Monday, March 21, 2011


Yes, we saw a robin last week. But that's not what this is about!

When Rob and I moved to Orangeville, Dec. 1997, we figured we'd be there 5 years. Most people in similar jobs where Rob worked left (or were asked to leave) by five years. We thought Orangeville was a nice town, but worried that there wouldn't be the same opportunities for our children as back in our larger home town/city. We were very wrong---it was the small townness that gave our children the opportunities to have the best start in life they could have.

Hugh was born June 3 2000 and it was a hot, sticky summer. I knew early on that there was something "different" about Hugh. He always wanted to be held, and to be moving, and he rarely slept. During that first frustrating summer, I visited the breastfeeding clinic, not so much for breastfeeding help, but thinking maybe I was doing something wrong that made it hard for him to sleep. We stripped him down, weighed him, and I sat in one of the comfy chairs. He didn't want to nurse, but within minutes he was asleep. And stayed asleep for over an hour. The nurses were great, and suggested that it might be the heat bothering him and I could come back anytime I wanted to get relief from the heat and let him nap.

In December 2002, I had six week old Lucy and was running on empty. I called Public Health asking for a home visit by a LC to get help with nursing laying down. An angel named Robin Berger came to my home just before Christmas. Hugh was 2 1/2 at the time and tried desperately to get some attention from Robin, LOL. Near the end of the visit, she said something that changed the course of our lives. She noted that although it wasn't her area of expertise, she felt that Hugh wasn't meeting speech milestones for a 2 1/2 year old. She suggested we call "Wee Talk" and get him assessed. We had been on the fence for a few months, as he comes from a family of late talkers. I think Robin saw my hesitation and lack of energy, because the next week, I got a call from Wee Talk! But that's not the end of Robin's involvement in our life!

Over the next 8 months we went for many assessments. At some point, one of his check ups was done by a young, pregnant, SLP. I wish I knew her name! At the end of the visit, she asked me about some of Hugh's behaviours, and asked me if I knew about Sensory Integration Dysfunction. I nearly kissed her! I told her that I had heard of it, and felt that it was the issue, but got no help from the doctor. She got in touch with the community agency that deals with this sort of thing and before long, a caseworker came to see us. She agreed that he'd benefit by seeing an occupational therapist and we got that started. After several months of visits by the OT, she recommended that we get in touch with Family and Children Services and see if Hugh qualified for "Infant and Child Development" program. Our caseworker for that was the wonderful Nina Little. Within a few months, Nina recommended that I come take a workshop at the Ontario Early Years Center, called "Raising Children with Challenging Temperments". And her co-coach was none other than Robin Berger! But in this small town, life doesn't just go in circles, it's more like figure eights, LOL.

At some point, probably while going for the Wee Talk assessments, I ran into Robin at the public health unit. I mentioned to her that I was disappointed that I hadn't met my "one year" goal of breastfeeding the two kids. She was compassionate and understanding, and expressed to me that ANY amount of breastfeeding should be celebrated, rather than feeling bad about the amount that wasn't spent breastfeeding. And that maybe, if there's a next time, it might be different. I felt validated and supported, even though I thought I would have "let her down" by not reaching "industry" goals. That left a good impression on me, much more than the moms who said I "should have" kept nursing if I had "wanted" to make it to a year.

My third child, Meg, was born in November 2005, and like while I was in labour with Lucy, I visited the breastfeeding clinic. It was great to see familiar faces there. I would see much more of Robin over the next year, as Meg had reflux and slow weight gain. Despite being an experienced nurser, LOL, I always felt welcomed in the clinic, and GREATLY appreciated Robin's home visits with the scale as Lucy was not always the most co-operative big sister while at the clinic, LOL. When I felt like giving up, Robin gently pushed me to keep going, reminding me that while reflux is messy, it's not nearly as bad as formula reflux, and there'd be no guarantee that formula would "fix" her. She might have been small (compared to the other kids), but she was still benefiting.

Robin is a great example of how friendliness, compassion, empathy and real support can work much better than the techniques used by "nipple nazis". I hope she gets celebrated hugely at her retirement tea, as hugely as she celebrated nursing moms (and parents of kids with challenging temperments too!).

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