When you’re pregnant, about to pop, and planning a water birth at home, there’s one thing you absolutely must do: take your birth pool for a test drive. And that’s just what Marlon and I did last weekend.
I had the option to buy or rent a birth pool. Buying an inflatable pool (“birth pool in a box“) would’ve been cheaper, especially if I rented it out or resold it, but we just don’t have the storage space. Instead, I chose to rent one from De Oerbron, which offers a selection of pools for rent or sale, for a period of five weeks: three weeks before my due date and two weeks after.
Marlon and I went through the entire kit from De Oerbron bright and early last Saturday. Being mostly useless in the heavy lifting department, I played the role of translator, running four pages of Dutch instructions and tips through Google Translate while Marlon grunted and puffed away. “In two weeks, I’ll be really, really, really useful,” I promised, as a sort of apology.
So, how does one assemble and fill a birth pool? Here’s how we did it.
1) Decide where to position the pool. The biggest space we have is our combined living room/dining room/kitchen. Our open layout is an advantage here: seating on one side, and food, drinks and a sink on the other side.
We shifted furniture aside to create space for people—myself, Marlon, my mom, the midwife and maternity nurse—to move about. We also considered proximity to an electrical outlet for the heating pads that come with the pool, and bought a large tarp to protect the floor.
2) Assemble the parts of the pool. Our rental pool comprises four fiberglass pieces lined with insulating material. Assembly was quick, using large metal screws, wing nuts and bolts.
3) Attach the heaters to the walls of the pool. Not all pools come with a heating element, and these two heating pads—which plug into a wall outlet and are strapped to the sides of the pool with Velcro—were optional. They’re only intended to maintain a certain temperature, not heat water from cold to hot. The recommended temperature for a water birth is between 35 to 37 degrees Celsius.
Additional insulation and cushioning for the bottom of the pool goes in after the heaters.
4) Fit a thick PVC liner over the edge of the pool. This heavy, rubbery liner is what actually holds the water. Stretching the liner securely and tightly over the lip of the pool was tricky; just when we’d get one side on, the opposite side would pop off. In the end, I had to stretch my arms way out to hold half the liner in place while Marlon ran around the pool securing the rest of it. This was definitely a two-person job.
5) Top with a final PVC liner. For hygienic purposes, De Oerbron provides a fresh one—translucent PVC, thinner than the base liner—for each birth. We ended up taking this off before filling the pool, since we didn’t want to risk tearing it before the actual birth.
6) Fill the pool with water. This is the most time-consuming (slightly agonizing) part, and is where we ran into a few problems. De Oerbron provided a hose and a few different connectors to attach the hose to a tap, but none of them fit our bathroom or kitchen taps. (Apparently, there is a downside to sleek, modern fittings.) One of the connectors fit the washing machine tap, but the water out of that was freezing!
Eventually, Marlon ended up having to buy a narrower connector from the corner hardware store, then having to dismantle the shower head in our bath tub. But once we got the perfect fit, much to my relief, the pool began to fill with pleasantly warm water.
We took a lunch break while waiting for the pool to fill. We also made sure to check the floorboards for signs of bending under the weight. (None. Whew!) After an hour, it was…
7) Time to get in! Sitting in my bikini, in a birth pool in my living room, in 2ºC winter weather, is probably one of the more bizarre situations I’ve found myself in. But you know what? Slipping into that warm water made the whole idea of a water birth—which until this point had been vague and abstract—become real to me. It felt good… really good. The kind of good that makes you go aaaaaahhhhh.
I must’ve looked like I was having a good time, because Marlon was quickly compelled to change into swim shorts and join me. That was fun!
8) Drain the pool. We did this with a second, separate hose (provided for hygienic purposes) and a pump. After about an hour and 10 minutes, all that was left was to dry everything off and pack it away until… the main event. The real thing.
I’ve had a mental checklist of things I wanted done before I could really say I’m ready to pop: Mom’s arrival (check), the delivery of our new and bigger refrigerator (check), and the trial run of the birth pool. Now that we’ve ticked that last box on the list, does this mean I’m ready to give birth?