You've made it through 40 weeks of pregnancy...so now what?
You've been through classes, set up birth plan, and bought the baby gear. You have your go-bag packed and you've set your email to an auto-response. Even if you have everything in place when you feel that first contraction, you may be in for a few surprises!
We talked to women who've been there to find out what they wish someone had told them before they went into labor. Read on to see their top ten labor and delivery secrets!
You can plan all you want, but sometimes the baby is in charge.
Many women commit to a drug-free birth, water birth or personally-created birth plan. Childbirth involves two living creatures, and your baby might have other ideas. The position of your baby, progression of labor and other health factors could require fast action via c-section or other changes to your plan. Remind yourself that the end result - a healthy, happy baby - is the goal, and be open to the entire experience.
You might throw up.
Wait, isn't all that supposed to be behind you? Well, vomiting during labor is actually normal. Nausea can be caused by pain, anesthesia, or the food your stomach is not digesting during labor.
Your teeth may chatter.
It's caused not by cold, but by incompatible fetal blood crossing into your bloodstream.
You pass gas -- sometimes loudly.
There's nothing to be done here - it's caused by pressure in the birth canal. You may even have uncontrolled bowel movements. Also, epidurals can "freeze" the sphincter. Don't worry, doctors, nurses and midwives have seen and heard it all before.
You might rip off your clothes.
Your body is experiencing incredible hormone surges. You might yell, swear or even rip off that nightie that's suddenly unbearably hot, itchy and uncomfortable.
You may forget everything your learned in childbirth classes.
Suddenly, all those breathing exercises and birth planning classes just go out the window. And it's very likely you won't remember a lot of details from the labor and delivery process.
You may not fall in love with your baby right away.
You've just been through an incredibly painful experience and you might need a little time to recover. Don't worry if you're not overwhelmed with joy immediately. It will come over you soon enough.
Your partner might be freaked out.
It's hard to watch someone you love go through violent spasms and scream with pain. In many cases, a friend or family member who's been through it before may be your best bet in the delivery room.
You're not done yet.
Even after you've delivered your baby, and placed him on your breast to begin the latching-on process, you still need to deliver the placenta. You may also need stitches, especially if you've had an episiotomy. You'll also be passing blood clots in the first hours after birth - and these may be as big as tennis balls.
Pain doesn't end when baby arrives.
Childbirth is major surgery, and your body needs time to recover.
For more information about pregnancy, labor and delivery, see the links on the next page.
Doulas don't have any medical training but many mothers depend on them to be in the delivery room. Find out more about doulas from HowStuffWorks.