What is your story?

The following post was contributed by Dr. James Sherman, medical director of the newborn nursery at Carilion Clinic Children's Hospital.

I had a pediatric resident some years ago who told me the following story:

I left home before I finished high school. And found myself, a couple of years later, living in a shelter and pregnant. The father of the baby wasn’t interested in being a father and moved on. I wasn’t really prepared to be a mother, and figured we would “get by.”


When I checked into the hospital, they asked me how I would feed the baby; I hadn’t thought about that either and said, “I’m not sure, maybe breast feed?” with a question in my voice. “That would be good”, the nurse replied, so breast feed it was, at least on the paper. After the baby was born, I was encouraged to nurse the baby, but had no idea what to do. The nurse said, “let me help you” and got the baby to latch on. The nurse continued to encourage and help me through the next two days. When my nipples got sore, she made sure I was holding the baby the right way and told me that would pass. When I was worried that I didn’t have any milk, she explained that the milk would “come in” in a couple of days, but the colostrum I did have was important to the baby. When I thought the baby was hungry and not getting enough, she assured me that the baby was fine, that losing a little weight was normal, and that the “hungry” nursing would help me “get my milk in."


By the time I left the hospital, I had become determined to nurse my baby. It wasn't very easy at the shelter. There wasn't much privacy and some of the people there said, “It sure would be easier to just use a bottle.” I had a diaper bag from the hospital, and it had a sample of formula and coupons for formula. But, I was determined to nurse, and nurse I did. I nursed that child till she was about a year old. It was the first time in my life that I had set myself a goal and stayed with it to the end. I had always seen myself as a failure.

  • Didn't graduate from high school.
  • Couldn’t keep my man around.
  • Didn’t have any kind of relationship with my family.
  • Needed public assistance to eat, to sleep, for health care.
  • Couldn’t take charge of my life at all.
  • But………….

I could nurse my child.


I wondered if there wasn’t some chance to take charge of something else. I found out about a GED course and got my high school diploma. I enrolled in community college and got good grades. I thought about being a nurse, like the one who had helped me so much when my baby was born, but a counselor at the school suggested pre-med courses. I took them and passed. By this time, I had begun to realize that I was pretty smart, and took a lot of pride in making the best grades in the classes I was in. It took 6 years, but I graduated college with honors and was accepted into medical school in the best med school in my state. After I graduated I matched with a Pediatric Residency at that school.

It was at the time that I met her and, eventually heard her story.

She became my Chief Resident, and now practices Pediatrics in the community in which she grew up, the one she “ran away from,” and has rebuilt relationships that once she thought could never be mended. And she gave all the credit to nursing her infant, the first goal she had ever set, worked for, and accomplished. There are lots of reasons to nurse your child, here is just one more.

What is your story?


Recent Comments

Yes, incredible. Glad you liked it!

This is a compelling and interesting story of the twists and turns that life throws our way. The bottom line is belief in oneself is so important to being able to accomplish one's goals. I too, have seen several young girls who were able to climb out of what would have been a devastating and potentially destructive way of life until they had their first child. Being able to do something so important for someone else, helps you to know how much you can do for yourself.

Wow, what a cool story!

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About Dr. Ackerman

Alice Ackerman, MD, MBA, FAAP, FCCM is the Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Carilion Clinic and Professor and Founding Chair of Pediatrics at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. Dr. Ackerman is recognized nationally as an expert in pediatric critical care.

She has been at Carilion Clinic since June of 2007. Her primary goals are to enhance the health care of children in the Roanoke Valley and Southwest Virginia, and is actively working to do this both as physician in chief of the children's hospital, as well as through involvement with many state-wide initiatives.

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