Before I started co-teaching the bebo mia Fertility Support Course I had always worked one-on-one with individuals living with fertility issues, both as a yoga therapist and a fertility doula. Inspired by Natasha’s amazing fertility support groups recently decided to launch a Mind-Body-Fertility Support Group on my own here in Brussels. As my course is wrapping up Natasha asked me to reflect on my experience working with fertility clients one-on-one versus group settings. I was happy to oblige and share my experiences with all of you who are currently or thinking about becoming Fertility Support workers.
Balance and Boundaries With Fertility Clients
Working privately with fertility clients certainly has its benefits. I love being able to have a schedule that works best for me, limiting night and weekend appointments. The clients I work with are often undergoing fertility treatment on tight, often changing schedules. Working one-on-one with me allows us to have sessions around these sessions, such as a restorative yoga session with visualization right before an extraction. I love being able to offer my clients this personalized service and I try to whenever I can. Yet it comes with its own challenges, including the need to set strong boundaries so I don’t burn myself out, and respect my own schedule. There are times where I have to say no to clients to maintain my own boundaries and sense of well being, yet I always feel bad when I do. The intimate and private nature of one-on-one sessions often means I really need to keep my own needs in check.
Group Dynamics are Both Uplifting and Uniquely Challenging.
One thing that has been illuminating in the group is the different fertility paths people are on. I have clients with primary and secondary fertility. Clients who have experienced pregnancy loss. Clients with partners and clients trying to conceive without a partner. Before the course started I was worried about this dynamic, how would these diverse women get along? Would they compete with each other? Have anything to talk about?
It turns out this group dynamic has been great! My clients are sharing enthusiastically sharing resources with each other. Empathetic listening to each other and providing support. Rooting for each other each step of the way.
This dynamic isn’t without its challenges. On the second week of the course one of my clients dealing with secondary infertility messaged me a few hours before class. Her husband was running late and would it be ok if she brought her 6 year old daughter along. As a mother myself I was sympathetic, I know how frustrating it can be to have childcare needs bump up against my self care practices. In a private session I would have happily obliged. Yet I didn’t think it was fair to the other students, who chose this course to have a time each week to NOT be confronted with other’s children. Unlike a private session I had to balance the individual’s needs AND the needs of the group. Fortunately we found a solution that helped meet EVERYONE’s needs, but this experience reminded me the challenge of such work.
The Challenge of Holding Space for a Range of Emotions
Internally, one of the challenges for me is how I am rooting for my clients. Whenever I take on fertility clients I am rooting for them to get pregnant as well as find peace in their current situation. Hearing from clients that they are pregnant is one of the best feelings in the world. Nothing will beat the day I got such news from a clients THE DAY my own son was born! Yet in a group I know such news will also be a challenge. I will have to hold space for the joy that comes with pregnancy news and the mix of emotions I know the other students will feel. While this hasn’t happened yet, I plan on providing an open space for all emotions when it does. Holding space for this work is always challenging, whether it is for one person’s emotions or eight. I do find that after a group course I need even a bit more time to decompress and check in with myself than I do working one on one.
“Holding space for this work is always challenging, whether it is for one person’s emotions or eight.”
Sustainability and Accessibility
I have to acknowledge how wonderful it has been to reach a larger group of individuals struggling with fertility. In order to do this work I have to charge a sustainable wage for my services, which I know makes private sessions inaccessible for some. Offering group classes has been a way to reach more students while still maintaining my own needs or burning out. 2 weeks before the class was set to start it was already sold out with a waiting list. I didn’t realize how needed this work was and I am so glad I am able to reach more people through a group setting.
Options to Meet Clients Where They Are At
Having now had the opportunity to work with clients on a one-to-one and group basis I can more readily see the benefits of both options. I have one private client who has also joined our group sessions, and I see each offering is meeting different needs. I am fortunate to be able to offer both options and plan to continue to do so in the future. I love getting to connect with clients one on one but have also found real joy in observing a group of women connect with each other. Supporting people through fertility can be difficult work, but knowing I am able to meet my clients where they are with a multitude of service options has made my work even more fulfilling.
Emily Gold is a yoga therapist, doula, public health specialist and co-facilitator of the bebo mia Fertility Specialist Certification. She has been practicing yoga since 2003 and after completing her university degree in 2006 she traveled to Thailand where she first discovered the joys of meditation. Faced with seizures from a benign brain tumor in 2008, Emily first learned of the healing power of yoga, turning to her regular practice as a relief for the physical and mental pain she was experiencing. This healing path led her to pursue yoga teacher training, Emily now lives with her family in Brussels.
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