by Elizabeth Kirts, MPH, ICCE, IBCLC, RLC
I know it’s not the case everywhere, but where I live, we are starting to see some hope in the return to semi-normal, pre-pandemic life. I was recently able to travel both for a personal retreat and a girl’s trip with my sisters. Both trips were a little bit different than travel would have been in the past, but they also really helped me to have some needed respite and fun. Working in a hospital setting as the whole world began to shut down was both challenging and beneficial. Challenging because we didn’t get to stop. While people were sharing memes and jokes about working in their pajamas or having a lot of extra time, my team and I were frantically trying to move classes online, figure out lactation support with PPE or virtual, create PACE plans for the units, and figure out the safety of donor milk from the milk bank. And it was beneficial that we didn’t stop because we didn’t become isolated, didn’t lose a job or income, and we had an entire resiliency team helping us navigate this sudden and scary change. Babies were still being born and families still needed support, so my teams and I were still providing compassion and care just like we always have; just with masks and eye protection. The ICEA Board of Directors also continued to meet on the same schedule and make decisions that would help our certifying candidates, certified professionals, and IATs continue on their path with some adjustments. We will continue to allow alternative ways to certify and recertify at least into the fall. We recognize that for many, the impacts of a global pandemic are still present. We also learned that sometimes being forced to change leads to a new way of thinking. Because of this, we are working with the IAT’s to determine the best mix of virtual vs. in person classes. There are benefits and drawbacks to each. As we make this transition out of the pandemic, let’s think a little bit about the word transition. We use it all the time in birth because it is the final moments before labor changes from First to Second Stage. The definition of the word is “The process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another.” When there is a transition there is no going back; only forward. For our families, this is a huge change in their lives regardless of whether it’s the birth of their first child or a subsequent one. As allied health professionals, we have the opportunity to support our families and make this transition easier. Just as we get to help our families, as President of ICEA, I want to offer some support to all of you. Since we began to hear about the possibility of a pandemic and then the reality of it happening, we have all suffered some grief and trauma. It has been different for everyone, but it has been a collective and endemic event. We are all a part of history and this will be studied in the future from all angles of health: physical, emotional, social, spiritual, etc. I have had the opportunity to hear about and participate in resiliency training and understanding that has been so beneficial. My hospital has really helped us to understand and work through Post Traumatic Regrowth and I will share a little bit with you. We all need to recognize that we have been through a very difficult time. Everyone has been impacted in some way or another from the stress of this event. It is important that you take some time and really reflect on what you experienced and how it impacted you. Allow yourself to feel those feelings. Just as any of us would tell our families that it’s ok and important to recognize what we have experienced, we should do the same for ourselves. Next we have to start that recovery process. Each person is going to go through this as they need to and shouldn’t be forced to move too quickly. With the mask mandate lifted in my state there is a lot of uncertainty for some while others have gladly pulled off their masks and rushed into crowds. Both are understandable and ok. We need to all be sensitive to the fact that some people are still scared while others are just ready to be done. Finally we want to look at finalizing that transition and moving forward; we will never go backward because life does not work that way. From a difficult or traumatizing event or a grief experience we have an opportunity to grow. It’s during this time that we can be reflective of our experience and come to an understanding of how we can have a greater empathy and understanding for situations of others. I hope that this brief synopsis will open up curiosity for you and that you will find ways to recover and grow from a very difficult experience. Treat yourself with kindness and grace as you find your way moving forward. In closing, I would also like to recognize Pride Month which occurs in many places during June. Diversity, equity, and inclusivity will continue to be in my heart and on my mind as I serve as your President.