lactation consultant is an Amazonian goddess.
We met Joanne in the eighth month of my first pregnancy. I insisted on making an appointment with her because I was concerned that I wouldn't be able to breastfeed because of an inverted left nipple. We were told that we were lucky, because she had just been hired and the hospital had not had a proper consultant for over a year.
We went to her office, located in some obscure corner of the hospital. We knocked on her door and opened it. There she stood, some 6 feet plus tall (was it any surprise when she told us that all of her children had played NCAA basketball?), grandma-aged, flaming red hair, no-nonsense appearance and tone.
Within minutes of sitting down, she had my boobs out of my bra. Within seconds of that, she announced in no uncertain terms that there was absolutely nothing wrong with my breasts, and that I would be able to breastfeed. She then gave me a nipple shield, showed me how to use it, and instructed me to bring it with to the hospital when I went into labor. She also assured me that she would be there as soon as I gave birth- as long as it was not a weekend.
Because the hospital didn't feel the need to have a lactation consultant on duty over the weekend.
This should have been the point where I knew that I would have my baby on a Saturday. Which I did. It was a horrible labor, and she was born not breathing. When I put her to my breast, she wouldn't suck. The hospital immediately began pushing formula, which I resisted until the last possible moment. We were moved to the NICU, where they at least had rooms for mothers who wanted to stay with their babies and breastfeed, which I still did. Over the next day, however, she was fed formula through a tube and hooked to a million wires.
Come Monday morning, Joanne burst in like the Amazon warrior that she is. Demanding to know why I wasn't given a pump. Finding me the necessary parts, instructing me on how and when to use it. Making all the nurses know, in no uncertain terms, that the baby would be drinking as much breast milk as I could get for her.
Over the next two weeks Joanne visited me in the NICU at least once a day. Over the next 4 months, she saw me once a week in her office. Toddler B was never able to breastfeed, but Joanne made sure that we tried everything possible. She also made sure that she was able to drink breast milk. She helped me to slowly get my milk supply up, from 15 milliliters at a time to 6 ounces at a time. She was there for me when I felt like I couldn't do it anymore, always willing to listen and then snap me back to reality.
When I went into the hospital with baby #2, Joanne was in the room before I even gave birth. Every couple of hours after Baby S was born she checked in with us to make sure that she was eating fine (she was!). When Baby S had to go back into the hospital because of jaundice, she was there again making sure I had everything I needed.
As I said, this woman is my goddess. She has been there for me, and countless other women. She was the only person I had to help me navigate the unfamiliar, scary, and frustrating world of breastfeeding- especially attempting to breastfeed a child with severe special needs. Without her, I would have been feeding my baby formula, and hating myself for it.
Every woman should have access to a lactation consultant. I was lucky- not only did I have a lactation consultant, I had a breastfeeding Amazon warrior goddess!