This is kind of like the cheap-but-not-TOO-cheap person's guide to preparing for a water birth.
Anyhow, without further ado:
Selecting a Birth Pool
I had three main criteria in mind. First, that the pool be sufficiently deep (>22" is my minimum, even given my shortish 5'2" stature), and second, that it not have a terribly large capacity. And then the big make-it-or-break-it quality - PRICE. We don't have deep pockets. Particularly after our break-in. I wanted, ideally, to spend less than $40. This automatically rules out pools that were designed to give birth in, like the AquaDoula or Birth Pool in a Box or any number of available (and really good IMO for varying reasons) options. It even rules out rentals, which in my area run $250 or so.
We accomplished 2/3 of our criteria for $29.99 on Amazon (crap, it's even cheaper now!), and our happy little "OMG we're almost ready for a baby" package arrived just two days later.
The pool I linked is actually a little large. At 72-75", the capacity is about 1/3 more than that of the 60" I would have preferred. That pool, though, was for whatever reason a lot more expensive when I was doing my shopping. The price point changes constantly, so if you can get the 60" (still 22"-24" tall) pool, go for it, it will take a lot less time to fill. The larger pool was so big I couldn't even reach both sides at once. This is desirable in a play pool but not so much in a birthing one.
Hose - For sanitary reasons, we needed a brand-new hose. For avoiding-disgusting-toxins-in-the-pool reasons, we needed one that was OK for hot water and for drinking water. This type of hose was a tadbit more pricey, but since we could pretty comfortably get away with a hose that was only 25' long (in most houses 50' is the safer bet), it was just $14. After we were done with it, we ran bleach water through it and set it aside for the next time we need to run hot water through a hose.
Adapter - we were going from our shower (we remove the shower head) to the pool. The adapter was a little difficult to find at Home Depot because it wasn't labeled in anything even remotely resembling an obvious way, and I had to bring a shower head and the hose to the adapter isle and find the one that matched. $2.45 (plus $.50 for thread sealing tape). We did a trial run without the sealing tape just to make sure it worked (HIGHLY recommended, since I've seen "universal adapters" fail at births and it's not a good scene).
Liner - painting drop cloth, $1.49. We wound up not using it for the birth (we did in the trial run and it was a PITA and water still got out, so we figured if we were going to have to sanitize the pool itself anyways we might as well not deal with the crinkly). If we were going to be passing this on to another family, we would recommend purchasing a liner made specifically for pools.
Air pump - this is really important, because these pools have HUGE air reservoirs. It took 30 minutes to fill with the pump and would probably have taken way over an hour with our lungs. We had a pump from way-back-at-some-point that is half-broken, so we didn't buy a new one, but we did need to inflate the pool outside using the car adapter. So we left the pool inflated, propped sideways against the closet doors in the bedroom from about 37 weeks on, mainly because we had no desire to stand outside in the rain pumping up a pool again (even if it wasn't in the middle of the night).
Strainer - women poop when they push, it just happens. You need a strainer. We had a metal one that we planned to boil afterwards if we wound up using it, but we didn't use it. I've mostly seen women use fish nets (some birth kits even contain them), which are very cheap too if you can't get over reusing something you've gotten shit on.
Tarp - we didn't have one, but I highly recommend it for others. We didn't wind up making a mess but it's SUPER common for small splashes to get out of these pools during labor. Nothing fancy, and another painters' plastic will work just fine if you don't already have one, so max expenditure here is still just $1.50 and we spent nothing.
Water pump - NOT NECESSARY unless your pool will be below ground level. A water pump will typically cost more than our pool did. We siphoned the water into our garden. It wasn't THAT gross, really. A little bloody. Yay fertilizer! Out-of-doors, the blood gets consumed/broken down really fast, so it wasn't a sanitary hazard out in a garden that nobody was going to be setting foot in for several weeks. Anyway...pump not necessary. We gravity siphoned and it took quite a long time to empty the pool, but it worked well.
Assorted Other Lessons Learned
We started filling as soon as my water broke, before labor really set in. This was a GOOD IDEA because it was only actually "labor labor" for about 30 minutes, which would totally have been enough time if I wanted to soak the bottoms of my feet. The water stayed reasonably warm overnight with just a heavy flannel sheet over the top of the pool, so we had a good volume at a decent (probably about 90 degrees by the morning) temperature when we woke up and started filling the pool for the real deal. As it was, it was still a little on the cool side (more like 96 degrees than like the 100 we were shooting for) when I got in; Francesco added some water in big pots from the stove to boost the temp after Chubble had actually been born and we were sitting in the tub trying not to let her get too cold. The other reason starting so early and covering worked for us is that we stopped filling the second the water started getting cool, so we were covering a 130 degree pool and we could leave it unattended for 10 hours and have it still well over room temperature when we needed it. The worst thing that could have happened is that we'd have had to siphon out a large portion of the pool water and refill with hot water if my labor had turned out to be much longer.
This isn't one I had to learn myself, thank goodness...those almost-boiling pots of water? They're freaking hot! Pour them as far away from the laboring woman (burns in labor! Ack!) as possible without getting the water or the pot directly on the pool plastic (melting plastic! Ack!).
Clean the pool right away. It's just easier. We don't need to elaborate on how we know that, we just do.
Pool - $30
Accessories - $18.50
Birth pool - $48.50
A side note about utilities - we haven't a clue how much they cost us. Our water bill that month was only slightly more than usual, maybe by between $5 and $10, and that's after filling the pool twice and showering at home way more often than usual. Our electric would be impossible to figure out (this is a factor because it took 3 reheats from the water heater to fill the pool) because we set the thermostat much higher than usual in the first couple of weeks after Chubble got here, and because April this year was much colder than April last year (so no good comparison point).
And, we have a happy fully functional birth setup for under $50!