I would inspire a social movement that creates a shift in consciousness in how our society views and treats mothers. I would love to see every mother shed the shame, judgment, and expectations that so often come with raising children. Simultaneously, I would love to see every mother receive the tools, resources, and support she needs and deserves so that she may thrive in the countless roles she plays on a daily basis.
As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Crissy Fishbane.
Crissy Fishbane is the co-founder of HER Health Collective, an organization dedicated to improving postpartum care for women in the United States, where maternal outcomes are often ranked last compared to other developed nations. Crissy is passionate about bringing together experts from a variety of fields to foster collaboration across disparate industries and move postpartum care and women’s health forward. HER Health Collective offers a fun and supportive community for moms where they can create authentic relationships with other women while also providing educational opportunities around topics such as postpartum depression, racial inequality, avoiding burnout, and overcoming workplace barriers.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Motherhood rocked me to my core. In 2017 I gave birth to my beautiful daughter, who would forever change my world.
In that early postpartum period, my mind and body were overcome by severe anxiety. I discovered that the strong, decisive woman I used to be had seemingly vanished. She was replaced with a scared, lonely woman who had no idea what she was doing or where to turn for help. My daughter’s cries reverberated through my body, sounding like sirens wailing in my ear and sending my nervous system into overdrive. I was constantly walking around with adrenaline coursing through my veins waiting for the other shoe to drop. Suddenly, daily chores felt like Herculean tasks and even the smallest setback felt catastrophic.
I was in the throes of severe postpartum anxiety. The meager one-page intake form given at my 6-week postpartum check-up with my OBGYN failed to get me the support I so desperately needed. The truth is, I was always a good test taker and felt that this was a test I shouldn’t “fail.” Without even thinking about it, I answered in a “safe way” thinking that if I let anyone know how much I was struggling I would be viewed as a failure.
Through my career as a Therapeutic Exercise Specialist and Wellness Coach specializing in postpartum care, I interacted with dozens of moms every week. It is through those interactions that I quickly discovered I was far from alone in my postpartum experience. These women also felt they were alone on an island without adequate support.
Some women receive extensive care during pregnancy, though the majority still do not. Regardless of prenatal care, once the child is born care for the mother comes to a screeching halt. This is the exact period of life in which most women will face some of their biggest health and life challenges. Many women do not know what is normal and what is cause for concern. If a woman is to receive care in the postpartum period she will likely need to research, self-diagnose, and seek out that care on her own.
This gap in care is a serious flaw in our healthcare system. When you look at postpartum care in other nations, both formal and informal, women have access to a far more comprehensive system of care. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States ranks last in terms of family-friendly policies.
I have never before felt so called to do something. I knew women were being underserved by our current system of care. I knew women were falling under the radar, being forced to seek out answers on their own, navigating a disparate system of care, and feeling frustrated at not knowing where to turn. I saw a need for more support and I set out to make it happen.
In 2019 I was lucky enough to meet Cindi Michaelson, who would become a treasured friend and my business partner. Cindi and I share the same views on postpartum care and both have a deep passion for supporting mothers. Together we envisioned a cohesive system that supports women through their entire journey of motherhood. We have been working tirelessly to bring that vision to life and I couldn’t imagine building this business with anyone else by my side.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
We are changing how women view their health and care for their bodies. By removing the society-driven narrative of guilt and shame and encouraging women to share their unique experiences, we are disrupting the status quo and sparking a movement of moms supporting moms. We are confronting taboo topics such as perinatal mood disorders, body acceptance, parental leave, glass ceilings, and unequal access to care.
We created HER Circle, a central location where vetted experts provide trusted information and resources, and answer women’s most pressing questions. We provide a safe space for women to share struggles with fertility issues, mental health, breastfeeding, pelvic floor dysfunction, parenting challenges, and beyond. When a woman shares her story she removes the stigma and empowers other women to do the same.
Our community is unique in welcoming moms of all ages, including grandmothers. Young mothers benefit from the wisdom of older generations and grandmothers enjoy the connection at a point in their life when they are also feeling isolated. By blending all ages of moms we hope to fill a void that has resulted from the modern world where many of us no longer live near immediate family.
We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
I have been blessed to have many wonderful individuals support me on this journey.
The mentorship of Em Sexton has been invaluable to me. Em is my business coach and an entrepreneurial powerhouse. Through her, I have learned how to put myself out there, not mark “no” as a defeat, and lean into my strengths. I met Em while attending a business retreat she led for female entrepreneurs. Her heart and passion for helping women turn their business dreams into reality is unparalleled. I left that retreat feeling driven and have watched this business, and my capabilities as a leader, grow in leaps and bounds thanks to the spark she ignited within me. I know that HER Health Collective will succeed. This work is important and the stakes are high. Regardless of the setbacks we face, we will continue our efforts to support moms in every way we can. Failure is not an option. I credit Em with helping me develop the conviction in my abilities to make this business a reality.
The guidance and encouragement from my best friend, who also happens to be my husband, has been another key factor in my success. In my former life, I was a high school psychology teacher. I had come home from another particularly rough day and my husband found me sitting in my car, looking dejected and incredibly unhappy. Without a moment’s hesitation he said, “Crissy, it doesn’t have to be this way. You can find another way to help people.” From his entrepreneurial background, he knows that building a business from the ground up takes time and patience and he’s been invaluable in helping me build a relationship-based business with a long-game mentality. His support has never wavered and his optimism and belief in me is what keeps me moving forward through the many challenging phases of entrepreneurship.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
- What do you have in your hand? — Em Sexton posed the question, “what do you have in your hand?” to a small group of female entrepreneurs and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since. What is available to you right now in this moment that you can turn into an opportunity? At the time she posed this question I was knee-deep in all the things that weren’t working, all the no’s I had heard, and how things just weren’t panning out as quickly as I’d hoped. This question completely flipped my viewpoint. I now recognize the abundance of resources I have access to and have been making use of the “things in my hand” ever since.
- Everything is figureoutable — Marie Forleo inspires me. The title of her recent book “Everything is Figureoutable” has become a catch-phrase that I carry with me at all times. When faced with what seems like an insurmountable task or a mountain of a project, I remind myself that “everything is figureoutable” especially if I take it in bite-sized pieces. Start with one step and keep moving forward. Eventually, you will get there.
- Hearing “no” brings you closer to your “yes” — Since launching HER Health Collective I have heard “no” more times than I can count. It took me a while, but hearing the word “no” no longer makes me cringe on the inside. Instead, I now find myself thinking, “Okay, great! I don’t have to waste any more time here, I’m that much closer to finding my yes.”
How are you going to shake things up next?
We’ve found that most mom support programs are very narrow in scope. We don’t want that.
It is with that mentality that we recently launched our Talking About Race Conversation Circle. This seven-month-long initiative is aimed at creating a safe place for mothers to dive into trusted resources about racial issues and then dissect that information together. We’ve received phenomenal feedback from our participants and have enjoyed the eye-opening conversations that happen when mothers of all races join forces, each of them willing to confront hard topics.
We are creating a safe space where all moms are welcome and are aiming for that village mentality, where a new mom that doesn’t have any family nearby can attend an event and interact with a grandmother that is just as lonely and starved for friendship. In light of this, we are launching our Boomer Initiative aimed at supporting grandmothers and empty-nesters. We’ve found that these mothers also need education, community, and support.
Another key initiative that we are thrilled to launch is our Peer-to-Peer Mom Mentorship program providing our moms a volunteer opportunity to support other moms in need of connection. We constantly listen to the moms in our community to learn what their current struggles are and launch new initiatives that meet those changing needs and shake up the ways in which we offer support.
Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?
We recently read Glennon Doyle’s Untamed for our HER Circle book club. She has a way of packing a powerful punch with her words. More times than I could count, I found myself needing to pause, set the book aside, and sit with a sentence or paragraph to reflect on the message.
One of my favorite quotes from the book is, “when a woman finally learns that pleasing the world is impossible, she becomes free to learn how to please herself.” Growing up I was a consummate people pleaser. I went out of my way to ensure the people around me were happy, often to the detriment of my own peace of mind. Becoming a mother and launching this business necessitated a shift in my approach. I had to acknowledge that I was not serving anyone by putting everyone else’s needs above my own.
Glennon Doyle’s central theme is to unapologetically take charge of your life and dismantle the mental and emotional cages that society has constructed for us. It has been eye-opening to look at life through this lens. Once you see the cages we’ve all locked ourselves away in, you can’t unsee them. You have to find a way to break the lock and set yourself free.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would inspire a social movement that creates a shift in consciousness in how our society views and treats mothers.
I would love to see every mother shed the shame, judgment, and expectations that so often come with raising children. Simultaneously, I would love to see every mother receive the tools, resources, and support she needs and deserves so that she may thrive in the countless roles she plays on a daily basis.
A Goddess Myth has engulfed this generation of mothers. It’s created an expectation of snapping back to a perfect body, returning to work mere weeks after having a child, and putting herself on the back burner in order to complete her duty of being the perfect mother. She is expected to do it all and show no cracks in her armor lest she be judged or shamed. This has created a mass of anxious, overwhelmed, exhausted, frustrated, and lonely women.
Mothers are the foundation of a properly functioning society and need to be able to perform at their highest potential in order to care for their family, and most importantly themselves. Over half of our population is drowning in guilt, shame, and loneliness.
I would create a movement in which society recognizes the value of its women and puts in place the resources, tools, and support necessary for mothers to do their vital work. I would create a movement in which women support one another. A mom sees another mom in need and without thinking twice, will step up to the plate. All judgment and comparison are left behind. The same way an athlete needs adequate training, time for recovery, a level field, and a supportive team, so too does a mother need adequate education, time to heal, access to care, and a support system.
We need a system that creates healthy, empowered, and respected women that are fully supported from the moment they become mothers. The ripples this movement can create will change the world.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
About two years before I had my daughter I traveled to northern Spain to complete the 500 mile Camino de Santiago. It was the fifth week and I was walking through a desolate wheat field. I hadn’t seen another person for hours, the sun was blazing and I was lost in my thoughts about past failures, future fears, and other people’s opinions.
Seemingly out of nowhere, the phrase “accept what is” came to me.
I didn’t have to philosophize or reflect on the meaning. I experienced a deep innate understanding and immediately grasped the significance of this insight. I was wasting my time thinking about things that were outside my control. The past, the future, other people — those are all things I have no control over. What I can control is this moment, the relationships I build with loved ones, and what I create and share with the world.
I have been working to “accept what is” ever since.
How can our readers follow you online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!