Program helps girls better understand fertility, related issues
By Linda Oppelt
COLORADO SPRINGS. A class titled “Growing Up: Girl to Woman” designed to help mothers and their young daughters talk about and prepare for the changes that come with puberty is being offered in September at St. Francis Hospital in Colorado Springs.
Kristine Hardesty, a Certified FertilityCare™ Practitioner (CFCP) for over 25 years, has been teaching the class since about 2013. Hardesty originally came across a program through the diocese of Memphis, Tennessee for both girls and boys called “Growing Up God’s Way.”
“I was given permission and access to the slide presentation for the girls’ presentation.”
“So I had a template and then I just put my own spin on it and then added some things that were Creighton-specific information, concerning natural family planning.”
Hardesty explained that having four daughters was one of the main motivations for this class.
When they were each at the right age, before puberty had begun, “we would go out to breakfast and then I would take them to the office and show them part of the presentation.”
Her goal was to teach them the importance of knowing about what’s happening in their body, by charting cycles, and being aware of what’s going on once their menstruation began.
Hardesty wants he girls attending the class to understand: “It’s really important to get the good terminology; have the dialogue with your mom, because your mom cares about you most,” and that it will help with communication.
Hardesty has had up to eight to ten couples (moms and daughters) in her classes. Girls’ ages range from ages 9 to 15.
Rather than a lecture style class, Hardesty says the class is more interactive.
”I do an icebreaker — it’s a true and false about growing up, myths about periods and things like that. Moms learn things too though, it’s amazing . . . there’s just a lot of myths out there!”
Class handouts include the true or false statements, questions for daughters to ask their moms, and a list of sanitary hygiene products, including apps to help track their periods.
To encourage girls to ask uncomfortable questions, Hardesty provides a place where they can write their questions anonymously.
If girls are relatively familiar with what to expect, when they start their periods, it will help. At a minimum, Hardesty recommends they indicate the day on the calendar when it starts and when it stops, and any symptoms, because a lot of young people may have reproductive issues. So just having that conversation in the class “takes the onus off of mom.”
According to Hardesty, for girls and women, the reproductive system is now considered to be a fifth vital sign, in addition to blood pressure, pulse, temperature and heart rate. Abnormalities in menstrual cycle may indicate other health issues.
Michele Mason attended the class a few years ago with her youngest daughter.
“I really wish I would have known about this with my older daughters. I would recommend it to everyone who has daughters. I do remember that I was shocked that I learned a few things that I didn’t know (that was a surprise to me being a mom of nine living children and in my 50’s).
“This class really helped to open up the conversation with my daughter so it was natural and not awkward to discuss things that are often hard to discuss.”
Another recent attendee, McKenna Anderson, took her daughter who was around age 12 at the time. Her sister and niece also attended with them, which helped both the girls and moms be less intimidated and uncomfortable. Anderson suggested it might be a good idea for moms to go with other moms whose daughters are friends, for that reason.
“The class was small and intimate, so that also helped alleviate some of the discomfort”
Although she and her daughter had talked about some things to expect with puberty, Anderson appreciated that Hardesty went into more depth and provided more biological terms that then helped her discuss things with her daughter afterwards.
Anderson suggested that it would also be helpful for girls who were pre-pubescent the first time, to attend again, once they have started menstruating, because more specific questions may pop up after they have experienced it, that they wouldn’t have thought to ask beforehand.
Another recent attendee, Jenn Green, also spoke highly of the class. Although Green had had a couple of conversations with her daughter beforehand, “I wanted her to know that she could have safe conversations with others” about fertility, reproduction and what to expect.
Since Green has experienced many reproductive problems for most of her life, she wasn’t able to talk to her daughter about to expect as “normal.”
“Hardesty was able to fill in some blanks, things I never thought to tell her.”
Green said she was also surprised to learn that signs of puberty may start appearing a few years before menstruation actually begins. She learned that delayed onset of menstruation is not unusual for girls actively involved in sports.
“This was reassuring, because like one of Kris’ daughters, my daughter is active and has a slender build.”
Green also appreciated Hardesty’s approach to teaching the class, which is just right for the age of the girls. “It wasn’t over or under her level, it was at her level.”
Another participant, Kristen Law, who is also a nurse, highly recommends the class. Although her daughter has two older sisters, so she was already familiar with what to expect, Law said the class was a fantastic experience. She was especially impressed with the approach Hardesty takes in explaining the beauty of the reproductive process and womanhood.
“It was such a refreshing viewpoint, embracing the sacredness of the gift of fertility; and presented a very positive view of being a woman who is able to conceive and give birth.”
“It was powerful to hear about the purpose behind all the different aspects of fertility and reproduction, and the fact that correct terminology was taught.”
Upcoming classes are being offered Sept. 9, 1-3 p.m., and Dec. 2, 1-3 p.m., at St. Francis Hospital. Cost is $20 per mom/daughter pair, and $5 for each additional daughter.
To register, go to www.centura.org/classes-and-events, in the “Search by City/Hospital” area, click “Penrose-St. Francis Health Services” then click Search. On the next screen type “Growing” in Search Criteria. The two upcoming classes will show up.
(Linda Oppelt is administrative assistant for the Herald.)