When you’re pregnant, you look toward the day of your baby’s birth with anticipation and a little bit of anxiety. Even if you’ve had a child before, you hear the old adage “No two births are the same,” so it’s hard to set your expectations. To make things go more smoothly, start thinking about things well in advance.

Understand Your Options

With a first baby, most women expect to go into labor naturally and have the baby at the hospital. Some opt for medical pain management, such as an epidural, while others rely on more natural techniques like deep breathing and massage. However, things might not go smoothly. If labor doesn’t start on its own, the doctor might suggest induction. If the baby is feet-first as the due date approaches, it may be safer to schedule a C-section.

Tour the Hospital

Most hospitals offer weekly tours of the maternity ward. You’ll be able to see where to check in, what the rooms look like, and get a better feel for what the hospital is like. Feeling prepared as you start labor reduces your stress. This could also give you some ideas for what to pack, as well. For example, you might notice that it’s a bit chilly for your taste and want to bring a bathrobe.

Talk to Others

Reading books and watching videos can give you an idea of what childbirth might be like, but it’s also helpful to ask friends what childbirth was like for them. As you listen to different women describe what contractions felt like, for instance, you’ll see that there’s such a wide variety. While some women will have horror stories about their experiences, you’ll also hear a lot of positive stories, which can give you some confidence. If you’re apprehensive, you might ask people to only share the good things.

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Expect the Unexpected

You never know what might happen when you go into labor. Though you might have a “Plan A” for your birth, make sure to think about a “Plan B” and a “Plan C” as well. There are times when the doctor will determine that the risk of birth injury is too great to continue with your birth plan. Ultimately, the most important thing is to have a healthy baby in your arms at the end, so try to go with the flow.

Pack Your Bags

Labor can come on more quickly than you might think. Have your bags packed and ready to go. It should have a “going home” outfit for baby, comfortable clothes for you, and other small things that could increase your comfort, such as lip balm or fuzzy slippers. If you pack in advance, you won’t have to worry about forgetting something in the rush to pack.

Your baby’s birth is bound to be a memorable occasion. The more flexible you are with the plan you have, the more likely you are to be happy with how it goes.