Lactation Matters is in the midst of a series of blog posts, from now until July when the 2013 exam to certify IBCLCs is given. As we seek to increase access to the services of IBCLCs, cheering on those who are taking up the challenge should be celebrated! If you are a 2013 exam hopeful and would like to share a bit with us about what inspired you to become an IBCLC, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Unlike many of my peers, I grew up around breastfeeding. My mom breastfed me until I was two years old, and breastfed my sister until she was three years old. I remember frequently seeing my sister breastfeed and one of my earliest memories was attending a La Leche League meeting and falling head first into a toy box at the leader’s house!
I was only twenty-three when I had my first baby. We were the first of our friends to get married, let alone have children, so I was close to no one else with a baby. We didn’t have Internet “back then.” My breastfeeding information was limited to a few parenting books from the library and whatever information was given to me by my obstetrician, who just happened to be incredibly supportive of breastfeeding.
After I had my daughter, I was shocked to learn how controversial breastfeeding was in our culture. I had grown up around breastfeeding and it just seemed a normal, natural thing to me. I had no idea there were so many issues with breastfeeding in public, finding a breastfeeding supportive doctor, or finding good breastfeeding information and support.
I struggled a lot breastfeeding my first baby. I couldn’t seem to get the help I needed, but made it through out of sheer determination. I managed to breastfeed through a pregnancy, and after my son was born and I had two nursing babies, I faced a whole new set of challenges. That is when I started attending La Leche League meetings in a nearby town. The support I got from those meetings and the friendships I formed, many of which I still have today, changed my life. Even today, LLL still plays a key role in both my parenting and my professional life.
By the time I had my third child, I was a La Leche League leader myself. I was confident in my parenting, I was surrounded by an incredible group of women, and I had tons of support. I still had bad days. I still had meltdowns and struggles, but I had none of the depression, feelings of isolation, or vulnerability of before. I knew where to turn for help and I was willing to accept help.
As my children got older and I was able to volunteer more, I starting noticing a huge gap in the care of women postpartum. I once went on a home visit as an LLL leader for a mom who had an unplanned C-section one week earlier and was left home alone with her baby 14 hours a day. I quickly realized that if this mother was going to breastfeed, she was going to need more than a listening ear and some information! While I swept her floors, cooked her food, held her baby so she could sleep, and let her tearfully repeat her birth story again and again, I thought that there must be more I could do for mothers like her. I knew that in many other countries, women are cherished and supported after the birth of a baby. The United States is one of the only places in the world where women receive little support and are expected to quickly bounce back after giving birth.
Shortly after this experience, I learned about the role of the postpartum doula. I immediately knew it was what I wanted to do. It was a few years before I had saved enough money for postpartum doula training and my children were old enough for me to leave for extended periods of time. My training, through DONA, at the Center for the Childbearing Year in Ann Arbor, MI, was another life changing event for me. Those days that I sat listening to the presenters, I saw so many things in my life coming together, leading me right to postpartum doula work: my degree in social work; my experiences as a LLL leader; my experiences with my own three children; my desire to work with mothers and babies, even before I had my own children; the hours upon hours I spent reading and researching everything pregnancy, birth, and baby related; my desire to teach people about nutrition and eating healthy, natural foods; and the strong need for postpartum support in my particular community.
One of the biggest influences during my training was listening to an IBCLC, Barbara Robertson speak. Although most of the information was not new to me, I loved Barbara’s confidence in what she was teaching and how she spoke of working with mothers. Although I knew it might be years away, that day, I made the goal of becoming an IBCLC.
In 2010, I entered private practice as a postpartum doula. In March of 2013, I finally became an accredited doula through DONA International and I simultaneously applied to take the IBCLC exam. As a postpartum doula, I have the advantage of spending many hours and days with new families. This gives me excellent insight into the challenges new families face in day to day life, not only as a doula, but for all the families I work for. I love my work and I can’t imagine doing anything else. I know that I am already good at what I do, but I’m just beginning my journey. I’m so excited for all the opportunities in my future to become better at serving mothers in different capacities, as a LLL leader, as a doula, and soon, as an IBCLC.