We really didn't do a whole lot to prepare for the actual birth part of the whole parenting experience. We watched The Business of Being Born and read a bit about The Bradley Method and that seemed to be enough for us. While we didn't exactly follow The Bradley Method in the delivery room, we did steal some bits and pieces--mainly the ideas about relaxation--to help us through the process. Each person is going to approach the birthing process from an entirely unique angle, so you really just have to do what is best for both you and your baby.
Here's a bit from Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way that really inspired me:
"If you are motivated to really want an unmedicated childbirth that is dignified and manageable, you can have it simply by listening to your breathing to ensure it continues in a calm, quiet, relaxed rhythm. The woman who is breathing excitedly or holding her breath is one who is panicky and out of control...Women give many clues about how labor is going to be for them...the woman who as already decided before labor that it definitely will be painful is almost certain to find it so. Like water taking the shape of its container, experiences so often take the shape of expectations...Most women who do experience hard pain in labor tend to do so at the end of the first stage. But remember, there are no sudden, sharp, stabbing pains in labor. Rather, there is a strong building up of sensation with each contraction. In between contractions there is a chance to rest."
The woman who "will have a painless birth is the one who is quite comfortable with her body and with physical strain and sweat. She will really get into the relaxation techniques, rather than only going for the physical exercises. This woman listens to all the various birth stories and is prepared in a matter-of-fact way for the backache, the powerful sensations, and for hard, sweaty work. She is not looking for any authority figure to reassure her or guarantee her a painless birth. She simply has faith and confidence in the process of labor and birth. I am not talking about religious faith, but about a belief that birth is normal and an expectation that her body will function normally as millions of others have done before. She truly has the idea that labor is nothing more than muscles flexing."
That's what worked for me. I related it to being on the treadmill and coaxing yourself to go a couple more minutes, finish the lap, finish the mile...before you know it, you've gone much further than you'd planned. Your legs are weak, you're drenched in sweat, your ears are ringing and you are so proud of yourself that you can't stop smiling. My experience with childbirth was much the same. More than just a great workout, though, it was the single most confidence-boosting experience I've ever had. I gave birth without any drugs. All natural. Any time I'm feeling down, I remind myself of how awesome I am, strike a body builder pose, growl at the world a little, and then go on with my day feeling like a Certified Badass.