You’re excited and nervous. You’d probably feel a whole lot better if you could get a decent stretch of uninterrupted sleep. You know that third-trimester sleeplessness is the body’s way of preparing for night feedings, but this before-the-fact stuff is ridiculous. When the baby cries, you will get up and — yes — you will be exhausted. Body lesson learned.

The nursery is furnished, made up and stocked with supplies. You have confirmation that the infant car seat is installed properly. Your bags are packed, and heck yes, you’re ready for those first contractions so you can get this party started.

Hold on, Momma. We want your birthing experience to be just as smooth and joyous as you do. To that end, we’ve compiled a list of things you might not have considered, yet prove indispensable during labor and delivery.

  1. You May Not Be Allowed to Drink

You also may not be allowed to eat. Once the birthing process starts in earnest, most hospitals and many birthing centers allow only ice chips or popsicles. This is a preemptive precaution in case a cesarean section becomes necessary. While you are under anesthesia, it’s best if your stomach is empty and airways clear.

Be prepared to feel indignant. After all, you are panting just like you were instructed. If that doesn’t drive a raging thirst, you don’t know what will! All you want is a tall glass of water — and maybe an epidural, but we’ll get to that later.

Here’s a tip — when you feel those first contractions start, drink up. Head into that birthing room as hydrated as possible. You’ll lose a lot of fluids in delivery, so it’s best if your reserves are topped off at the very start.

  1. Pain Medication Is Not Foolproof

Whether you’re determined to avoid them or considering an epidermal your new best friend, the reality is that pain-blocking meds don’t always have the ideal hoped-for effect. Timing, previous infection and even the unique bend of your spinal anatomy may alter their efficacy.

Epidural anesthesia can slow contractions, in effect stalling labor, especially if injected early on. Some women report only feeling pain relief on one side of the body, and in extreme cases, just a brief window of alleviation or none at all.

Speak with your obstetrician and birthing partners about the pros and cons of pain medication before you’re in full-out labor. You’ll be able to process the information more effectively and make informed decisions after careful consideration.

  1. Prepare for Marathon Pushing

Once you are given the OK to start bearing down, you may feel as though you’re rounding third base and ready to slide home. Again, hold on, momma.

The stage of labor where you push your baby through the birth canal can last hours — especially if this is your first child. If you have given birth before, you know each delivery is different. A relatively quick prior labor holds no guarantee that this one will be the same.

Now may be the time you revisit those third-semester sleepless nights with frustration. You’re so tired! If you could just take a quick break, maybe a power nap, you promise you’ll finish this thing.

Don’t give up. Consider turning that frustration into determination. Focus solely on getting that baby out of your body. When she is in your arms, you’ll rest.

  1. Your Birth May Attract Attention

Lots of it. If your labor spans change-of-shift hours, or you have chosen to give birth in a teaching hospital, expect a broad variety of nurses, technicians and medical personnel to breeze in and check your progress. You may feel like the center attraction in a three-ring circus.

Honestly, your only choice is to go with it. Sure, you can bark sarcastic answers to questions and announce that this is a private show with very limited seating — but labor and delivery staff have heard it all before and are impossible to shock. Besides, every single person who enters your room does so with the primary purpose of providing care for you and your baby.

  1. The Infant Monitor Might Sound Off

It’s distressing and alarming, but entirely normal, for your baby’s heart rate to drop during labor. Many times when the umbilical cord gets compressed or stretched, infant heart monitors register alarm. If yours goes off, rest assured that it’s probably status quo, even as all available hands rush to answer the call.

  1. Baby’s Arrival Is Step Two

Giving birth is a four-stage process. Intense relief when you finally hear that distinct newborn cry is not the only gift you’ll receive as your child makes her first appearance. Prepare for your uterus to continue contracting — you’re about to deliver afterbirth.

Contained in the afterbirth are umbilical cord blood stem cells unique to your baby’s genetic makeup. These cells can be used to treat disease in immediate family members, and possibly extended as well. Currently, stem cell reproduction is reported to cure over 80 diagnosed conditions, while research regarding additional health benefits continues to grow.

Arranging for umbilical cord blood storage is a simple process. Delivery room collection methods remain both safe and efficient.

  1. Giving Birth Changes Your Body

You’re probably anxious to get back into your fitness routine. You don’t want to carry that baby weight any longer than necessary, and it’s been so long since you’ve been able to stretch and bend properly.

First, focus on paying strict attention to your doctor’s post-delivery orders — recovery is the fourth stage of giving birth. If you’ve had a cesarean section, you will need to take it easy for at least six weeks. Do not lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk and refrain from engaging in impact activity.

If you’ve given birth vaginally, you may continue to bleed for up to six weeks. Keep an eye out for heavy flow and get plenty of rest until the bleeding stops completely.

Take heart! The most challenging physical feat is already behind you. You mastered this marathon, momma!