‘Healing together’

Nonprofit supports teachers suffering pregnancy loss and infertlity

Gianna and Zack Nimick struggled for years with infertility, leading to Gianna taking a leave from teaching.

A local teacher who suffered from infertility issues found solace and support from a nonprofit that supports educators and other women experiencing pregnancy loss and infertility.

Gianna Nimick, a special education teacher from Marlton, connected with the organization after undergoing a laparoscopy in 2023 to diagnose her infertility issues.

“I was really struggling mentally and wasn’t ready to go back to school,” she recalled.

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After discovering Start Healing Together and its founder, Jacquelyn Mancinelli, Nimick reached out and found immediate support.

“Jackie and I talked, and she connected me with the right people,” said Nimick. They included an individual who assisted her with leave options and understanding her legal rights.

The teacher shared her own extensive treatment journey and the challenges she and her husband Zack faced trying to conceive.

“My husband and I have been struggling for four years to conceive,” Nimick noted. “We were both pretty surprised it was taking a long time.”

A friend of hers suffering from post-partum issues recommended Nimick see a doctor in Huntington Valley, Pennsylvania, last year.

“I am more of a science-based medication person, but this doctor was all about getting to the root of the (infertility) cause,” Nimick recalled, “so she changed our whole diet for both my husband and I. We were on supplements and vitamins, just a lifestyle change.”

After various treatments, Nimick experienced a brief pregnancy that was a profound experience of both joy and sorrow.

“I ended up having my first pregnancy in June, which was a chemical pregnancy, and lasted about five weeks,” she explained. “It was my first time seeing an hCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotrophin, a hormone produced during pregnancy) higher than 0, and I had very mixed feelings.

“I was so thrilled but at the same time, I was crushed,” Nimick acknowledged. “After that, I realized I needed to get surgery, because there was something more going on and I also suffered from bad cramps.”

Nimick then underwent surgery that failed to yield answers. It took a significant emotional toll and led her to take a leave from teaching.

“Once I was out of surgery, there was nothing that they found and I really felt let down,” she remembered. “Then from that point, I started my journey of not being at school.”

Mancinelli, also a teacher who has personally experienced the pain of infant loss, understands the unique needs of women during such trying times.

“After COVID, teaching became incredibly difficult, and the personal struggles of family building only add to the stress,” she explained, adding that Start Healing Together works to ensure that no educator has to navigate challenges like Nimick’s without support.

“What Gianna needs may differ from the next person,” Mancinelli related, “so we tailor our approach to each individual.”

Mancinelli’s own pregnancy journey was a heart-wrenching one that included a miscarriage in 2014 and the loss of a son in 2016 due to complications during an emergency C-section.

“Returning to my classroom was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do,” she recounted.

That led to Mancinelli starting her nonprofit in 2021. Start Healing Together has been incorporated into nearly 50 teaching contracts across New Jersey, the U.S. and Canada that advocate for bereavement leave and supportive measures for all types of pregnancy loss and fertility issues.

Start Healing Together not only advocates for individual needs but also conducts training for school districts and labor unions on managing grief in the workplace.

“Our society often overlooks the grief associated with pregnancy loss and the challenges of family building,” Mancinelli pointed out. “Our mission is to destigmatize these experiences and support our educators through every step of their journey.”

While stepping away from teaching was challenging and Nimick still copes with infertility, she now sees another specialist and also stresses the importance of therapy.

“It’s such a lonely feeling,” she admitted, “despite having support from my husband, family and friends.”

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