This week I got to sit down and catch up with Christina Samaha, mama of two little girls and Head of Growth at Folia Health. This is a fun one because we’ve known each other for years through Wellesley College and Boston startups. So some of her story was familiar, but we both realized we hadn’t caught up about the intersection of work and motherhood since we each had our second child. Our conversation reminded me what a badass Christina is, and I think you’ll also feel pretty fired up by her story and advice.
Returning from maternity leave looks different for everyone. Some feel ready, some feel pure dread, most of us feel something between exhaustion and delirium. But not many moms I know feel energized and ready to polish up the resume and pursue a fifth-trimester career move. But it seems to work for Christina, because she’s now done exactly that, twice. Each time she found a bigger opportunity that pushed her personally and professionally, and ultimately landed her her current role with Folia Health where she’s able to leverage her health-tech expertise for a mission that is near and dear to her heart. Christina reflects on her journey and the advice she shares with future moms.
You made some dramatic career changes soon after returning from maternity leave, how did that come about?
I was at a different company during both pregnancies. I ended up taking a three-month leave and then switching jobs after a few months of returning from maternity leave. I was discouraged by a lot of people for making career moves so soon after giving birth. I think a lot of women feel stuck around career options during childbirth years because they feel like they need the benefits or no one is going to hire them when they’re pregnant or they’re going to be so tired once they have this newborn, are they going to have the mental capacity to take on something new? I would say both times they were definitely the right choice for me. Looking back I would have wanted to tell myself: know your worth. Know what you deliver. Know what you want to get out of your work. For some people at some points in time it might be about the stability and the paycheck and other times it may be about stretching yourself mentally. Just know what is important to you at that stage and don’t be deterred from going after it.
Also, three weeks after I went back to work with the second pregnancy my older daughter ended up getting very sick. Both girls ended up getting diagnosed with a chronic condition that makes them at higher risk for infections. And so there was a lot of juggling very sick children, doctors appointments, tests and testing again to confirm a diagnosis test and imaging to understand if there was permanent organ damage based on their first infection. So it was a chaotic period of time going back to work the second time.
Tell us about Folia Health, I know you have a personal connection to the company’s mission.
We’re a digital Health startup that has an app that helps patients and caregivers manage chronic conditions to track all the data points they manage at home. So anything from the medications they take to the symptoms they experience and all the factors that can impact their symptoms. The idea is that most of these people are keeping track of these things in notebooks or in their minds and there’s no easy way to communicate that back to their doctors or to the broader medical community. They’re underutilized experts in chronic disease management, but prior to Folia Health there was no mechanism for bringing their knowledge to the broader medical community.
I recognized the value of the company even before I had that personal connection. Patients and caregivers have really in-depth knowledge that isn’t being used by the medical community more broadly, but the girls’ experience just gives it a lot more personal meaning.
What advice would you give to your pre-mom self?
Just reassurance that all works out – both from the career and work perspective, but also from the mothering perspective- even with health challenges. I’m a firm believer that life doesn’t give you more than you can handle. Moms are incredible and can stretch to do whatever our families need of us and I don’t say that just based on myself, but based on the women at the Jeremiah program that I work with. Also a lot of our users of Folia health are moms of children with chronic conditions and so I see that resilience every day in my work. I think some reassurance around that would have made some of those career moves a little bit less stressful, but it always works out in the end.
It was so much fun to catch up with Christina. Our full conversation is now out on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and you can see highlights on our IGTV. Subscribe and follow to make sure you don’t miss next week’s conversation on Work Like a Mother.
Co-founder & COO
Bridget is mom to two little boys, Hudson and Brooks, and a champion of working moms everywhere. NeighborSchools itself was borne out of Bridget’s challenge to find high-quality yet affordable child care, and the realization that so many parents struggle with these same issues every day.