Today is my birthday. It is also the day set aside for celebrating International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs). I know so many amazing, fantastic, breastfeeding-relationship-saving IBCLCs. I have seen how their kindness, compassion, and knowledge have shaped moms and babies. There is one IBCLC I have been thinking about lately, though, and I wanted to share about my mentor in the breastfeeding world, Debbie.
Debbie is an IBCLC who was also my mentor LLL Leader (or "mother" LLL Leader, as I have been calling her). She is the same age as my mom, and she has been helping babies breastfeed since before I was born. At every turn, Debbie offers me education -- by her example, her encouragement, or her expertise.
In 2001, I was a young mother new to Chico, and I sought out social interaction in the form of breastfeeding support groups. I met Debbie in this process. When she learned I had a desire to become a LLL Leader, she scooped me up and took me under her wing. She encouraged me to attend breastfeeding coalition meetings when I felt like "just a mom." Because she believed I had something to offer, I overcame my own feelings of inadequacy amongst more learned, older, professionals. The relationships I had in Debbie and other coalition members was the first time in my life when my friends were not in my peer-group -- and I loved the richness of spirit and wisdom (and passion!) they offered.
To me, Debbie is the Queen of Active Listening. She has a way of being truly present when she is helping moms (and me!). Debbie listens before she acts, knowing that moving in to "fix" a problem without hearing the full story may not give a full picture of the issues. She seems to know how to broach any subject or conversation, whether it's how to talk to your doctor to advocate for your child, how to talk to your child to advocate for yourself, or how to talk to yourself to advocate for something else! Not only have I learned techniques and ideas from her, I still turn to her when I am in a tough situation.
I have often joked that Debbie could do a full lactation consultation sitting on her hands. I believe this has shaped how I help moms, because of her example as my "mother" leader. When a lactation helper is too hands-on with a mom, it is like getting your hair cut and styled at the salon -- things look great, but once you get home, you aren't able to replicate the style. Moms need strategies that work, and this is best gained by being walked through the process, not having someone do it for you.
Being a young mom, I frequently experienced those feeling of being overwhelmed by daily life with little babies and little kids. I was always warmed by Debbie's stories of her life with kids, and the message that, it really does go fast, they won't always be so needy, they do grow up! It still helps me gain perspective on those harder days. I know it is my reality today, but soon enough tomorrow will bring a house empty of loud, rowdy, stinky boys...and I might just miss these days.
Something else Debbie has taught me is to think about things from someone else's perspective. In times of conflict or crisis, difficult people or situations, Debbie is always empathetic to me and I feel like she is on my side; the flip of that is, at the right moment, she is able to help me think about the other side (I don't always want to, but I know it is for my growth!). I know this is how we move forward through disagreements to get closer to understanding and hopefully resolution.
I truly could go on to give a list a mile long of all the things I have learned from Debbie or that I love about Debbie. She is like a second mom to me. What I ever did to deserve such an open, willing, altruistic mentor, I will never know. All I can do is try to offer others what Debbie offers to me, in my own small way -- that's all we can do! Happy IBCLC Day!
♥ four young boys and a boy dog (offspring)