Although Jen Quesada is technically the mom of four children (Grace, age 6; Samantha, age 5; Jakob, age 3; Liliana, age 1), in the past four years, she has helped over 50 newborns enter the world — all through her work as a doula.
Jen became passionate about educating women about their birthing options after switching from a planned OB-assisted hospital birth to a midwife-assisted birth at 30 weeks into her pregnancy with her first child, who Jen gave birth to in water, after 16 hours of labor. "I was not only empowered by this, but became acutely aware that many women, like me, didn't know there were options beyond the hospital." With that, Jen took those first steps that would eventually lead her to the road to become a doula, nearly three years later, while pregnant with her third child.
We're just going to come out and say what you're all thinking... How does Jen do it? How does she juggle the "having it all" combo plate of being a mother of four and a career that is dependent on the schedule of pregnant women going into labor? It's giving you contractions just thinking about it, isn't it?
"We are pretty much four kids, four crockpots and four minutes from chaos at any given moment, and then add in that my cell phone could ring and send me out the door for four or 24 hours [to a birth]... our life is an adventure!" Jen candidly shares. Is this making your head spin yet? Just take a moment to imagine your life as a doula, where that morning trip you'd planned to the grocery store to pick up dinner ingredients suddenly turns into an entire day (or longer!) at a birth... and when you're on-call, as Jen is most of the time (she does take a month off on occasion!), all it takes is the ringing of your coveted, fully-charged cell phone.
But seriously — how does it work when Jen needs to leave for a birth and she is in the middle of life with her kiddos? Step 1: That charged cell phone, which is Jen's lifeline to her clients. It must have the ringer all the way up and be in an easy-to-grab place at all times (not with her 5-year-old who is playing games on it behind the living room chair!). Step 2: A bag of supplies that is ready to go and packed with all of Jen's doula essentials — striped socks, snacks for her that won't make a laboring mama gag, client paperwork and shoes that can easily be cleaned. Step 3: A house that's stocked with kid-friendly foods, ingredients for meals and supplies to last for the foreseeable future.
The essential piece in Jen being able to make her version of "having it all" work — an incredible support system who can, and will, swoop in and take care of her kids if she needs to rush out the door.
Jen says, "It starts, first and foremost, with a loving husband who believes the work I do is important." And it's certainly the truth. Jen recalls this story that puts it into perspective: "I remember coming home from a birth that was over 24 hours long that had been emotionally taxing for me. I walked in the door, feeling like a zombie, and he placed a plate of hot food in front of my grateful face, which I devoured. Then, he handed me a melatonin, tucked me into bed in a dark room and left with the kids to the park for hours. At some point, he tucked a sleeping baby next to me to nurse and the next thing I knew, it was 14 hours later. That's a doula's husband. He is amazing."
It continues with a community of friends who are happy to help the Quesada family when needed. "They forfeit their own sleep to come to my house in the middle of the night and love on my teething and fevered baby while I run off to a home birth, they answer my Facebook SOSs and texts to the tune of baked goods delivered to the hospital when I've run out of snacks and can't leave, they've nursed my babies when I was at a long birth and driven 20 minutes to bring my baby to me so that I could nurse her," Jen heartwarmingly shares. And continues with a point that every mom can relate to: "They are friends, but mostly they are moms who know how important the birthing day is, and are willing to support not just me in their sacrifices, but these families as well."
And last, but certainly not least, are Jen's parents, who she describes as "incredible" and her "recharging station," and who seem to know exactly what she needs to do the work that she does as a mother and as a doula. Sometimes that means simply having a spot to retreat to before going home after a long birth for "a decompressing cocktail and some Food Network."
It may seem like Jen could wrap up this whole "having it all" concept with a pretty little bow and call it a day — a family that loves what she does just as much as she does (did we mention that Jen often finds her older children acting out their own home births?), a career that she is beyond passionate for and that she integrates into her worldview with ease and delight, friends who are an "unfailing safety net of love," Jen admits that there are times when things are out of balance due to her career. "It's hard to find the balance. But, I try to find that week or that day or that hour that I can balance it and rejoice that somehow it all works out."
And now, for the big question... What does having it all mean to this mom?
"Having it all for me, " Jen shares, "is about being satisfied, being passionate, being settled with myself." She continues by saying, "Can you have it 'all?' Probably. But most days, I'm not sure I need to do it 'all.' The love of my husband, holding the little hands of my children who touch my heart, and looking into a laboring woman's eyes in the moment that she finds the strength to roar her child earthside will always be more than enough [for me], if I never have it all."
Follow Jen Quesada for more on the life of a doula on the Natural Blessings Doula Services Facebook page.
What does having it all mean to you? Share in the comments below!
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