I’m really excited to share today’s interview with you! I’ve long admired Erica Chidi Cohen’s work — as a birth doula living in L.A., she’s formed a community for mothers and most recently wrote a book, Nurture: A Modern Guide To Pregnancy, Birth and Early Motherhood (it’s incredible I might add – I’m almost done reading it) and launched her latest venture as co-founder of LOOM which is a community hub in Los Angeles which offers workshops, classes and events for parents and expecting parents. I’m so grateful she took the time to answer my questions today about her work philosophy, preparing for birth and more. On Friday I’ll be sharing her hospital bag check list!
Tell us about your business and work as a doula. How long have you been a doula and how did you get into this field?
I’ve always been a problem solver, someone who thrives in high-intensity environments and I love helping people through a challenge. Throughout my life, I’ve always been sounding board to friends when they needed support through something, all that to say that after I left the art and public relations world, I knew that I wanted to hones those skills and work with women and families. Both my parents are clinicians ( dad’s a doctor and my mom is a nurse) they both suggested the midwifery route. It resonated and started down the nursing path but in that journey I learned about doulas and instantly felt connected to role the filled. It was less medical and more psychosocial. I loved that, took a leap of faith and decided to do a doula training and that was it, I started taking on clients and knew I’d never look back because the work didn’t feel like work. It felt like an extension of myself.
If you could offer one piece of advice to a first time mom who is 9 months pregnant and nervous about giving birth (as I think most are!!) what would it be?
Trust yourself — you truly know what’s right for you. It’s so easy to get caught up in other peoples opinions, social media and the like. You pregnancy and birth is yours and yours alone. It’s an opportunity to pave you own path and create something unique. Embrace that, whatever it looks like.
What do you think of birth plans? Are they necessary?
I don’t believe in plans — they are too prescriptive. I believe in birth preferences, a strong understanding of the birth environment you’ve chosen and informed consent. Know what you want and get clear on how to ask for it. Also, simplify your preferences. Compile everything into a one page grid or table, especially if you’re birthing in a hospital environment — clinicians are used to taking in information in that format as opposed to a 4 paged letter.
and…. Do you have any additional things that would be helpful for someone hoping for an all natural birth?
I actually don’t believe in the term “natural birth” I think it’s opaque term that divides women and creates competition where it does belong. To me all birth is natural, unmedicated, medicated, vaginal or caesarean birth. It’s natural to bring a baby into the world. In terms of what you would need to bring, I think a doula would help any women in her goal of having a birth without medication, because a big part of achieving that goal is using gravity through movement, certain positions, massage and breathwork with every contraction. And of course, partners can help facilitate that but a doula brings a special skill set, knowledge and stamina that will help keep everyone motivated and engaged as your birth unfolds.
What pregnancy and childbirth books are worth reading?
I just finished writing a book: Nurture: A Modern Guide to Pregnancy, Birth, Early Motherhood – and Trusting Yourself and Your Body which I feel pulls in all the pieces I love from many books I’ve read over the years. Beyond that, I love Expecting Better, Birth Partner, Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn: The Complete Guide, Mindful Mom to Be, The First 40 Days.
What are a few things no one tells you about childbirth?
Your water probably won’t break — only about 7-10% of women experience their water breaking at the onset of labor. Most women just have longer stronger contractions. Secondly, right after delivery — they give you a fundal massage to make sure that your uterus is contracting back down and all of the placenta is released. If you’re unmedicated it’s quite painful — if you’re medicated it can feel very strange to have someone pressing on your belly while you’re holding your new baby.
Pros and cons of a hospital vs. home birth?
I wouldn’t pit them against each other, primarily because both are inherently different. What I would say is that that birthing at home is deep and steadfast psychological commitment that both the mother, her partner and family need to commit to. Everyone needs to believe in the mother and her ability to do and she needs to believe in herself and her body. And when that happens it’s a beautiful things, especially when everything goes as envisioned. Hospital births, require a little less rigor there are protocols in place, backup plans in case something goes wrong and
Any advice you can offer a woman as she navigates the first few weeks of life with a new child?
Yes, get support — whatever you can afford. I think food is key, have friends drop meals, or order in healthy food in the first two weeks, nutrition is usually the first thing to sink when you have to feed your baby 10-12 times day and change diapers. However if you’re eating well — everything is easier. Postpartum doulas are awesome too, even if you have someone come once week, it can be really helpful to have someone to ask questions and help with the baby. Also if you are planning to breastfeed, have an in-home lactation session within the first few days after you settle in at home — it will help ensure you get off to the best start. Lastly go slow, there is no rush, your body is healing. If all you do in 24 hours is feed your baby, change diapers and eat something yourself that’s an A+ day.
What’s 1 thing a birth partner should remember?
Stay curious, your partner is going through so many changes. You might be used to them responding to things a certain way but pregnancy and birth can change that. Ask questions like “ how can I support you right now?” Or how can I help you support yourself?”
Why should someone hire a doula?
Beyond the actual labor, a doula can help you feel more plugged in and grounded through your pregnancy. With my clients, I offer them a safe space to unload and ask questions about what they are experiencing which can be invaluable especially if you feel like you haven’t created a mom community yet or your care provider appointment feel brisk and too clinical. Doulas are there to help support your goals and your growth without judgement or attachment.