Real moms give you their take on what happens during labor and delivery.
''I don't remember my early contractions being painful. But midway through my labor, the baby shifted and I started to have back labor. It felt like somebody was slamming a machete into my back. The pain was very sharp and nonstop. I wasn't dilated enough for an epidural yet, so the nurse and my husband were applying counterpressure to my back. I remember my husband bracing his legs against the wall and almost climbing up it to keep enough pressure on me.'' — Jaime Pruitt, mother of two, Kansas City, M.O.
''A very high percentage of women vomit either before or after labor, so lip balm and mouthwash are really good to have.'' — Allyson Tomasello, R.N., Labor nurse and mother of two, Charlotte, N.C.
''Early labor may feel just like menstrual cramps. The contractions that count, in terms of dilating your cervix, are the ones that feel more like diarrhea cramps.'' — Marjorie Greenfield, M.D., Obstetrician, author of 2008's the working woman's pregnancy book and mother of one, Cleveland, O.H.
''I thought that your water breaking with a gush was just in the movies. But it happened to me! I went to the bathroom and heard a pop. A couple of minutes later, it gushed. The water went through the towels in the car and my jeans by the time I got to the hospital.'' —Stacy Pierce, mother of two, Winchendon, Mass.
''When they gave me the epidural, I couldn't feel anything. I was farting (loudly!) nonstop. Normally, I would have been absolutely horrified, but you don't get as embarrassed as you think you will.'' — Erika McMahon, mother of two, Cockeysville, MD.
''The epidural definitely slowed down my labor, but I was able to sit in my hospital room and feel very relaxed and calm. I had people in and out all day.'' — Marcie Lewis, mother of two, Bellevue, Wash.
''If your water is not broken before your C-section, they pop it on the operating table. I had so much Pitocin and IV fluids in my system from being induced, that when they broke my water it spurted out, hit the doctor in the head and then shot up and hit the operating room light!'' — Katie Blanchette, mother of two, Easton, PA.
''You're so scared you're going to poop on the table, but if you give in [to the experience] and push the way they want you to—as embarrassing as it may be—you know you're doing it correctly.'' — Laura Dicus, mother of one, Lansdale, PA.
''If you have natural [drug-free] childbirth you can get up, walk around, take a shower and do whatever you need to do right after giving birth. I also felt fully present to be with my babies after delivery.'' — Gina Schaer, mother of two, Kansas City, MO.
''With a Cesarean Section you feel a lot of tugging, pushing and pressure, but you have absolutely no idea what they are really doing. And, thank god you don't.'' — Jennifer Savner, mother of two, Rye Brook, N.Y.
''Nurses deliver babies all the time because doctors get caught up with another patient.'' — A.T.
''The moment the head popped out, all the pain was gone. I didn't feel anything as they were stitching me up.''— Lanea Tripp, mother of three, Westford, MASS.
''I broke blood vessels in my face and my eyes from all the pushing.'' — Dana Deleon, mother of one, Lexington, Mich.
''I was surprised that I didn't feel anything when I was getting the episiotomy. To keep the swelling down, I sat on ice packs 24/7 for two days after giving birth.'' — Kara Harmon, mother of two, Mission Hills, Kan.
AFTER THE BABY IS BORN
''Breastfeeding is excruciating at first. The baby can really clamp on! And, you can definitely feel your uterus contracting, almost like a menstrual cramp. I also remember the feeling of my milk coming in. It felt like when your foot falls asleep—all prickly. Once I got through the pain of breastfeeding, the joy of it literally brought me to tears. '' — Robyn Secrest, mother of two, New Albany, Ohio
''Create a code or phrase to say to your husband that means 'Get these people out of my room! I'm exhausted.' '' — Jessica Isler, mother of two, Atlanta
''First, expect to need pain medications after a Cesarean Section. Second, pay attention to your incision. It hides under the [stomach] blubber, so use a mirror or have your husband look at it to make sure it's healing.'' — Linda Vanderlinden, mother of two, Mint Hill, N.C.
''You will need help recovering, so assign jobs to family and friends. They want to help, but don't know what to do.'' — Krisse Kelly, mother of three, Scottsdale, Ariz.
''No matter how you deliver, all new moms should be taking a stool softener. If you push for long or take pain medication after a Cesarean Section, you're going to get constipated.'' — Meghan Dasher, family nurse practitioner and mother of one, San Rafael, Calif.
''I tore a little bit with my first. It was hard to find 10 minutes to sit in a sitz bath for two or three times each day, but it was soothing.'' — Shannon Pottmeyer, mother of three, Nashville, Tenn. ''
''Be prepared to breastfeed in a side-lying position after a Cesarean section. Women who have had a Csection lose more blood, and they lose it all at once, which can lead to low blood pressure, dizziness and nausea. You'll want you to stay fairly flat for up to eight hours.'' — Jocelyn Werner, m.D., pediatrician and mother of two, Oakland, Calif.
''I was surprised by how much I bled in the days and weeks after [my vaginal delivery] and that I had no control over it. '' — Lakshmi Nebel, mother of one, Shaker Heights, Ohio
''Those drenching night sweats were a shock. I am not normally a person who sweats, and I thought something was really wrong with me when I woke up soaked.'' — Sarah Clark, mother of one, Acton, Mass.
''I got hemorrhoids from pushing during labor. I had to use a Tucks Pad every single time I pooped so I didn't get inflamed.'' — Sophie Burnett, mother of one, Cambridge, Mass.