Test driving the birth pool

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.

Birth pool assembly

So, how does one assemble and fill a birth pool? Here’s how we did it.

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Pregnancy in the Netherlands: Making my birth choice

After my last post, you might wonder if I’ve chosen a home or hospital birth. Until about a month ago, I had zero preference. Both sounded perfectly fine to me and I couldn’t come up with compelling reasons to prefer one over the other. I read about women with detailed birth plans and staunch convictions, and wondered how on earth they came up with such definite, rigid guidelines for their births.

(Slight digression: I especially couldn’t understand how some women can be so against any kind of fetal monitoring during birth. I can see the benefit of freedom of movement and not being strapped to a machine, but could you really not care about how your baby is coping with the birth? I mean, birth isn’t just about us mothers, is it? End of digression.)

I started to feel paralyzed by all my options. That happens when you have a lot of them—which tends to happen in a country like the Netherlands, which is (or at least claims to be) all about freedom of choice. Not having a preference also makes it difficult to plan, because you can’t plan for everything.

I started to get overwhelmed and frustrated, wishing I was back home where I wouldn’t even have to think about these things. I would just be a good patient and do whatever the doctor ordered.

Then I realized that it’s so easy to just be the “good girl.” To follow, to do the automatic thing, instead of taking time to ask yourself “What do you really want?” If you’re anything like me, deciding what you want can be a bigger challenge than actually getting it!

I could just leave it all up in the air, be praised for being open-minded and easygoing, leave everything to my midwives… or I could grow up a bit, take responsibility, and choose.

So I did. I don’t have any research or statistics to back up my choice. I simply asked myself what appealed to me most, what sounded like a wonderful birth, what I would like to have in an ideal world. You could say I went with my gut.

This is how I find myself planning for a water birth. At home.

Unfortunately, Dutch hospitals don’t have water birth facilities. The Bevalcentrum West, a non-medical birth center attached to the Sint Lucas Andreas hospital, has a room with a birthing pool; it would’ve been a great compromise between home and hospital. But I don’t want pin all my hopes on that one room being available when my time comes.

So the best place for this to happen is at home, with a rented birth pool. (See, it helps that I wasn’t totally against a home birth.) I’ve signed the rental contract and paid the fee for a birth pool. All I need is for it to be delivered, for Marlon and I to do a trial run, and to actually get to use it. All of which I promise to share here on the blog!

I’m not ruling out a hospital birth: I might end up screaming for drugs at 3 cm, or Little Mango might have other plans (she’s part of this too). My midwives have been great; they reassure me I’m free to change my mind and go for medication—ideally before 5 cm, otherwise there’s too little time for a hospital transfer.

I like where I am  now: moving forward in a definite direction, without having to oppose my other options. I’ve realized that some things are not about getting it right or wrong, but could simply be about taking action and making a choice. With three weeks to go until the birth, it’s a nice place to be!

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