Compassion and Empathy

by Elizabeth Kirts Smith, MPH, ICCE, IBCLC, RLC

In May, there is a lot of focus on Mothers. Many, but not all countries celebrate Mother’s Day some time during the month of May, although it is also celebrated in some countries and cultures during a different month. Sometimes thought of as a “commercial holiday” and a chance for companies to make money, celebrating moms is way to recognize all that goes into pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and parenthood.

Mother’s Day can also be a day of many emotions. Many families are unable to have children, have lost children, or have had their parenting dream alter for many reasons. As with so many things, we are balancing the joy and excitement for one with the sorrow and sadness of another. Remembering to be compassionate and empathetic in working with families can go a long way in supporting them through their situation.

For some women, becoming a mom is one of the most cherished events of their life. Some moms come into parenthood reluctantly or unexpectedly. No matter what the situation, it is a transformational event that leaves a lasting impact on the person.

May also has International Bereaved Mother Day and Maternal Mental Health Week. Again, reminders that some of our families are experiencing loss of dreams, expectations, or experiences. As professionals working with individuals and families we can be a resource and people find the support needed to move forward and heal.

As I write this, I think about my commitment to equity and inclusivity. Not all birthing parents identify as female. In this changing world, how can I, you, we, balance the need to support all birthing families with the need to recognize women? At an ILCA conference a few years ago, in a presentation by Trevor MacDonald, the question was brought up about dropping the word mom and just using non-gendered language. He very eloquently and compassionately stated that we should not do that because women have traditionally been suppressed and to take that honor of being a mom from them would not be ok. Until language catches up with our current world, we need to use more words rather than fewer to include as many people as we can in our education and teaching. We need to be aware of the parents we encounter and their situations. And, most importantly, we need to be able to have the hard conversations that are critical to growth and understanding. It’s balancing the individual and the population as a whole. The board of directors for ICEA continues to make decisions and changes through a lens of equity and inclusivity.

In addition to working on finding ways to include all families, we continue to work on the certifications and programs. We are committed to providing the resources and skills so that our certified professionals can do their best. We have had a lot of questions about conference this year. We moved to holding a full conference every other year so our next one will be in 2022. Watch for more information. This year we are putting the effort into webinars so that CEs can be earned from home.

Finally, I would like to welcome Caitlin Smith as our new Executive Director. She will be replacing Katesha Phillips who has taken a new position. We wish Katesha the best and thank her for all she did for ICEA.  The couple times I have met with Caitlin in the transition have given me confidence that she will be wonderful in this position.

As always, on behalf of the board of directors, let us know what we can do to help you be successful. We are here to serve you in your professional journey.