Baby’s almost here, and you’ve got everything in order. All you have to do now is wait for the show to start! Before labor kicks in and you head to the hospital, prepare yourself with some essential insight for the experience.

Realize you’ll lose all sense of pride. I remember trying to initially cover up in front of the nurses. But by day 2, you’ve been poked, prodded, and examined by every doctor, nurse, and orderly in the building. I think the food crew even saw my bum. And as the prudest person in America, I couldn’t have cared less.

Note that all the planning you’ve done might just go out the window. I spent an entire weekend in Lamaze class. I had a birth plan paired with birthing music. My pantry and freezer were stocked with popsicles and carb-filled foods to fuel me (and cool me) for the hours spent in labor before we headed to the hospital. And then, two weeks before my due date, I woke up feeling funny. Strange enough to head to the ER. I had a rare form of preeclampsia, and the baby needed to come out right away. Emergency C-section. No popsicles. And no Beyoncé.

Screaming at your partner will help. It really will. And here’s the secret: Anything you say during labor cannot be held against you. This also applies to the first year after birth. Anything said between the hours of 12am and 4am cannot be brought up the next day.

Breastfeeding might be harder than anything you’ve ever done. This is what my husband tells any pregnant woman he knows. It took machines, apparati, lactation consultants, a devoted husband, and at least four hands to get my first baby to eat. At day 5, using pumps, massage techniques, gels and creams, I looked at my husband and said, “When we met freshman year of college, did you ever imagine you’d be handling my boobs this way?” But honestly, you should let people help you, especially your partner. It will bring you closer than you ever thought possible.

It’s okay for the baby to sleep in the hospital nursery. So many moms will tell you that their baby slept next to them every night in the hospital. Well, good for them. But I bet they didn’t sleep one wink, hearing every gurgle. Let a nurse take the baby to a nursery for the night, and bring him to you when it’s time to eat. You’re going to have this baby for the next 60 or more years. You might as well nap now.

Ask for help. Truly. Maybe women used to do this all by themselves back in the day, and yay for them. But if you have the opportunity to have night nurses, nannies, and loving family help you with this newborn, take it. You are still in charge (or, the baby is). Once you feel like the support is intruding more than helping, you can start cutting back.

Find a new-mom friend. It may be hard at first, but a friend will help you break out of the comfort zone of your sweatpants and jammies. Make a goal to get out of the house for at least an hour each day, breastfeed in a public area (gasp!), or talk through concerns with someone.

You’re the queen for the day. Don’t worry about anyone else, the schedules, the well-meaning visitors to the hospital. This day is about you, your partner, and your baby. And once this beautiful bundle is born, make sure everyone takes precious care of you while you care for your new addition.

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The importance of having a labor plan before giving birth.

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