Erica Chidi works to be a force of good in the world.
The now doula was deeply affected and inspired by time spent with her doctor father on his rounds at the hospital and her nurse mother’s self-care rituals at home.
After moving with her fiancé to Los Angeles, Chidi was inspired by her love for nourishing others and of cooking to open her home to expectant and new mothers for afternoons of nurturing meals and education. That event eventually evolved into The Mama Circle, a modern resource for everything from doula services, lactation consulting and nutritional services to prenatal and postpartum learning experiences.
Here, Chidi describes the impact of being raised by caregivers and her take on a doula’s role
Live The Process: How did having parents in the medical field influence you?
Erica Chidi: They taught me to have a sense of awareness of others. As a young girl, I spent many of my weekends with my father making rounds in the hospital. It was our special time together and I loved it. Watching him take care of his patients, assess their wellbeing and counsel their worried families, made a deep imprint on my psyche. My mother imparted the concept of self-care in our home and guided me on how to nurture my body as I grew into myself. Together, they shaped my view on care and created an innate desire within me to care for others.
LTP: What inspired you to break from traditional western medicine and become a doula?
EC: Even though my parents are both western clinicians, their outlook on health was influenced by their Nigerian roots, as they were both born and raised there. My mother was a proponent of alternative modalities and, from an early age, she introduced me to home remedies for various aliments. That primed me to be open to all forms of healing. I was very attracted the psycho-social support role filled by doulas. A doula is an adjunct to the medical model; we're there to fill in the gaps, educate and guide expectant or new mothers. Being a doula allows me to form an intimate bond with my clients, which is something medical providers typically don’t have the opportunity to do.
LTP: What has been most rewarding about building a community around The Mama Circle?
EC: I had been working as a solo practitioner prior to moving to Los Angeles and I was enjoying it, but I longed for more community within my own work and a chance to use my chef skills. My fiancéand I were very fortunate to find an unusually beautiful property with a communal garden and incredible energy. It’s the kind of space that aches to entertain and bring people together.
On a whim, I decided to open up our home and welcome expectant women in my neighborhood for an afternoon of prenatal education and a nourishing meal prepared by me. The idea was to create a community for women, who are experiencing a transformative period together. The gathering was a success and was the genesis of The Mama Circle. That vision quickly evolved and became a company, premised on establishing a more dynamic approach to pregnancy, birthing and the parenting experience.
I aim to address the more subtle energetic needs of women and help make a woman’s journey into motherhood feel fluid and contemporaneous to the rest of her life. The most rewarding aspect has been watching these women develop meaningful relationships and become confident mothers, supported by a robust community of likeminded women.
LTP: What tips would you offer to those who would like to become involved in non-western prenatal and postpartum care?
EC: Discern what your strengths are and go from there. Deciding whether you want to work directly with the body, provide nourishment through food or to educate is key. That will help you make the most strategic decision. Being a doula is incredibly satisfying, but it requires that you’re often on call, which for some can feel incongruent to their lifestyle. That said, if you feel called to it, get the best training possible and just get out there. Even if you’re just volunteering, feel out the environment and see where the resonance is.
LTP: What does happiness look like to you?
EC: Like uninterrupted time with my fiancé, cooking at home, long naps, sporadic travel and having a positive impact on others and the world at large.
LTP: What does it mean to you to "Live The Process" and how do you do that every day?
EC: It means living intuitively, surrounding yourself with good people and gently pushing through resistance and replacing it with clear action. It also means finding time to slowdown and take everything in.
This interview was originally published in May 2014
All images via @ericachidi