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Forget everything you think you know about "natural
childbirth." If Los Angeles-based doula Erica
Chidi Cohen (pictured below) has her way, and, like childbirth, she is a bit of a force of
nature herself, we will all start thinking about birthing our babies in
It stands to reason that if some babies are welcomed into
the world through "natural" childbirth, well, then other babies come unnaturally? The wrong way? In sub-optimal conditions? Chidi Cohen wants to change that paradigm,
or, as she says, "flatten the hierarchy" of birthing babies.
"The term 'natural childbirth' is quite divisive," she says. "It places women in camps of achievement. To be pregnant is natural and to deliver your child is natural," no
matter what method is used or required for a healthy delivery. "Using that language is pulling women apart
instead of bringing women together."
'Having an epidural doesn't take anything away from the birth.'
Being a mother is hard. Being a first-time mother is especially hard. Being a first-time mother in this age of
social media, where there's instant access to the intimate birthing experiences of your friends, family, acquaintances and strangers just a swipe away, can be
Chidi Cohen advises expectant mothers to be mindful of their
consumption of social media while pregnant. "Be conscious. We are big
sponges, absorbing everything around us." She wants us to absorb all the positive and leave the negative
Chidi Cohen's preferred terms for birthing are "medicated"
or "unmedicated." They are descriptive,
leaving the judgment out of the equation and the experience. These words help a new mother see things
differently. "A 'medicated' or 'unmedicated'
birth mean the tools were one or the other. Having an epidural doesn't take anything away from the birth."
Wise words from a doula, whose sole function
is to support a woman through the process of birth.
"If you feel you failed from the very beginning that creates
space for negative circuitry to take hold," says Chidi Cohen, and those
negative feelings could very well bleed into bonding and the precious, early
days of motherhood. That process is hard
enough as it is, without adding to it unnecessarily by telling ourselves we
have failed—even as while holding, burping, nursing or feeding a healthy
"The path to birth is fluid," explains Chidi Cohen, "and the
goal is fixed." That goal, always, is a
healthy baby and a healthy mother post birth. She wants all new mothers to feel their success and not to consider a
change in the birth plan a failure. "The
'how' of birth is not a reflection of who a new mother is," advises Chidi
Cohen. She encourages new mothers who
did experience a change in their birth plan to try and reframe the
So often, new mothers can encounter isolation
post-partum. This makes them vulnerable to
post-partum depression and also to developing some degree of post-traumatic
stress that can jeopardize and complicate future pregnancies.
Chidi Cohen's advice for all expectant mothers is
simple: "Trust yourself. Set realistic goals, but remember that birth
is not a competition. Be gentle with
yourself, with an asterisk of flexibility. Every choice a mother-to-be makes," says Chidi Cohen, "needs to be
anchored in flexibility."