Being a mother didn’t come easily for Stephanie Gable.
“I didn’t think I was a nurturer; I didn’t know what that looked like,” says the Diamondhead resident, who was in foster care as a child and adopted at age 13. “I went into mothering my own children from a place of fear and anxiety.”
After her third child was born, Gable couldn’t work due to her husband’s military career, and mothering became her main role. Like many moms, she struggled with feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt, but she soon found that her kids judged her much less harshly than she judged herself.
“My three children gave me space to heal, gave me grace when I didn’t get it right, and, along the way, I became the nurturer I didn’t know was in me” says Gable, a registered nurse and international board-certified lactation consultant. “It’s these experiences that led me to the work I do today and have helped me ‘see’ and ‘hear’ moms in so many forms — not just their feeding choices.”
SINK OR SWIM
Gable didn’t set out to become a breastfeeding expert. In fact, when her nurse manager at Memorial Health System sent her to a breastfeeding educator course 24 years ago, she balked because she didn’t want to sit through two days of the same subject.
When the training ended, she received a lapel pin identifying her as a breastfeeding educator, which she put away with no intention of ever wearing. But ironically, six weeks later, her husband received military orders to California, and the only open civilian nurse position was a breastfeeding educator.
“I wore my pin to the interview, and they hired me thinking I knew what I was doing,” Gable recalls. “Then the person who was supposed to train me left my first day, never to return, because she thought I knew what I was doing. I had to sink or swim.”
And swim she did, reading and applying everything she’d learned to caring for the women who came to see her. Along the way, Gable developed a deep passion not just for helping them, but for educating the entire hospital staff about the importance of breastfeeding.
“I created curriculums that I still use to this day to teach parents and my peers in how to promote, educate and protect a woman’s choice when it comes
to feeding her newborn,” she says. “I exude a positive and nonjudgmental (attitude) in my approach to helping others. I help mothers understand their options and let them choose.”
In Fall 2014, Gable decided to create the only brick-and-mortar breastfeeding center in Mississippi at that time: the Gulf Coast Breastfeeding Center, located in Pass Christian. She explains that more than 90 percent of the babies the GCBC team encounters with feeding difficulties have tongue and/or lip ties.
“I often get to put moms’ minds to ease, as most believe ‘I must be doing something wrong,’” she says. “In reality, it’s usually the baby’s mouth that is the contributing factor for their feeding challenges.”
Since founding the GCBC, Gable has helped over 4,000 moms through their struggles, which equates to over 4,000 babies and many of their family members. Three years ago, she became affiliated with the Mississippi Public Health Institute and began providing free care to mothers who can’t afford professional services through weekly support groups, called MS MILC Leagues (Making an Impact in Lactation Communities).
“I show up every day excited for the mommas and babies that trust me to help them,” Gable says. “I have been so grateful to be able to provide these services.”