I am a life-long student. Literally. I have never really been “done with school.” Would I like to be? YES! But like I said my career path has a mind of its own. I have what I call non-specific degrees. I’m that person who always falls into the “or other related field” portion of the education requirements on a job application. That’s why becoming an LC was that much more appealing. I am excited about having a career, not just a degree. So, I went to IBCLE’s website and read everything I could. After reviewing the different pathways, I determined pathway 3 was most sensible for me. I already had a lot of the 14 required courses complete and could focus on the clinical hours and lactation specific education. I just needed to find a mentor.
Whew chile…. easier said than done! In my mind, one of the about 5 LC’s I saw during my own care was going to help me. I was so wrong. I called, emailed and text all sorts of people. Some I knew and some I didn’t. I had been a patient at St. John’s Breastfeeding clinic and found out they had a lactation college. I called there and was basically told to just watch the website and apply for our next lactation intern position…it will be up eventually. From a lot of other people, I got “I would love to help you but…” (insert myriad of reasons here). I just kept going, I started contacting friends. Less than friends really lol just anyone who I thought may have a connection. A young lady I went to college with who worked on a post-partum floor provided me an email address for this beautiful spirit by the name of Sekeita. I sent a pretty long email and was surprised to receive a pretty quick response. I was so excited. Mostly because Sekeita was black and so accomplished in the breastfeeding community. I opened the email and she says, “I would love to help you but…” this one was different.
Sekeita forwarded my email to Jennifer and that connection would set me on a trajectory to get where I am today. Later I found out that LC’s get these emails quite regularly from people seeking mentorship and asking someone they barely know for help. Sekeita told me that she rarely acts on them, but she felt something different from mine which prompted her to reach out to Jenn. The next day Jenn and I talked by phone for about two hours. It was so refreshing to speak to a black woman about what I had been through and how it manifested in me by wanting to pursue IBCLC. I felt like she could really hear how serious I was, and she offered to mentor me. I did a lot of searching for a mentor, but the universe brought me Jennifer.
Some people’s road to their passion has been clear and defined since they were children. Other folks, like me, go through life doing things they know they can do but never truly love. I could lay out a long list of jobs in various healthcare settings I had just to pay the bills and in all the experiences I have had, good or bad, I always knew I was meant for more. Going into 2018 I found myself in a really dark place. I was pregnant with a child that was conceived out of a failed relationship and preparing to be a single mother in a job that I truly loathed. I pushed through and directed all my energy into my pregnancy and in June I gave birth to the most amazing child. My son Khari.
I always knew I wanted to breastfeed. I always knew it was important but, as a black woman, never saw it in my community growing up. As an adult I had several friends breastfeed their children and it was so refreshing to see this upward trend of black women I know nourishing their children just as their bodies were made to do. At the same time I was uncertain if my body was capable of doing the same because of a decision I made when I was only 17 years old. In April of 2006 I had a breast reduction. By 17 years old my back and self-esteem were ruined by having such large breasts. I was informed of the impact the surgery could have on breastfeeding, but it was a very cursory mention and not an in-depth conversation.
During my pregnancy I immersed myself in information about breastfeeding in the best way I knew how. I joined several social media communities for black moms, plus size moms, and post-surgical moms. I was glued to my phone trying to find put everything I could. Women in these groups encouraged each other to be advocates for their birth experiences and breastfeeding journeys. I felt so empowered that I could be successful and ready to be fierce warrior to protect my birth experience and nourish my child. Things ain’t happen like that…
Since the day my son was born I have done and continue to everything in my power to preserve our breastfeeding relationship. The “you are not enough” fear tactics started almost immediately after he was born. My body wasn’t even given a chance to show me what it was capable of before it was pushed on me that I would never make enough to nourish him. On day 3 in the hospital my mature milk had not yet come in and I was informed that if I didn’t feed my baby formula that he would be admitted, and I would be discharged. A scared first-time mom, I caved so we could go home together, and that same day my milk came in. It was too late though, I had already started on the supplementing journey, so my body never really had the chance to push itself. I saw multiple LC’s, my son had a tongue tie revised, and we went to his pediatrician to make sure he was gaining as we figured it out. I was passionate about breastfeeding and I was going to make sure I did my part to make sure I could. At the end of almost any breastfeeding related visit I always left feeling defeated. In a world where breastfeeding is the golden standard and these professionals are supposed to protect and support me, I came secondary to formula. Yet, I was intrigued by their work. I was surprised how expansive the breastfeeding community really was. I found myself excited but also wanting to see others have a better experience than I did.
At this time I also became starkly aware that most breastfeeding moms and professionals were dominant culture women. Out of all the time I invested into getting professional help there was only one instance where I saw a black LC, Renee. It was the only visit where I felt able to 100% let my guard down. By this time, I was already researching what I needed to do to become an LC and in sharing my interests with Renee I learned about the lack of representation that I felt I was experiencing was real. I really felt there was a void in the community that I could fill. The first being an addition to the small pool of black LC’s in the community. Second, BFAR (breastfeeding after reduction) moms need to more people to uplift them and be diligent about trying to go as far as possible with their journey’s. I hated that I was told from day one I would never be enough, before I even got the chance to try. I felt so abnormal but not uncommon. I want to be able to meet moms like me and be their team mate in getting the best result possible even with a history of surgery. That’s how I found my road to travel and just like that I dove head first into doing whatever I needed to support the passion I had unlocked.
My professional bio can be found under the "about" tab. Here I will be capturing my growth in the breastfeeding community on my way to IBCLC. Join me in experiencing high and lows. I promise to be as raw as possible. This journey is so closely tied to my experiences as a new mom so you will also find that aspects of motherhood sprinkled in here too. Happy Reading!