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.
One of the parts about being a doula and a birth worker I love the most is when someone who is thinking about becoming a doula, or a brand new, just out of training, doula calls me and wants to meet for coffee and to ask me a couple questions. I love their excitement and energy. I remember that excitement, especially before I had attended any births. I also remember being nervous, about starting my doula business and wondering how was I going to get anyone to allow me to support them. Usually these are the kinds of questions I get asked and many more. After meeting with A LOT of new doulas for coffee, I thought it might be a good idea to offer a mentoring program. It would give new doulas, who just completed their training some real experience and knowledge from someone who has been in their shoes and now, after quite a few years and births, has some experience to share.
One of the questions that we get asked the most is, do you have a route planned? Where are you going to go? The answer is, we kinda have a route planned and we want to go everywhere. That really says a lot, doesn't it? Truth is we don't have to have a plan because we are not going to be on any real schedule. As of right now we are just wanting to go where we want and stay there for as long as we want. If we really dig a place we will stay for longer and if something isn't as cool as we thought we will move on sooner. We want the freedom to take recommendations from people we meet and go to the cool places they love. We also want to go to places that might be having events, celebrations, and festivals, so we are open to taking the road less traveled to be able to experience the whole country. A part of the adventure also involves meeting and chatting with birth workers all over the country so if I meet someone who suggests I visit with someone else we may find our next destination that way. We are going where ever the wind will blow us!
We have a loose plan though, which involves leaving New Jersey late summer of 2019 and heading north to New England. We have good friends in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Maine whom we would like to visit and we will probably spend a month-ish in Maine. The "plan" is to then head south, probably via the coast where possible. We would like to play in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. I follow some awesome doulas in Fredrick, MD and I would love to sit down and chat with them. Since we are on no real schedule we will pop into towns and stop in National Parks and Forests all along the way. We will visit friends in Ashville, NC and my guess is we will stay there for a bit because we hear it's right up our alley and there are some cool doulas there too. From there we are heading south, maybe stopping in Savannah and Athens, Georgia and who know what we will be doing and where else we will be but we will be ending up at Universal Studios in Orlando in the beginning to middle of December to take the kids to The World of Harry Potter for their holiday present. Then onto my parents and family in Port Charlotte, Florida for Christmas. We will hang out in Florida for a bit, there is a bluegrass festival in The Keys in January so we'd love to check that out, some volunteer opportunities in Orlando, and I'm sure some awesome birth workers to chat with. After Florida things become really unknown, we will leave Florida mid-January and head west, we think. At this point we don't need to be anywhere but we want to be in Telluride, CO for the Bluegrass Festival in June so that pretty much leaves things wide open. We were talking about trying to get up to Alaska in the summer of 2020 after Colorado but who knows. Driving up the west coast is also in the plans as is visiting parts of Canada and Mexico.
Last year at this time we made decisions that would change our family's future forever. We decided to really live life. We decided to truly give up debt and things that tied us to a life that we weren't LIVING but letting pass us by. We decided to buy a bus to convert it into a tiny house and travel the country with our kids. So in the past twelve months we did buy a bus, a large 40' school bus, we gutted it and are in the process of building our tiny home on wheels. We have learned about solar energy, plumbing, building, and electricity. We have touched every inch of that bus while we turn it into our home. We have learned so much and made other decisions too about how we want to live once the bus is finished and what kind of life we would like to show our kids on the road. We have evaluated what is really important and what can go. I have blogged about all this, and shown photos on Facebook and Instagram but you might not know exactly how this all came about, what is our why?
I am no expert on minimalism, I only know what I have discovered during my personal journey. As I have said before minimalism will look different to everyone. One common thing I hope is true for all who choose a more minimalist lifestyle is that we place a high value on people, experiences and making memories and a lower value on stuff, especially extra stuff. During a season of insane consumerism and people frequently saying, "I have to go holiday shopping" I am so grateful to have discovered minimalism. It has helped to to shift my view further and really have awesome experiences and make great memories with my kids. I also feel it's setting a great example for them during a season of too many toy commercials. They have come to appreciate spending time with friends and family more than getting this year's toy of the moment. They get more excited about holiday get togethers and playing with friends than they get about gifts. Now I'm not going to lie, we still have a bit of the 'I wants' here in our house, its not a minimalist paradise with my kids refusing gifts and donating their toys to charity. My son especially likes to tell me all the things he wants regularly, not just during the holidays. If we have conversations about what we REALLY want and need and he has time to reflect he usually changes his mind, at least to something that he really values and not some gimmick as seen on TV item.
This week I sat down at Lakes Coffee in Medford Lakes, NJ with my friend and birth worker sister Brandi Robertson to chat about birth work, her personal birth experiences and what has lead her to this point in her life. I met Brandi almost 2 years ago when she moved to New Jersey from Japan with the military. Brandi, then a ultrasound technician with the Air Force, was brought back to the states and looked me up on the internet. We instantly connected and became fast friends. She is an awesome wife and mother of two children, Priya,10 and Graeme, 5. We could chat forever about birth work, among other things, so I thought starting off my birth worker interviews with someone like Brandi would make it easy and fun. What made it even more fun, there was construction going on outside of the coffee shop that day and there was a lot of giggling as we were trying to be professional doing a professional interview. As we settled in and got used to the background sounds we started chatting about her journey to birth work.