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I Love Labor (Really!)

I Had Terrific Support

In recent years, the burden of support has fallen on fathers-to-be, but neither you nor your partner should feel bad if he isn't the best candidate for coach, stresses Penny Simkin, a Seattle childbirth educator. "It's not everyone's shtick to provide the constant, capable, upbeat support a laboring woman needs," she says.

Some women turn to a friend, their own mother, or a doula. As for myself, I had terrific support from my husband, as well as my labor nurse, who stayed an hour past the end of her shift to help.

I felt comfortable and confident. And, strange as it sounds, I kept thinking about pregnant women in war-torn Bosnia and in Jane Austen's England. Women have always given birth, I figured, and with far less knowledge and professional expertise than I was privy to. I knew I wouldn't die and reasoned that wherever my body took me, the journey wouldn't last forever.

Certainly, good preparation and support created the right conditions for such thoughts. But I also credit something less documented in the medical literature: faith in myself. When it comes right down to it, labor is a bit like attempting to scale a mountain or write a novel. Before you start, the task seems monumental. But something inside you trusts that you can do it, so you take a step, write a word -- or power through your first contraction. And after that, you start to believe in your ability to keep going.

No, you can't guarantee a perfect, easy delivery any more than you can request a boy or a girl. But it is possible to go into the experience with optimism, and perhaps to come out of it feeling that way, too. It just takes a little advance planning and a willingness to surrender to the miraculous normalcy of the event. Try it. You might like it.

Paula Spencer is a mother of three in Knoxville, TN, and a contributing editor of Parenting magazine.