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Going All Out to Help New Parents Cope

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Rachelle Bloksberg didn’t intend to give up her $50,000-a-year career as a professional dog trainer when she was pregnant with her first child, but not long after she began to cuddle that baby boy in her arms, the Reseda woman decided that her future lay with professional parenting.

For the past six years she has served as a top leader and counselor with the San Fernando Valley Chapter of La Leche League, a volunteer organization that advises breast-feeding mothers and serves as a support group and information clearinghouse for new parents. Many of the dozen or so Valley league leaders have been trained by Bloksberg.

“I thought I could continue to work and have children,” said Bloksberg. “Parenting is an all-or-nothing proposition for me. You can’t understand until you have one.”

She admits that she has taken her new vocation to the extreme.

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“I don’t do anything the way society says I should do it,” Bloksberg said.

She and her husband, Frank, a lawyer, teach their two children, Alex, 8, and Elizabeth, 3, at home. She supervises her family’s vegetarian diet. And since she hates shopping ingrocery stores, she runs a food cooperative with 30 other families, buying their provisions wholesale.

But she does not try to sway the parents she counsels to her ways.

“This is the way I live my life,” she tells parents she meets through La Leche League. “I want you to find the way that’s best for you. If everybody finds their right place, I’ll be happy. That’s my goal, to help them find that.”

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Bloksberg’s responsibilities with the league include taking shifts every few weeks answering telephone questions from concerned or frantic parents. Queries range from the simple problems of breast feeding, such as soreness or milk production, to broader parenting issues, such as how to handle a toddler’s fit in a grocery store cart.

“A new mother is very vulnerable,” said Bloksberg, who tries to be a cheerleader for new families. “New parents have to cope with their feelings of inadequacy.”

She recalled how one nursing mother called her at 3 a.m. worried that she would sicken her baby because she had a 102-degree fever. Bloksberg calmed the woman down, explaining that her milk was safe, carrying antibodies that would help the baby fight fevers and give it more protection from sickness.

The satisfying part of her work typically comes at the end of such calls when she has reassured a jittery mother and “you have a mom who says to herself, ‘I can do this,’ ” Bloksberg said.

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Other league members praise Bloksberg’s style.

“She sets the tone for all of us,” said Laura Haynes Collector. “She’s a very resilient person. She does a lot. Her priorities are really at the heart of what is a good mother and wife and community member.”

While she admits that full-time mothers are a rarity these days, she doesn’t for a second regret leaving her full-time job.

“I have learned more since my first child was born than I ever learned in school,” said Bloksberg, adding that she wishes full-time parents would receive more recognition in today’s society.

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“One of the most important things I can tell my parents is to relax,” Bloksberg said. “The dishes could be piled in the sink and you haven’t vacuumed in a month, but it is worth it if you have a happy child.”

Bloksberg and other Valley leaders with La Leche League can be reached at (818) 379-4583.


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