When my first child, Edie, was born I wanted to homeschool her but I didn't know anyone who homeschooled at that time, the internet was a little less advanced than it is now and I didn't know where to go for information and support. I knew that I disagreed with a lot of the experience and treatment in institutionalized education but I was really not sure what to do. My personal experiences in school were not good and I frequently made myself ill just to get sent to the nurse's office so they would call my mom to pick me up. As an adult I worked with a local Quaker Friends School before I had children and really like what they were doing and if my kids were going to go to school maybe they should go there. Fast forward to having a child and that ended up being cost prohibitive for us and so we ended up moving to a really good school district and hoped our daughter got the best education possible.
Edie started at a preschool at a local church that we just loved, the teachers were great and we could volunteer there and see what was going on and we were happy. I just got accustomed to the idea that kids went to school even though it felt a little weird when she was gone and even weirder when she was gone all day by the time first grade came around. Don't get me wrong, doing the grocery shopping and other errands by myself was glorious but I just felt like I was missing an arm most of the time. We had another child, my son Jackson, and he also went to the same preschool and then started in the same school Edie had. Things became routine and we woke up for school and the day revolved around it and so did our life. It didn't feel right to me, and it slowed down our desire to travel because if also felt wrong to me to take the kids out of school for any “unnecessary” reason. I didn't want them to miss out or get behind even if the potential travel experience could give them more than sitting at a desk could.
All of this gets down to we bought a bus and planned the conversion and planned how our lives were going to look once we were on the road. There were a few things that were a concern, at first it was the kids and their education. Eleven years after my first child was born I knew a lot more people and some of them homeschooled, I also had a wider online community due to being a birth worker and some of that was comprised of people into all different types of parenting and education choices. I had the knowledge and the resources to not be afraid and the more I read the more I felt empowered I felt that this was something my family could and should do. I am still working on a larger support system and through an unschooling podcast I heard I recently found out about a few online groups I am looking forward to joining but I do not feel alone like I did over 11 years ago.
As a traveling family we are out and about with our kids all the time, very frequently people ask the kids, no school today? I smile and know that they are not in a building labeled school but are learning more than some children who are. I feel like I am doing something in line with my values and even though it is not always easy I have a feeling it will always be worth it. The time that we are spending together, learning together, the stronger bonds we are forming is amazing.
Our bus, Paulie, went to the mechanic to get an oil change and new tires and some other stuff that he needed before we set sail. They needed to keep him longer than we would have liked so we needed to change plans and go hang at Nick's mom's for a couple of days because our friends were coming home from vacay and we wanted them to have their house back. Our original plan was to leave our friends' place and go to my sister's in Milmay, NJ to visit with her and my brother in law and get some finishing touches done on Paulie. Changing our plans meant less time at their house and less time to finish stuff up, we felt really rushed even though we decided to stay an extra day in New Jersey.
On Monday we pulled the bus out of our friend's property that we have been living on for almost two months and we drove to the bus mechanic. We didn't think anything was wrong but wanted to get an oil change and all those other things that you do before a big trip. We also suspected that we needed new tires in the front and needed our one mudflap reattached. We pulled out of the yard and drove up the driveway with no issue, unlike when we pulled in. We then had a great, uneventful trip to the mechanic. I drove myself and Ida in the van behind the bus the whole way. I started to feel nervous about dropping the bus off but everyone there was super nice. One guy, who turned out to be the owner's son, was named Cassidy which I thought was a sure sign that Paulie had blessed this place and that our home was in good hands. We handed them the keys and we were on our way, busless.
We have been living on the bus for just over a month now. We are parked on our friends' property about a mile away from our old house and enjoying the quiet of their property and the thousands of dragonflies that surround the bus every night. The past few weeks have been a crazy whirlwind of learning the bus's systems and adjusting to bus life but I feel like we are doing really well now. But to be honest, the first weekend was rough.
Since the last blog post everything to make the bus livable inside has been completed. Our friend Travis really came through and got all of our electrical dialed in before we had to live on the bus. The electrical and solar is finished although we have decided to add a battery and change out some of the cables as per our new friend Neil from Diversified Vehicle Services suggestion. He has already come by our new home to check out what we have going on. The electrical was the last big thing before we could live on the bus. There is a lot to do on the outside, like of course, finishing painting the bus, installing a cargo bay and awning, and maybe adding a solar panel or two but we have about a month before we leave Jersey and feel really great that we have more than enough time to do all that and still say goodbye to all the important people in our lives.
We sold or gave away almost everything we owned which was both liberating and scary. I had a huge yard sale and sold a lot of other stuff on Facebook Marketplace. Goodwill also got a huge chunk of stuff and we are so lucky that there is a drop-off right up the street. My sister is storing some things for us that we did not want to part with like holiday decorations and the kids' mementos and everything else is on the bus with us. We were all packed up with just a few things to take care of the morning of the sale of our house.
The last update was in February and then I kinda fell off the blog-wagon for a while as I was/am overwhelmed with all we have going on. The bus has changed so much and so has everything else. When you last heard from the Nomadic Doula and family we were busy getting a lot of interior things done on the bus. Walls were getting covered in pallet wood. The kitchen counters had been installed and all the windows had been trimmed. The bathroom door had been painted a jazzy yellow and we put some finished wood up in the bathroom and kids' bunks. Many of the bus's systems were unstarted or unfinshed and we hadn't gotten around to listing our house for sale yet.
So, so, so much has been done and is happening, let me fill you in.
This blog post was originally posted on Two Hands Birth Services' blog in the fall of 2018. It is being reposted here as it is information that bares repeating.
A doula's job is to provide education, guidance and support for families during throughout pregnancy, in childbirth and during the postpartum period. DONA International, my certifying organization states, "What is a Doula? A doula is a trained professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to a mother before, during and shortly after childbirth to help her achieve the healthiest, most satisfying experience possible." Nowhere in that description does it state that a doula is a magician. I love what I do but I can not tell anyone their birth outcome before it happens. I do not have a crystal ball. Doulas can not promise a pain-free birth. Hiring a doula does not mean you won't have a Cesarean birth. A doula attended birth may still include pain medication. A doula is also not a bouncer and can not force people from your hospital room or protect you from the one doctor at the practice you don't like.
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.
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