Collaboration, Compassion, and Choice

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

As I reflect on the April Newsletter, the word “hope” is forefront in my mind. It could be related to the warmer weather in my region, the declining numbers of COVID-19 patients in my state and hospital, or having been able to have a somewhat normal holiday celebration this past weekend before writing this. Regardless, hope is a good thing. It means a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.

Working in the area of childbirth education, doula support, and/or lactation education, we are often times working with families who are experiencing anticipation and hope. The birth of a baby is the birth of a family and with that comes both uncertainty and hope. Part of our job as educators and support people is to help manage the expectations of reality and still allow for the wishes and desires to be explored so that families are able to have an experience that is positive.

Anyone who has worked in this field long enough has experienced and understands that pregnancy, birth, and parenting do not usually play out exactly as planned, and sometimes even end up completely unexpected or tragic. But even in these times where the reality is not the expectation, hope can come into its own, opening us up to creative possibilities.

April is full of health related recognition days and month long reminders. As a public health trained professional, I was happy to celebrate Public Health Week April 5-11. This area of study focuses on both population based statistics and health initiatives along with recognizing individual variables. A year in a pandemic is a good reminder that public health training is important. In maternal child health, public health has helped guide and direct positive changes for families. I’d tell you to hug an MPH, but we are still in a pandemic. So maybe give them an air high five.

In April, we also recognized World Health Day and Healthcare Decision Day during the first week. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to recognize and support priority healthcare initiatives and individual choice in decision making. Health and personal choice are both important for strong families and communities.

Coming up is Infertility Awareness Week, April 18-24. Infertility can be difficult and heartbreaking. Most families do not anticipate the challenges that come with starting a family and then having it not go as planned. When teaching and working with patients/clients, always be sensitive to the possibility that couples may have had significant difficulties on their journey. This can continue to impact the pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding.

Minority Health Month is also in April. As the President for ICEA, I continue to uphold my promise to make minority health issues a priority. We are continuing to work with a group of individuals to look at diversity, inclusivity, and equity. Watch for more information on our work group. We will be adding a requirement for recertification that some of the continuing education be related to this topic. More information will be sent out via newsletter and on our website.

I will finish this newsletter by noting that it is also World Cesarean Birth Awareness Month. This is to look at cesarean rates and ways to reduce the number. In most countries, the cesarean rate is too high. We always want to balance those necessary for safety with those done for convenience or due to other reasons. Although a lifesaving intervention in some cases, the risks are still high and have long term health effects.

I would like to thank all of our certified professionals and members for their dedication to our families. For continuing to look for evidence in teaching and practice. And for continuing to fight for positive change for families.

As always, I am here to serve you and help support all you do!