Empowering women to make informed feeding decisions is my passion. Like most women, I hadn’t given breastfeeding so much as a thought until I became pregnant with my first baby. I knew I wanted to give it a go, given the prevalence of autoimmune disease in my family history and the purported protection my baby would receive through breastfeeding. I was a successful professional chef, feeding people organic food was my schtick. How hard could this be? I took a prenatal class and let destiny take its inevitable course.
What ensued could fairly be described as a train wreck! Actually, it was worse, given that a train wreck can be contained in a discreet moment in time. My suffering was ongoing. A healthy pregnancy progressed to a complicated delivery and immediate separation from my baby boy. Following a NICU stint I found myself home with my son for less than 24 hours before heading to the ER with a raging bilateral mastitis.
My determination to breastfeed was being tested as I had never been tested before. Deeply cracked nipples, fatigue, stress about the well-being of my son and a tortured relationship with a breast pump were my reality. Consistent, helpful information and support were hard to find. I felt as though I didn’t even know the right questions to ask to get the information I needed. In a nutshell, I was overwhelmed by the challenges of being a new mom struggling with breastfeeding. I had successfully launched a 5-star fine-dining restaurant in my career as a chef and was defeated by the simple process of feeding my little boy.
I sought help from my OB, lactation consultants and La Leche League. I will never forget the kindness of Becky, the LLL Leader who came to my home and took the time to show me the way to dig out from the pain and the isolation. Thank you, Becky!! Somehow, I persevered. Somehow, my son figured it out. We found our footing and our relationship grew into something that felt normal and healthy. But, boy, was it a long road to hoe! Parenting is the most humbling of occupations.
Once the dust settled, I wanted to give back, to pay it forward so to speak. I had been taking advantage of mother to mother support groups and now I wanted to offer my experience and wisdom to other moms that were struggling as I had. So, I started volunteering and I started studying. I became accredited as a Group Leader and went on for a number of years to facilitate meetings in Dedham and Boston and to provide hands-on and phone support to area mothers facing their own unique feeding-related challenges.
Then, one day, I got a phone call from Dot Norcross, IBCLC; President and Owner of Lactation Care, Inc., the Boston area’s premier private practice clinic providing lactation services. She wanted to know if I might like to get paid to do the important work I was doing as a volunteer. Destiny, it seemed, wasn’t finished with me. I went on to join Dot and her crew of amazing lactation consultants as an apprentice of sorts. Under Dot’s mentoring, I became board certified as an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant in 2009. I learned from the best in Boston, over a 10-year period, the art and discipline of coaching lactating women to find their groove.
During my years at Lactation Care I was witness, coach and confidant to thousands of women. I became aware of the myriad of personal, physical, economic and structural challenges breastfeeding women can and do encounter every day. We live in a culture that isn’t easy on mothers. Breastfeeding is never simple here. It becomes complicated by our birthing practices and lack of paid family leave. For most women, breastfeeding in its elemental form simply isn’t an option. Work and breast pumps and bottle feeding are requisite parts of the equation for most women. I have the privilege of helping them find their own path and writing their own story.
I have the best job, one I couldn’t even imagine all those years ago before my son was born. Feeding people is still my calling, but now the menu options are greatly simplified.
And now my story takes another turn. I am launching my own private practice providing in-home lactation consultation services. I will always remember the wise women and the mothers who came before me, and guided me. I look forward to the women I have yet to meet.