1. When in doubt, call your doctor. Even with the stuff I mention below. I'm not a doctor. Neither are a lot of my friends. Ask for advice, of course. But if anything feels off or you are worried about a particular issue, always call your doctor. Better safe than sorry. I can bet you a million dollars that nurses and doctors would rather deal with a mom-to-be/new mom overreacting and going to the hospital time and time again than the mom who didn't want to bother doctors or nurses with something they think might not be a big deal, and then something terrible happening. No one wants that.
2. At the hospital, take everything! Basically, if it is in your room and not nailed down or plugged in, take it. Whatever they put in your room, they cannot use for another patient. Diapers, wipes, numbing spray (and if they don't give you this, ask for it - they have it!), rinsing bottle, pads, cold packs, etc. I took everything that was in my room and then asked for more, and they gave it to me no problem. You are likely already paying for these things via insurance, so milk it!
3. Bring treats! This sounds silly, I know. But after making and taking cookies with us after my water broke to labor and delivery, I will never again have a child without having some sort of treat for the nurses/doctors. Many times we had them tell us how nice it was for us to bring those for them. Our anesthesiologist even called a friend of his who was pregnant to say "you've got to take cookies when you go into labor - best thing ever!" (this is not a direct quote but close enough) And I totally LOVED that after Brooke entered the world, I was finally allowed to eat, and I had a couple cookies! Such a nice after-labor treat :)
4. If you are planning on nursing/breastfeeding/pumping and cannot wear wool because it's itchy, do NOT use the nipple cream they give you (the medela stuff or lanolin or whatever). There is an ingredient in that stuff that is the same as putting wool on your bare body and it's not pleasant. Use coconut oil or olive oil instead!
5. Take the pain medicine. I know some of you out there are all "I want to do this naturally" and that's great! But even if your labor is all natural, you are going to hurt something fierce after childbirth. They'll offer pain meds (for me, it was motrin and percocet). There wasn't a chance I was passing these up. You'll want to act big and bad and try to convince yourself you don't need it, but you will. Even after a c-section, I imagine they are pretty pushy on offering the pain meds. TAKE THEM. Don't try to be a hero here. You'll be much more pleasant to be around if you aren't in miserable pain. I took them for 9 days.
6. If you take the pain meds (which you SHOULD DO), take the colace. Colace is a stool softener (I know, TMI...stop reading here if poop makes you uncomfortable...but if poop makes you uncomfortable, maybe reconsider having a child? there's a lot of poop that comes with a child...just saying!). Pain meds tend to firm things up and make it difficult to go #2. It will already suck going #2, especially if you had a vaginal delivery, so hard poo certainly won't make things any easier. Take the colace (and ask your Dr or nurses what dose you should take. They had me on 1 twice a day and I needed more than that). Seriously. Take the colace. It will save you tears.
7. Breastfeeding is NOT always easy. Punch anyone in the face who tells you it should be easy. And punch them again if they tell you it shouldn't hurt. If you are going the route of nursing, know that it will almost definitely hurt in the beginning (and maybe for a couple of weeks) and if you are miserable, go see a lactation consultant or talk to your OB. There are a variety of issues that can be cleared up with a visit to an LC or doctor (like latch issues, thrush, other bacterial infections, mastitis, clogged ducts..) and there is no sense in 'sucking it up' or 'dealing with it' if someone can help! I waited too long to go to an LC and by the time I went, the damage had been done, not to mention Brooke bites and, well, no thank you. If something doesn't feel right, talk to your doctors!
8. RELAX! We had a LOT of family come visit after we had Brooke and I felt okay so I did and did. And I totally overdid. Everyone tells you to relax and let others do things for you. Seriously. Listen. RELAX AND LET OTHERS DO THINGS FOR YOU. Otherwise you will feel like shit, be exhausted, and then remember you can't afford to feel like shit or be exhausted because you have a tiny human you have to care for, and no one can do it like you can. So leave the dishes, vacuuming, cleaning, cooking, and basically anything else to someone else. They can do it probably much better than you can at this point anyway, so no sense in wearing yourself out. I recommend this for 2-3 weeks. And I'm not kidding. You will be so tired you won't know what to do with yourself, and adding extra work other than caring for your infant is just not necessary.
9. You're going to cry. Everyone knows that pregnant women and postpartum women are pretty weepy. I tried SO SO hard to hold it together. I mean, after all, this was one of the happiest moments in my entire life! Of course I cried when I delivered her, but those were tears of joy. Around day 4 after having her, I was a crying mess. I didn't know why, and I could cry at the drop of a hat that day and for a couple of days after. This is all normal. Your hormones are all out of whack and trying to piece themselves back together, you hurt, probably you can't poop, you're exhausted, and basically all there is left to do is cry it out. Do it. Don't feel bad for it. Don't try to explain WHY you're crying (because that will only make you cry more). Just let it happen. You'll feel better when you get it all out (which might take a couple days) but in the grand scheme of things, it's nothing. Take a nap, eat something bad for you, watch crappy daytime TV (ugh, it totally sucks), have a glass of wine (one glass really won't hurt you or the baby) and just get through it...you'll get through it!
10. When in doubt, call your doctor. I've said this before (up top...remember?) but I'm reiterating because, seriously, if I see one more time someone on Facebook or some other message board asking for medical advice for their little one's, I'm going to scream. Call. your. doctor.
11. YOU CAN DO THIS! There will be moments of doubt and times where you think you just can't do it, but I assure you, you can, and you will, and you'll rock at it! You may not see it, but everyone who has had a baby/knows someone who has had a baby (which is pretty much everyone) will see it, and no one will doubt your ability to do it. You've given birth to a child. You can pretty much do anything! It's hard at times, but I promise you, you can do it.
There are lots of other things so I'm sure there will be a follow up to this. Maybe a baby edition. If you want to know anything else, feel free to ask, I'm an open book (if you couldn't tell...)
Best thing about it all is, you get one of these out of the whole thing, and that is a pretty sweet deal ;):