When a lovely friend of ours, Kate, was recently preparing to birth her baby at home in a birth pool, I asked Simon (hubby) if he could shoot Kate and Art, (her hubby) an email with some useful ‘pool tips’. You know, a list of things he wished he’d been told before our water-birth at home. Because they found his tips useful I thought I’d post them here so that if you, or anyone you know, is planning the same you can benefit from them too. This is what he wrote to Kate …
“Setting up the pool is simple enough, but takes some time. If you don’t have the space to leave it inflated days before the birth then Art will have to inflate it and fill it when he could otherwise be available for you to crush the bones in his hand!
Our birth pool came with an electric pump which made inflating it a little easier.
Also, the liner can be a bit fiddly to put in.
Meggan was getting really established in labour by the time I set up our birth pool. With hindsight I should have at least inflated and partially filled it earlier in the day whilst she was quite happy doing her own thing. As it turned out, I was inflating the birth pool while she was having regular and big contractions in the next door room. So what was probably 30 minutes seemed more like 3 hours.
Make sure there’s sufficient room for Art/your midwife(s) and/doula to attend to you in relation to what direction you’ll be facing and which part of the birth pool you might find yourself hunching over. Once there’s water in that pool it’s not going to budge an inch.
Get some big plastic drop sheets from Bunnings … the kind you use when painting your house. They cost just a couple of dollars each. We used three of them, but could’ve used a couple more. Cover the drop sheets with towels or old sheets, otherwise they’ll stick to your feet. You need heaps of towels and sheets. Be careful with this as it can be a bit slidey underfoot. (We also covered our nearby sofa).
Make sure you use a brand new hosepipe to fill the birth pool. If it’s old it’ll be full of bacteria that’ll transfer to the pool and could make you and bub really sick. We ran a hose from the washing machine tap into the living room. I thought I was well prepared having checked the thread size on the tap and the hose … but I never actually turned on the hose until I needed it … and only then discovered the connection sealed really badly. This wasn’t great coz it just served to keep me away from Megs for longer as I had to rig buckets and towels to catch most of the leaking water.
What hot water system do you have? Happy days if it’s a combi boiler offering a constant supply of hot water. If, like us, you’re on a simple and small tank, it will require a lot of pans and kettles to get the water up to temperature and maintain it there. Do you have a doula or anyone else attending the birth besides Art and your midwife? This was when I was really grateful for our doula, Korin, being there. She was constantly heating up pans of water on the stove and boiling kettles so I could attend to Megs. Then we’d swap and I’d do some hefting of buckets. I had filled the pool by 3pm and the 3 of us (Megs, me and Joshi!) got out from it about 9pm. So for 6 hours either Korin or myself was topping up the pool with hot water. (Of course it also gets to the stage where Art will have to pale or siphon a few buckets back out to make room for the hot water coming in – so don’t start out by filling it to the maximum level right from the start).
With all this water work going on, Art’s ability to multi-task and also time your contractions will be tested. I found this seemingly-straight-forward-task surprisingly easy to stuff up, probably because I was distracted with readying the birth pool, fetching drinks, snacks, hot water bottles, cushions, cold packs, etc . I was thinking at the time how clever my iphone was to have a stop watch on it. Days later whilst reflecting on my laughable efforts with timing contractions I had the idea to develop an app to make it easy for challenged dads like me. Imagine my complete absence of surprise when I discovered there are already dozens of such apps out there. I’d definitely fork out the $1.99. I was phoning the midwife throughout the afternoon to keep her posted on Meggan’s progress And I was her one source of information by which she had to gauge when to begin her hour long drive to our home. My hindsight goggles definitely wouldn’t let that one get the better of me next time. (I think she arrived about 3 hours before Joshua was born, so it turned out really well!)
Oh, and do have a nice big sieve handy … yep!
So then some time passes, and a baby pops out, and everybody’s all loved up. But some time later you need to drain the pool and clean up. I couldn’t believe the amount of mess produced for such a little person. Have lots of bin liners handy and bag up all the towels and sheets, etc. The worst ones – just bin them. The not too messy ones – wash them as soon as you can – birth related laundry starts to smell funky in no time at all, so tie the bags shut until it’s laundry time!
Our downstairs neighbour would not have appreciated us syphoning out the birth pool into her garden, so we had to go with syphoning down the drain in our bathroom floor. Because there wasn’t much of a drop, this took a couple of hours and I had to scoop out the last few inches of water by bucket. It’s quite hard to start siphoning on a hose that long … and you don’t want to get a mouthful of that water when you do. If you run the hose for a few seconds with the other end submerged in the pool so there is no air left in it, then disconnect the end connected to the tap and quickly seal it with your hand, the siphon will start all by itself with no sucking required.
By the way – you’re in an apartment block right? Neighbours beneath you? We made a point of mentioning to our nearest neighbours we were planning a home birth so as to save them from wondering if they ought to call the cops when they heard Meggan labouring. We decided against mentioning there would be a birth pool though – our downstairs neighbour didn’t need to hear about the swimming pool we were going to erect 6ft above her head.
PS. One bathroom in your place? Meggan sat on the toilet for about 4 hours at one stage during her labour. When we got her up to walk her around a bit, it was more for everyone else’s benefit than hers!”