For each of my three labors, I chose pain over pain medication.
Each time, I was afraid.
For my second and third babies, tears welled in my eyes as labor started because I knew the great agony that lie ahead...and yet I also knew the great reward. I held fast to the promise of a sweet baby nestled on my chest.
Each time, it was completely worth it.
There are many "classes" that help mothers prepare for labor. Although some of them may be worthwhile, it is important to note that you can never actually prepare for the experience. There are almost always unexpected "chapters" in birth stories.
That said, there are things you can do to get your mind, heart, and body ready. Here are some actions that I found to be particularly helpful.
WALK. - Walk in the morning. Walk at noon. Walk by the light of the moon. Walking increases circulation, keeps your weight in check, releases stress, and strengthens your lungs. Plus, if you're near the end of your pregnancy, it may help you go into labor.
CHOOSE A BIRTH SETTING THAT WILL SUPPORT YOU. Freestanding birth centers and/or hospitals with midwifery models tend to be more accommodating to women in labor. You'll have fewer "interventions" and more "encouragement" if you opt for a locale that matches your birthing wishes.
PICK A SONG OR POEM. - Is there a particular song, poem, or Bible verse that comforts you? Write it down or meditate on it. I sang "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" during labor with my last baby and also repeated "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
DON'T WORRY ABOUT BREATHING. - It's bewildering that so many birthing classes still have breathing techniques as a centerpiece of the curriculum. Truly, I think that "breathing" tends to come naturally during labor...and your midwife, doula, or OB should be able to guide you through the most painful contractions.
TALK TO OTHER MOTHERS WHO HAVE GIVEN BIRTH WITHOUT PAIN MEDICATION. Hearing positive stories can help instill confidence and may also bring a realistic perspective of what birth is like - especially if this will be your first baby.
SIP ORANGE JUICE. When labor kicks in initially, I like to sip a bit of juice to give my body a boost of energy for the marathon ahead. You may also choose to munch on a light snack.
SING. There is a lovely comfort in humming or crooning out the lyrics to a song with a strong meaning. Many labor books recommend bringing along music to listen to as you give birth, but I always preferred to make my own. ;)
PRAY. In the days leading up to each of my three births, I prayed constantly. For strength. For peace. For endurance.
TALK TO YOUR BABY. Throughout labor, I found myself talking directly to my baby. "We can do this together, baby." "I love you, baby." "You're worth it, baby." Phrases like that can help you keep you concentrated on the inevitable outcome - a precious newborn. A miracle.
If you have experienced a natural childbirth, what did you do to prepare? Do you think childbirth classes are a good investment of time/money?