Erin: On Being a CLC

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Breastfeeding is something I’ve felt drawn to and so passionate about since I was pregnant with my first child. I can’t place my finger on the moment or the event that turned this part of my brain on specifically, but I remember thinking about it daily during that pregnancy. I read about it, I worried about it and I found myself falling down the infinite worm hole of the all-knowing Google. I thought I was completely prepared to have an amazingly successful, long-lasting, picture perfect breastfeeding experience!

Then my sweet daughter was born, we had a touch of skin to skin and her cord was clamped right away. She was a little phlegmy and was taken over the NICU to be observed, I sent my husband with her. I remember lying on the cot in my labour and delivery room, without my new baby, crying to my sister and wondering when I would be able to see her next and thinking she must be hungry?

She was given the okay to come join me in our postpartum room about 2 hours later. I remember awkwardly holding her, fumbling to get her latched on to my right breast, then my left one, then my right one again and on it went. I’m sure I looked confused and distressed because I certainly felt confused and distressed. Nursing shifts changed and the dance went on. Visitors came and went and held my sweet girl while I worried about the clock, the minutes spent on each side, the minutes spent between feedings and why it was hurting on the one side?

My daughter and I went on to continue breastfeeding until she was nearly 1. That year was a struggle, it was this strange balancing act between “successful” feedings, having a small and slow to gain child, supplementing and then not supplementing, sometimes having nipple pain and sometimes not. I waxed and waned on how badly I wanted to do this and for how long. When I decided to wave my white flag to say I was done, I was so so done. Everyone around me told me how great I’d done and that she was getting too old anyway. I KNEW that I had nursed longer than we typically see in my mid-twenties age demographic, and I knew that I had a healthy and beautiful child, so why did I still feel like I was failing her, and failing myself? How was I ever to meet this standard I had given myself in relation to what breastfeeding success really looks like?

There was just so little guidance, so little support and so little help. I knew about the breastfeeding clinic and about IBCLC’s but I felt like my problems didn’t qualify for “real” help. I went on to become a birth doula, to get rebozo certified, to be a car seat technician, to be a cloth diaper educator, a sacred pregnancy instructor, and a childbirth educator.  However, in the Spring of 2017 I took and passed my CLC designation (Certified Lactation Counsellor) in a class with many other wonderful and capable doulas and nurses. I felt at home.

In the last few years my husband and I welcomed another baby, this time at home, and had what felt like a much more positive and empowering breastfeeding relationship. It healed that place in my psyche that ached deep down for what I hadn’t had with my daughter. I had doulas, I had lactation support, a care provider that was my advocate and I had control. In a textbook kind of way my breastfeeding relationship with my son was more complicated with a labial frenotomy (upper lip tie revision), mastitis and later on vasospasms; but even still, I feel at peace and I feel complete when I think of our nursing relationship, because I had access to good support and good information when I needed it.

When I sat down to write this blog I hadn’t meant for it to be a story. I had the intention of going over the importance of lactation support and its availability, but there’s so much more than the statistical facts that bind us to our breastfeeding relationships and outcomes. Breastfeeding can be such a duality; it’s blissful sweet happiness but sometimes it’s also tearful worry and despair. It’s emotionally charged and we all want to be successful in it, if that’s what we hope to do. This is why I think breastfeeding success can only be dictated by the breastfeeding dyad. To some, success is 2+ years of nursing with a self-weaning child, to others, it’s 3 months of exclusive breastfeeding and to someone else it’s colostrum in those first few days and nothing more.

My goal and my driver in getting my CLC certification wasn’t to tell everyone that they should breastfeed for a minimum of 2 years, but it was because there is such a societal disservice for our new parents when it comes to our health care system and postpartum care. I want to be part of the solution. I want to spend time helping individuals who are sitting in bed at 3 am nursing a new baby and wondering why it’s pinching or how to know if it’s a good latch. I want to teach our breastfeeding people how their body works and how milk is made. I want to help people who are wondering why their 6 month old all of a sudden stopped wanting to breastfeed and if they have enough, the list is infinite.

I already felt honoured and privileged to be invited into the pregnancy and birth of my clients’ babies but to now have the knowledge, skills and ability to be invited into this other realm of the postpartum experience only compounds those feelings. I look forward to supporting your breastfeeding goals.  If this is something you are interested, please use the “contact us” form to set a time up for us to get together.

Please check our Lactation Services page for information on investments for this service.

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Just Be With Me

At my last client’s birth, I was very mindful of all I had learned with Whapio of the Matrona.  I was working hard to hold space for my client, aware that she wanted to have the most natural birth she could.  She responded to my suggestions of moving to new positions to offer comfort without  much interference from me.  She spent a good deal of time in the shower with her partner close by.  Lights low and beautiful music playing.   As we moved to the labor room from the assessment area, she leaned over the bed, swaying in rhythm to the surges that washed over her.  Later she moved to the bathroom and sat on the toilet at my suggestion as we needed to move forward in her labor.  She moaned softly as she sat on the toilet (a most excellent place to labor by the way – we all sit on that throne with hips open and relaxed bottom).  As I leaned in the room to see if she needed anything, she said, “Just be with me.”  So I entered and she leaned into my body and we stayed like that for a moment; a moment that felt like forever and in another time and space.

Truth be told, I feel that is what we need to remember as doulas.  We may not know all the “tricks” and have not been a doula for ages, but we can “be” with women as they enter that journey deep within.  When she goes between worlds and enters the delta and theta brainwaves, we need to be cautious not to disturb her.  She needs our presence but likely not our words.  She needs us to “be with her.”  She is journeying to the peak of the mountain and heading to transition, but she doesn’t need you to fix anything, but just witness her power and just be there.

It is not likely that I will ever forget those simple four words, “just be with me” as I go on to support other birthing persons on this sacred journey.