Courtney Jarecki is bringing a new voice to the birth community and has created much needed resources for mothers. I am honored to have her here on the blog and very excited to be bringing her to Astoria in October 2015 to teach a workshop.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
In Portland, Oregon I’ve worked as a doula, childbirth educator, and a homebirth midwifery apprentice, but my path shifted after my 3-day home labor followed by a hospital cesarean. I was left without community, support, or resources and felt like no one understood my birth journey, not even my colleagues. To help myself heal, I began creating a new model of understanding for planned out-of-hospital births that end in cesareans, now known as homebirth cesareans (HBC), a term I coined.
This work involved creating community and information for other mothers and the birth professionals who support them. I am the author of “Homebirth Cesarean: Stories and Support for Families and Healthcare Providers”, a book for mothers, families, and birth professionals that details the homebirth cesarean experience from pregnancy through the subsequent birth of another child. As a companion piece, I also authored “Healing From a Homebirth Cesarean”, a workbook for mothers that offers a powerful and innovative approach, complete with self-directed practices, to align the cognitive, physical, emotional, and relational areas of life affected by an cesarean.
My husband, Dave, is amazingly encouraging of my work and he supports my dream of a future where women of our daughter’s generation will birth with knowledge and dignity regardless of location, and in the company of care providers who respect and understand their wishes. To help move this dream forward, I work as the executive director of Homebirth Cesarean International (HBCI), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit I co-founded. HBCI works to broaden the conversation and education around homebirth cesareans, through the support of mothers, families, and birth professionals.
What is a homebirth cesarean?
The term homebirth cesarean describes a planned out-of-hospital birth that ends in cesarean. Even though the word homebirth is used, the intended location of the birth can also include freestanding birth centers. Women who choose to birth unassisted, meaning without the help of midwives, can also be homebirth cesarean mothers. HBC may be applied to women who transfer care before labor starts, referred to as pre-labor homebirth cesareans, and to those who transport to the hospital during labor.
By bringing the terms homebirth and cesarean together as a single definition, we honor the homebirth dream that mothers lost during their surgical birth experiences. Through this name, we begin to change the way we relate to these birth journeys, reaffirming the importance of the HBC experience in the homebirth and natural birth communities.
How does your work support women in during postpartum?
HBCI is an active, all-volunteer run nonprofit that promotes healing and support for homebirth cesareans. We accomplish this mission through:
~ Facilitating a closed Facebook support group for HBC mothers and birth professionals. This community allows mothers the opportunity to connect with each other and birth professionals to witness and learn from these brave women’s stories.
~ Leading weekend and day retreats for HBC mothers These retreats offer HBC mothers a sacred space, away from the cares of day-to-day life, to pursue a deep healing months or even years after a difficult birth. We gather with the intention to support each other on a shared quest for birth healing, wisdom, and the reclamation of self.
~ Workshops for birth professionals are a wonderful way we educate care providers about the homebirth cesarean experience. If a woman is prenatally prepared for the possibility of a cesarean by her care provider, and she is supported during a birth that becomes traumatic, and if her care providers understand her unique postpartum needs, then that woman is more likely to experience her birth as difficult and disappointing, but maybe not traumatic.
~ We also have some exciting projects in the pipeline including peer support training so women can offer phone, email, and in-person support to HBC mothers. HBCI is also working towards forming an institutional review board (it’s called an IRB) in order to research the HBC experience more and to outline guidelines for best practice in HBC cases throughout transfer, transport, and postpartum.
~ And again, my book “Homebirth Cesarean: Stories and Support for Families and Healthcare Providers” and workbook, “Healing From a Homebirth Cesarean” offers mothers, partners, families, and birth professionals a new understanding about birthing with power and dignity.
How does this Homebirth Cesarean movement inform our understanding of other cesarean births and birth in general?
I’d like to share an excerpt from a birth story featured in “Homebirth Cesarean”. Sara Melone offers this insight:
It’s not easy being a cesarean mama, but I realize now there’s no right or wrong way to birth, only different ways. Like life, birth is imperfect, wild, and unpredictable. I don’t expect life to be perfect, but I somehow thought birth should be. I’d pursued a kind of fairytale that isn’t always attainable. In some ways it seems fitting. Creating life is so substantial, we shouldn’t be allowed passage through this sacred rite without giving from some place. For me, it was humble surrender of the ideal birth I required and lying down to birth in the way that was required of me.
What Sara wrote rings true for so many mothers who planned out-of-hospital births that ended in cesareans. When the natural birth community predominately shares the “ideal” homebirth story, one where a baby is gently birthed at home, that story becomes the fact of homebirth. If that is the only way we talk about out-of-hospital births, and the only type of homebirth story we honor enough to curate in our social media feeds, blogs, and books, the shame around homebirth cesarean will continue to grow. If midwives and doulas begin posting HBC stories on their websites, childbirth educators start teaching about home- birth cesarean, and HBC mothers are invited to share their stories at home- birth socials, the darkness around HBC will dissipate.
And finally what message do you have for all postpartum women?
It’s really important that we are kind to each other. As mothers our responsibility is to support other women as they make their way through the confusing and sometimes messy path of pregnancy, birth, and motherhood. That means not judging each other for their choices, not second guessing their very personal decisions, and offering help when we are in a position to do so.
You can find Courtney on her Homebirth Cesarean site, on twitter, on instagram, and on Facebook.
Courtney will be offering a workshop on the Oregon Coast on October 25th:
Homebirth Cesarean: Birthing with dignity and power, from home to operating room