What has been one of your most memorable experiences as an IBCLC?
Maya: At the 2008 ILCA conference, I sat at the same table as Kathy Parkes one day for lunch. I was reading a book about breastfeeding in Russian. We started to talk and Kathy encouraged me to get more information about breastfeeding support in my former home. I started looking for information on forums and talking to different people. We exchanged information. That was how the idea was born for me to take a trip to my home-town of Minsk.
Theresa: We make quite a pair, Maya and I. She was raised in Belarus, but lived most of her adult life in Ohio. I was raised in Michigan, but lived most of my adult life in Moscow, Minsk and Kiev. It took just a few letters and one brief meeting for us to realize our shared vision – to foster the exchange of information and resources with Russian-speakers who are passionate about breastfeeding. Maya’s first visit to Minsk and Moscow in 2009 brought together a few dozen like-minded women.
Maya: I saw how many breastfeeding supporters had experience and knowledge breastfeeding their own babies, but how limited was their access to evidence-based information. The information provided by many doctors and nurses was very poor.
Theresa: After Maya’s presentation, for the first time I really understood what ‘IBCLC’ meant. I was amazed to discover that I’d accumulated enough hours as a peer counselor to sit for the 2010 exam. With Maya’s encouragement, I sent in my application. We shared a room at the ILCA conference in San Antonio. I applauded as she received two awards – Each One Reach One, and Above and Beyond. A few days later, she stood outside the room as I sat the exam.
Maya: That first year, I was the IBLCE Coordinator for 4 countries where the Russian-speaking potential candidates lived. Only Theresa and Sandra Lase (Latvia) took the exam. I was so proud that they both passed. I visited Moscow a second time in October 2010. That time, there were more than 100 participants from 43 cities, representing five countries.
Theresa: The next step was to work on how to bring the exam to the Russian-speaking consultants. We worked hard to establish an exam site in Moscow and get the Russian-speaking candidates ready to take the exam in English. You can’t imagine the Skype sessions! Maya was tirelessly answering questions for the dozen women preparing for the exam. The consultants in Moscow met regularly for “lactation English” lessons, using lactation textbooks donated by MILCC, book publishers and private donations.
As the results were being posted, we all gathered around our computers – scattered across multiple time zones and continents – to hear the results. In the end, we had quite Skype celebration: 12 new IBCLCs! A total of 8 in Russia, 1 in Belarus, 1 in Ukraine and 2 in Latvia. Some had scored in the 80-90 percentiles. Even the complaints of naysayers, who opposed the introduction of the exam in Russia, could not dampen their sense of accomplishment.
Maya: This time I get to see Moscow in the spring. For the 2012 conference in Russia, Jack Newman will speak to an expected crowd of 170 this April. It’s so nice to see that the local associations of consultants are growing and dreaming bigger every year.
Theresa: Now that my family has moved to New Zealand, I don’t know when I’ll be able to visit my dear friends and colleagues next. But, this experience has taught me that distance really isn’t an issue with modern technology. Maya and I will continue to offer our support and encouragement – now on three continents!
Maya Bolman lives in Cleveland, Ohio. She was born and raised in Minsk, Belarus.
Maya has been an IBCLC since 2001. Currently she works at Cleveland Clinic
Hillcrest Hospital as the lactation consultant as well as in a private
pediatric practice. Maya started working with breastfeeding supporters in the
Former Soviet Union countries back in 2008. She made two trips to Moscow, Russia
and Minsk, Belarus to conduct seminars about breastfeeding in 2009 and to
present at the First Conference of NFCA (Natural Feeding Consultants
Association) of Russia in 2010. The highlight of both trips was meeting many wonderful and talented women who are very passionate about breastfeeding. Maya has three wonderful children and a very supportive husband.
Theresa Yaroshevich first came to Russia in 1994 to teach English for “just one year” and left 17 years later with a Russian husband and three bi-lingual children. Her experience giving birth in a Moscow ‘birth-house’ inspired her to become a peer counselor and eventually an IBCLC. Theresa founded the 200-member Moscow Mommy Milk Meet-up (Russia) & a smaller group in Minsk, Belarus — both of which later became the first LLL groups in those countries. Her favorite part of working in a multicultural context is savoring how motherhood can be at the same time unique and universal. As a trailing spouse, she has organised 5 relocations in 4 countries in 6 years. Her children are currently learning to run barefoot in New Zealand, and hope to master the Kiwi accent.