This begins when you start to have regular contractions that increase in frequency and intensity. Make sure you know how to time contractions. Usually you will start off slowly, nearly always questioning if this is really labor. Bear in mind that a lot of women have wandered around for a bit feeling like they had the flu or were just really sleepy. The contractions will then pick up and you will be in the active phase of the first stage of labor. Contractions are more intense and come more frequently, usually requiring more of your attention. Somewhere between this active phase and the next phase, transition, you will change to your place of birth. Transition is the short but hard part of labor. Transition has contractions coming very close together, but they never actually feel any stronger than the contractions of the active phase. At the end of transition you will be completely dilated!
This is the fun part! You begin this stage completely dilated! You will begin pushing your baby into this world. Most women really enjoy the pushing stage, they say that they feel more actively involved. Your contractions will get further apart and feel differently. If you have been unmedicated you will feel the urge to push. If you have been medicated you may or may not feel the urge to push and will be directed at how to proceed. If there is an episiotomy done, it will be done at the end of this stage. There is quite a debate about the need and use of episiotomies on a routine basis. The end of the second stage will be marked by the birth of your baby!
This is the anticlimax! You are holding your lovely baby and anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour later they will want you to give a few small pushes to get the placenta out. Most women are so wrapped up in their babies that they always say, "I forgot about the placenta!" Nursing your baby right away will help speed up a third stage or control any bleeding that you are having.