Eleven years ago this week I became a mother. There is a lot of celebration around the birth of a child but as a doula I want to acknowledge the birth of the parents. As soon as you find out your are pregnant you start preparing in every way you can think of. You buy the gear, read the books, decorate the nursery, take childbirth classes but none of that truly prepares you for the emotional change you go through once baby is placed in your arms and suddenly you are a parent. One of my favorite things, as a doula, is watching a couple become parents right before my eyes as their baby comes Earthside. It is magical, every-single-time and I am so honored to be chosen to be part of it.
For me, I felt so emotional as my first child was born. Nothing in my pregnancy or her birth went "as planned" and I was beyond exhausted as she entered my atmosphere. The sight of her was like an injection of energy and I felt like part of my heart was now outside my body. The love you experience when you have a child is like no other. I was born that day as a mother and as a different woman entirely. The birth of each of my children makes a indelible mark on the timeline that is my journey on this planet. I learned so much about myself with each birth experience and came out very changed. The birth of my first child was the beginning of my life in a way, I was born again.
Each year on my children's birthdays I remember their birth as I celebrate the day with them. Studies have been done to explore the short and long term impact of a birthing person's experience. It is proven that you never forget that experience or how you were made to feel during childbirth. My personal progression of those memories and the feelings attached to them is amazing. My first pregnancy, birth experience, and postpartum was not a great one and for years I had blocked out many of the details to cope with things I didn't quite understand at the time. My work as a doula has help me to uncover details and deal with them, reframe them so I am no so sad, mad, or frustrated any more. This has also made me grow as a mother and as a birthworker. My children are my best accomplishment in life, I have no idea who I would be without them.
So to all the parents and almost parents celebrate yourselves on your child's birth day. You too were born that day. Celebrate the life of your child and your life as parents. Reflect on all the lessons you have learned because you chose to become someone parent and be proud of the person you have become because you chose to allow a piece of your heart to roam free. Life brings so many challenges and lessons and parenthood is one of the biggest challenges you can take on, but it can yield the greatest reward of all. You are responsible for birthing and growing a human, and for creating a being who can make a positive contribution in the world. Congratulations!
One year ago we became bus owners and the conversion began. There had been months of planning and research to figure out what we needed and wanted and last March we bought a bus. The whole process of shopping and finally buying a bus was rather surreal. We giggled for days, weeks even, every time we looked out to the driveway and saw a bus sitting there. Over the course of this past year we have had a buffet of emotions about the bus, our travels, and the changes that our lives will take but we do not regret buying the bus and changing our lives at all. We acknowledge that it won't always be easy but nothing worth it ever is. I wanted to take a minute or two to reintroduce ourselves, talk about how our vision of our travels and lives have changed, and give an update on where we are and when we might be leaving New Jersey.
Abby and I became friends when she contacted me a few years ago after she moved to southern New Jersey from San Diego. Abby had just completed her DONA training in January 2016 before she relocated and was anxious to get doula-ing. After meeting for coffee I just loved her and soon I asked her to be, what was the beginning of Two Hands Birth Doula Co-op. Abby and I asked four more birth workers to join THBS and that is where we are today. I couldn't have taken Two Hands Birth Services as far as it has come without Abby. I lovingly refer to her as my moral compass at times because she is such a just and honest person. Abby was drawn to birth work after reading a book on midwifery based in the 1960's and 70's. She was appalled at some of the stories the midwife told about her time as a student nurse working L&D (Labor and Delivery). Women were tied down and drugged against their will or they just went along with it "because that's what you do". She got fired up about women's rights and considered becoming a midwife to protect these women. After a little more research and thought Abby found out about doulas and something clicked. Abby loves being part of these intimate moments in expectant family's lives, providing information and education, all in the hopes that she can empower them to make the best choices for them and their family.
Before Abby found her calling in birth work she was a college student and bounced around with many career ideas. She was an agricultural education major, animal science, art education, and finally Abby finished with a Bachelors in Art with an emphasis in drawing. Abby has done a lot of babysitting, milked cows, was a bartender, and even bagged groceries. Abby currently lives in Cherry Hill, New Jersey with her husband, Eric and wonderful 8-month old son Henry (Hank).
So last week came and went and I didn't get a blog fully written or posted because I had one sick kid and a ton of non-bus stuff going on. Then, as if I wasn't feeling behind enough the flu hit me like a ton of bricks and kept me in bed for three days. Since the baby and I are like Siamese twins the flu started to attack her and just as I was able to remain vertical for more than five seconds Nick was down. Taking care of the fam and my business in addition to writing a new curriculum for a childbirth education series my doula friend Abby and I are teaching together in April took precedent over the bus. So this post is very late, I'm sure no one but me really is upset about it but it feels better if I say sorry. I will be out there tomorrow putting up the rest of the window trim. As for the update, here goes it.
We scored some awesome, large, wood tables from a church for $10. each. I bought two because the old wood was too cool to pass up. I made the other side of the kitchen counter with it. I made my own stain so it looked aged, and kinda driftwoody. I'm really happy with how it came out. We contemplated doing both sides the same but in the end decided to keep the butcher block on the sink side. We also decided to make our own cabinet doors instead of refinishing the ones that came with the boxes. I started on that and made two of the smaller cabinet doors out of pallet wood. We think its going to look super cool with the jazzy yellow paint that will be on the cabinet boxes. We plan to use black handles on the doors and have already painted the hinges that came with the cabinets black so I hope that we will still be able to use them with the new cabinet doors
There have been bus update blogs, Instagram photos, and Facebook posts about the bus and the traveling we will do but there is so much more to get ready for a mobile life. We have not been posting about some of the less interesting yet super important things that we are doing behind the scenes. Since these are things that I am knee deep into right now I wanted to post about what I'm working on that is not bus related but essential to getting us on the road.
Passports. We are all getting our passports! It is no small feat to fill out applications and copy all the required documents for 2 adults and 3 kids to get passports. We are not sure when we are going to leave the country in our travels but we want to be ready. It is also great to have one more means of identification for all of us. We know we are going to visit Canada and Mexico but who know what the Universe has in store and we do have several friends in other countries. If the opportunity presents itself to go to France we want to be able to hop on that (I'm looking at you Bridge!) We are going to the passport office in a couple weeks to get our photos done and hand it all in. We have to go in person because it has been a long time since Nick and I have had valid passports and you always have to go in person for kids. Bonus! The passport office is right behind one of our favorite breweries so we will get a treat if we make it out of there alive.
Jen Silvera is a doula, a nurse and mother to five littles. Jen has the unique perspective that comes with have many different kinds of births and knowing how to advocate for herself and educate herself in a variety of different pregnancy and childbirth situations personally. This only not makes her a stronger and more compassionate birth worker but very exciting to chat with. Jen has always been interested in pregnancy and labor/delivery, and her goal when she was younger was to become an obstetrician but life had other plans in the way of kids, a couple of them. So she went into nursing, with her heart set on working in the Labor & Delivery, Mother/Baby, and NICU departments. Jen had a couple more kids as she was trying to gain her RN, and that's what lead her to researching doulas. She had heard of about doulas as far back as 2009 but had no clue how to pursue it. Eventually after having a doula attend one of her children's births, it solidified her decision to pursue a career as a doula.
Jen trained with Birth Arts International when her youngest daughter was only 3 1/2 months old, and she came to the training with her. She chose them because their philosophy and closeness really spoke to her. Jen also had personal experience with one of their doulas, so she saw firsthand what the education resulted in. Jen has been a doula for 3 years now but before she was a doula she did a lot of other things! As mentioned, Jen is also nurse, and worked in pediatric home-care. She drove for Uber sometimes, shopped for Instacart, worked for a tax company once upon a time, and has also worked as a daycare teacher. Jen is also a super mom since 2007!
Jen is extremely passionate about motherhood and birth work. All her personal experience and professional experience has made her one extremely capable birth worker. Jen wants to encourage families to become knowledgeable, she loves to educate and empower her clients above all else. She wants them to love having a doula of course, but her priority is supporting them in whatever way they need and helping them to realize that they hold the power.
We get lots of questions once we tell people that we are converting a school bus into a tiny home to travel the country with our three kids. It's not something that everyone is doing and we understand that people are curious. We were super curious about skoolie and traveling families when we were dreaming of bus life and are still looking to people who have been doing it to offer advice and answer questions. We are lucky to be involved in some groups on the internet to answer our questions about bus life logistics but we would like to give you some answers to some of the most frequently asked questions. Let get into it!
How long are you going to travel?
We are saying at least a year but it could be more or maybe less. We aren't going to stress ourselves out by forcing 365 days on the road and if we are having a ball we may stay on the road longer than a year. We are deliberately not setting any time limits on any locations so we can stay as long as we want and so yeah, we will be on the road approximately a year.
Where are you going?
We are not really sure. We have ideas and a map on the wall with potential destinations but we are really open to where ever. I wrote a blog all about this exact question if you are interested to check it out.
Are you selling your house?
Yes. We want to reduce our overall possessions and the house is a biggie. We are no longer interested being strapped to one location by a financial obligation. When we sell our house will will drastically reduce our overhead, pun intended.
It's a weird thing to say but I am pretty proud of my toilet. After tons of research on composting toilets, we settled on making our own. In the beginning of our conversion process there was no question, we were going to buy a Nature's Head composting toilet. They have a great reputation, a lot of skoolies have one. Then I saw a video about the Airhead composting toilet and I was really digging that one, even more than the Nature's Head. Once I realized there was more than one option for composting toilets in a skoolie I started to dive even deeper in the the world of composting or dry toilets. You see, a toilet like this in a skoolie or RV doesn't actually provide you with compost, that process takes a while. What a "composting" toilet does is provide a start to the composting process and by adding carbon rich material like coconut coir or sawdust you are helping the process of decomposition. By separating the urine you are helping the process even further and reducing the chances of yucky smells.
Hopefully in the past couple of months if you have been reading the blogs on The Nomadic Doula you have been entertained or at least not bored. The past months have been a sampling of content I hope to dive deeper into in the future. Once we actually get on the road some of the bus conversion updates will be replaced by bus life and travel blogs to continue to bring you along on our adventure. I will continue to write about my family, minimalism and of course birth work. My hope is that I can meet birth workers in a lot of the towns that we stay. I have been collecting names of people who I admire or want to reconnect with and hope that you will find their stories as valuable as I do. We are also going to visit with a lot of friends and family all over the United States and document it all here. We would also love to volunteer wherever we can and serve our country. We hope to make tons of new friends too. Following The Nomadic Doula and Live To Wander Bus on Instagram and Facebook is a great way to keep up with our adventure in photo form.
We also hope that we can create more and different stuff too. The need to create for both Nick and I is unstoppable, like breathing, so we constantly have ideas. I enjoy writing and building and digital art. Nick is an awesome artist and sculptor in addition to a budding photographer. All of these passions are things we would love to work on all the time, well, at least when we aren't doing all those other things I mentioned. In an effort for us to be able to focus more time on all the things we love I decided to start a Patreon page. This will be especially helpful once we take off on our grand adventure and our everyday jobs look a lot different. The hope is that if The Nomadic Doula's audience finds value in what we create hopefully they might be interested in contributing so we are able to continue creating, writing, and dreaming. Anyone who becomes a patron will receive special gifts and our never ending gratitude. You are not only insuring more blogs but also other things too. We will be able to spend more time taking great photos, seeking out awesome adventures, and maybe start a podcast or YouTube channel, the possibilities are endless!
Our journey to this point in life has had it ups and downs and we are so grateful for all the people in our lives and experiences that brought us to this point. We have found new energy and courage to begin an adventure down a path only a few have chosen and want to share it all with you. We can do more with you than we can do on our own. As a patron you are showing your faith in The Nomadic Doula's journey and your want for our success. We thank you so much for all the feedback and kind words so far and love to hear from you more. If there are any birth workers that want to meet up let me know. If you know somewhere cool to visit, let us know. If you want to hang out when we get to your town drop me a line. Mi adventure es su adventure. (My Spanish is horrible, sorry.)
Its been over a month since the last bus update and even though the cold weather and the holidays have slowed down progress we still got a lot done. I am anxious to do more and finish more. Some big projects that didn't happen this fall will have to wait until the weather is warmer. We hoped to paint the bus and get the solar up already but we didn't. Its just too cold to paint right now and we are waiting to get the solar and electrical in before we do the insulation and ceiling in the inside. To be honest with you I need to get something big done soon because I feel like I'm losing momentum. Winter is a downer for me and the slower progress on the bus is bumming me out a bit. If we got something big done I think it would invigorate me, and I need it.