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About Laura
ICP

30 April 2023

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.

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