by Elizabeth Kirts, MPH, ICCE, IBCLC, RLC
Looking back a year to 2020, we approached the month of March with some trepidation, concern, fear, uncertainty, and disbelief. What was this virus and could it really be that bad? Many areas began to see shortages of food, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and other items. Parts of the world had already locked down and the rest was just days to weeks from the inevitable. For me, 11 March was the day that I knew that everything was going to change. How much was the question left to be determined. Master’s prepared in Public Health, I knew about pandemics and have now decided that I like them much better when they are both hypothetical and “on paper.” The prevention strategies and implementation work best when there are no real humans involved. This is simply true because on paper we are just looking at transmission, vectors, containment and elimination. In real life, we have to consider all health: mental, emotional, psychological, economic, social, and spiritual. We are complex beings and there is no “one size fits all” solution. As incidence and prevalence numbers began to rise, it was clear that this was not going to be quick or easy to navigate. Although my state and hospital have weathered this year fairly well, this has not been the case for so many. It was immediately clear that the BIPOC and lower socio-economic communities were being hit much harder than other populations. I checked the numbers daily and watched with horror as the Navajo Nation to the south of where I live was being ravaged by this horrible virus. I was again reminded that health inequities exist and are real. It is my hope that from this tragedy, as we begin to heal, we will know better and do better. As President of ICEA, I maintain my commitment to continue learning about racism, implicit bias, and inequity so that we as and organization can do a better job supporting the childbirth educators, doulas, and lactation support teams who work with BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities as well as others who are underserved. As we continue to make our way through this challenging time, I am very aware of and concerned about the new families we teach and support. Traditional ways we have welcomed new babies into families and interactions with friends and family have drastically changed. I have been impressed with how hospitals, clinics, care providers, and families have adapted to make this a special time and I worry about the mental health of new families. As a manager in a great organization, we have been reminded continually to genuinely inquire about the health and wellbeing or our staff. I implore you all to ask with the intent to listen about how the families you work with are doing. Be a resource and a connection for those who are struggling. I also hope you are reflective on your own self and are finding ways to care for you. An eternal optimist, I have found comfort in the resiliency and creativity of humans. We are finding our way and maintaining hope for going back to normal. My hope is that we don’t go back, but go forward with better understanding of our neighbors and the intent to make changes that will benefit many. In closing I would like to remind you of the core values of ICEA: Collaboration, Compassion, and Choice. Let these values guide you as you work with families so that you offer them the support they need and the education to make decisions that will work for their family. As always, I am here to serve the needs ICEA’s Certified Professionals.