August 1, 2017-World Breastfeeding Week
In 2003, I started my private practice in order to meet the needs of breastfeeding families in the community. To do this, I left a good hospital job with a supportive supervisor for a jump into the unknown; more than a little scary with three children under five. I have never regretted it.
I started small with some equipment rentals, prenatal classes, and home visits. Two different obstetricians, Fred Shipley and Jennifer Risinger, arranged for me to teach classes to their pregnant families with their practices, using their offices after hours. Providence NE outsourced their prenatal program. And many, many pediatricians listened to my spiel about my services and why they should send me their patients having feeding problems. My ultimate dream was to have a breastfeeding center in an old house somewhere downtown; for a long time I offered bra fittings, pumps, and consults in an upstairs room of a converted house/construction firm on Devine Street.
In 2009, I was frustrated. Industry changes led to my discontinuation of equipment sales and rentals. Prenatal class attendance was at an all-time low, both for me and area hospitals. Sisters of Charity Providence NE discontinued maternity services (making national news). Economy changes meant that mothers were having difficulty affording consults. I was struggling and so were families. One solution to these problems was a partnership with Sandhills Pediatrics, seeing their patients a couple of days per week in their office so they could bill insurance. This turned out to be a very good thing for all of us. However, there were still many mothers I couldn’t reach, and only so many hours in the day.
Unexpectedly, the COO of the South Carolina Pediatric Alliance approached me with an idea. They were considering the creation of a breastfeeding center, a place where any mother and family could come for help. A place unaffiliated with any hospital or pediatric group. A complete, standalone entity to meet the needs of the community by offering a unique, relaxing environment coupled with a high level of caring, professional support. He wanted to know my opinion, and if I wanted to be a part of it.
I had to hold myself back.
I took the time to consider it very carefully, but it really came down to one fact. I have been involved in some very unique opportunities through the years, and have had some incredible experiences along the way. To me, this is the culmination of everything I have wanted to accomplish professionally, ever since I became a mama-baby nurse in 1992. This is much bigger than a shop in an old house downtown. This is a way to really help the community by being a support to families, breastfeeding advocates, and other healthcare professionals.
So once again, I am making the jump. SCPA is absorbing my practice, and together, we are creating the South Carolina Lactation and Newborn Wellness Center. Every month, I meet with a board and management team. I bring to them big ideas, and not only do they say yes, but they have big ideas of their own. It’s exciting to be building something new, and yes, once again, a little scary too.
When you own a small business, lots of people tell you they will send you clients, but the reality is that it doesn’t happen often. As a result, you remember every personal phone call from a physician, every mother who bought a gift card or home visit for her friend, every kindness that allows you to keep operating one more week. It’s hard to keep a business going, especially when the service is new and unique; and I was doing something nobody had ever heard of. So if you have read this far, here is my gratitude. To each and every one of you-doctors, midwives and nurses, lactation consultants and league leaders, WIC and public health professionals, medical and non-medical.
But especially, to all of families who put their faith in me and allowed me to do the work that I love. It was you who made me a success. You told your doctors, friends, and family to come to me for help. You called me into your life at a difficult time, and shared your tears, happiness, fear, and wonder.
PS: Look for me at the South Carolina Lactation and Newborn Wellness Center South Carolina Lactation and Newborn Wellness Center. I will be the one with the big smile.
Thank you to all of the providers who sent referrals over the years.