My first few years as a speech therapist, I knew I didn’t know it all…but I definitely thought I knew a lot. I worked hard in school, paid close attention in my practicum, and had a really great CFY (clinical fellowship year). I also had some great opportunities to learn in various physician clinics. It seemed like that was huge in my career. But then I became a mom…a mom to a beautiful little girl with reflux.
Of course, being a mom to a baby with reflux should be easy when your a speech therapist. I know what to do, right? Wrong! It was so much harder than I imagined. And to be honest, ignorance can be bliss. Knowing what I knew made it harder in many respects. Lots of the advice I gave parents didn’t seem so realistic anymore. They were still great tips, but it may work one feeding and not the next. So needless to say, being a mom to my daughter was a learning experience.
My very first patient I saw after coming back from maternity leave was an infant suffering from severe reflux and feeding difficulties. She had been admitted to the hospital with a virus. The doctor referred to speech because she wanted me to help the baby start eating better. Well of course I can do that, I’m a speech therapist and now I’m a mom of a child with reflux, right? Wrong! I marched right into that hospital room and got ready for my assessment. That’s when it hit me. It was a moment I will never forget. Yes I’ve learned a lot about being a speech therapist and I’ve learned a lot about being a mom. But it’s not how much I know…it’s about the perspective I can bring.
In that moment, I realized how little I actually knew but still how far I had come. I shared my tips for children with reflux. I reviewed the chart to see what had already been tried and made recommendations for the patient. We changed the feeding regimen and tried a different nipple. But I gave that mom a more realistic picture of what was ahead of her. I told her some days would be harder than others. I let her know what works for one may not work for another. I honestly can’t remember how it turned out completely…but I will never forget how I felt leaving work that day.
About 6-9months later, I had a mom with twins. Both twins had reflux, but one had many more feeding aversions than the other. They were about 4-5 months old but about 3 months adjusted (meaning accounting for being born early). I had so many great tips for this mom and gave her my “new found” perspective that what works for one, may not work for the other, and I shared all the special feeding positions, and I made sure to tell her “never prop the bottle!”, etc.
Fast forward a few years…I had twins…with reflux. Irony at its best. I remember that mom appreciating all my suggestions but asking, “How do I feed them in this position at the same time?” I finally understood what she was asking! Of course I propped bottles out of survival. You always want to feed each child at the same time or you will be feeding a child around the clock when it comes to multiples. But I also got good at turning pillows into support to get the boys into side-lying positions for co-feeding. I realized that by educating the mom on the “ideal” scenarios, the family could have the knowledge of good positions to turn it into what works for them…because every family has different needs. Very eye opening to say the least.
So being a speech therapist taught me a lot about having children. Being a mom taught me a lot about working with children’s families. The combination of those two is something I am beyond grateful for! While I do not believe you have to be a mom to be a good speech therapist, I do believe, whole heartedly, it has made ME better at both of my jobs (being a mom and being a speech therapist). For that, I thank God every day!
Thank you for reading and I do hope you will follow my blog and share with your friends. You never know who may be looking for a speech therapist for help!
If you are wanting a free, over the phone screening for your child, call today, (214) 232-1426.