Photo Credit: Ina Reed Photography
I’m so proud to announce that I am now an IBCLC, RLC! I received my results on Wednesday and I’m so happy to share that with you. In honor of my results I wanted to share my story of why I chose this path and how I got to where I am today. This is my story and some is pretty personal but this is the point of mother’s stories project. This is a story with just a few edits that I shared on a Facebook group when a mother was asking for how we had gotten in to breastfeeding education or doula work. I decided to share my full story with her because every puzzle piece is important to my path to get here.
For those of you new to my blog or story, I just sat for the IBCLC exam in October-it’s been my goal since 2008.
I walked with my Bachelor’s degree in Psychology in 2008. From the time I was young I wanted to work with babies and/or children. I went from wanting to be a Pediatrician (until I decided I didn’t want to go to med school because I knew that would be hard to do and be a mom because I wanted to be home with my kiddos and didn’t think that would be easy to do) to a Neonatal Nurse (until I got rejected the two times I applied to an extremely competitive and highly sought after program in Utah with almost a 4.0 GPA out of high school and with the required college courses). I learned that to keep my RN current I would likely be stuck working holidays, weekends, overnights to work just enough hours if anyone even wanted to keep me on just for those. I didn’t like that idea at all so that was one of many reasons I decided that wasn’t for me. When my son was born I had 2 weeks left of school (I believe a week or maybe two and finals week). He wasn’t able to latch at all. We had major breastfeeding issues and no one really knew how to help us but everyone had a few different ideas. Finally we had a nurse that recognized he was tied almost to the tip of his tongue (knowing what I know now I don’t know for sure WHERE it was located so I can’t say what class of tie it really was but I wish I knew!)-he had a classic heart shaped tongue. The pediatrician refused to clip him saying I must be doing something wrong because he had seen babies with worse ties latch just fine. It was at that time that I started being more skeptical of the medical system and began to learn about where the lack of knowledge was with breastfeeding with medical professionals. We went through absolute hell. I was discharged 2 days postpartum from the hospital with absolutely no way to feed my baby but hope that an ENT would release his tie the next day. I had no pump at all, nothing. My parents went out and bought me a hand pump and I pumped near constantly to try to get something (I believed I had no colostrum because I never saw any when I was forced to bond with my pump every hour while someone else fed my baby). He got clipped and latched once and then never again. The following day we saw an IBCLC that gave us a shield after trying a few things and I cried so many tears of joy because I could FINALLY feed my baby after a very horrible night before when I pumped for hours straight stopping to give my husband a bottle and begin pumping again because he refused formula after he got my milk.
I became VERY passionate about wanting to help other mothers. When my son was a year old a very wonderful LLL leader asked me if I wanted to explore becoming a leader. I started attending meetings when he was a couple of months old (he always nursed with a nipple shield until he self weaned at 14.5 months). I started the process to become a leader and was done within 2 months. The leader that was helping me beyond that first one to go through the process told me it was a little too fast and to back up and go over a few things with her and wait for a few months. A few months passed and I wasn’t able to become accredited because I didn’t have any extra money to pay my dues-my husband was working and attending school and we had just enough to barely cover our bills and a small amount of groceries, just enough but no extra. My group offered to pay but that wasn’t allowed. I had to sit on things for a while and in the meantime experienced my second loss and third loss while trying for another baby. It took us nearly a year to keep a pregnancy but I found out I was expecting a little after my first son’s second birthday.
Things got REALLY tough financially and we didn’t even have money to buy food for several months-fortunately I had bought extra here and there and it got us through until we had to reach out for additional help from our church for a month. We were blessed after the birth of our second son for my husband to decide to pick up a second full time job so we could pay down a little bit of our debt from being without my paycheck leading up to our first loss and pregnancy with our first son when I had gone to work as a loan officer on commissions. It was at that time that I was able to pick up and continue with my application. My husband got accepted to graduate school which took us from Utah to Oregon and right after we moved the paperwork was finally finished and I became an accredited LLL leader.
I was blessed to be able to help many mothers in Oregon through lots of difficulties. It grew me as a mother too being able to continue learning and growing. My daughter came along just before my middle’s 3rd birthday. She had major breastfeeding issues (all 3 of my children were tied-my middle had difficulties for the first 8 weeks but breastfeeding was always uncomfortable). She had a very thick class 4 lip tie and a very tight posterior tie with a little bit of an anterior tie. She was revised by Dr. Ghaheri in Portland where I had been sending moms for a couple of years at that point. Between him and the IBCLC that worked with me and the extent of their passion and knowledge I was driven to complete my requirements to sit for the IBCLC exam. 2017 was my goal. I was able to surpass that goal but it wasn’t without challenges. I saved every bit of my birthday and Christmas money as well as my fees I got from doing babywearing consultations in Oregon to complete my 90 hours of lactation specific education (I had taken my health science classes in college thank goodness because I was on the path to go to nursing school). I did my first half just before my husband graduated with his PhD and he got a job that brought us to Oklahoma last October. I finished the rest through conferences and a couple of webinars (I’ve now far exceeded the required 90 hours because I’m so passionate about learning what I need to know to be the best possible lactation consultant that I can possibly be).
I began my private practice this year as a Lactation Educator mainly teaching breastfeeding classes to help me get the last bit I needed. I had hoped for and planned for a scholarship to help me with the exam fee ($660) because my daughter has some medical issues that should have been caught soon after her birth. Every extra we’ve had this year has gone to medical bills for her and 3 ER visits for my children and I was super defeated when I found out I didn’t get the scholarship or even a partial one. I tried to come up with a plan but I only had 2 weeks. My husband encouraged me to set up a crowdsource fund which I wasn’t super comfortable with but he really encouraged me as well as a couple of friends. I decided I would try. I received an outpouring of love from some amazing women in our community and many I didn’t even know and my goal for my exam was raised in 2 days!
Due to some differences in beliefs with some ways that LLL was going I regrettably had a strong feeling to resign from LLL this summer after being a leader for 4 1/2 years. It shattered me. I felt like it was a test though to stand for my beliefs. I received some threats and some verbal nastiness and some other issues that I won’t get in to due to my decision to resign. It has near broken me. I began my own breastfeeding support group to continue the work of giving back for the help that I have received, especially to the low income women that I’m unable to just give my services to at this time (I’m really hoping to set something up though so I will be able to someday), and the mothers that just plain want support. I’ve been pushed back by several barriers but I will continue in that work.
I have offered limited consultations this year so that I could study and prepare for my exam. I also teach breastfeeding and babywearing classes. My hope is that we are able to buy a house this next year. I will have to raise my prices next year so that I’m able to stay current on requirements and be able to make a small amount to be able to help my family be able to get out of debt except our big student loans and a house. When we can get in to a house I intend to take clients a couple of afternoons each week-my top priority is to my children who are homeschooled (and that’s especially the best thing for them learning about some psychological issues that we’re trying to get answers for and tools to help us be the best possible parents through understanding how their brains are wired differently). I will still do some home visits but I hope to be able to see some more mothers each week in my home office that will be set up just for breastfeeding and babywearing classes and consultations. Every mother I work with makes me fall in love with this work even more. I want to be the best possible lactation professional and hopefully soon consultant that I can be for them. I sure won’t be able to support my family from it but that’s not my goal! My goal is to be knowledgeable and support breastfeeding issues, but especially infant sucking issues and disorders.
This journey wasn’t easy and it has taken 8 hard years of work to get here. I’m so grateful for my hard working husband that is able to support my family so that I can do this work. I hope to also be able to eventually help our family out a little bit so we can get to a better place financially and get the help for my boys that they need. Working in lactation is a total uphill battle because it’s a constant fight against the norm and constant defense of why this field is so important. The hope is though that someday my profession won’t really be needed because we’ll all have understanding of breastfeeding issues to the point that no mother will have to fight for a tongue or lip tie revision for her baby, or for extra sucking help from a speech therapist, or help with many of the other special circumstances that I have been trained to work with clinically, and that all mothers will pass knowledge down to their daughters that breastfeeding is normal and good (avoiding many of the common difficulties). If you want to chat about breastfeeding I’m always open to chatting! I also created a group for people who are interested in sitting for the IBCLC exam someday that live in Oklahoma-no matter where they’re at on their journey.