Write a birth plan
Think about your specific desires for your birth and put them on paper. Give one to your doctor for your file, and send one to the hospital well before your estimated due date. That way it is clear, in black and white, what your wishes are. It lets the hospital staff know that you have thought through your birth and that you are informed.
The more you can relax, the less painful your birth will be. My goal was to give birth naturally, without pain meds, but even if you plan to have an epidural, learning to relax will help you manage labor as it becomes more intense. In the months leading up to my birth I practiced relaxing when I lay in bed at night…from head to toe…every muscle…limp as a rag doll…breathed deeply, imitating sleep. For more complete instructions on how to do this, see one of the excellent books available on the Bradley method of childbirth, or take a Bradley class. Here’s a great article online about relaxing during childbirth. I’m not strong willed enough that sheer determination could make me get through birth without pain meds. However, relaxing has helped me learn to manage the pain. I can honestly say that with Sarah’s birth (my 3rd) I never reached what I’d consider my pain threshold. Yes, it hurt, but I didn’t get the point where I thought, there’s no way I can take any more.
Read, read, read–be informed
Some great books to prepare for birth and after are:
Husband Coached Childbirth by Robert A. Bradley (somewhat outdated…I’ve heard that more current Bradley method books are better…the original book still has tons of useful information though)
The Complete Well Pregnancy Book by Mike and Nancy Samuels
Parent Project by Dr. William Sears (and pretty much anything else in print or online by Dr. Sears…my only caution is that I think he’s a bit of a softy on toddler discipline…But his info on baby care is fabulous.)
Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing by Sheila Kippley (Even if you aren’t interested in spacing children through ecological breastfeeding, this book is a great help in understanding how your body works during lactation.)
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by La Leche League International