We love our dearcity for all that it is, but we’d be lying if we said there aren’t days our minds wander to the west and wonder “What if?” Usually those are the days we’re slapped with a random act of kindness or catch the sunset on the NYC skyline in a way it can only do in our beautiful city to snap us out of our daydream. But we can’t say we’re not happy we have friends to visit on the West Coast (and to make us jealous on our instagram feeds) to give us a taste of the other side. Friends that are finding inspiration in different places. Even when it comes to birthing. Like, maternity support specialist Erica Chidi, founder of The Mama Circle in Venice, Calif.
Imagine attending a birthing class that is set in a lush, secluded garden centered around a farm-to-table lunch… no, we’re not daydreaming again. This is the oasis that Chidi brought to life this past summer. “The Mama Circle is a place for expectant mothers to connect, share, and gain vital insights about pregnancy, birth, and their journey towards motherhood,” says Chidi. “I integrate my skills as a birth and postpartum doula, Certified Lactation Educator Counselor and chef to support expectant parents.” With only 10-12 women in each session, Chidi has created an appropriately intimate setting for an intimate topic. “I wanted to infuse more community, connection and levity into the prenatal learning experience. My hope was to create something that felt intimate, relaxed -- a safe space for women to be themselves and prepare for birth,” says Chidi.
OK, our minds are wandering again. Here Chidi tells us more.
Why is The Mama Circle so special compared to other birthing or prenatal courses?
I think what makes The Mama Circle different is that it's a softer learning environment. Firstly, the sessions take place outside of the traditional space of a classroom. We're in a beautiful garden, which creates a more fluid and receptive energy in which to receive information.
Secondly, the curriculum is progressive, dynamic and evidence-based. We support every type of birth experience and cover everything from how to assemble your birth preferences to mindful meditation to discovering how you can best negotiate the transition from pregnancy to parenthood with your partner.
Lastly, we end each session in a communal farm-to-table organic lunch, where our mamas can discuss the information we've covered amongst themselves and with the circle leader of that session.
Equal focus is placed on education, socializing and nourishment.
How did you choose The Mama Circle leaders?
I chose individuals I admired within my industry and that I felt held a strong but incorporative stance on pregnancy, birth and parenting topics.
Can women opt to take just one and not all 5 sessions?
If so, what is the most important session and why?
It's hard to say, as each session explores poignant elements of pregnancy and birth. However, "Preparing For The Moment" unpacks the foundational elements of how to create an empowering birth experience, so I would recommend that one. It primes the mind and provides an introduction to the many options and choices a woman has within the birth environment.
Tell us about the farm-to-table experience.
I was a trained a chef before going to college, so food is a huge part of who I am and how I see the world. Sustainability was important, so I collaborated with a local CSA initiative called FarmBoxLA and I source most of the produce through them. They have a close relationship with many of the local Californian farms, which allowed me to learn more about what's locally cultivated. Nutrition is so important in pregnancy and the early postpartum period, so it felt natural to connect each session to a nourishing meal, catering to the specific nutritional needs of pregnancy.
What do you want the expectant mamas to come away with from The Mama Circle?
Feeling empowered, heard and more knowledgeable about what to expect in their pregnancy, birth and postnatal experience. I'd also like them to come away with a new community of like-minded women who are on the same journey and are there to support one another as they transition into motherhood.
Do you ever plan to expand to NY? That would be amazing.
Possibly, it would be incredible to do a summer intensive in NYC. We'd just need to find a cosy, communal garden space...with a kitchen! Ideas are welcome!
Photography by Kimberly Genevieve