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I Love Labor (Really!)

I Was Equipped to Deal With the Pain

As silly as I felt talking about focal points and cleansing breaths with ten other waddling women in my childbirth class, the information helped me understand what I would experience. But not all pain-management instruction is alike, warns Mae Shoemaker, president of the International Childbirth Education Association in Minneapolis. Credentials are less important, she believes, than the teacher's experience, teaching style, and general approach to labor and delivery. "Think about what kind of birth experience you want. Interview several instructors, just as you would a new doctor or a contractor," Shoemaker suggests. One red flag: teachers who soft-pedal. If they refer to labor pain as "discomfort," run.

Which method is best? That depends on the amount of control you want and your philosophy about birth. But don't be afraid to incorporate your own personal pain-management strategies. I depended mightily on music -- 12 hours of the Grateful Dead for my son and 10 1/2 hours of Neil Young for my daughter.