Teaching Fertility Awareness to Friends
It was a great place to start. I had two friends that were interested in learning more about Fertility Awareness. Each of them had copies of Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler that they had spent varying amounts of time reading.
It was shortly before our date that it occurred to me that it would be extremely important to receive sanctioning from my teacher to do this style of teaching at this point in my training. I composed an email asking for her support. Thankfully she was supportive.
In addition to offering her support she suggested a different way that it could be done that would fulfill a requirement for our training. In the future when I have a friend who is interested I will refer her to have a session with my teacher Ilene Richman of the Fertility Awareness Center. If this were to happen we would receive permission from the incoming client to listen-in on the consultation. Afterwards me and my fellow trainees would debrief the call with Ilene.
This time however I was doing it differently. I had a date set up with my girlfriends and I was going to get them charting! The day before I had them over I had spent a good bit of time preparing. From looking at the Fertility Awareness books that I have I noticed a pattern in the progression of the material from one chapter to the next. The general pattern was as follows:
Brief intro to FA —-> History of FA —-> The Politics of Birth Control —-> Female
(followed by brief male) Reproductive Anatomy —-> How to Observe Fertility Signals
—-> How to Chart Fertility Signals —-> The Rules of the Fertility Awareness Method
Looking at this progression in list format makes it clear that teaching all of this in one session would be insane! However I didn’t learn that until after I tried it! The above outline also reflects my curriculum for this session with my girlfriends. I recalled as I made the outline that Katie Singer in her book The Garden of Fertility says that she doesn’t teach the rules of the Fertility Awareness Method until many weeks into her class. I talk more about my specific learnings from this part of the day further on in this section.
One important piece that I slightly overlooked was an opportunity for me to hear each of their stories. I did provide a small window for this. I just didn’t think it would take up so much time. We started that way, right after I shared a brief intro to Fertility Awareness and my plans for our time together I asked them what their goals were in having come to my house that day. This question morphed into what the actual need was in that moment which was an opportunity for each of them to share their story. In hearing their stories I remembered that I had come to FA having had my body somewhat ravaged from birth control, misunderstanding and disconnection and above all was needing experienced attention to hear my story and help me to sort through the pieces.
From this first part of the class I received a huge take away learning which is that especially for adult women it is important to have some time built into the class structure to share and hear each other’s stories. Perhaps the first class altogether would be devoted to this. I can imagine the class starting with me sharing my personal story in full detail, all the vulnerabilities, all the hardship and then open it up for other women to share. I wrote in my journal that it is important for me to remember that this can be an emotional and sensitive topic for people. Having opportunity for sharing could help to create a really powerful container for the class and a great opportunity for connection and healing.
The next bit of juicy learning came when it was time to dive into Female Reproductive Anatomy. I was a little sheepish to teach this seemingly basic topic to educated women. I knew that it would be important for me as a teacher to know that we were all on the same page regarding the basics. I also knew that they very possibly might learn something. I started by giving them a pop quiz which they both loved because they are both school teachers. I handed them a blank version of this diagram which comes from Katie Singer’s Fertility Awareness Study Guide:
Female Reproductive Anatomy – Blank Chart
We all laughed a lot because there were a number of blanks on each of their pages. Indeed this very basic information is somewhat foreign to many women. This is totally crazy to me! I need to remember that I too was in the dark about a lot of information that I now see as essential.
After covering some basic anatomy we went into hormonal functions. This was a natural building block from anatomy because I was referring to some of the things we learned in anatomy when explaining hormone release and impact etc. I used the following chart to explore the function and sequence of the four primary female reproductive hormones:
Source: http://drsaulmarcus.com/ Accessed: 2/17/11
I realized that I want more visuals for talking about this stuff. I found myself searching through the books looking for visuals that help to explain some of the more abstract concepts. For example, the egg bursting from a follicle within the ovary is quite an abstract concept without a visual. Later on in my training I will be developing teaching materials and power points. It’s good that I am getting some embodied understanding of what I will need before I dive into teaching.
One of my journal reflections was that teaching female reproductive anatomy would have been enough material for a first session. Their body language was saying to me that if they would have gone home right after having learned reproductive anatomy they would have been satisfied. Good to know! Thankfully, I had broken the day into two session. One before and one after lunch. Stopping for lunch after anatomy was a very natural pause.
I’m only realizing now that the lunch that was brought was a perfect fertility health lunch. It was a fish soup made with a rich fish stock. What a cool thing to include into a class – a fertility health lunch!
After lunch we went into the topic of – observation of fertility signals. This was a very easy thing for me to teach. The learning curve really came when I began teaching the rules for preventing pregnancy. My first learning was that I realized that I have a natural bias toward using the Fertility Awareness Method to prevent pregnancy rather than achieve pregnancy. I need to remember that both goals are valid and that I most likely will be speaking to a mixed audience most of the time.
I found that my confidence with the material decreased significantly when I began teaching the rules for preventing pregnancy. I referred to the book a lot to make sure I was saying the right thing. It was good to know that this is an area that needs more of my attention. Thankfully I was in an environment where it was safe for me to explore this!
I also found that when I got to teaching the rules my students were experiencing complete information overload. When I shared this observation with Ilene she reinforced this by saying that at this point it makes no sense to teach them the rules because it’s all theoretical. The point at which a woman has been charting for a month at the least, she is then ready to learn and begin to apply the rules. Fantastic! What good advice.
Overall the experience was really good. In my journaling I wrote that I experienced my teaching and listening as compassionate and supportive. I was knowledgeable and prepared yet humble and honest when I received a question that I didn’t know the answer to. I asked for feedback from both of them but received nothing but positive feedback. I was ready for constructive criticism but didn’t receive it. Afterward I was super jazzed and excited, left with a knowing that I have found one of my true passions.
Upon sharing my learnings with my FA teacher and fellow trainees I again felt such a great sense of satisfaction. Ilene was supportive and curious about my experience. I am so blessed to have these pre-teaching experiences and the guidance of my teacher!