When it came to going to college I knew I wanted to work with children. I thought I wanted to study general education but with some guidance from my parents I decided to pursue speech therapy. They convinced me that it was easier to work 1:1 versus as a classroom teacher. I received my undergraduate degree in 2005 in Communication Disorders. This meant I could get a speech therapist job (generally in a school) go on to become either a speech language pathologist or an audiologist. I thought I wanted to work in audiology. I was so interested in cochlear implants but quickly realized most of audiology is testing hearing and dispensing hearing aids. That didn't sound very interesting to me.
Right after I graduated (I graduated a semester early in December) we moved out to Jackson Hole Wyoming for the winter. I became a ski bum and absolutely loved it. I worked for the ski resort and skied over 100 days that winter. It was amazing. Then the summer came. We quickly realized when you aren't skiing, you're just a bum. So, we moved back to NY. W decided that summer he wanted to be a physical therapist and signed up for prerequisite classes for the fall. I decided to try to get a job with my bachelor's degree. I landed a daycare job. It lasted about 10 days and I realized I needed to get my master's degree. I quit my daycare job and applied to graduate school.
I graduated with my master's degree in speech language pathology from Ithaca College in the spring of 2009. Prior to graduation I had a job lined up with a company working with early intervention and preschool aged children.
I loved my job but never felt like there was much room for growth or advancement. I became interesting in feeding difficulties with children and wanted to pursue more of that. I took continuing education courses and learned as much as possible without hands on experience. I landed a feeding early intervention case that didn't go well. The daycare provider didn't like all of my questions I asked her (about the child and what/how she was feeding him) so told the mother to request a different provider. Unfortunately, it stopped there. I didn't get any other feeding cases despite my interest and continued asking. I continued to work with the same kinds of cases.
After everything we went through to get the girls I knew that if it was possible I wanted to stay home with them. W got laid off from his job around the time that I was 30 weeks pregnant but he lined up a new job that gratefully paid much better. This has allowed me to stay home with the girls. I work and do evaluations about 3-4 times a month. It's not much but it brings in a little extra cash.
With all of the hurdles we encountered breastfeeding I sought out lots of help. I spoke with at least 10 different lactation consultants. Initially I kept in contact with the IBCLC Char from the NICU. She was amazing and so great, but incredibly busy and difficult to reach. I remember one day in December when Lucy's eating was absolutely horrible I called at least 5 different places and spoke with so many different people. The La Leche League put me in contact with another IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) named Erin. She also had a NICU background and was incredibly helpful. She was the one that actually identified the oral aversion and helped me work through/past it. I still text her regularly.
It was through my contacting various people that I realized how difficult it is to find good help. I had so many horrible suggestions and people telling me things that were definitely not the problem. It was then that I started to think about pursuing my IBCLC. I researched it and read about it. I learned that there are different pathways to achieving this international certification, one of which is for "healthcare professionals" including speech pathologists.
Basically, to obtain the IBCLC I would have to: take a 90 hour lactation specific course (that is offered online), complete 1000! hours of clinical experience, and take an examination. I looked into the coursework and learned I could use it towards continuing education credits for my speech pathology license that I have to maintain. I then started to think about the hours. How on earth would I get the hours? It was there that I stopped. For months I didn't really think about it much. Then, the girls' birthday was coming up and I reached out to Char from the NICU. I invited her to the birthday party and we talked some on the phone. It was then that I brought it up to her about the hours (we had spoken about my interest in getting my IBCLC many times prior). She gladly offered that I could do the hours with her. I was surprised but didn't say much at the time.
I spoke to W about it. He wasn't wild about me doing 1000 hours of unpaid work, but he said he would support me and my efforts if I really wanted to pursue it. So recently I spoke with Char again. I sent a resume to her that she brought to the charge nurse. The NICU has approved her mentoring me but now it's up to the hospital. I've spoken with educational services and am waiting to hear back. They were concerned that since I'm not with a university that I may not be covered for liability.
To be honest, I'm super excited about getting an amazing experience and hours in a level 3 NICU. I know from experience how knowledgable and amazing Char is and I can't wait to learn from her. On the other hand, I'm incredibly nervous about being away from the girls. I've never really been away from them for more than a few hours at a time, and that's not all that often. We've introduced milk in sippy cups and dropped a daytime feeding. I'm hoping to drop another feeding soon (yesterday was great with Clara but a fail with Lucy). I know some time apart will be great for everyone, but at the same time making any changes comes with uncertainty. I'm not sure exactly when I will start but I'm so excited about learning new skills and information.