So, How Was Your Day?
Smoked salmon and avocado on sprouted rye.
Kale, chicken and white bean soup.
Black bean, squash and chickpea curry.
Up at 6:45, just to make sure I can squeeze in a beach walk. We’re fortunate to live in Venice, only a few blocks from the beach, so I try and get out there as much as I can. Hearing the sound of the waves tumbling out and pulling back into the sea helps me feel grounded and open to the day. Shortly after breakfast, I have a quick online lactation consult with a client in New York. Then it’s off to the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market, one of my favorite weekly stops. I’m usually picking up produce for my postpartum clients, but make sure to stock up on a few things for myself and my fiance, Jordy, if I’m not in a rush. Today, it’s a client run. This afternoon, I’m preparing a kale, chicken and white bean soup and my soaked super-grain porridge, so I take my time picking out baby kale from Maggie’s Farm, colorful fingerling potatoes from Weiser Farms and ruby red strawberries from Pudwill Farms. I rarely leave the market in a bad mood.
I spend the afternoon cooking and caring for my clients, a new mother, her husband and their 5 day old baby girl. Having a child is an incredible period of deep joy and change. Lots of new information, very little sleep and tons of questions and fleeting thoughts on everything from breast-feeding to how one can promote swift healing after birth. As a new parent, having support and good information makes the world of difference. It’s a such a special and intimate period. Honestly, half the time, I just feel lucky to be a part of their transition process. While I make lunch, we chat about her birth story, swaddling and potential names — they’re still trying to decide — and I tell them to take their time, no point in rushing it. When it’s right, it’ll feel right. Once lunch is ready, we sit and eat together, I recommend a few herbal remedies for sleep and pain relief and then show her how to ‘babywear’, which basically means, wrapping a baby on your chest with a stretchy piece of fabric. It’s wonderful for bonding and helping a mom get hands-free quickly. She gets it right on the first try and then jokingly says “I should try this with you”, pointing at their puppy. I laugh, and suggest that she try it out a few more times at home, before a big outing so that she feels comfortable. I quickly soak the grains for the porridge and head home.
It’s one of those rare evenings than I have don’t have something scheduled, so I catch up on a few emails, check in with another client about her midwife appointment earlier that day and take a long bath, scented with an old favorite, Moroccan rose oil. After that, I start making dinner. I like to watch television while I’m prepping and cooking (I’m a multi-tasker!), so I put on “New Girl” and get cracking. Just before 8:30, Jordy walks in the door, and we eat dinner on the kitchen counter and unpack the day. Then I slide into bed, spend a little time on Instagram. Jordy gets in next to me and asks me to listen to some old Sun Ra song he’s really into at the moment. I turn my head, smile and nod drowsily, listen for a few seconds and fall asleep before the song has finished playing.
Three Last Things…
1. What’s up with your cool room? Do you live in an attic or something?
We live in a darling 1925 craftsman bungalow with a lot of quirky touches, like the redwood-paneled loft where that photo was taken. Our bedroom is actually downstairs, but when we need a little break or some thinking space, one of us will sneak up there. Sometimes we sneak up there together and just hang out.
2. You gotta share how you got into the baby/chef game? It’s a super unique career.
I used to work in fashion pr. As much I loved the vivacity and aesthetic trappings of that world, I was not fulfilled by it. I found myself craving more personal/human interaction. I wanted work to feel less like “work” and more like a vocation. My quiet desire, was to work with women and the body and somehow thread it back through my culinary skills. I just wasn’t sure how I was going to make that happen. So I just sat on it. Eventually, doubt wasn’t enough to keep me tethered. I quit my job and started volunteering at a women’s community clinic. It was the best decision I ever made. I gained a broad knowledge of the women’s health world, which prompted my interest in midwifery. En route to learning more about midwives, I discovered the role of the doula. It was as if a switch was turned “ON” — I knew it was for me. Being able to educate and support women and their families throughout such a transitional period, felt so right. I completed my doula training under an incredible midwife in San Francisco and I’ve never looked back. Over the years, I’ve found a way to blend all of my passions into a cohesive offering, which is The Mama Circle.
3. So, let’s say you’re a new mom…your baby is crying like a maniac, you feel fat, and you can’t seem to get caught up on work because of it all. What’s your top three tips for getting your new mama groove back?
Good Support + Good Information: You don’t have to do it alone. There are so many trained professional available, ready to support you. So reach out, weather its for breastfeeding issues, questions about parenting, stress management, or help revving intimacy with your partner. If you’re not sure where to turn, try asking a friend, express your concerns and they may have resources. Otherwise, your current care provider will probably have a referral network, that they connect you too. My biggest piece of advice would be to take everything you read on the notorious online “mom forums” with a pitch of salt, most of it tends to anecdotal, not fact. Trust your instincts.
Eat Well & Regularly: Getting the reigns on your diet after having a baby can be challenging, but do your best to eat mindfully. Try and make sure that whatever your putting in is serving your body. I advise my clients to graze their way through the day. Small high-protien and high-fiber “mini meals” can seem more manageable, especially when you’re super busy. You’ll stay energized and feel more capable. Food apps like The Whole Pantry are great, they can help you come up with ideas when creativity is in short supply.
A Little Bodywork Goes A Long Way: Most women don’t realize how important bodywork is after having a baby. Labor, no matter how it happens, take a toll on the body — it’s very physical. Deep tissue massage, chiropractics and acupuncture blended together or used individually can make a big difference for a new mom. Find time for it. Have your partner watch your baby and get to it. Make it a monthly or even weekly appointment if you can afford to. Time for you is time well spent.
Erica Chidi Lives in Los Angeles, California. She’s the founder and owner of The Mama Circle a resource for expectant and new mothers, centered around helping them gently navigate their journey towards and through motherhood. When she’s not helping to bring babes into the world, she’s usually working out a new recipe or in her vegetable garden. themamacircle.com