• Emily Taylor Yunker

Babies and Families- My Mother's Daughter

I realized as I was looking through my blog topics and looking at other veterinarian’s blog topics, that maybe I should explain why I offer consultations for human family members as well as furry ones. I will steal a phrase from one of my favorite podcasters, Rachel Rainbolt with “Sage Family Podcast”, as I answer the question “What is your relationship to this topic?”


Most veterinarians will tell you that veterinary medicine is less of a career choice than it is a “calling”. It is something that is just “within” you from the beginning. You discover it rather than select it. I am no different. I watched David the Gnome on Nick Jr. as a preschooler and asked my mother if there was such thing as a doctor for animals. I informed her that I would be a doctor for animals. The rest is history. In fact, this also probably explains why I think plants and acupuncture are the ideal ways to practice medicine as well!


From elementary school on I consciously curated my education and my life experiences to support this calling. I was always interested in natural methods and “home remedies” for pet health as well, but most of my focus was on the school part. And there is a LOT of school involved in becoming a veterinarian.


The interest in healthy babies actually started earlier, and it had a more organic development over time. I am my mother’s daughter after all. I probably would’ve followed in her footsteps if vet med had not already claimed my soul.


My mother is Zona Beth (Grimes) Taylor. She has a Master’s Degree in Nursing, and she wrote her Master’s Thesis on the role of fathers in supporting healthy pregnancy and birth. She intended to become a Certified Nurse Midwife, but that was not to be.


My mother quickly realized as she worked in Labor & Delivery wards in hospitals, that she would rather have an unmedicated birth given the option. For her first pregnancy she took some 1980s version of Lamaze classes and had an unmedicated hospital birth. (This was me!) With her second pregnancy she discovered the Bradley Method of natural birth and she was in love. She had a second unmedicated hospital birth, supported by her husband “coach”. Then she became a certified Bradley Childbirth Educator and started hosting classes in our home and church. My youngest brother was born at home (illegally!).


My mother planned to become a Certified Nurse Midwife through an Army Nurse Corp program. Unfortunately, the 80s and early 90s were not a good time for midwives. Sweeping legislation limited their scope of practice and midwifery programs across the country closed their doors. The Army was no exception. C-section rates went up, epidural rates went up, heart monitoring became a non-negotiable, and natural birthing in general flagged in popularity. My mother left the Labor & Delivery wards forever, as she could not stand by and watch the over-medicalization and pathologizing of birth and pregnancy.


Her passion was always for the babies. She advocated for practices that we might today call “Baby Friendly” such as skin-to-skin contact, avoidance of painful procedures, delayed cord clamping, breastfeeding early and frequently for as long as possible, rooming-in, etc. She also strongly advocated for informed consent and parents making decisions for themselves rather than allowing doctors to “deliver” their babies to them based on hospital protocols and predetermined procedures.


This strong emphasis on patient-centered care and informed cooperative decision making is my default for approaching health. It has been incredibly formative for me both personally and professionally.


Through my mother’s relationships within the natural birth community, I was exposed to chiropractic, vitamin supplements, health food stores, therapeutic massage, non-toxic household products, extended term breastfeeding, natural parenting, etc. As I aged, I continued to read about topics in natural health and I explored ideas within alternative health and healing beliefs.


As I pursued my academic studies and my animal career, opportunities to discuss health for humans presented nearly constantly. Coworkers with migraines, friends with morning sickness, attempts at weight loss or clearing up acne, etc. For years I limited myself to vague “have you looking into X?” Over time, I could see what was working for people and what wasn’t. I could see the difference between empowering people to help themselves vs just giving them a list of “more things I should be doing”.


Eventually I realized that between my graduate studies in human health, my professional degree in Veterinary Medicine, and my lifelong experience with natural medicine, I am somewhat uniquely positioned to offer guidance as people seek out ways to improve their own health.


After completing my Bachelor’s Degree in Biology, I took additional graduate level class work in Human Physiology and in Pathology. I pursued a Master’s Degree (but did not complete it) which included courses in Microbiology, Neuroscience, Oncology (cancer studies), Research Analysis, Statistics, Toxicology, etc. I did self-study courses in Popular Herbs in the US and Complementary & Alternative Approaches to Health and Disease, and I did research in the Antimicrobial effects of Herbs.


Most people do not realize that veterinary studies are very linked to human health. Veterinary medicine did not start or end with companion animal medicine. It started with agriculture and food safety, and it continues with “One Health” initiatives in Public Health, epidemiology, pharmacology, agriculture, food safety, research into a myriad of human diseases, and animal-human interactions. I frequently find that the study of veterinary medicine has given me a broad education in life and health, especially in understanding food systems and epidemiology. Ask me about raw milk, benefits of breastfeeding, or coronavirus anytime!


I have studied with Susun Weed and continue to explore her body of work. More recently I have followed Aviva Romm, MD and her passion and knowledge for Women and Children’s health. These knowledgeable herbalists have so much to offer in the way of supporting the whole person and in supporting mothers and women as a whole. I have also expanded by studies to include nutrition that is more human based, with the work of Sally Fallon and other writers that focus on Nutrient Density and whole food based eating.


More personally, I have become more and more passionate about creating health rather than treating disease. Based on my early education in maternity care, I consciously chose a less-traveled path with my pregnancies, choosing midwifery care providers and home birth. I used herbs and deep nutrition to support my pregnancies and nursing journeys. I added in complementary care and personal support in the form of body work, movement, talk therapy, meditation, and supplementation when needed.


In spite of my passion and knowledge base, becoming a parent has been humbling. Navigating ear infections, dental caries, picky eating, sensory processing challenges, tongue ties, plus the usual teething, nursing, big emotions, small bodies, and developing minds has been educational to say the least! After mis-steps and a lack of trusting my still-developing maternal instincts, I found myself back to the basics of natural health. Excellent nutrition, supportive gentle herbs, mind and body integration practices, and seeking out knowledgeable professions as needed, while keeping in mind that each profession has its own biases and preconceptions.


Getting to know other parents as well us seeing my own mind and body change through this transition into motherhood has also allowed me the opportunity to learn about women’s health needs including pregnancy health, post-partum health, metabolism and hormone health, fertility, menopausal health, joint and musculoskeletal health, and mood/mental health. It is a natural outgrowth of friendship, community, self-care, and professional development.


I have expanded my initial interest in maternity and infant care into care for whole families of any age and gender, as my experience and knowledge level has grown to include herbs and nutrition to support people who are dealing with the stressors of modern life, while also living with chronic disease (mental and physical), and while raising children who are healthy in mind and body.


I fully believe in the ability of the body to adapt and heal. I believe good health comes from within the self, and not with external cures. However, my experience and knowledge is firmly grounded in science and reality. I help people find the path that best supports their health goals, using all of the tools at their disposal, both scientific and spiritual, pharmaceutical and natural, mind and body, practitioner and personal.

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