Lactation Careers for Milspouses: Nicole's story
Editor's note: One of the ways Mom2Mom Global supports military families is by empowering military spouses to pursue careers in the lactation field. Lactation support is portable, flexible, always in demand, and rewarding! Thanks to Nicole for sharing her inspiring journey!
My name is Nicole Fisher and I am a mommy to five beautiful babies. I am a proud military wife, a pre-nursing student, an avid coffee lover (again, five kids!), and a Certified Lactation Counselor. My life is crazy busy, much like everyone else’s, I’m a hardcore soccer mom and most days I feel like I live in my minivan, shuffling kids to and from school and practices. (I should add, this is the minivan which I insisted we didn’t need until two weeks before my fifth baby was born. Now, I can’t imagine life without my silver mommy bus! Mommyhood does that to you.)
I have been a mommy for 14 years now and I have breastfed all five of my kids. To say breastfeeding was a walk in the park would be a complete lie. It has been challenging, rewarding, painful, and I’ve cried many tears trying to figure out how to do this whole nursing thing. Breastfeeding was so incredibly hard for me when I had my first two babies. There was no lactation support available and as a young new mom breastfeeding was foreign to me. My husband was very supportive, but let’s face it, he had no clue what breastfeeding was all about either. I knew it was something that I wanted to do, but the resources to help me succeed were severely lacking. With my first child, I ended up in the ER with a horrible set of very angry painful breasts - mastitis. Lucky me, I got mastitis with both my first and second babies At the time, the doctors’ only suggestion was to discontinue breastfeeding and to start formula, with the assurance that “it is just a healthy as breastfeeding.” Not knowing any better, I trusted the doctors and stopped breastfeeding a month after my first was born and two months after my second was born. I was discouraged and mad, but I figured if the doctors were saying formula was just as good, then it must be true. And what did I know at 20 and 24 years old? No one around me was having kids and breastfeeding, so it seemed natural to formula feed.
It wasn’t until six years later, when I had my third baby, that I really started educating myself on breastfeeding. I took it upon myself to scour the internet to learn how to breastfeed. I watched YouTube videos and made a commitment to give it a try again. Lactation support was still nonexistent to me, but I knew it was something I wanted to do for myself and my baby. I got mastitis again, but this time I continued nursing and worked through it. Three months after my daughter was born, we made a big move from Hawaii to Landstuhl, Germany. Got to love moving in the military!
Landstuhl is where I was first introduced to Mom2Mom Global, through its KMC Chapter. The available resources, lactation support, and breastfeeding cafes were amazing. I had never heard of Mom2Mom, let alone realized that there is a whole breastfeeding community out there. I quickly joined the Facebook group and followed every momma’s breastfeeding journey. I learned from the Mom2Mom community, made friends with other breastfeeding mommas, and I really began to develop a love of breastfeeding that I hadn’t experienced before. I had always had a love-hate relationship with breastfeeding, but being part of this community inspired a love that made me want to learn more and help others.
When Mom2Mom advertised the opportunity to take a Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC) Course, I couldn’t pass it up. This was my opportunity to do something different and to follow this newfound love that I had acquired. About three years ago, I completed the course and received my certification as a Certified Lactation Counselor. Around that time, I also had my fourth baby and was overwhelmed with the abundance of breastfeeding knowledge I now had and the available support through Mom2Mom. This ultimately led to me having an extremely successful breastfeeding journey. Finally! Fourth time’s a charm, right?
As any military spouse knows, life can be unpredictable and change at the drop of a dime. After a year in Landstuhl, my husband’s unit was transferred to Baumholder, Germany, a community about 40 minutes away from Landstuhl. That is when life really started picking up as a CLC and set the ball in motion for where I am today. I was informed by a fellow CLC that Mom2Mom KMC was considering starting a breastfeeding café for mommas in Baumholder. At the time, there were no trained lactation professionals in Baumholder and the drive to Landstuhl can be somewhat daunting for moms and new babies. Now that I was living in Baumholder and was also a CLC, it was the perfect opportunity to provide lactation support to the small community. With the help of Mom2Mom KMC and the wonderful advice and knowledge of Amy Smolinski, I was able to start a weekly breastfeeding café. The support and turn-out were amazing! New moms, expecting moms, moms with toddlers, and any moms that supported breastfeeding showed up. I also coordinated with the New Parent Support Program to have them attend a few cafes a month to talk about their programs and the services they provide. The breastfeeding cafes provided the lactation support that this small community had been lacking. It was a great outlet for moms to get together, socialize, vent, cry, and just be around other nursing moms. If you’ve been to Baumholder, you know that it’s beautiful. You also know that when the weather isn’t great, there’s not much to do. Any mom knows that adult socialization is important and key to keeping sane. Those Thursday cafes were the highlight of my week.
The breastfeeding cafes allowed me to get my name out in the community and I soon began to do in-home lactation visits, as well as telephone and email consults. I also did a large chunk of my lactation support through responding to questions on Facebook. It’s amazing how many moms reach out for help through Facebook. I know that I’m aging myself, but if only Facebook was around when I first had kids! Not to mention Mom2Mom!
In true military fashion, as soon as things were going great and life had found its rhythm, my husband came home with orders to a new location. Seven months after the first Baumholder Breastfeeding Café, our family was gearing up to move back to the States. Talk about bittersweet. Thankfully, there were some amazing women who had become CLCs and graciously ensured the continuation of lactation support to the Baumholder military community.
So here I am in Texas, eight months after leaving Germany. We are still getting adjusted and settled. And did I mention that during the chaos of of moving I also had my fifth (and final) baby?!
Yep, five kids. Three under three at the time. (Now you know why I’m an avid coffee lover. It’s a basic life necessity.) My little guy just turned one and he has been a nursing mom’s dream. Thinking back to my first and second babies, it has been a complete 360. It is amazing to see the difference in experiences when there are support and resources available. But I’ve digressed a little….
A few months after arriving in Texas, I noticed that a local hospital was hiring for a Lactation Consultant. Although I am in the process of becoming both an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC)and a Registered Nurse (RN), I don’t have those credentials yet. I applied for the position anyways. To be honest, I had no business applying for the job. The list of requirements was long and I barely met any of them. Not only that, but I have been a stay at home wife and mom for over eight years. My resume was short, very short. My volunteer experience with Mom2Mom was the focal point of my resume, and rightfully so. I submitted my resume and figured I would never hear from the hospital again.Three months later, an email message popped up on my phone and I saw the name of the hospital where I applied for the Lactation Consultant position. I quickly opened it and read through what looked to be some interview questions. Thinking that this must surely be a mistake and they must have sent it to the wrong person, I checked it over again and it was indeed my name. I was in shock! Surely, they didn’t review my resume. Why would they be emailing me to answer some questions when they know I don’t meet the requirements they were asking for? I answered the questions and sent the email back. I thought for sure I would get a response back saying they mistakenly emailed me. I knew my time with Mom2Mom, as well as my own personal experience was substantial, but I doubted that any company would hire a CLC with *just* volunteer experience. I was wrong, so wrong.
A few days later, I got an email message asking me to come in for interview. Say what?! I couldn’t believe it. I’m pretty sure my neighbors heard me screech with excitement and my kids thought I was insane. This was huge! So huge! This was something I had my eyes set on, but didn’t think would happen until I was an IBCLC and an RN. How is that possible that I landed an interview for a Lactation Consultant position?! Those were my thoughts for days to follow. The interview day came and I was SO nervous! I couldn’t blow this. This was my time to shine and show the interviewers that I was right for the job and that I would be an amazing asset to the Maternal Child Health Department.
Like I said before, I haven’t worked in over eight years. I’m sure you can imagine the nerves I was feeling. I walked into the interview room and about passed out when I saw I was being interviewed by five people. Five people! Everyone from the Maternal Child Health Director to the head IBCLC. The nerves were out of control. But, as soon as I start talking about my time with Mom2Mom, what I accomplished, my experience with breastfeeding, my aspirations in the breastfeeding field, and the love I have for supporting mommas in their nursing journeys, the nerves disappeared. I answered all their questions. I was knowledgeable and I was honest about the areas in which I need more training.I addressed every scenario they presented regarding how I would handle certain lactation issues and concerns. An hour and a half later, the Maternal Child Health Director was giving me a tour of the mother/baby unit and going over their current lactation program. They didn’t seem to mind that I wasn’t IBCLC, nor an RN. In fact, the current IBCLC was very familiar with Mom2Mom and was impressed with everything Mom2Mom incorporates.
I didn’t know if I got the job when I left, but I did know that I left a great impression. I was beyond proud of how everything went. After what seemed to be the longest two days EVER, I received the email message I had been waiting for. I GOT THE JOB. I was offered the position as the Lactation Consultant! I was shocked and so incredibly excited and thankful. I am pretty sure I shed a few tears of happiness. Maybe more than a few. Mom2Mom was the starting point for me that has now opened an amazing door. Had I not been introduced to Mom2Mom, I would not have found my passion and I would not have been able to help other mommas in their breastfeeding journeys. Do I have more learning ahead of me? Most definitely. I don’t know everything, but I have been given the opportunity that I thought I had no shot at. I have been given the chance to be the support that was unavailable to me when I first had my own babies.I have my work cut out for me, but I am thrilled and overjoyed to start a career that I have been so passionate about. I owe so much to everyone that has supported me along my journey and, especially, to Mom2Mom.
Being a military spouse and constantly moving, it is so important to have support. Breastfeeding is not easy, especially if you are doing it alone. The Mom2Mom family has helped so many women, babies, and families, including myself. For that, I am truly grateful. I am still soaking in the reality that I am a Lactation Consultant in the mother/baby unit at a well-established hospital. This is my new journey, my passion coming to life. Bring on the nursing babies!
And now I have a message for you. Go for your dreams! Go for things that you may think you are not qualified for; don’t sell yourself short. Let your passion speak for itself. You never know what can happen until you try.
Nurse on, mommas.
Nicole Fisher is a Certified Lactation Counselor employed in the mother/baby unit at Metroplex Health System in Texas. She is a Pre-Nursing student working toward a BSN and looking forward to becoming an IBCLC. Born and raised in Spokane, WA, Nicole married her high school sweetheart, and they are the parents of five children, ages 14, 10, 4, 3, and 1. In her free time, she loves spending time with her family and being outdoors. Nicole is a veteran of the Washington Air National Guard and an Army spouse.