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.

Julie’s Positive C Section Birth

On the morning of 5th October 2019 my partner & I found out that we were expecting our first child. Almost immediately, I began to research vaccination options, water births and hypnobirthing.

With the pregnancy becoming a reality, I was unexpectantly scared of the pregnancy, and more understandably, the birth & of not being ready for the big arrival.

Before we met Laura I had it all sorted in my head – I’m having a water birth, hopefully no more than gas & air (but open to all pain relief if needed) and my hypnobirthing.

Simple!!

I was amazed at the stuff Laura was telling us – who knew that you have a right to say “no” to a stretch & sweep? Who knew you could request preferred birth positions?

Who knew that the “traditional”, Hollywood movie type of delivery on your back is less helpful than others? The one that really got me though was this – you can have birth preferences when having a C-Section. I thought she was mad when she said you can still have birth preferences with a C-Section – how much say do you have when you’re
numb from your toes to your chest & in my mind, at their mercy; but she was absolutely right & due to how things panned out, I was even more grateful for having spent the time and money on the course.

My pregnancy was fairly straightforward, however, my baby decided at week 38 during a positional scan she was absolutely not ready to be engaging. She was having too much fun freely floating around in all that lovely excess amniotic fluid; apart from that, her favourite position was transverse – lying across the top of my stomach.

My baby was officially an “unstable lie” due to her constant moving around. The hospital admitted me immediately and booked me in for a C-Section in just over a week’s time. I reached for my hypnobirthing toolbag & for Laura. I used my affirmation cards, lavender pouch, visualisations, breathing techniques etc during peaks of anxiety & Laura held my hand via WhatsApp & calls all the way.

When the doctors were attempting to make decisions on my & my baby’s behalf about how we would move forward if baby did decide to engage, I had the knowledge & strength to say “no” and “I would appreciate it if you would discuss the options with me, rather than decide for me”. Additionally, I had faith in my gut instinct. All of this was thanks to doing Laura’s hypnobirthing course.

I gained further confidence in my approach when I found out a senior midwife was also fighting my corner in the background as she agreed with me.

I wrote down my birth preferences, discussed them with my partner & ensured there was a copy in my file & a spare for me. My partner was prepared and ready to create a bubble for me & him & he knew that I didn’t want anyone else speaking to me or telling us what was going on.

On the morning of my C-Section I asked if my birth preferences had been noted & was told that the team would read it before I went down to the Labour Ward. I was advised that this had been done when I arrived in the theatre. I won’t lie – I was really scared of the spinal but I was able to get into a zone of calm with the help of a hypnobirthing track & breathing with my partner. The spinal was effective very quickly & once all checks had been made my partner created our bubble. This was the last time it would be just us & he reminisced & breathed with me. He helped me to move the focus away from the room, the noises, the knowledge of what was happening to me.

I have little memory of the birth as I was so focused on our bubble which is how I wanted it. I can honestly say that my birth experience was really positive & that was due to what we learned with Laura. I can also report that our daughter’s birth was a positive experience for my partner as he felt he had a role to play.

Not only was he able to create and maintain a safe space for me, he told me the sex of our baby & gave our daughter her first cuddle.

We did it together.