Early Nurturance

Some seeds have become towering trees. Others are small saplings, the first buds appearing on their slender boughs. Odelia Zilcha describes the seeds Temech helped her nurture — and what’s emerging.

Twelve years ago, Odelia graduated nursing school, and got a job in the cardiac surgery ward at Shaare Zedek.

She got married, had a baby boy. She struggled with nursing him.

“When I was studying for my BA, I did a project with another nurse who worked in the maternity ward. We focused on how to teach staff to encourage nursing and give ‘first aid’ to those struggling with it. I was single, but I learned an enormous amount.

“Having my oldest was a reality check. I had this idyllic vision of nursing — we’d sit in a field of flowers, I’d nurse, and we’d bond. The reality was very different; I was in pain, and the baby was always hungry. But because I knew how important nursing was, I persevered.”

A while later, the hospital offered nurses the chance to become lactation consultants. Odelia jumped at the opportunity. It was a yearlong course, two full days a week, one for studying theory, and one for internship.

“When I started, I’d just given birth to my second, and by the end, I was expecting my third. It was very intense. I couldn’t have done it without my husband’s support, and my parents, who hosted us almost every Shabbos.”

When she finished, she asked to be transferred to the maternity ward. The hospital staff was surprised — the cardiac ward is considered more prestigious — but they approved her request.

For the next four years, Odelia worked as a lactation consultant. “I was zocheh to help thousands of mothers. Nearly every mother wants to nurse, and it can be challenging at first. But with some direction, most can succeed.”

There were the common difficulties — mothers post-surgery, preemies, babies with tongue tie or jaundice. And there were more complex cases. “I remember a baby with cleft lip. The mother desperately wanted to nurse her, but we weren’t sure it would be possible. I helped them that very first time, and it was exhilarating to watch the baby connect and eat.”

Odelia’s family was growing. “My fourth was born last Tu B’Shevat, and I realized my family needed more of me. I quit my job.”

She was still working a few hours doing lactation consults in a local health clinic, but wanted to work privately. Then she heard that Temech was offering a course for “Schriot Yozmot” — women who were employed, but wanted to create additional revenue with freelance work.

She spoke with Ruti Cirota of Temech. “Ruti explained that the course would give me all the basic skills I needed to open a business. Her encouragement helped me take the plunge.”

The course was a huge step forward. “I learned so much about freelancing — branding, elevator pitches, how I can market without being aggressive. The homework clarified my strengths, and crystallized for me how to move forward.”

Odelia created a package for new mothers — a pre-birth session, a “mazel tov” meeting in the hospital to help with the early nursing, two more meetings to help establish nursing, along with follow-up calls.

She also realized that she didn’t want to freelance exclusively. “I like being part of a team, so I’m aiming for a balance between salaried and freelance work. It helped that the other women in the group weren’t seasoned entrepreneurs — we were all employees trying to grow something new. We learned from each other’s processes, gave each other feedback and encouragement. It was empowering.”

Odelia started doing private consultations. She also paired up with a friend who offers childbirth classes. Odelia will be teaching the lactation segment, an opportunity to connect with potential clients.

“Temech gave me tools and confidence. I came to the course with so much fear — and learned to persist despite that voice. Everyone at Temech was encouraging and respectful. Their belief in me helped me grow.”

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