1. There is no normal.
When I was pregnant it seemed as if I was wearing a huge sign that said, "Please tell me all about your personal experiences with having a baby." This happened to me constantly! Whether I was at work, church, the grocery store, or a public bathroom, there was always a woman ready to tell me her childbirth story. I didn't mind hearing these in some ways because it helped me realize that everyone is different. Some women have short labors, while some are in labor for days. Some women have their children at home and others in a hospital. The variations go on forever. When you start into your labor, or even further along into the pushing stage, be ready for anything and plan on anything happening. If anyone tells you what's normal and what's not, here is my advice to remember: there is no normal!
2. You need to push like you're...
I am going to come right out and say it: you need to push like you're pooping. This was shared with my husband and I in our Lamaze class and guess what? It's true! When you begin pushing keep in mind the same effort that goes into having a bowel movement and you will find your efforts paying off. Another bit of advice that was given to me during the pushing phase was to not fear pushing. It was great advice because after hearing that I was able to let go of my inhibitions and use all of my strength.
3. There will be swelling.
This might sound like an obvious thing to share, but to honest I was not prepared for how swollen your vagina can become. Please note that there will be swelling and things will not look normal down there. To help with all of the swelling make sure and use ice as much as you can for the first 24 hours. The nurses in the hospitals have excellent solutions for this, too! My nurse stuffed an infant diaper with crushed ice for me to use and it was heavenly! An extra tip: bring along some cheap cotton undies in the next size up. These will give you room to breathe and will feel much more comfortable than your usual snazzy pair.
4. You might feel better than you anticipate.
I kept thinking that labor and delivery was going to leave me utterly exhausted and worn out. For the most part I was tired afterwards, but was able to get up and walk around very soon after my son was born. In fact, it felt great to get cleaned up and put on my own nightgown from home. I ate a nice meal and a lovely chocolate brownie. I felt human again.
What surprised you most during your baby's delivery?