossdresser, genderless, agender, nongender, third gender, bi-gender, trans man, trans woman, trans masculine, trans feminine and neutrois.

In the back of a run-down house in Plant City, officers found a skeletal child, curled on a moldy mattress, covered with maggots and flies. She had nothing on but a swollen diaper. Feces dribbled down her legs.

Later, she described a series of bad breaks that left her widowed, destitute and raising two teenage boys alone. Then, she said, she had a one-night stand and got pregnant. She thinks his name was Bob.

In 1970, in California, a girl that scientists called Genie had been found strapped to a potty chair at age 13. Doctors examined her, as others had the Wolf Boy, who, in 1800, had wandered naked out of the woods near Paris when he was about 12 years old. Neither ever learned to communicate or take care of themselves.

For 10 years, Bernie tried. He and his wife adopted Dani in October 2007 and moved her into their house in Fort Myers. There, Dani lived with their youngest son, Willie, who was just a few months older, who taught her to swim and chew ham.

The Lierows took Dani to the beach, where sunlight bleached her dark hair gold. They taught her to use the toilet. They enrolled her in public school, in special education classes, where she got private speech therapy five days a week. They took her to horseback riding therapy, occupational therapy, church and countless doctors.

Dani grew up with horses, chickens, alpacas and packs of Great Pyrenees puppies. She learned to slip on sneakers, climb into a tree house, fill the bathtub. But she raided the refrigerator regularly, smashing eggs and chugging ketchup.

Diane wanted to put Dani in a nursing home, Bernie said. But he refused. By his account, for the next few years, he took care of Dani mostly by himself. He worked while she was in school, then spent the rest of his time getting Dani showered, dressed, fed.

One night, about two years ago, as Bernie was driving, Dani started thrashing around in the backseat, banging on the windows. An officer pulled him over and asked what kind of drugs he had her on. Was he kidnapping her?

At Stones River National Battlefield, Bernie helped Dani out of the car and sat her at a picnic table. The sprawling park is just down the road from the group home, rimmed by a grove of sweet gum trees.

Three years later, when I saw her again in Tennessee, I was encouraged. She had grown tall and appeared to connect with the horses and puppies on the farm. She could gesture for food, throw and catch a ball. She recognized classmates, who called her their friend.

At Goodwill, they let you play with the toys. Not like Walmart or Toys "R" Us, where everything is sealed in boxes. So after leaving the park, Bernie drove Dani to the thrift store to let her pick out a birthday gift.

She let him guide her past racks of sweaters, crates of DVDs, tables filled with glass vases. At the back of the store, she pulled her hand from his and sprinted to the tall shelves lined with baby toys, where she stood, bouncing on her toes.

Tampa Bay Times reporter Lane DeGregory and Times photographer Lara Cerri met Dani and her dad, Bernie Lierow, at her new group home in Tennessee in September. All of the scenes from that day were witnessed by the journalists. Bernie also was interviewed separately.

Kids do better in school when parents are involved in their academic lives. Attending back-to-school night at the start of the school year is a great way to get to know your child's teachers and their expectations. School administrators may discuss school-wide programs and policies, too.

Attending parent-teacher conferences is another way to stay informed. These are usually held once or twice a year at progress reporting periods. The conferences are a chance to start or continue conversations with your child's teacher, and discuss strategies to help your child do his or her best in class. Meeting with the teacher also lets your child know that what goes on in school will be shared at home.

If your child has special learning needs, additional meetings can be scheduled with teachers and other school staff to consider setting up or revising individualized education plans (IEPs), 504 education plans, or gifted education plans.

Knowing the physical layout of the school building and grounds can help you connect with your child when you talk about the school day. It's good to know the location of the main office, school nurse, cafeteria, gym, athletic fields, playgrounds, auditorium, and special classes.

Many teachers maintain their own websites that detail homework assignments, test dates, and classroom events and trips. Special resources for parents and students are also usually available on the district, school, or teacher websites.

Homework in grade school reinforces and extends classroom learning and helps kids practice important study skills. It also helps them develop a sense of responsibility and a work ethic that will benefit them beyond the classroom.

In addition to making sure your child knows that you see homework as a priority, you can help by creating an effective study environment. Any well-lit, comfortable, and quiet workspace with the necessary supplies will do. Avoiding distractions (like a TV in the background) and setting up a start and end time can also help.

A good rule of thumb for an effective homework and/or study period is roughly 10 minutes per elementary grade level. Fourth-graders, for example, should expect to have about 40 minutes of homework or studying each school night. If you find that it's often taking significantly longer than this guideline, talk with your child's teacher. 041b061a72


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