As a multihyphenate mom of two, Mia Francis-Poulin wears many hats. When she’s not caring for her two sons, 4-year-old Roman and 1-year-old A.J., she’s running her digital marketing agency, R + A Creative Co. And when she’s not running the agency, she’s connecting with other special needs moms via her podcast, Mama, Build Your Empire!
The 28-year-old New Orleans native and her husband of five years, Steven, moved to Anna on May 1, 2015. It’s a date she says they’ll never forget, because just eight days later, Roman was born at 27 weeks gestation. After 292 days in the neonatal intensive care unit and two near-death scares, Roman went home and the new parents adjusted to their new normal.
Last year, when Roman was diagnosed with autism, the family pivoted once more. Francis-Poulin left corporate life behind, launched her own business and set out to connect with likeminded women who are balancing entrepreneurial endeavors with raising kids with special needs.
How is Roman doing today?
When he first came home, he was on a trach and a ventilator. He had 24/7 oxygen support and a whole assortment of attachments. He’s doing a lot better health-wise. He doesn’t have a trach anymore, but he needs oxygen intermittently. Now, we have this diagnosis of autism and it’s a new journey. That’s what kicked off my exit from the corporate world. I design my day around him, therapies and my podcast. He just started ABA therapy. He’s been getting occupational and speech therapy, which has helped a lot.
It must have been so difficult to hear the autism diagnosis after all you’d already been through with his premature birth.
We’re just so grateful that he’s here. We almost lost him twice in that nearly 300-day journey. That really changed our perspective.
Were you worried about having another baby after the trauma of your first pregnancy?
We wanted to make sure that we were fully prepared. So before we got pregnant, I went to see the perinatologist who saved Roman’s life, Dr. Brown-Elliott. She was there all along with my regular obstetrician. I think doing the preconception planning and having an action plan helped my anxiety. The birth experience was completely different from my first. I had my essential oils and my doula. Nobody was in panic mode.
How did you know it was time to leave corporate life behind?
I was on this rampant path of climbing the ladder. Then I got pregnant with A.J., and then the autism diagnosis came. I knew I needed something that would feed my ambition and allow me to design my day around the needs of my children, so I started R + A Creative Co.
What is the agency’s focus?
I specifically help female entrepreneurs grow their audiences and launch new products or services. It’s kind of what I was doing in corporate. I worked on a lot of different launches for a lot of different organizations. That framework really excites me.
How did the podcast come about?
I realized that this entrepreneurial road and this special needs road are very isolating. I had two goals: I wanted to be able to build up a community and have a voice for moms who are doing two really hard things: starting businesses and raising kids who have different needs. I also wanted to showcase other moms like me. I wanted to know they were out there and that I’m not alone in this journey. It’s been an amazing experience. I’ve talked to people as far away as Israel and Australia who are in similar positions as I am.
What motivates you every day?
The biggest motivator for me is making sure my kids are OK. I grew up with the mindset that you have to work really hard to get where you want to be. Entrepreneurship is hard. Raising kids with special needs is definitely a challenge. The hard work hasn’t deterred me. What keeps me going is that I want my kids to be set up so they don’t have the worries that I had when I was growing up.
You’re such an inspiration. Who inspires you?
Oh, man. There are so many people. I find a lot of inspiration from people I’ve read books from like Marie Forleo or Lisa Nichols. Then there are other autism moms I’ve met like Aundrea Caldwell, the founder of Autism Moms Getaways. She created the platform to bring moms of kids with autism together because there’s such a rampant health crisis among the autism community, as it relates to parent caregivers. I love that she’s giving that attention.
What does self–care look like for you?
I’ve accepted that my self-care isn’t going to look like going to the spa—as much as that would be amazing. For me, self-care is being able to drive for an hour and listen to an audiobook. I love reading, but I never have time to sit down with a paperback.
How have you and Steven navigated the challenges of the past five years as a couple?
When we were in the NICU, we saw some beautiful moments and some that break people apart. A nurse said, “Going through a trauma like that will either bring you closer or it will tear you apart.” It brought us so much closer. We navigate it all together. Watching our son fight for his life, we had to learn how to lean into each other in times of crisis.
What’s next on your bucket list?
Personally, the next big thing for us is a really big vacation. I’m really excited about being able to take my kids to Disney World. That’s our big 2020 plan. Professionally, just continuing to grow my business and the podcast. I have some really exciting collaborations coming at the end of this year.
Is there a mantra you live by?
Yes: “Everything is figureoutable.” It’s from Marie Forleo. I live by that. I really do. There’s a solution to everything, even if it isn’t the one we want.