...to have a positive birth experience
1. At every appointment speak with your midwife/OB about your expectations for the birth and how that relates their expectations for the birth. Chances are you are in a practice with more than one midwife or doctor (unless you are with a single home-birth midwife). At every meeting, especially with a new or unfamiliar provider speak directly about your wants and expectations for your birth. If you want to stay home as long as possible, let them know. If you don't want to have labor "aided" with medical interventions unless it becomes an obstetric emergency, let them know. If you'd like to have an epidural as soon as humanly possible (and you've read about all of the risks and side effects), let them know. They will fill you in on how they usually are attending a birth (hands off, not there until the end, labor sitting, etc) and you can discuss how to make it work.
2. Ask a lactating mom if you can hang out with her while she nurses her infant. Breastfeeding is a socially learned activity. That means that if you haven't seen it done (and paid attention) it's likely going to be like trying to ride a bicycle after only reading about it in a book. Probably pretty difficult. Most nursing moms are happy to have the company while they nurse. Ask about positions that have worked for them and see if you can check out the latch. Believe me, monkey see monkey do. (Don't believe me? Check out the story about a gorilla mama who learned to nurse her baby in captivity from watching mamas from La Leche League)
3. Get your team assembled. Call you mother/sister/best friend/doula and figure out who wants to be there and who doesn't. Just because they love you doesn't mean they necessarily want to watch you push a baby out of your vagina. Some folks might want to give you a hand around the house in the weeks following your birth, some might want to be there to watch the whole thing up close and personal. Decide who you might feel comfortable being with while you are likely to be naked/grunting/sweating/pooping and well pushing a tiny human out of your vagina. It can be messy. Your partner is likely to be first on the list, but think long and hard about who you think will support you and actually be able to handle the action. Also, if you think that you only want your partner to be there consider my second birth: After being asked to come to the hospital to be checked my husband drank an 16oz coffee. We were then sent home at 1:30am only to have to rush back after my water broke at 6am. In the kerfuffle of having to get our 2 year old ready to go with friends and me out the door, he forgot to eat. About 35 minutes into our arrival at the hospital as I was using him for physical support during transition as nurse looked at him and said "You don't look good. Are you going to puke?" She quickly kicked over the closest trash can into which he puked his guts out while I was squatting down between his legs still leaning on him! Needless to say after that he was somewhat useless and I was glad I had my best friend there as well.
4. Keep up your exercise routine. Same reasons as before, but now you're getting closer to the real event.
5. Take that out-of-hospital birthing class and practice what they teach you. Whether its a complete birth experience class or just a comfort measures class be sure you do it now. Soon it may be too late. Its always best to practice things that will likely take you out of your comfort zone (like groaning like a gorilla or using a large exercise/birth ball).