We recently made some changes to our pool hire service, and you might be wondering why. So here is a brief explanation of why we have decided to enforce a 30 week booking deadline. We know that not everyone will agree with our approach, and we’re okay with that – these changes have been based on our observations and what we have learnt from women over the past few years of running the service. We will continue to learn as time goes on and things may change again in the future, but for now here is our stance and why:
We started running this pool hire service back in 2020 and during that time we have learnt a lot. We included free support sessions within our hire because we recognised that so many of the pools were coming back unused because women were being coerced out of their home birth by the maternity system, and those women weren’t getting emotional support or accurate information from their midwives. We continued to book women in who were approaching us late on in their pregnancy, but we learnt quickly that women who are waiting until a certain point in their pregnancy to be ‘signed off’ or ‘given permission’ by a medical professional were also the ones who would accept that ‘permission’ being taken away again.
Sometimes women would take us up on the support session near the end of their pregnancy, around 34 weeks when suddenly “risks” started cropping up (like growth scans), and we were the first people to tell her that she gets to choose, that all of the appointments, measurements, examinations and procedures are optional, that she doesn’t need permission to give birth at home. It is heartbreaking to see that realisation dawn on her face when she is so far down the line that it feel impossible for her to do anything about it now.
Women who were looking for external reassurance from appointments, inaccurate measurements and scans, and permission were not wholeheartedly planning a home birth. They were hoping for one, but that hope was balancing on a jenga tower that could be knocked over at any moment by a medical professional. A medical professional who works within a system that doesn’t understand normal birth or the basic needs of a woman in labour. A system that builds its policies on fear of litigation rather than what women actually want or need. What we found was that women who were hoping for a home birth very rarely had one.
We understand why this is the current norm – we are brought up to believe that others know our body better than we do, and that we need “experts” to be able to give birth safely because it is a dangerous and unpredictable medical event. That’s why so many women do turn to midwives or doctors for external reassurance. We understand how hard it is to question that cycle or and it’s even harder to break it. It can be scary to take radical responsibility for our decisions, particularly when something is presented as a health issue/medical event. The truth is that birth is a normal bodily function, just like sex or having a poo, birth is incredibly predictable when left alone and we ARE the experts on our own bodies.
Home is safe. It’s where we perform all of our other bodily functions. It is where the only bacteria around is the stuff we’re in contact with every day and are therefore used to. It is where we get to choose who comes through the door, and where we are free to move around and be ourselves. It’s also proven to be safe for birth through studies (and the existence of so many generations before us). Biologically it makes perfect sense – we are mammals, and other mammals find a safe, dark spot where they will not be disturbed or observed. Women need these basic things too, and none of these needs are met within a medical setting. Giving birth at home is the biological norm and is always an option.
You do not need someone’s permission, or for someone to write it in your notes, or to be ‘signed off’ to plan a home birth. It is your human right, and your birthright.
Our organisation is rooted in women’s rights and bodily autonomy. The maternity system does not respect these things. We will no longer nod along and stay quiet when a woman is walking through or into a system that is set up to fail her. The reason we no longer take bookings after 30 weeks is because we want to make it clear that women do not need to wait until after this point to start planning something that they know feels right for them. We want women to recognise that they can do whatever works for them, without checking with a midwife or asking for permission. This autonomy and critical thinking is necessary for having a good birth, because if a woman is deciding to engage with the maternity system (which is also something we assume is necessary but isn’t) then she is likely to have to assert herself at many points in her pregnancy, labour and birth. She is likely to be told that she “needs to” or “has to” do things that she’s not comfortable with (which is a lie, she never has to). She is likely to be coerced with emotive language instead of genuine evidence. She is likely to be told that she is “not allowed” a home birth because she is too “high risk” based on inaccurate information.
We don’t write this lightly, and it is no way an attempt to scare you or place any blame on you. The dependence on the maternity system is something that is deeply ingrained and socially accepted, it’s not the fault of the woman who engages in it, the fault lies with the system itself. We feel it is our responsibility to be honest about the system and the way it treats women. We know that this doesn’t make us very popular (particularly with midwives) and can often feel confronting or upsetting for women who are still in that relationship with the system. But we hope that our reminder that women are completely capable, incredibly wise and are their own experts will plant a seed. We hope that women hear that they deserve to be treated with respect, rather than as a faulty piece of birthing equipment, that they deserve to feel strong and wise, rather than unsure and deflated, and that they absolutely don’t need anyones permission to give birth wherever they damn well want to.
I’m sorry that we are unable to offer you a birth pool after 30 weeks, but we hope that you are able to find one.