How I went from being adamant about having a home birth to requesting a caesarean 

People are often quite shocked to hear how very quickly my plans changed from planning a homebirth to requesting a caesarean.

Even before I was blessed to fall pregnant with my 2nd baby, I knew that home birth was what I wanted – having had a physiological vaginal birth in hospital the first time, it 100% felt like the safest option and even more so during the pandemic. 

My mental health, being close to my birthing team and my daughter were my highest priority.

I’d had a pretty straight forward pregnancy and despite some more aches and pains in my back which I put down to pregnancy, I was feeling incredibly excited and confident about birthing at home.

I’d been fortunate to have been given a birth pool from my last birth doula client and I’d hired 2 wonderful independent midwives and a doula to support me and my birth partner Craig during the birth.

The independent midwives were in the process of renewing their insurance to support during birth yet I felt confident about liaising with the NHS nearer the time when it came to birthing at home.

Unfortunately, out of the blue at around 34 weeks I felt incredibly unwell which resulted in a lot of testing in A and E – I was feeling a lot of pain around my liver and back which was later confirmed as ICP.

I’d heard of ICP -Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy through my work and despite its risk of complications, I felt very much in control despite the serious itching that subsequently started (extreme itching particularly on the hands and feet is a common side effect of ICP, whilst a lot of people experience itching which is found to fine in pregnancy – do speak with your midwife if you have any concerns).

Whilst ICP carried additional risks, I continued to explore home birth – discussing with both NHS consultants and my midwives – with only 5,000 people getting it in the UK each year it is still such an under researched area which felt incredibly frustrating.

I agreed to additional scans, bile test blood tests and kept an open mind whilst standing pretty firm on doing what I felt was right for me and my baby.

There was a lot of talk of induction around 37-38 but deep down I knew that I wasn’t going to get there.

Like with my daughter who was born and 36 + 1 weeks – I’d always felt this baby would be born earlier too. 

In my heart, something niggled at me – I didn’t doubt for a second in my ability to birth my baby but some things were still unanswered about the pains I was having in my body – I knew that I was starting to feel that birthing in a hospital environment might be the safest option.

I cried, a lot. I cried because I wanted a home birth more than anything because in my heart I knew I didn’t want any more children. I’d always dreamt of 2. 

I explored things as much as I could with my midwives and decided that should I go into labour, I’d make a decision on the day even more so now that a scan had confirmed that both my baby and placenta were looking good.

Yet still deep down.. I knew my baby was going to come that week. I just knew. And I knew what that meant for NHS midwives supporting a premature baby being born at home.

On Thursday morning, I was woken by an almighty gush – my waters had broken, I felt immediately excited. 

Something similar had happened with my daughter, I felt well (despite being up most of the night with some serious itching) and thought I’d wait to see if the surges began.

Then out of the blue, I got a call from the consultant to say that my bile acid blood tests had reached a concerning level, from the research we’d put in we agreed to go in for some monitoring. 

I knew then that in my heart, homebirth didn’t feel right for me – I was determined to try get the labour going at home and after monitoring we went back home.

Using all my hypnobirthing techniques and the little quiet environment Craig had set up for me, I settled into relaxation – listening to my affirmations and waiting patiently.

After falling asleep, I woke up to the most intense pain I’d ever felt – yet I knew it wasn’t labour. This was something else, my liver maybe? I didn’t know…

We made our way back to the hospital where Craig had to pretty much drag me the whole way and after some strong pain relief, conversation and observations – I made it clear that induction was not an option if the labour didn’t start.

We didn’t know exactly what was going on with my liver and I wasn’t willing to put my body through a process which my instincts were telling me just wasn’t the right option.

I genuinely believed that if labour didn’t start my baby was trying to tell me that I needed to explore a caesarean. 

My determination to go back home and try and get some sleep (and Craig) meant that we went back home and agreed to call back in the morning. When I awoke the next day, I just knew that cesarean was the right type of birth for me and my baby. 

For me, choosing a caesarean birth was all about regaining control – at a time where I didn’t really know what was going on with my body.

Through using my hypnobirthing skills, I felt incredibly in tune with my baby and it was one of the most emotional moments of my life when we made that phone call saying we wanted to come in for a caesarean and only a caesarean.

I had an incredibly positive caesarean birth and again using all of those amazing techniques I’d learnt and taught over the years, I felt completely calm and in control. I made the call – I get to choose.

Given the circumstances I wouldn’t have changed it, the atmosphere, the way I felt held and supported in that moment was exactly what our family needed.

After Williams birth whilst in the postnatal ward, a guardian angel of a consultant heard about my story and the ongoing issues I was still having post birth – she told me in that moment that she had suffered similarly and that she thought it might be gallstones. 

She was right… not only was the a fuck load of them, they had infected my liver and got stuck which resulted in pancreatis too.

It was a lot, a hell of a lot with procedures and surgeries 4 weeks postpartum all whilst trying to establish breastfeeding and be there for both of my children was insane… but I’ve got to tell you, whilst the situation was incredibly difficult.. I’ve never felt so proud of my body, for nurturing and holding my baby. 

For my instincts guiding me to take control of my birth experience as best as I could- it really was one of the proudest moments of my life really leaning into what I felt was right in that moment.

And for that, caesarean will always hold a place in my heart. For helping me to be able to take back control to give birth to my baby safely, for both of us.

A Caesarean using Hypnobirthing – My 2nd Baby’s Birth Story

The week before William’s birth was extremely fast paced, I had started with some pretty intense pains in my back and chest and after a trip to A & E with some further investigations to rule out blood clots, I was discharged without knowing what the pains actually were.

At a similar time, I started to experience some really intense itching on my hands and feet – I’d been tested for intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP) in my pregnancy with Charlotte but had never been found to have it. This time, it was confirmed that I did.. Looking back now.. I think there’s a good chance I had it last time.

I’d always planned a homebirth for this pregnancy and with the support of my independent midwife, I had a telephone meeting with an obstetrician who was keen that I book in an induction at 38 weeks (I was 35 weeks at the time).

He also suggested that my ICP readings were potentially low enough for me to birth at home (he wasn’t keen on this, however, the readings had not reached a dangerous level they were just raised, I agreed that if they continued to rise, I would be happy to look at alternatives such as birthing in hospital). I kept an open mind and Craig and I did a lot of research to understand the implications of my bile acid readings becoming higher. 

After a quick scan at the hospital and confirmation that my baby was okay, I continued to make plans for my homebirth. However, I just had this really weird feeling that my baby was going to arrive that week. Craig seemed quite shocked but I told him to get ready in case..! I had also agreed to have regular blood tests to check that the ICP wasn’t getting worse which I was due to hear the results on the next day.

That evening, I could barely sleep – the itching all over my body grew even more intense and the back ache had become unbearable – I’d been living with it for several months but this was on another level. I woke up early the next morning to my waters breaking all over my bed!

They went with a gush and I woke Craig up to tell him – we quickly decided to take Charlotte to nursery as normal and he would stay at home.

I felt calm and confident and actually quite giddy about meeting my baby, Charlotte’s labour had started in the same way – I was 35 weeks + 4 and Charlotte’s labour started at 35 + 6. The only thing I felt I was going to have to let go of at that moment was my homebirth, I wanted to ensure that if there were any reasons that the labour had started early, that I was somewhere with additional support. 

I rang my independent midwives (who sadly weren’t insured to attend my birth) and I told them that I would remain at home until the labour progressed and go into the birth centre. As the pain in my back was still there, I went to my chiropractor for one final adjustment before birth. 

On the way home, I received a phone call from the obstetrician who I’d spoken with the other day who told me that my bile acid blood tests had more than doubled in severity within a few days – he was concerned and so was I. I used my brains acronym, asked questions and agreed it best that I came into the hospital for monitoring to ensure my baby was okay.

I continued to feel calm, I used my hypnobirthing breathing walking into the hospital and told myself that everything was my choice going forward. I trusted that my baby knew what was best and I felt completely guided by him – his movements were still the same and I felt that he was safe. Craig being his usual self continued to make jokes and started to reassure me when we were considering whether or not I should stay in the hospital from this point. 

The monitoring of me and my baby was all positive and despite the obstetricians original request for me to stay in hospital I declined. My contractions hadn’t yet started and I went on to explain to him that they were much less likely to start in an environment which was medicalised and without support of Craig or my doula – I was reluctant to stay.

I explained that I felt that hospital was the right place for me to birth my baby, however, the doctors were not currently at the stage where they felt induction was needed and I knew that if I stayed in the hospital – I wasn’t giving myself the best opportunity to start the labour naturally. I also explained that should it be needed – I would prefer a caesarean birth over an induction, for me, it was my way of taking back control.

We went home and Craig turned out all the lights and ran me a bath with candles and essential oils – I listened to my birthing playlist and began to really visualise meeting my baby for the first time. I felt a huge wave of oxytocin and was so excited that I’d be meeting my baby soon. I cried and just became so incredibly ready for the contractions to begin. 

When I got out of the bath, Craig had made me one of my favourite meals and he had turned our bedroom into a little sanctuary. There were fairy lights, loads of Charlotte’s drawing and essential oils in my diffuser – as my back was still quite painful I chose to get into bed, listen to my affirmations, practice my breathing and watch Notting Hill.

I woke up several hours later to further itching and really intense pain in my back – not contractions, the pain that I just couldn’t put my finger on. I started to feel faint and was sick with the pain and that’s when I decided to go back to the hospital to see what was going on – I knew something wasn’t right. Craig helped me to the car with my bags – the journey there was intense with me struggling with every speed bump.

I used my breathing all the way throughout, I wanted to keep a level head for when we got there. By the time we got there, I was really struggling and Craig had to support me through the hospital. 

In the maternity assessment centre, I explained the pain and how my contractions had not yet started and I was offered some pain relief which helped straight away. An obstetrician then came out and was keen to do a vaginal examination – I declined, I knew I hadn’t started to dilate and the pains were not contractions. 

After about an hour or so, I managed to get some sleep and agreed to a vaginal examination – I wanted final confirmation on whether or not I had started to dilate before making some decisions about what to do about my care going forward. 

As suspected, I hadn’t started to dilate almost 24 hours after my waters broke. I again decided to decline to stay in the hospital as I knew that my baby was managing well – I wanted to get my labour going and I knew it wouldn’t happen without Craig with me. The pain in my back had virtually gone and we both needed some sleep and from my experience of the same ward several years earlier with Charlotte – I wouldn’t get any there. 

We made an action plan that I would return first thing in the morning (there was a huge resistance in me leaving but again, I explained that oxytocin was vital to get things going and they accepted this) and I would plan to have a caesarean birth if things had not progressed – my baby was safe and I felt confident that I was making the right choice to give myself a few more hours at home.  

As I walked out of the hospital, I felt completely empowered that I was in charge of my birth. The pain relief had helped me think more clearly, Craig and I managed to get more sleep and when the pain relief wore off at home – I spent some time just listening to my intuition and every part of it felt an abdominal birth was the safest option. I’d done everything I could and I was now struggling mentally and physically – I wanted the final say on how my birth was going to happen.

After talking with Craig and my midwife, they supported me wholeheartedly and Craig rang the hospital to tell them I was coming back in for a c-section.

It felt absolutely surreal getting in the car knowing I was definitely meeting my baby that day, I held Craigs hand and although I felt some sorrow – I knew that I was doing the right thing for everyone. I practised my visualisation, meeting my baby for the first time and I immediately felt supported and safe. 

When we got back to the hospital, we were quickly taken to the delivery suite and put into a delivery room – it all felt a bit surreal. I was really nervous but listened to my gut and I knew it was the right choice for me, a quick check of my baby confirmed that he was well and all we had to do was wait for an available slot.. It took a fair few hours! 

Both Craig and I put on our outfits, I couldn’t stop laughing at Craig.. He looked like he belonged in ER! I spent the hours waiting listening to my hypnobirthing tracks, using my orange oil and breathing techniques and spoke with my doula on the phone. 

I found talking through my choices really reassuring and I spent time laughing and joking with my family on WhatsApp and Craig and I finally had the conversation about baby names – we had no idea if our baby was a boy or a girl! 

When the medical team came in to discuss the birth, I mentioned that I had preferences for a c section and discussed them with the doctor and midwife. I felt supported with the majority of my choices, my main priorities were optimal cord clamping and skin to skin as soon as my baby was born. I also wanted to keep my placenta for encapsulation and wanted to find out the sex of our baby ourselves. 

Just before we went into the theatre, we prepared my essential oils and talked with Craig about how I wanted to use my mind hypnobirthing tools throughout the birth – affirmations and visualisation.

When we finally walked down to the theatre, I was nervous – as a birth worker, I knew what theatres looked like yet the medical anxiety tried to rear its ugly head. The staff were unbelievably friendly, smiling, supportive and had some really good music in the background. 

I told myself that I was in control, that I was about to birth my baby and that I could do anything I put my mind to. Craig waited at the other side of the room whilst I had the spinal block – I breathed deeply and even the anaesthetist said how surprised he was at how relaxed I was – my breathing was steady and I felt safe. Yet again.. The best tool out of my toolkit! 

Once the birth began, I was very focused – it was a really surreal experience, Craig was by my side, the team in the theatre were incredibly supportive. I looked into Craig’s eyes the whole time we were waiting for our baby to be born, he was emotional and I just continued to tell him I was okay. I felt incredibly connected to him and the relief I felt was indescribable.

William was born very quickly and I remember Craig laughing saying see… I told you so.. A boy. The doctor held him up slightly so that we could see, I had chosen to have the drapes up and I was absolutely speechless.. A little boy. I really didn’t think he would be! He was born at almost cowboy time according to Craig.. 9.47pm and weighed 6lb 6oz.

William was a little slow to start breathing fully yet they waited until he had received all of his cord blood before taking him over to see the paediatric doctors. The anaesthetist and midwife were brilliant and were quick to get William into skin to skin – the moment he was put onto my chest I felt completely at ease. I felt immediate calm and happiness to just be with my baby. He started to breathe fully – he felt safe and my heart just felt so full. 

We very quickly decided on the name William Arthur (Arthur being Craigs grandad) and we began to get to know each other. I very quickly forgot about all the other issues I’d been having and felt confident they would now subside, unfortunately the itching became almost unbearable towards the end of the birth but I had the perfect distraction now in my lovely little boy!

For the rest of the operation, I held my baby and discussed several things with the doctors about the care we were to receive afterwards. My placenta was bagged up and once back in the delivery suite – Craig contacted Placenta Plus to come and collect it.

We were wheeled back into the room and Craig rang around our family to tell them the good news, he then popped him in his first nappy and his cord tie was put on whilst I began to eat my bodyweight in all the food we had brought with us! I started to squeeze colostrum out for William to feed and he very quickly began to suckle – I felt completely at ease and relaxed. I had birthed my baby.

I was taken down to the postnatal ward where Craig unfortunately had to leave us quite quickly after surgery, as William was premature – we were guided into an area where paediatric nurses could support us. We had lots of skin to skin and I was able to establish breastfeeding relatively quickly. That night I just watched him and gave thanks that he was safe.

During my stay within the postnatal ward, it became clear that the back pain wasn’t going away.. I demanded answers and was so thankful to come across the most wonderful registrar who was pretty convinced I had something she had suffered with in her pregnancy, she arranged an ultrasound 3 days after William’s birth which confirmed that I had chronic cholecystitis (gallstones and infected gallbladder) with several stuck within my bile duct – this lead to pancreatitis which meant my gallbladder urgently needed removing.

I cried hard when I found out..not because of what it meant, because I knew that something hadn’t been right.

I don’t deny that William’s birth was far away from what I originally planned for, yet I always felt comfortable in making a plan should my birth plan not go according to plan – looking back, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. My instinct and my baby guided me to make the right choices. 

I felt confident and in control every single step of the way, I was hit with a lot of blows but everything was my choice – I asked the questions, I asked for further investigation, I challenged what people said to me and this was all down to hypnobirthing, giving me some incredible tools and some incredible connections with some wonderful people that I was able to push forward and focus on getting well so that I could get back to what I always wanted to do, be a mummy to my babies.