Being left out of the party

I was talking to my daughter the other day about why she shouldn’t post a picture on social media of a party that she attended because other kids who weren’t invited might feel sad and excluded seeing the post.
She persisted, but I was resolute. She finally agreed, but stomped away, mumbling how strict and uncool I was (both of which are true).
Why do I feel so strongly about this? Mostly due to working with infertility patients for the last 20 years who are often ‘left out of the party’.

Think about it.

Many women spend their 30’s either pregnant or breastfeeding. Most conversations revolve around topics related to challenges of these, i.e the number of dirty diapers in a day, breasts leaking at inappropriate times, what to do with young kids from 5- 7 pm when it was cold and dark outside and they were bored. Lunches and dinners consist of a discussion of the best products for babies or kids, I know this from personal experience. During this time period, I didn’t post much on social media, but if I did, it would be reflective of snapshots of this life: kids everyday, everywhere. Infertility patients are inundated with conversations and pictures of the family life that they hope to have at a time that they don’t have it yet. Sometimes I would complain about the struggles of having a young family and other times I would laugh about it, like when my daughter told everyone at my son’s baptism that she had lice. Either way, I developed a camaraderie with a group of my ‘mommy friends’ who were in the same life stage. We forged strong bonds as a result of learning how to be moms together. We were all attending the same party. How does a patient who is undergoing infertility treatments assimilate in this world?

In addition to social isolation, infertility patients also experience a lack of control. Consider when someone wants to lose weight. They go online, find exercises and diet tips, get a trainer, join a gym, maybe use some people’s own weight-loss journeys as motivation. Theoretically, if you create a calorie deficit, most likely you will lose some weight. Infertility patients can follow all of the rules, do everything that is asked of them, employ experts, and still may not conceive on a timeline acceptable to them. Consider the loss of control and frustration that ensues. It’s inescapable as reminders of other people’s fertility is present at all times of the day. Imagine being immersed in your own fertility journey and attending a baby shower during lunch at work. Considering going home and receiving an invitation to a baby shower in the mail or electronically. Reflect on relaxing at night while perusing social media and seeing picture after picture of women who seemingly conceive with ease.

My hope is that we are all aware that by living and celebrating our daily family life, we are tacitly, albeit unintentionally, creating an environment that isolates infertility patients and is a reminder of the lack of control they are having in their own lives. Of course, I’m not advocating that you don’t post pictures of your kids or your life, that would be unreasonable and hypocritical of me, as I, myself, do this often. But maybe we can use social media, in this case, as a reminder to be compassionate.

I was reading that a way to instill gratefulness into your life is to silently state something for which you are thankful every time you open a door. I’d love for you to consider that every time you post a picture, maybe you say a little prayer or put a kind thought out to the universe (if you’re not religious) for those who are struggling with infertility or pregnancy loss.

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My Story

Day 1 of the new website, and am both nervous and excited to start this journey.  I thought my first blog post should be an introduction to me and how Fertile Health, LLC, was conceived.

I, like many others nurses in this field, learned on the job. Even though I graduated with a Master’s in Women’s Health, we had just once class on reproductive endocrinology and it was so complex, that I just learned what I had to in order to do well on the test. Most graduate nurses that I spoke to related the same experience.

After I graduated, I got my first job in the field as a nurse practitioner at Cornell Medical Center in NY, where I interviewed with the medical director, Dr Zev Rosenwaks. At that time, NP’s weren’t commonly working in fertility centers and he wasn’t quite sure what to do with me or what role I would be able to take in a teaching hospital where they had fellows available to do the procedures that he perceived that I wanted to do.  To be honest, I, being new to both the NP role and reproductive endocrinology, didn’t know what to do with me either, but he seemed excited about the prospect of having someone like me, and I was excited to be there, so we compromised: he promised me that if I worked “as a staff nurse at Cornell” for 6 months to really ‘learn the ropes’ that he would find a place for me as an NP there.

He was true to his word. During this 6 months, one of my projects was to convert their teach class, which was on an archaic slide projector, to a PowerPoint presentation. While doing this, I realized that I loved to teach. After that first 6 months, I moved into the role of donor egg coordinator, which I loved, but still felt as though my passion was for teaching. Also, at this time, my friend, Karen Hammond, DNP, asked me to be a speaker at a national conference. I was both flattered and horrified. I had never spoken in front of an audience and wasn’t really sure what I had to say (that anyone would want to hear). But, I diligently worked on my slides for months, asking the fellows to help me revise them, and finally the day of the conference arrived. I was nervous, but gave the presentation and got hooked on presenting, also an important part of teaching.

After a few years, I got married and moved to Atlanta where I continued to work as an RE NP and found that most of practices that I knew of (or where I worked) didn’t have a formal nursing educator or orientation classes equipped with robust lectures, slides and helpful teaching materials. There were many knowledgeable, senior nurses, but they were so busy, that they didn’t have time to set aside to really teach. We all learned “in the trenches” so to speak and I found that some of the nurses didn’t feel confident answering patient questions or teaching classes because of a resulting lack of knowledge. Many didn’t know the latest research because we didn’t have access to an electronic database or journal clubs.

When I moved to Connecticut to work at RMA of CT, I found, in Mark Leondires, MD, a physician who was willing to support me and encouraged me to be a nursing leader by helping write abstracts and editing my presentations. I was lucky. In addition to a lack of formal training programs, most RE nurses, I find, don’t have this kind of mentor or support. I decided then that I wanted to be a nursing leader in my own practice, and for nurses in other practices, by providing them with the knowledge and support needed to accomplish their goals. As a result,  I edit papers, teach people how to do literature searches and pull articles, and help make PowerPoint presentations.

I wanted to go a step further and create learning modules specific to reproductive endocrinology that adhere to the principles of adult learning. One concept is that learning is enhanced by visual aids, instead of using just a bunch of text. I work with a graphic designer and artist to make my own images, ones that, I feel, give learners the visual stimulus they need in order to remember complex processes inherent in RE. Additional research has shown that making participants recall previously learned knowledge, right after the session, can help with learning retention. As a result, my learning modules are followed by either question and answer sessions or case studies in order to reinforce this knowledge and encourage the learners’ interaction and participation.

As a result, Fertile Health, LLC was formed. In my role, I continue to present these modules and lectures for RE practices, like RMA of NJ and Reproductive Biology Associates, in Atlanta, both in-person and remotely. In the next few months, I will be expanding my teaching services,  but also making the modules and/or the slides themselves available for purchase so that RE centers can use them as part of their nurse orientation programs.

I’m excited about this journey and look forward to seeing comments or questions in the months ahead.



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