1. Do your research.
2. Keep your head in the game.
"Think of the pain as productive. If you imagine that each contraction is helping to bring your baby out, it can start feeling less like pain and more like pressure."
—Andrea McBurney Leger, Facebook
3. Don't labor on an empty stomach.
4. But make wise food choices.
"Don't eat salmon chowder. Seriously, don't do it. I know it looks all tasty, but that shit is HORRIBLE a few hours later, when the labor hits and your insides come back up. Say no to the salmon chowder."
—Tamara Falkenberg, Facebook
5. Get your hands dirty.
6. Push with your abs.
"Work your way through the pain, feel empowered by it, and use your abs when you push, as if you were doing a crunch. Don't push from your butt; your hemorrhoid-free butt will thank you later."
8. Alternately, just go straight for the adult diapers.
9. Know where your bread is buttered.
"MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE NURSES! Your doctor is usually only there for the last 10 minutes or so when your baby is born. The nurses will be the ones monitoring you and the baby, getting you water and guiding you through labor. Treat them with respect; they've been doing this for years and can make your delivery a great experience."
—Emmay Friedenson, Facebook
10. Poop is part of the program.
11. Plans change.
"Honestly, the best advice I was given that I will pass on is this: Ditch the birth plan. You can have an idea of how you'd like things to go down (mood lighting, med-free, etc.) but be ready and willing to let the shit go. Labor is a mysterious beast and things can go south real quick. If you are too stuck on a plan, it can mess up your mind, leaving you vulnerable to postpartum mental illness. If you really need a plan, make it this: I am going to have a baby and I am going to let the nurses and doctors help me to do that in the best way possible for both me and my baby."
13. Get schooled.
14. Don't rush the epidural.
"Get an epidural, but wait until you're like 5–6 centimeters dilated to do it, when labor is well progressed."
—Kristen Burton, Facebook
15. Don't forget the camera.
16. ...or the video camera.
"Even if you think you won't want it, record the birth. It's my biggest regret that I didn't. Everything goes by so fast once the baby is out, and you get so wrapped up in it all. I don't remember my daughter coming out or me holding her the first time or her cord being cut. Just save it to a memory card. If down the road you decide you don't want it, you can delete it, but there's no going back and getting it if you never recorded it."
—Kate Miller, Facebook
17. Be brave.
18. Ride that emotion-coaster.
"Don't be afraid to show emotion. I am the daughter of a labor and delivery nurse. I knew all the possible outcomes and scenarios going in. However, what I didn't expect were my emotions. I was so tired and my adrenaline was pumping so much that I cried, a lot. I thought it was me being weak, but really it was my body's response to pain and trauma. I had a long labor and ended up with a C-section. It was very traumatic, but my husband was great. In the end I have a beautiful, healthy baby, and it was worth every minute."
—Kristen Blazek, Facebook
19. Dermoplast. All of it.
20. Be flexible.
"Be prepared for anything mentally. My son came two months early via emergency C-section and nothing went as planned, clearly. We had a healthy baby in the end and that was all that mattered."
—Amy Geise, Facebook
21. Pack your bags early.
22. Don't sweat the small stuff.
"Don't sweat the small stuff. Most of it is small stuff. People will see you naked. A lot of people. You will poop yourself. Anyone who says they didn't just had an awesome nurse who cleaned it faster than it took for you to notice, or had a C-section. Nurses are your best friend. Be kind to them, and they will be kind back. The pain really does become a distant memory as soon as you see your baby."
—Victoria Roth, Facebook
23. Have a water baby.
24. Be proactive.
"Talk to your doctor in the hospital about signs of postpartum depression, anxiety, OCD, and psychosis, and what to look for in case you need to take steps for mental care after you are home."
25. Know you're in charge.
26. Know what you're in for.
"Throw away the 'Hollywood' notions of how glamorous and romantic childbirth is. It's true that birthing a child is nothing short of a freakin' miracle, but it comes with an entourage of nudity, puking, pooping, and pain, and all of this happens in front of an audience. Prepare yourself for being exposed to strangers, but take comfort in the fact that everyone is there for you and your baby's well-being."
—Carolyn Barta Attard, Facebook
27. No shame in the game.
Some submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.