- Make sure you get plenty of rest. I used to roll my eyes at this one, but please rest. I promise I'm not being a know-it-all. It's not just afterwards where you bed becomes a holy grail from another world, it's the energy you need to get through it. I only had four hours sleep before William was born and how I wish it was more.
- Listen to your body. Everyone will be offering words of encouragement and advice, but you will know when the time comes and you just need to believe in yourself and think of the end result.
- Listen to your midwives. They are there for a reason. If they tell you what to do, listen and follow instructions. Some things that you are told to do mean more pain, but it's not them being cruel, they are just taking you a step closer to meeting your baby.
- When you are told to push into your bum, push into your bum. It's the same motion and set of muscles and at first it will feel strange and you will probably poo (especially if induced as you don't get that natural 'clear out'). Don't resist this though, because your body needs to clear itself to make room for your baby. Push that poo and/or baby out!
- Drink plenty of fluids. I drank about five bottles of Powerade and it was a life saver. I did have some curious blue sick at first, much to the amusement of my mum and Stephen, but that little burst of energy was needed and your throat will get so dry from exertion and gas and air (should you use it).
- Take a hair bobble/clips/headband. I hated having my hair in my face and it helped me keep cool and feel less stressed. Get you hair up as soon as possible, it will just feel better to have a little control over something.
- If you need more support or pain relief, ask and be firm. This is your labour and your memories in the making, so make sure you get whatever makes you feel better, where possible.
- Try not to kill people. They are just being supportive. I was very quiet in labour (thought I'd be an utter bitch to be honest) but if I felt claustrophobic or needed some quiet I would just shake my head or lift my hand. Everyone cottoned on in the end.
- Noise control. Believe it or not, if you scream, groan and growl, you put all of your energy into your throat and not into your pelvis where it needs to be. I grunted when pushing but I was told to try and just silently breath through and push and it really helped get things going.
- Hypnobirthing. I didn't take any classes but I did get some tips from a midwife who specialised in the techniques. One tip she gave me was breath in through the nose - a nice deep breath - and then breathe out through the mouth in a longer breath. Focus on emptying your lungs and filling them again. In nice and deep, out for longer.
- Take pain relief if you are stitched up. This is painful and very hard to cope with considering the bruising down there. If holding your baby helps, do it, but I found I didn't feel stable enough to hold him. Just focus on your baby and holding them again and getting through it. Don't be afraid. You will be fine eventually.
- Enjoy those first few moments. You will hold them in your heart forever.
- Baby wipes. Obviously baby will have some to hand, but mummy needs them too. Useful for freshening up and removing makeup, but also for tending to your bits. After stitches, you DO NOT want toilet paper stuck to the raw areas. The wipes are gentle and soothing and keep you clean. Make sure you also dab and don't wipe.
- The first wee. It will be scary, but as soon as you can, drink LOTS of water to keep you wee as neutral as possible. You will probably be required to wee into a bedpan so they can assess it and ensure you have passed enough (which means there are no problems with your bladder after birth). Then, when you go, lean forward as far as you can, it will mean that any urine will hopefully miss the sore parts. Afterwards, weeing in the shower or using a cup to pour water over you when you go will help.
- Take some snacks. Hospital food is diabolical really isn't it? Take food that is high in energy like cereal bars and some energy drinks. If guests ask if they can bring you something - say yes! You'll be thankful you did. Mints also help if you feel a bit grotty.
- Don't forget your phone charger. My phone lost battery about five times a day with the congratulations messages I received. You will need your phone for nights in hospital and for sharing snaps of baby with family and friends.
- Make the effort to shower and get dressed every day. Even if you let your hair dry naturally and wear a fresh set of PJs, it helps so much towards making you feel clean and human again.
- Be firm with visitors. Everyone is excited and it's wonderful to introduce your friends and family to your baby, but you need rest and time with baby too. Make sure visitors know to ring and ask if they can drop by first. Answering the door to smiling visitors with a crying baby and breastmilk dripping everywhere isn't fair on you or your visitors.
- Boots' maternity pads are the best I've used so far. Tesco's go all wonky and Sainsbury's own brand are like sitting on a mattress. Change as often as you can, as it helps your stitches heal more effectively.
- Buy Lansinoh if breastfeeding. In fact, BUY SHARES.
- Get some thank you cards and stamps in ready. You will need them. People are so wonderful and generous.
- Rest when baby does is easier said than done, but do your best to try, even if 'rest' is a brew on the sofa.
- Try and keep on top of the housework. People say leave it, but you soon realise that it doesn't work with you (especially after all that nesting) and it's not nice for baby. Nor do you want to do it an hour before the midwife or health visitor comes round. Do a little when you can. Then rest.
- Prepare to do loads of washing. Babies can be messy. So can you.
- If breastfeeding, ask as many questions as you can when in hospital and try as hard you can to perfect baby's latch. They may cry and whinge at first, but it does help to persevere if you can.
- Wear a maternity bra at all times if you are breastfeeding - your breasts actually sag due to incorrect support - so get one on in bed. They are comfy. You won't mind.
- Get plenty of bread and milk in. I am living on coffee, water and toast at the moment. And lovely meals from family too!
You can do this. I know you can.