Coaching through Infertility with Pradeepa Narayanaswamy

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Keeping Agile Non-Denominational, Episode 6

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Alex Kudinov   All right, welcome for our today's Tandem Coaching Academy's podcast Keeping Agile Nondenominational. Here's your co-host, Cherie Silas and I Alex Kudinov and today we have a special guest, we have Pradeepa Narayanaswamy and I want to start with one of the feedback to her books I read on Amazon. 'Pradeepa Narayanaswamy is a fearless leader, advocate, and coach in encouraging dialogue around infertility. Her work deftly explores the deeply personal and intimate side of issues surrounding fertility for all involved, bringing a desperately needed holistic approach to health, healing, happiness, and fulfillment. I consider this a must read for anyone experiencing fertility challenges and their loved ones.' Pradeepa, welcome and our first question for you. How did you get on the path of fertility coach? Pradeepa Narayanaswamy   Yeah, thank you, Alex. Thank you, Cherie, for having me. It's been my absolute honor to be here with you today. Yeah, that's, that's a really interesting question, Alex. It actually, believe it or not, this "Aha!" moment, or this insight, happened at an Agile conference; the Agile 2017 Conference in Orlando. Up until then, I had my my private practice, I'm an Agile Coach, Enterprise Coach, and all those good stuff, but I ventured into life coaching in 2015/16. In 2017, I was attending the conference and one of my dear friends, who know about my venture, asked me, like, "Pradeepa, what's new?" Or like, "What are you?" He kind of asked me around this, like, what am I specializing in as a coach and that was really interesting for me, because I never thought about, "Oh, there is there is a specialty needed" or "I can do that." Somehow, at the time, I was just answering him, and I wasn't sure where those words came from. I was kind of talking to him about, like, "Hey, I wanted to work with women, just like myself, women of color, to bring the best out of them."  I wanted to work with underprivileged people to really support them and out of nowhere, Alex, I just the word came out. I wanted to work with people who are going through infertility. When I said that, it was a male friend, and he did not know anything about my past, and he kind of looked at me a little bit funny, and he wasn't sure what I was talking about, because he didn't know the extent of my experience with that. He smiled and you know, we charted other things but then I was reflecting back on that, and I thought, 'Where did that come from? Why did I say that?' Right? Because, this is such a personal thing for me and why did I say that out loud?  Guess what? Like any good Agilist would do, I decided to experiment on that insight. So what I did was-- you know, you both have been to these conferences and Cherie has been a prominent speaker at these. You know how many people we get to meet or how many people come to these conferences, right; so many new people. So what I decided to do was say, "Okay, fine, I'm going to introduce myself to new people that don't know me in these three different ways. One is Women Empowerment Coach. The second one is Underprivileged Empowerment Coach. The third one is Infertility Coach, right, wanting to work with people, and I did that in Orlando for the four or five days I was there. Every time when I said that I am wanting to work with people going through infertility, there was something like there was physically something happening in me;  there was a reaction in me, right? It was like, my heart was beating faster. There was like butterflies in my stomach.  There was something about that that's showing up different and I've been observing that and I thought like, "Wow, what is what is this? What is the universe trying to tell me?" Believe it or not, at the end of the conference, I felt so....I don't know...what is the word that I'm looking for? I felt so called for. Right? Yes. "You know what, this is something that the universe is trying to tell me and that's who I am going to be and that's who I'm going to become." You can go and check my LinkedIn posts and after the Agile conference, I came back home and I wrote this article in LinkedIn. At that time, I had about like, close to 4,000-4,500 people, which is a lot of people. In claiming my niche as an infertility coach, it was such a push for me to write that post because it's not a professional thing. It's talking about some of the struggles and pains and the journey that I've had, and wanting to do something about that. Right? It is not for me. It's not about me being the victim to infertility but how do I take my ownership and apply it and help other people who are going through something similar in their lives right now?  That post, to my surprise, I didn't know right? Like it was kind of like, one of the vulnerable things that I have ever done, you know, in LinkedIn, and I wasn't sure what was going to happen, how many people are going to think what they can think of me, what they are going to comment. But it got overwhelming response, overwhelming support from people I know, people I don't know. People were talking sending me messages about how much respect they have, how much appreciation they have, because they have seen their sister going through this. They have seen-- one of the persons said they know that their parents have gone through this, even though they're really old now, but they know because their parents had talked about their struggles going through infertility. So, like that, people are able to relate and I thought, "Wow, you know what? It's like the universe has called me to do something more meaningful." Yes, I'm a coach but I also wanted to support people through something that I have really struggled through. So that Alex was a long story to the beginning of my specialization with supporting people going through infertility. Cherie Silas   That is such a great story and I remember that conference with you and I remember us talking about that. It was like, "That's really interesting." In my own path, I can remember my mom having a miscarriage, my daughter cannot get pregnant, even after surgery, and I have a close colleague who's been going through the same thing, and people don't know. They don't realize we go to work...and we're supposed to leave that at home somehow. So it's beautiful that you're doing this and I'd love to understand the reaction that the corporate community has given in this support of infertility. Pradeepa Narayanaswamy   Yeah, so in my honest opinion, it's still a conversation-- more conversation needs to be had, right? A lot of people understand that very much from the personal side of things because either it has affected them personally. Cherie, I know you said, you already mentioned, three people in your life that has gone through this. Miscarriage-- I'll give you some statistics, right? One in three women go through miscarriage in her life. One in three; which is so high. One in eight couples, at least in North America, in the United States, in Canada it is I believe one and six, go through infertility.  The rates are so high, right? Many people do not know that. When I went through this, you know, I'll share a little bit about the extent of my journey. Mine was really long, 12 years of journey. 12 years of going through something like this can be really dreary, painful, and lonely. Three miscarriages and multitudes of failed treatments. So it's a lot, but often, even when I was going through this, I really did not know about how extent this problem is in the world. Right? How many people struggled through that? Because when I was going through this, of course the emotions and the feelings are mostly around me, and it was about me, and why I can't have this, and why this is happening to me. But a lot of people think from that angle, not realizing that it's a bigger problem in the world. There's so many people who are going through this. Right. So I always say this, like, if you're in a room full of people, there are at least 10 people in the room where, they are in that age about to have children or do have children. There is a guarantee that one of them, one couple, one of them has infertility issues. It's so closer than we realize. Cherie Silas   Yeah, I'm...those statistics are mind blowing to me. I knew that this is a thing but because it's not my thing, I didn't actually understand how big it is. So you're an infertility coach, and while that's really really cool, I'm not sure I understand what you do. Pradeepa Narayanaswamy   Yeah. Cherie Silas   So can you tell me a little bit about what that actually looks like in practice? Pradeepa Narayanaswamy   Yeah, absolutely. Thank you. Thanks for that question. A lot of people do not, right. Because when I say I work with people going through infertility is I coach them, right? Like if we understand coaching, right, like helping them see the future, right, like helping them define what their future wants to be. I'm taking it to people who are struggling with infertility issues. Meaning, I'm meeting them in their point in life where they're struggling with their fertility challenges. The reason why I decided to do that, you know, as a specialty, because when I was going through this, the kind of support--first of all, I was so hesitant to talk to anybody, because there was a lot of shame, right? There was so much shame that I had to carry through and I couldn't open up, even to my own family members, right? Like, I wouldn't even call family members, not even to my own mother because in my mind, it was about like, "Mom, you wouldn't understand this, because you have me and my brother." Right? So it was really hard for me and for me the shame was kind of really not allowing me to open up and to be able to ask or to be able to get support.  What I also was fearing was, I am going to get sympathy from people. Right? "Oh, I'm so sorry you had a miscarriage." "Oh, I'm so sorry you just failed an IVF treatment." Where I'm already feeling sorry for myself, I don't want more of that. So that's something that prevented me from going for support and help. One of the other things, I went for a little bit of counseling and that didn't help because the person that I was talking to, you know, wonderful person, but they didn't have the experience that I had, you know, they haven't gone through it. So in my mind, all along, it was a pretty sour experience for me, nothing against the person. But in my mind, like I was thinking, "You have no idea what I'm going through. You have no experience what I'm just experiencing." So I always had that feeling towards this person and, moreso, I did not need therapy because there was nothing technically wrong with me.  What I felt that was absent for me was a place for me to be myself, for a place for myself to explore what's going on for me, and I wanted to actually move forward, not try to look at why this happened or why this is happening to me. I'm past that; I really wanted to know how to get unstuck and actually find a way move forward. That was, at that time-- by the way when I was going through this I was never exposed to professional coaching. I did not know something like coaching exists. I knew coaching from sports world, but nothing in life. So when I you know-- this idea came about me when Karthik, my son, joined our family, right? Like all along my years of struggles with infertility, I wanted to have a family I wanted to be a mother. When Karthik came into our picture, it was satisfied. I could have just moved on with my life, but I decided to stop and reflect left back; I could have just moved on and lived a life but I didn't want to. I decided there's some thing that I that I wanted to do. I don't want to ignore the 12 years of journey that I have gone through; the 12 years of pain. What is that that I wanted to do? That's when I decided, "Okay, how can I support people like me who are struggling right now? Right? How can I help give a safe space for them to be themselves, explore what they wanted to explore, help them get unstuck, find their energy, and move forward in their life. I will never promise that when you work with me, you have a baby. I'm not a snake oil charmer or snake oil magician but what I promise is to help you find your own clarity, whatever that looks like. That was...that was so missing for me personally. I did not know that's what I wanted but I realized, "Boy, it would have been so helpful if I had a Pradeepa back then." My journey would have been different, my attitude would have been different, my life would have been different, my relationship would have been different. I would not have avoided going to India for four years in a row because I was so ashamed. I was too afraid of questions; to see my own parents. Alex Kudinov   Well, that's an absolutely beautiful story and thanks for sharing and what's absolutely fascinating is that just the fact that you put it behind yourself, and you find the strength, and you found that drive, to actually stop, reflect and say, "I'm not done until I make this world better place, until I help other people who are in my situation. That's what I'm going to do. That's my calling." That's absolutely beautiful and what I'm hearing is that there are a couple of facets to the work that you're doing. On the one hand, you're, helping other people who are facing same problems, right, and you are coaching them through these situations. Somehow they start showing up more in the organizational context. So it's not like we take our feelings off as we leave our home and go to the office, right? We bring our whole selves there and how we show up and how actually organization ready to meet us, right and treat us and treat women in these situations is important. So what's your experience in working with situations and what are you seeing happening these days? Pradeepa Narayanaswamy   Another thing, Alex, I just wanted to add to the statistics, which I think you all will find very interesting. A lot of people misunderstand that infertility is a women's problem. Right? So the statistics says 33% is because woman has some challenge, 33% is because a man in the partnership has a challenge. and the remainder of the 33% is either the combined effort, because both the partners have challenge, or we don't know what the challenge is, right? So it's called unexplained or combination challenge. So oftentimes, it's a lot of people don't realize that men also equally go through this, right? We don't talk about that right. Like one of the things that I always, I know I've taken special interest in is voicing for men. Because of course for women, there are a lot of support groups available, there are nowadays there are venues to go to, there are people to talk to and things like that, but often those are not the same for men.  So, when it comes to organization, if they are going through that, they bring that whole thing into work as well. Often we do not realize that and organizations, nowadays, you know, I did the survey that I mentioned to you in our earlier conversation, how many organizations have some kind of policy and HR policy to to give time off for people when they are encountering or when they are having a miscarriage? Overwhelmingly, a lot of companies, at least in the United States, I'm going to talk about the United States here because many of the respondents were from United States, a lot of companies do not. There are some companies which are popular and giving, right? Of course, Starbucks is a very popular example. If you're not familiar with that, a lot of people who don't have any infertility coverage through their other employer, they try to take a side job at Starbucks, it's like a barista or whatever, whatever. Starbucks offers that that's, that's a well known fact in the infertility community. Now yesterday, I just came across a job for Tesla and they, in their job description, they say we have infertility coverage. I know a few tech giants in California, they offer that. A lot of, I saw in the survey that I did, many healthcare systems are offering this kind of coverage or this kind of assistance, yet, still a lot of other companies in other sectors. People are not aware of that. Or people are people think that they have to take a PTO. I had to take a PTO. Right, it's the sick leave or a PTO and if there is not even an--how do you even tell your boss? Cherie Silas   Yeah, this is a it's a complicated problem for people and, you're right, I have over these past couple of years, I've seen things like paternity leave, and when when you adopt getting pay for that and getting some time off but I agree, it's not enough. Pradeepa Narayanaswamy   Yeah, it's not enough and like, I think you should you mentioned it Cherie and Alex, you also asked that, right? Our leaders in the organizations, right, first of all should have the awareness of the extent of this problem and should be open for having a conversation so that they can understand, and empathize, and help the people, in their organization and their team, who are going through this. A lot of people are not aware of that. They many people still think it's a women's problem, or it's a hush hush subject. I originally come from India. We don't talk about infertility there at all. Now, little by little, if people are talking-- infertility means there is something really wrong with you. You're kind of being looked down on. Cherie Silas   So then this brings up another piece to me that, yes, we need to do more, and as someone who hasn't personally experienced it, I'm not really sure what to say or how to react or, or how to be there for other people, you know, my work comrades. What do I do? Pradeepa Narayanaswamy   Yeah, that's such a beautiful question, Cherie. You know, the first thing that I always tell people is, "Tell them", right, like that you don't understand. Be honest with them. "I have not gone through this. I know of some people, but I have personally not gone through this. So I'm not gonna sit here and pretend that everything that you're saying makes sense to me. But that's on me. That doesn't mean that I don't care about this. I do care. You are my team member. I care about you and I care about your well being. How can I help you?" It's about us creating as a leader creating a safe space for the person, for the employee, to openly come and tell that they're struggling. This question reminded me of  when I was going through my treatments. So the IVF, in vitro fertilization, is one of the very complex treatments. It's not only an expensive treatment, but also it's the time-wise, you have to be very disciplined.  I remember at the time, some of my initial treatments. I was back then working in Minneapolis., and after you know, the embryo has been transferred into your uterus,  you're required to take two days of bed rest. Not moving from bed, right, and I have to use my PTO. Because I was having these treatments, kind of, you know, next to next to next, my manager kind of noticed that the time of pattern that I'm taking, and of course, he can read some emotions that I bring into the work. One day, he was just asking me, "Pradeepa are you in any pain?" He was a male manager. He did not know; I did not know what to tell him or how to tell him that. He kind of knew that something is going on with me. So he asked me like, "Are you in any kind of pain? Is there anything that I can do to help you?" Even that simple statement of acknowledgment, it made me-- that, "Oh, yeah, he cares about me" and I felt better. We can do a little bit more, right? If we educate our managers, "Is there anything that you wanted to talk to me about? I'm here for you." Not forcing people to have the conversation, but letting them know that, you know, you're not going to judge them. They're not going to, you know, think something badly about them, just because. That, itself, can be super powerful for people. Alex Kudinov   So I'm wondering, and thanks for that. Um, it's my personal experience when I had an employee, and she was open about miscarriage. I really didn't know what to say beyond just, "I'm sorry, what can I do and how can I help." Right? So I'm wondering for our coaching audience, for those who are listening who are coaches, and who are interested in maybe some niches and exploring, what does your engagement look like? How does it go? How you maybe get clients, how you go through the process, and what  it results in? Pradeepa Narayanaswamy   So majority of my clients, by the way,  even though I specialize in infertility, there are other clients who are not going through fertility challenges as well. So one of the things when I started niching in this area, I actually I'm sure, Cherie is very familiar with that. I went and spoke in different conferences, or fertility related conferences. You know, I had booths in those conferences, again, to spread awareness that this is something that's available for people as a support. I also wrote a book about it. It's a very coaching related book. So because I'm a coach, I don't want it to just give advice, but rather, the book has a workbook associated with that, where I wanted to help people create and craft their own journey. How they wanted to own their own journey; how they wanted to take control and ownership of it. So the book is available and I also partnered with a few doctors in the industry, who I can connect with. Again, these are doctors who don't see the person as a medical entity, but rather they see the person as a whole person.  When I went through this, I had five different doctors in my own journey.  Many of these doctors, right, I would say, just saw me as a medical entity; a woman with unexplained infertility, right? Whatever, like, you know, you're labeled like that. Sometimes that takes the humane aspect away from going through this; it's really hard. I was able to find some amazing doctors in our community and was able to partner up with them and have my information availabl for their patients. I do webinars for them, I send books for them, right? So the service that I'm doing is more about creating that awareness and helping people know that there is more than one kind of support. Because often what happens is, you know, when a infertility patient has some kind of emotional reaction or some emotional need, that is unmet, they call the doctor's office, the nurse or whoever it is, what they do is they just send them to a counselor, like, "Yeah, go have a counseling session."  I had that too and what I found was, not everybody needs counseling. The core coaching belief that we all share is, as humans, we are not broken. I don't see us as a broken entity. Just because I have something going on in my life doesn't mean that I'm a broken person. So that's why it never resonated with me, because it comes from the aspect of there is something wrong with me and it needs to be treated. But rather from coaching angle, there is nothing wrong with you. This is something that you are just going through in your life right now. How can we acknowledge that, and I see you as a whole person, a creative person, a resourceful person, and let's use your wisdom to help move forward. It's a whole different way of looking at that person. The people, the doctors, who understand that are the ones, sometimes, that refer my name. I would say, right, like, I'm going to be very transparent with you. Still a lot of people, who can definitely benefit from this, are still very hesitant. Cherie Silas   Right. So thank you for saying that. Because I had a really huge revelation here about the counseling versus coaching. Not everybody needs that and it's a really big revelation for me. So I'm sure it's a really big revelation for some people who are listening today and as a professional coach, what advice would you give them about getting involved in doing this kind of work? Pradeepa Narayanaswamy   Yeah. To me, it definitely took a lot of courage. Right? It definitely took a lot of courage for me to step into this and Cherie, again, I'll go back to the Agile conferences because for whatever reason these conferences had molded and made me the person. I'm so grateful for that. I said 2017 is when I decided this niche but Agile 2016 in Atlanta, I did two sessions that year, and for one of my session, that was the first ever time in the whole wide world, except for me, my husband, my parents, and my mother in law. Nobody knew about our infertility struggle, right? Karthik was not back in the picture then. Like after the conference, we were actually going to India and bring him to -- the conference happened in July 2016. August, we were traveling to India -- to bring Karthik home.  For that, in one of my sessions, the backstory, the first five minutes of my intro, why I'm doing this session on passionate listening, the backstory was my journey with infertility and how it made me a better listener; a passionate listener. That was the first ever time in roomful of 250 strangers, somehow I found my courage. Until that minute before I went, "should I say the story or should I just make something up? Should I say my real story or should I some make something up?" Whatever happened? I found my courage and shared that. Right? So it's finding my courage and to my clients, I always say this, right? There is a difference between fear and courage. I'll share this. Fear is peeing your pants. Courage is doing what you need to do in peed pants. Fear is peeing your pants. Courage is doing what you need to do with peed pants. Alex Kudinov   Oh, that's fantastic. That's absolutely fantastic and Pradeepa, I'm so glad that we have you today. It's not really often we meet such a courageous woman, such a courageous human being, who carries thid hard and traumatic experience, overcomes it, and actually find strength and perseverance to help others in the same situation and find core calling and find her next move in helping others. That's absolutely beautiful. So what's next for you? What's going on for you as a professional these days? Yeah. Pradeepa Narayanaswamy   So before I answer that question, Alex, I just wanted to finish Cherie's question. Right? Don't hold back. Like, it's really difficult as professional coaches, right? Find the courage, we all have it, just find it and go with it. When you put yourself out to the world, the world actually receives it more beautifully than you really know. Right? I am a living truth for that. How our Agile community supports me, how my Facebook community, the social media, my friends, the family, right, people who I don't even realize, would support me, support me. First, we have to put ourselves out there. Thank you Cherie, for that question.  So what's next for me? I will continue, right. Like one of my aspirations is to create that awareness, is to create that dialogue. Like I said, last year, I ended my year by doing this talk at Credit Karma for their group with 35 wonderful people to hold space for them to have this tough conversation. I wanted to do more of that in organizations so that more people feel empowered and have the knowledge and understand the implications. Because let's just talk from just the business perspective, right? If there is an organization, who are having people who are going through these challenges, and it affects productivity, who are we kidding here? How they show up at work, we don't realize that. So how do we take care of that? How do we rectify that problem? Right? How do managers and leaders and team members and colleagues create a safe environment for people to have this kind of a dialogue? To be empathetic, not sympathetic, to be empathetic, and create an environment that's non-judgmental. Right. So that's where my heart is yearning, right? Like I want to talk about this in more organizations to create an environment where more organizations are coming together and partnering and supporting this, not just a line item in their HR policy.That doesn't do it in my in my honest opinion. Alex Kudinov   Yeah. So how can people who are interested or organizations that are interested can contact you? What's the best way to do that? Pradeepa Narayanaswamy   With regards to fertility coaching, the best way to contact me is through my website, it's or for organizations, my LinkedIn Pradeepa Narayanaswamy, they can find me easily in LinkedIn. That's another way to contact me. Alex Kudinov   All right. Well, thank you so much Pradeepa for coming today. It was absolutely fantastic conversation. I enjoyed it a lot. I'm sure Cherie will join me and I hope that our listeners were enjoying this conversation as much as we did. So thank you for being here. Thank you for spending time with us and we're all, wishing you a lot of success in this hard and very noble undertaking that you are bringing to the world. Thank you. Pradeepa Narayanaswamy   Thank you, Alex. Thank you Cherie. I really appreciate your giving me this platform today to talk openly and thank you for being curious. Thank you for opening this conversation for other people and, who knows, there may be people here and there who hear this and wanting to claim a niche that they were hesitating to claim. Cherie Silas   Yes, thank you. Alex Kudinov   And this was Tandem Coaching Academy's Keeping Agile Nondenominational podcast. I'm Alex Kudinov and Cherie Silas. Goodbye.

About Episode Guest

Pradeepa Narayanaswamy

Pradeepa Narayanaswamy is an enterprise thought leader in the agile space, and an executive leadership coach. She is a self-proclaimed “Pragmatic Agilista”, helping organizations deliver high quality products and services with customer focused outcomes.

Pradeepa has 20 + years of industry experience in both co-located and distributed environments with a diverse background ranging from development, testing, leading teams, scrum masters and agile coaches and now to an enterprise agile leader.

As an enterprise agile leader, she takes a systemic view to look for improvement opportunities and uses continuous feedback and learning to prioritize, implement and measure progress. She strongly believes and works towards bringing people together to collaboratively and creatively solve organizational problems. Pradeepa values the benefits of technical practices and is an avid supporter of bringing agile techniques into development, testing and deployment cycles.

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In this episode Allison Pollard discusses the concept of "meeting where they are," and what it means for Agile Coaches. How do we support people on their agile journey? What changed over the last year? When might we pivot as agile coaches and what is significance of keeping agile non-denominational.
Are you running your business or working for it? What does it take to build a successful coaching business? What obstacles should you expect and how Cornelia, a successful entrepreneur, overcame those? All of this and more.
Coaching is an awesome instrument to engage in a co-creative process allowing to make strategic shifts in business-turmoil. In this episode we touch upon how coaching and co-creation can - even in deep crisis - be more effective and sustainable than typical "crisis" management; how coaching brings more innovation to strategic thinking and what is needed to stand open for an entire new business model.
Coaching is a word with so many misunderstood meanings and implementations. Unfortunately and fortunately, there is no single way to coach. What is now abundantly obvious is that coaching is a valuable skill for more professionals beyond Agile coaches. Turns out there is an answer to how leaders can create, enable and maintain high-performing teams, they leverage professional coaching in their leadership delivery. We are discussing and examining the link between quality leaders and professional coaching.
With Coronavirus taking over the world and people are forced into a remote work situation, Jim Sammons, Erica Henson, and Alex Kudinov are discussing how Scrum is affected by this.
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