The idea quite literally surfaced as we were swimming in the local pool. It was towards the end of my second pregnancy and I was floating around in the water experiencing the sheer bliss that only a pregnant mother can feel as the weight of 8 months hard pregnancy was lifted off my feet. Mr Hubby was throwing our youngest in the air and they were splashing around wildly filling the air with giggles. My youngest was two years old now and he’d clearly come such a long way since his traumatic hospital-induced birth 24 months earlier. It suddenly struck me how relaxed I felt, in the water with my family around me and I made the decision right there and then, that I was going to transfer that feeling of tranquillity to my next birth experience! “I’m going to have a waterbirth in the kitchen!” I exclaimed! My sudden outburst caught poor Mr Hubby completely unawares and he just stood there mid-throw in stunned bewilderment as our little bundle of joy spiralled through the air and hit the water with a resounding splosh! Without the “1-2-3 breathe” that they’d been practicing at baby-swimming, the little mite came up coughing and spluttering, and despite him being quite ok, a pool life guard had already blown his whistle and a number of youthful pool attendants were diving athletically into the pool! By the time we’d towelled off, and thanked the life guards for their diligence, and meekly smiled at the other swimmers who were looking at us as if we were completely incompetent parents, Mr Hubby finally pulled himself together and managed to reel off an immeasurably long list of reasons why he thought the whole ‘waterbirth in the kitchen’ concept was a terrible idea! “Surely giving birth at home would create a right mess all over the place?”, “What if I was in labour at home and something went wrong?”, “Where on earth would we get a pool?”, “Was I seriously thinking of the kitchen?”, “What if I got in to the pool and a wave of water went all over the place?”, “Was I going to cope without pain relief?”, “Was it going to be massively expensive?”, and finally “Could we do it on the cheap using little ones paddling pool and filling it with our leaky garden hose?!”.
Well, I’m all for trying to win my man round with a bit of frugalism, but after a stint of research on Google and the NHS Choices website it soon became apparent that the paddling pool and garden hose idea wasn’t going to fly. Home birthing pools needed to be sterile, deep enough to immerse your body and strong enough to hold your weight as you hang over the side gasping for breath after an endless contraction. Luckily though, I did find some options to save forking out gazillions of pounds on a birth pool. First there was the hiring option – with pools available from around £80 for 5 weeks, but in the end I got a second hand one of ebay, complete with sterile hose for just £24. All I needed then was a new pool liner for £25 and my set up was complete! Now all this did come to around £50 in total, but as I pointed out to mr hubby (when the postman came to the door with an inflatable birthing pool under his arm), the hospital parking at the last birth came to over £30 anyway and this time round we would have need a baby sitter for our little tike as well, so I reckon we made a saving!
Mr Hubbys other concerns over the dangers of home birth were addressed by a couple of interesting encounters. The first was with a very kindly midwife who visited us at home and reminded us that giving birth was a completely natural process and that we just had to trust my body. In addition she promised to bring round plenty of gas-and-air and furthermore said that if we gave birth at home it would really help her meet her home-birth targets. She seemed so nice that we could hardly say no, and the idea was sealed later that day with the second interesting encounter which was a chance conversation over the fence with the elderly lady who lives next door, who told Mr Hubby that in her day there was no such thing as a hospital and that kitchen births were quite the norm. After an hour of listening through the fence to stories about birth in times gone-by, Mr Hubby was quite dazed and in no capacity to argue about the issue any further.
Despite my immaculate preparation, the one thing I did forget, and I would strongly advise against forgetting, was a decent pump. My labour started a few days before my due date, and as Mr Hubby will tell you, home birthing pools are very, very, large. Very large. With his small bike pump, he needed a good hour of frantic pumping to get the thing inflated, and halfway through when he was at his lowest ebb and his right arm really was very nearly dropping off, two very stern midwives arrived just in time to whip him back into action. Eventually he crossed the finish line and I stepped in to the warm soothing waters, and all my cares drifted away. Mr hubby was clearly exhausted and looked rather like he’d been in labour himself, but before he’d had time to even catch his breath one of the stern midwives spun on her heels and told him in no short order that his next task was to keep the temperature of the pool within a degree of 36 Celsius and given that it was already down to 34, he’d better get cracking! At this point Mr Hubby was required to race back and forwards across the kitchen carrying saucepan-fulls of water from the pool and topping it up with hot water from the tap. Back and forwards he went at ten to the dozen for a good three hours, spurred on by the hawkish glare of the midwives, which provided me with excellent entertainment during contractions. In fact, it occurred to me that the whole situation was rather like a modern-day equivalent of “Why don’t you go and get some warm towels ready” and it kept him nicely occupied for the duration of the labour.
Before I really knew it my second child was born. My contractions were eased by the warm water, my tender regions were softened and I avoided the dreaded stitches. It was such a soothing entry to the world I will never forget the experience. And neither will Mr Hubby, for his pumping arm has never been the same to this day!