Ep 46: 2020 Recap with Rena Gower and Dara Godfrey
Fertility Forward Episode 46:
Welcome to this mini-episode of the Fertility Forward Podcast where, today, it’s just your hosts, Rena Gower and Dara Godfrey. Listen in as they debrief on the biggest topic of 2020 – the COVID-19 pandemic – and share some of their hopes for 2021. Find out what Rena and Dara’s experience of the pandemic has been like, including recording via Zoom rather than at the studio, having less time for self-care, and missing human connection, and hear how they have both been coping with these challenges. While this past year hasn’t been easy for anyone, there are also some silver linings, including the time to reflect on the relationships that don’t serve us and foster deeper connections with those who are important and understanding the importance of relaxing. As always, Rena and Dara close the show with their gratitude, which they hope have been as inspiring for you as they have been for them. Tune in today!
Rena: Hi everyone and welcome to Fertility Forward. We are part of the wellness team at RMA of New York, a fertility clinic affiliated with Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Our Fertility Forward podcast brings together advice from medical professionals, mental health specialists, wellness experts, and patients, because knowledge is power and you are your own best advocate.
Rena: Hi everyone for today's Fertility Forward episode, it is just Rena and Dara doing a 2020 recap and welcome to 2021 episode. You know, we like to share sort of our own personal selves with you and keep it real with you. You know, we're both, you guys are regular listeners. You know, we both kind of share snippets of our own stories in our lives and the episodes. And so, you know, we wanted to address what is certainly no longer the elephant in the room, but the big topic, which is the pandemic. And we just really wanted to do a kind of mini episode, just to talk to you guys about the pandemic, about how our experience has been. You know, if you guys have been listening, you know, we're no longer recording in our office, we've been doing everything via zoom to this has, you know, changed. And so we just wanted to come to you guys and share with you our own experiences and how we've been coping throughout this time.
Dara: Hey everyone! Happy 2021. It's still so strange. I can't believe it's coming upon almost a year since I've actually have not seen Rena in person. And I'm sure Rena remembers this, but I believe one of the last people I saw before lockdown was both Rena and her daughter. They came to our house right before we weren't allowed to see anyone. And so as much as I am grateful for having that, that last moment with you, I miss you. And it's, you know, I could see you right now on our screen, but not to actually see you in person has been tough.
Rena: Really tough. And of course, I remember that we saw, because I think the first time I had been to your house and of course my daughter, who's four was obsessed with your girls who are older and all of their toys and new things you got to see. So she loved it. And then even since then, you guys have had a new addition to your family, which I know my daughter would love.
Dara: Yes, we have our cat, Maple, which we picked up from a shelter in New Jersey back in October. So it's already coming on four months with our new newest addition. He's a boy he's so cute, named Maple. So I'm hoping once we're able to see friends and family, again, you guys can come over and actually meet the cat. I'm not sure, hopefully no one heard, but we did a recording the other day with Dr. Sekhon and I had my cat with me the entire time giving me support during the recording.
Rena: Animals are great. And now because of Maple Siri, my daughter keeps asking me for a cat and we already have a dog. So I told my four year old, once she gets a job and can pay for the cat, we can get a cat when she can pay for the cat. And I said, as soon as you're ready, I'll start paying you to do chores. We can work out a system. So you let me know. So we'll see.
Dara: That's so funny that you said that my little one, my eight year old had asked me, like, when can I get my own dog or my own cat that, you know, it's all my own responsibility. And I said, the day that you leave my home and have your new home and you can be responsible for it all on your own. So it's nice to see that we're both in alignment for what we want for our kids, but it's amazing. I've seen a big spike in a lot of the people that I've been speaking with on getting pets, dogs, cats, and I really do feel at least I can speak for myself. It has really given me so much comfort in, in such a trouble, you know, troublesome time. It's, it's brought that humanistic. I don’t know, that, that simple comfort of unconditional love that I think we all could use a little bit more of now.
Rena: Yeah, I know. And I know you love Maples so much because you know, we talk frequently and I see, and you know, my dog, Charlie is a cavalier King Charles spaniel, and she's six and a half and I call her my ride or die. Like that dog has been with me through everything. I love her. And what am I, you know, pandemic positives is that now, you know, I'm with her so much more, she's such a source of comfort for me. And I think, yeah, you know, something we've seen is certainly an uptick in pets. And now, you know, I keep hearing the shelters are empty because everyone's fostering, which is awesome. I think pets are so important for mental health and they're just such sources of goodness.
Dara: For sure. I love that pandemic positive. There's a lot of pandemic positives in all of this, and I'm happy you brought that up because I mean, I definitely, we could speak about this a little bit more in terms of, you know, the environment that surrounding all of us and even with our patients, but it's nice to hear the pandemic positive. I love that. I've never heard that. I can't believe I haven’t. But yeah, let's talk about some of the pandemic positives. So I feel like we've had a lot of that and it's so easy to look at, you know, all the, the tricky moments and the challenging moments, but I think there there's been a lot of good.
Rena: Sure. Yeah. I think, you know, I love that it's a term I've been using a lot, but I feel like too, before I'd rather end the episode on, you know, a level of positivity. And I just feel like we also owe it to people to kind of keep it real. And maybe first we should address the hardships of this period, you know, because I don't want people to listen and obviously, you know, they know we always were big into the power of positivity and gratitudes, but I also don't want to make this a fluff episode and, you know, that this has only been positive for us and great because the reality is it hasn't. So maybe first we kind of keep it real a little bit and talk about how it has been difficult for us too because obviously we're humans and we're working mothers and then definitely we'll spin it to talk about the positives because I am definitely someone who use 2020, and then the future as a learning experience, a lot of positives, but it certainly was not without hardship as well.
Dara: I’m with you. I think it's actually good to end on a positive note, but realize that not everything was, you know, rainbow and butterflies. I think it was a very challenging year, I think personally, but also in terms of, you know, working with the patients. I think overall it's amazing how there's just a, an energy that I felt that was really heavy. And I still think we're there. I don't think it's, it's, we're, we're in the clear yet. I feel like we're still, we're still in that. I think, you know, the politically and also in terms of our health, our safety, our wellness. Yeah. I mean, I think since we started working from home, I think that, you know, at least in terms of my patients, I think where people, you know, where I, I typically see people struggle is often during the holiday season, but this was, you know, almost a full year of working with some really challenging moments in terms of self care.
Rena: Sure. I think, yeah. As you mentioned, you know, that the political climate played a role as well and, and, you know, there would be kind of before the pandemic, you know, I would say my sessions with patients really were, you know, fertility focused. That's sort of my scope of practice at RMA. We talk about fertility, family building, et cetera. But after the pandemic, I mean, not only were sessions, you know, just so much longer in length because people had so much more to unpack and they've really lost a lot of their outlets, but there'd be days where, you know, it'd be back to back with people. I wouldn't have any time to check the news or know what was going on outside. So I'd really only find out what was happening because my patients would tell me, and I say what? I would have no idea, and I would learn from them and they would bring it up in session because it was so disturbing to them. And I think as you kind of touched upon, you know, the sessions were heavy and I think both of us, you know, our role is to hold space for people's feelings in different ways, but we're really, you know, space holders. And I think it was very heavy during this time to be someone who did that. And I think it was, you know, I know for me, one of the hardest things was that I was so busy and my nature is to be such a perfectionist and serve everyone that I did that at the expense of myself. That I was trying to sort of meet the demand of everybody, but I really stopped taking care of myself. You know, I stopped eating well. I had just, you know, I stopped doing any sort of self-care and really sort of have been feeling the ramifications of that. So I'm really trying to dial back and take better care of myself. I'm, you know, something I preach to everyone is you can't pour from an empty cup, but I, through everything, you know, I, I totally let my cup get empty. So now I'm really working on filling that back up and not feeling bad about it because I can't do my job and I can't serve anyone else if I don't take care of myself. So that was really hard.
Dara: I saw it. I, I saw it in you. I mean, I could tell, especially, you know, the first six to eight months were really challenging and I, and I'm seeing a change in you even in the last couple of weeks in terms of, of self care.
Rena: You know, I got to, I know you said and you were such a source of support for me, cause I was, you know, I'm so lucky that I can share things with you and you're always such a good, you know, I think we're, we operated the same like vibrations and we're really similar mindsets and I think you're so good at, you know, helping me kind of dial back and teach me it's okay to say no, which is something I'm working on. But yeah, I mean, I got sick in March and really have just sort of had some long haul symptoms, which had become really bad. And so finally I realized I can't, you know, I have to figure this out. So that was something that was hard. And then also, you know, figuring out how to parent during this time, you know, there's a period of time where I didn't have any childcare. I'm a single parent. I was trying to juggle work, my four year old, zoom school, shelter in place. You know, it was just, it was just too much.
Dara: Too many roles. You were, you were wearing too many hats.
Rena: Yeah. And, you know, as I read the research and the mental health field, you know, obviously we're still, we don't know cause we're still in it, but what the kind of long-term effects will be immune, especially on people that were trying to be both parent and worker. And, you know, I sign a lot of my patients who already had children at home, you know, they, something I always talked to you about is their sleep schedule. They'd tell me just like so many of us they'd be up till two in the morning because they'd work after their kid went to bed. So from like nine to 2:00 AM, they'd get up at six and it's just, that's so untenable.
Dara: Yeah. I mean, even of course I thought that there could be two major outcomes during this time period: people who actually have less on their plate. And in some ways, you know, if, if they're, you know, if, if they're not working anymore, if they're at home more. And so I thought, okay, this could be a great opportunity for people to really focus on themselves, on their health and their wellbeing, but not surprisingly, I actually found more people who, you know, if they were working, especially and working from home, as opposed to in an office actually gave themselves less time for self-care because, you know, sometimes when you're in an office environment and you have, you know, you, you have there's breaks, there's, you know, a lunch break sometimes, you know, there's an office chat and it's like, it's built in, it's built in. And what I noticed a lot was that people were working well past or typical nine to five or whatever their typical schedules were that they were working much longer hours. And then, you know, if they need a time to, you know, unwind or watch TV, it was happening later at night. So it's good that, it's nice that you mentioned like the sleeping issues. Cause I think if anything, that more so than any, you know, in terms of the areas of, of wellness is that sleeping habits and schedules weren't as great. And there was less time focused on, you know, exercise or taking time for themselves to really, you know, find a hobby, do something that they love. And it's interesting. Okay. Nutrition definitely played a role. Some people actually cooked more, which was great, but in terms of snack, snack use and alcohol, I feel like went up.
Rena: I was going to say, did you see any patterns in nutrition? I know my patients all reported, they were eating a lot more until we had a lot of about stress eating and triggers
Dara: It was the stress eating. So yes, people, you know, for the most part, we're cooking a little bit more than they had in the past, but this is also New York where, you know, ordering in delivery was, is still a huge, I mean, thank goodness. It's a great business because that's, what's keeping hopefully some of these restaurants from, you know, surviving, but in, in terms of the excess snacks, you know, the pretzel, the cookies, the cakes, baking, and like as much as I love the idea of homemade bread making…
Rena: Banana bread! Wasn’t that a meme?
Dara: Well banan bread was one, but sourdough bread and focaccia, like I've seen that across the board. So many more people have started to make their own bread, which is great. Cause I'm all for making your own, you know, something that goes bad after a couple of days, as opposed to the wonder bread that's on the shelf for months on end. But it's one thing, if you have a slice, if it's another thing, if you're having the entire loaf all in one or two sittings. So the stress eating was definitely there. And you know, I just think that the isolation for a lot of people I think is, is tough. And especially when there's a lot going on and people who want, you know, or are really trying to, you know, wanting to have a baby. And then on top of this, having the stress of the pandemic, the potential stress of their jobs, you know, not having the relationships in terms of their friendships or their family members, that was definitely altered. I mean, zoom is great. Thank goodness for the advancement in technology, but you know, I still don't think it's the same thing as really having that face to face. I'm worried about, I'm not sure about you Rena, but I'm a big hugger and I'm worried about, are we ever going to go back to the same hugging style? I know shaking is I, I think, you know, handshaking is, we're not going to be doing handshakes in the future as much as we have in the past, but just even the act of like getting a good hug. I miss that.
Rena: Sure. I mean, I think human connection is important and I think, yeah, zoom just doesn't cut it. And I usually, I mean, personally, I'm always so burnt out by the end of the day, after being on zoom, I'm not into zooming with friends or zoom groups. And I usually just say no, because it's just not the same. And I'm so burned out. You know, a lot of my patients are certainly doing it and I think that's wonderful. You know, my parents are always telling me they have like zoom dates, but to me it's just not the same. And yeah, I think it's been interesting. And I think it's, I don't know. I think for me, it's also, I refuse to think that this is the new way of life. That zoom is a way to have a baby shower or a wedding or a birthday or whatever. I think it's amazing technology, but I think, you know, certainly something I hear from my patients, especially those that are single, it has been so difficult and I feel for them so much, I think it has been incredibly difficult and you know, I, my heart really goes out to them and I, you know, I've consciously really thought more about people in my life that I know are alone and I've tried to reach out to them more and just be with them because I think it's really, it's hard. I mean, human connection is just like sleep. We need it for mental health. It's necessary. Humans need socialization.
Dara: Yeah. That human connection. And I think we see so many more people be isolated. And I wonder when you know, things, I wonder if they get back to the way they were before, because I don't think they ever will. But when there is more, I guess some of these restrictions that are lifted, I really do hope that I don't know that connection is, can get back to where it was before. I mean, I feel like we're not going to be going to concerts anytime soon or, or big I don't know a big symposium, but I don't know. Even some, some group events, I'm, I'm itching, itching for it. So I, I, uh, I know a lot of people are like that too.
Rena: I know whenever I hear music, you know, I, cause I love music and I always just think to myself, Oh, when can I see these guys in concert? But I don't know, you know, but I think maybe one of the positives that's come out from it though as well is sort of, I don’t know how you feel about this, but you know, because now we really have the power to choose who we, you know, quote unquote, see, you know, whether it's via zoom or social distance or whatever, and everything's so much more difficult, you know, I think we have the power to choose who's really important to us. And so it's kind of eliminated anyone that really wasn't serving you because why would you actively choose it? And what's better than a pandemic to just say no to something.
Dara: That’s so true. I think now that's so much easier to say no. And I do. It's interesting that you said that cause I I'm with you that yeah, I think, I think it's made a lot of us think about who are really the most important people in our lives and are they serving us? Are they, are they bringing us the comfort and the friendships that we really, that we deserve?
Rena: Totally. I think, yeah. I think it's interesting. And I'm just sort of reflecting back as we're talking and thinking about, you know, who I've kind of kept in touch with this past year, you know, and I think that says a lot and you know, you're certainly someone we've, we've kept up a lot and I think, you know, I've known you for what, almost four years? Yeah. Almost four. And that's a long time. And I feel like our friendship has really grown in the fact that we've, you know, you've been someone I've really stayed in touch with over this time, both professionally and personally, is definitely one of my pandemic positives, you know, your force in my life. And so I think that's wonderful. And so I hope other people have experienced that too, but at the same time, if you haven't, you know, you're certainly not alone. It's, it's hard. It's really hard.
Dara: It's really hard. And I feel the same way about you Rena. I really feel like we do connect on a deeper level and it's, it's nice to be able to open up to someone who really sees you for who you are, doesn't judge you. And I mean, I've seen big changes. I think in, in, in both of us during this time. You know, as, as challenging as it's been, in some ways things have slowed down, I don't know about you, but I've what I learned from, from the past, you know, almost year now is that I don't need to rush as much. And I think part of it is living in the City, living in Manhattan, there is a natural baseline energy. And you know, if you speak to most people who live here, we walk on the streets really quickly, we weave in and out, you know, people who are slow walkers, we could definitely tell who the tourists are compared to the locals. You know, we want things done quickly and efficiently. And I think what this at least has taught me is that it's okay to slow down and not only is it okay to slow down, it's actually healthy to slow down. And when you actually can slow down, you can actually appreciate a lot of the things that are going on at this moment. And I think that's where I've taken it personally, as opposed to, you know, planning ahead, okay, I'm gonna plan a trip. I'm going to, you know, plan when I'm going to eat for dinner a week from now. And yes, all that can be great, but that also can lead to a lot of disappointment when, you know, we have to cancel trips and all that. And I think taking things one day at a time, and this has actually helped with my practice and has changed the way I've actually worked with, with my patients is, is, I mean, food is important and speaking about food and overall health is great, but also taking things one day at a time and not planning too far in advance. And I think giving yourself more compassion to, to slow things down and to really appreciate where you are in this very room.
Rena: I love that, you know, I definitely, before the pandemic, you know, I had worked with my patients a lot on how to kind of be present and sort of stay in the micro, I call it, so the one day at a time approach. But I think too, as you said, you know, I was definitely someone who, you know, every weekend I'd have planned, I’d be doing this and that with my daughter, you know, I’d be super structured and now it's kind of taken that away. It's like, well, I don't, I don't need to make plans. There's not much to do. And I'm okay with it. And I'm definitely someone who either kind of how I was raised or maybe being in New York City and the culture we have here. But I was just reading, I think I told you Untamed by Glennon Doyle and something that really stuck with me was to give some example of her wife, Abby, it would always trigger her when she'd come home in the middle of the day and Abby would be watching TV and she would get angry and sort of think to herself like how dare you watch TV in the middle of the day? Who does that? You know, why aren't you doing something quote, unquote productive? And then, you know, she did some work on it, Glennon, and then realize it triggered her because she was raised to think like that wasn't okay. You should be productive at all times. And you know, being quote unquote lazy or relaxing was for, you know, the evening or the weekends. And that was totally my mentality. It was like, I need to be productive or working at all times, or there's something wrong, 24/7. And so when I read that, it made me really laugh because I think I, I've been working really hard to be okay with relaxing and on the weekends, not needing to go work out at 7:00 AM. Why do I need to be at the gym at 7:00 AM on the weekend? What am I doing? Like it's okay to go at 12 or one or two. And that's a totally new thing for me. And it's been super liberating.
Dara: It's nice to have less structure I'm with you too. And I wonder if it's because we're women, which I can't speak for men or also, you know, the professions that we're in that, you know, are typically much more, more, somewhat more structured based and finding ways to control tough situations. But I really do think if anything, overall, this has all taught us that some things are out of our control and it can be scary and we can acknowledge that, but also to be okay with, with some of those unknowns and, and not necessarily just roll with the punches, but also be okay with some of the silence. With, with just looking out the window, like the simple things, looking out the window and like looking at the sky which I'm doing right now, or you're right, doing something that generally seems like a waste of time during a workday, but in reality can actually help you reset and refocus.
Rena: Right and feed you. I was literally just having a conversation with a patient about it, who was talking about, you know, how it wasn't productive for her to, I want to use a different example than she used, but let's just say, look at videos of kittens. Okay. And how she felt bad about that and it wasn't productive? And I said, well, no, that actually is really productive because it's feeding you and filling you up and it's self care. And without them, you're not going to be able to, you know, figure out your journey and do this work you need to do. That's so important to do so let yourself do it. And I think both you and I are people who, you know, we're always working on ourselves and we're always striving to learn. We're always listening to podcasts or doing research and trying to evolve. And I think it's been really sort of interesting to sort of see kind of us in the pandemic, you know, continue to do that. But I think too both of us, myself, definitely admittedly so, and I think you too would have said before, like, we're both people who like to be in control, you know, we were structured, we like routine, we like to be in control. And like, man, did this shake that up because you know, we would've been having a very hard time. And so I've seen you, you know, it's been really amazing to watch you kind of, you know, knowing you as I do to watch you kind of, you know, I like to use the analogy is okay, is this ball going to hit you in the face or are you going to catch it? And you've totally caught the ball, you know, and just kind of rolled with it and you have been cool. And I think it's been amazing for you just as an individual and then to watch you again, kind of catch the ball and not let it just hit you in the face has been really awesome.
Dara: It may have hit me in the face a little bit, but I screamed and I got over it, you know?
Rena: Right. You're still here, you know, and I think it's been, yeah, it's been as someone, you know, myself who would have said, I think over, you know, the work I've done, the work I continue to do on, on trying to evolve, you know, a few years ago there, this ball would have like smacked me in the face, blood, broken my nose. I wouldn't have gotten up. I would have still been on the ground, you know, but now, you know, and again, sometimes you're forced into a situation and it's kind of, you know, survive and thrive or, you know, not. I definitely, at the beginning, especially when I got sick, that was a really hard and then dealing with no childcare. But then once sort of everything was sort of established. It was a lot better, but yeah, I think
Dara: was gonna say just like life, you know, there are, you know, there's, there's in life, you know, there's, there's challenging moments and not every day can be easy and not every day can be smooth, but I'll tell you this. And this is kind of a good way to end. I actually learned a lot from you Rena, because it was your idea to end all of our podcasts with gratitude, with a gratitude practice, but what has really saved me, Rena, during this entire pandemic was that I started a gratitude practice with my family. So every night before my kids go to bed, we review the day and only mention the things that we're grateful for. It's not like I like this but, it's I loved dinner or I appreciated this, or I'm grateful for my cat. And I'm telling you that for me personally has been really what has kept me focusing more on the positives than the negatives day-to-day because it's so easy. There's always negative. We can always find the negativity, but once you actually uncover even the simplistic things like that, the really the basic things, I'm happy I have a comfy bed to sleep in.
Rena: Yeah it doesn’t have to be existential.
Dara: No! But I think that alone and really, I owe this to you Rena because you really lay that foundation that has not only served me, but it's served my family. So Rena, what I'm grateful for today is you and our friendship and unbelievable how far we've come in just a year with all of these episodes. And I'm so excited to see where, where we go with this. I also have to give a shout out to Maple, my cat, and on top of that, I'm very excited an air fryer just arrived at my door today.
Rena: I can't wait to hear, I want to get one. Next podvast we can talk about your air fryer.
Dara: I cannot wait! I will report back. I'm making chicken in my air fryer tonight. So will let you know how it goes, but yes. And in all seriousness, a lot to be grateful. And what about you Rena?
Rena: Well, I love that. I love that you're doing that with your family. I think gratitudes are an amazing way to start your day. You know, waking up, set your intentions thing about what you're grateful for and end your day. I try and do it with my daughter, she's a little young at four, so, you know, it varies, but I'm trying to start the practice with her. We do that every night too. So I love that you're doing that. I'd definitely recommend anyone listening. It's a great way to start and end your day. You know, my positives, I think, you know, I've been through a lot of different things in my life. And I started to do a lot of real work on trying to better myself and not be a victim right when my daughter was born. So she's, you know, four and a half. So through my work, you know, I'm a big believer in the stoic philosophy, which is that life does not throw you anything you can't handle. Life throws you trials and challenges because it wants to prepare you for the next. So if you are a real believer in the stoic philosophy and you want to go deep, it's they believe that life throws you things because they're preparing you for the ultimate challenge, which is death. So I don't like to be that dark about it, but I don't like to be a victim. You know, I was a victim for a really long time. And then I picked myself up and I learned how to be a warrior. And so I have so many positives from this, you know, I think I’ve become a better parent. I think a more present parent. I found my strength as a parent or confidence in myself professionally. You know, I think I've just been a better friend, family member. And of course I can continue to grow and improve. Everybody can, that's being a human, but I think just to figure out what is important. And then also I think because of the fact that, you know, we're now at home, I finally decided to do something I want to do for a really long time, which is to go to the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and get my Health Coach license. So I just started that. I’m super excited. So those are some of my positives and for anyone that's listening, you know, we really encourage you. We hope this episode, you know, was real, gave you a real taste. You know, we weren't here being super positive and easy all the time. You know, we had our challenges too. So, you know, feel free to reach out to us. You know, if there's anything else you, you want to hear about our time during this, any questions you have about how to continue to cope with this, you know, mentally or with nutrition. You know, I was definitely myself, you know, guilty of stress eating. I was a big fan of paleo granola. It happens, you know, we're human. So, you know, we hope this episode just sort of gave you guys a real taste and human perspective. So if you have any comments, anything, you know, DM us, reach out because we love to hear and, and keep giving you guys what you need.
Dara: We're here for you. We really are.
Dara: Thank you so much for listening today and always remember: practice gratitude, give a little love to someone else and yourself and remember you are not alone. Find us on Instagram @Fertility_Forward. And if you're looking for more support, visit us at www.rmany.com and tune in next week for more Fertility Forward.