Ep. 22: The Mom Mindset & Being a NICU Warrior Mom w/ Lisa Freeman

Today's episode is full of gold nuggets as badass mom Lisa Freeman chats about two really important topics.

The first topic Lisa talks about is the Mom Mindset. She speaks on how moms can incorporate our physical and mental health into our days and the importance of the pelvic floor. Lisa shares her tips and tricks for staying active as a mom and also drives home just how important it is that we fill our cup so we can show up as the best mom for our children.

The second topic Lisa shares with us is about her challenging pregnancy with her daughter, Joslyn, finding out that Joslyn has pulmonary stenosis then a large patent ductus arteriosus (PDA), and spending 83 days in the NICU.

Lisa talks about the moment she almost gave up and felt herself breaking during this whole journey and how she managed to pull through and what this whole journey has taught her.

To cap it all off, Lisa shares with us her co-author project where she is writing a chapter on her self-love journey. She also introduces her new Moms Who Move program focuses on movement, nutrition and community exclusives.

To connect with Lisa on social media and to learn more about her Moms Who Move program, check these links:

Lisa's Instagram:chick.for.change

Moms Who Move Instagram:moms.who.move

Moms Who Move website: www.momswhomove.ca

As always, if you want to connect with me on Instagram: jeshessels

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Lisa was born and raised on a dairy farm near a small town just north of Barrie. She currently lives just north of Waterloo, Ontario in a small town with her husband and 9-month-old daughter Joslyn. When Lisa isn’t busy being a mom, she is working at her day job as a physical education teacher for Kindergarten through Grade 6 students. Lisa has been in the fitness industry for about 15 years, having experience as a group fitness instructor, personal trainer, spin class instructor, boot camp instructor and more. Fitness has been a huge part of Lisa’s life for many years. She also currently has a few passion projects on the go right now.

The Right Fit

Lisa chose to step away from her career as a personal trainer due to the fact that this career is very hit or miss. It was often very stressful and put a lot of pressure on her as a trainer to obtain clients and keep them. Lisa also felt as though she was on display, had to put on a show and felt like a salesperson sometimes. It wasn’t really something she wanted to do and often found it difficult. She loved helping people and seeing them discover results for themselves, but it wasn’t until she started working with kids that she knew she had found the right fit for her.

Kids are the next generation and they are the ones who are going to make a difference. Lisa loved seeing children decide that they like to be active and realize that moving is what the body is supposed to do. It sparked a newfound fire in her. Lisa did a couple of placements before she applied to teacher’s college. She knew she wanted to help young kids realize that activity just needed to be part of every day. She decided to make the switch because working with younger people was incredibly rewarding for her.

The Mindset Side of Fitness

For Lisa, the physical aspect of fitness was so huge in her life that she never really understood the mental capacity that was necessary to be healthy. When she started to realize how important mental health was for her, it slowly started to come through in her teaching practices as well. Through a period of stress and trying to keep herself healthy, Lisa realized that mental health was incredibly important. And it was also something that was starting to become more prominent in conversations. Lisa also discovered that when you become a mom the whole mental health game changes because you just have to let go of everything. You are caring for yourself, but also another human.

Something Lisa has thought about for over a year now is what she calls Mom Mindset. Lisa went through a lot of struggles with her daughter and it made her realize that when you are a mom you will do anything for your child. But there also needed to be a piece where she was showing up for herself as well. If you let go of yourself and don’t fill your own cup, how can you be there for your child or your spouse. It’s important to have that balance of mental and physical wellbeing. Lisa knew that showing up as the most authentic person that she could be was the best way to role model for her daughter. It’s something she continually works on daily.

Lisa has had so many conversations with moms surrounding physical activity and having the time and motivation for it. Lisa explains that it’s a simple change in mindset that will shift you into taking care of yourself first. And it’s not selfish at all. There is so much mom guilt around it, but Lisa feels it is mandatory that you do this and take care of your own body. Your child needs you to. Movement can be anything. It’s just important that you do move your body. Lisa recommends moving your body for at least 30 minutes every single day. And it doesn’t have to happen all at once, but you can chop up that 30 minutes throughout the day. When you put things into that perspective, movement doesn’t seem as challenging. It’s a mindset shift. People have to decide that they want to do it and once they make that decision, it will be easier to shift your mindset into acting toward it.

But as a new mom, you don’t want to just hop back into exercise. Lisa learned a lot about pelvic floor health as a new mom and recommends that mothers talk to a pelvic floor specialist. There are a lot of myths surrounding new mothers getting back to exercise and every body is different. There isn’t enough conversation around pelvic floor physio and exercises. Even with her kinesiology degree, Lisa realized there wasn’t a single conversation about it. Even personal trainers now don’t have the training on pelvic floor health. There are so many things that they are doing wrong and these women are continuing to suffer. As moms we need to have these conversations and help each other out with this information.

Balancing Physical & Mental Health in Motherhood

Lisa is still working on herself. She was always so good at the physical piece that the mental piece has been challenging at times. But you need your mental health to get you to that next step in your physical health.

Lisa keeps a daily gratitude journal, which she recommends as a simple way to kickstart your mental health. There are difficult days as a mom, but by thinking about where she is, what she has to do, and what she can be thankful for she finds she can shift her perspective. Even just sitting alone for 5 minutes in stillness helps and Lisa suggests bringing yourself back to simple things and breaking away from the busyness of life. Saying positive affirmations out loud makes a difference as well, because it feels stronger and more real.

Lisa encourages everyone to start simple. A few minutes can make a huge difference and you don’t have to go big to see progress. Small steps make huge progress.

Lisa’s Motherhood Journey

Everything started around Lisa’s 20-week checkup. She was notified by her midwife that they needed to do some extra testing because her baby had some sort of heart condition and there was a narrowing in some of her values in her heart. The tests confirmed that Lisa’s daughter had pulmonary stenosis, which is a narrowing of her valve that leads from the heart to the lungs.

Fast forward to 30 weeks and Lisa was going for appointments every 2 weeks for echo-cardiograms and ultrasounds. As her baby girl started to grow and her heart started to develop, they started to notice more and more. This was a very hectic time in Lisa’s life as she was trying to finish off the school year as a teacher, get ready for maternity leave, and deal with all the appointments. Eventually, Lisa was told that they would have to wait until she was born to see what was going on.

Lisa had her baby at full term, just a couple days after her due date. They discovered that Joslyn’s heart condition was a little bit more than they originally knew about. Joslyn ended up having stenosis in all four of her valves and had a large PDA, which is the valve that should close as soon as the baby is born. A normal baby’s valve is between 1-2mm, but Joslyn’s was 8mm. Being so large it was causing extra fluid in her lungs and she was having a hard time breathing, so she was put on and off breathing support. Lisa was also attempting to breast feed her baby between that time. As a new mom, Lisa found this time so overwhelming and she looks back and wonders how she got through a lot of it.

Doctors tried different methods to close the PDA, but after a month there was no change and Joslyn was kept on breathing support. Lisa felt helpless because there was nothing she could do and it was frustrating. This is where her mental health played a huge role. At two and a half months old, Joslyn was sent to Toronto for heart surgery to close the PDA. The procedure went amazing and afterward, Joslyn was like a brand-new baby with a whole different personality.

From there, Lisa had to work on oral feeding so that she could hopefully go home with Joslyn. She tried breastfeeding on and off and was at the hospital trying to feed Joslyn every three hours. Nothing would work and Lisa almost gave up. She remembers wondering what the meaning behind this meant and she felt insufficient as a mother. Lisa tried to breastfeed for 3 weeks and even tried a bottle but any time she put the bottle near Joslyn’s mouth she would throw up due to a really sensitive gag reflex. It was so crazy to Lisa how a baby couldn’t understand how to suck on something.

Eventually a feeding tube was inserted into Joslyn’s tummy, which was how they fed her milk and formula. And without that option, they would still be at the hospital today. Joslyn is currently eating some purees and is able to put a bottle in her mouth, but still doesn’t know how to suck on it. Lisa has seen small steps and improvements and it’s been quite the learning journey.

Mom Mindset

Lisa thinks back to August when Joslyn was just over a month old and she was in that process of trying to feed her baby while they were still in the hospital. She decided that she was just going to do this and that they would get through this no matter what it took. Lisa learned to accept that this was just how their journey as a family was starting. And it wasn’t going to get any better if she didn’t accept the fact that this was Joslyn’s beginning to her story. We go through these emotions but we don’t really accept that they happen for a reason. You have to find meaning and be intuitive about those feelings. This was just going to be Lisa’s path and she chose to have a positive mindset about it. She still had a baby who was doing well, was gaining weight and was born full term. Lisa decided that she was going to find the positive aspects of what she was going through. When Lisa, as well as her husband, decided to change their mindset, they were able to grew as a couple and as a family.

Lisa cultivated a “mom mindset” where she decided that she will get through it because its her child and she’d do anything for her. Lisa can’t really describe how she got through every day. She watched a ton of Netflix and pumped a lot of milk, but she also got to sit with her baby daily. And she knew she was going to be ok and that there was going to be a light at the end of the tunnel. Focusing on the positives was how Lisa got through it.

Lisa explains that anybody can change their mindset and get through a tough situation. Accept what you are going through, but find meaning and positivity to push you forward. Think of the mind as another muscle in the body that needs to be exercised.

Passion Projects

Lisa is currently part of a co-author project where she wrote a chapter in a book all about self-love. She writes about all the things she mentioned today, her experiences as a mom, and how she practices self-love and why it’s important. Lisa has also created the Moms Who Move program.

Joslyn was three months old when she was able to be brought home. Lisa felt extremely isolated even though she had the support of her family and friends. She had a lot of confusion and didn’t really know who to talk to or what things she should be doing. She was just trying to keep her head above water. And that’s where her program came to fruition. She created her program with three main focuses –

Movement – Lisa focuses on helping moms get back into exercise safely. Pelvic floor health is huge part of the program.

Nutrition – Lisa has been involved with the Puratae company for a year and a half, which is a green super blend that offers all of your main nutrition that you need every day (antioxidant, probiotic, prebiotic, multivitamin, digestive enzyme, immune support, etc). It’s a quick and simple way to cover all your bases and ensure you are receiving the proper nutrients your body needs. Lisa also offers quick, simple, and delicious recipes to help make the nutrition piece less daunting,

Exclusive promotions – Lisa wanted a way to offer exclusives to moms to help connect them to the community. This was the aspect that Lisa was missing for herself. Spas, clothing companies, group fitness instructors, chiropractors and more have been supporting the group by offering free live sessions, discounts on products, free month memberships to gyms and other great local business offers. It’s a great way to connect with local businesses, but also get support for moms.

This is Lisa’s maternity leave in a nutshell right now.

Lisa’s Final Message

Grow through what you go through. When you go through something in your life, you are going to face challenges. Stay positive and understand that you are going to grow and learn something from the experience. Pay attention and be intuitive about how you will go forward. Once you accept that this is happening to you, you can start to change and observe what you are going through and receive lessons from it. Lisa wants you to accept the challenges that come your way. Because you can always spin a negative into a positive.

Through pregnancy and motherhood, Lisa feels like she can do anything and feels superhuman. She learned how to dive deep and pay attention to what is happening around her and she understands that by doing so, she will learn from her experiences. There is meaning behind everything. Lisa learned how strong she is and if she puts her mind to something, she will do it! Nothing is silly and nothing is off the table and people need to pay attention to what they love. Life is precious. Show up authentically and do the things that you love to do and don’t ever let anyone tell you that there is something you can’t do.

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