Labor n. Physical or mental exertion, particularly for some useful or desired end; toil; work. -- v.i. To suffer the pains of childbirth; be in travail.
To date, I have had two medicated births and three natural births. There is definitely a difference during and after for mother and baby. What I learned from experience and research is that how you think about labor and birth will largely determine the outcome. If you listen to every birth horror story and believe the drama you see on television, then you will probably be filled with anxiety and fear when you think about your little one's impending birthday. Most women in our culture have been led to believe that childbirth is something horrible and is best managed with drugs. Although you will experience pain during labor, it can be more easily handled if you are prepared for the stages and understand what your body is doing at those times. Fear and anxiety will increase your level of pain by working against your own body. Your body was designed for carrying and giving birth to babies. Women all over the world have been having babies for thousands of years and most have done it without medication. They have relied on the wisdom and teaching of other women who have had experience in giving birth and have learned to be aware of the natural rhythms of their bodies during labor. Having confidence in your body's ability and being mentally prepared will help you to have a more positive birth experience.
That being said, there are no guarantees that you will have the birth you planned. Complications can arise on occasion and when they do, it is a blessing to have trained professionals available to help. But by being informed, you can be aware of your options and make informed decisions about the situation.
There is a lot to be covered regarding natural childbirth, so much that I couldn't do it justice in a short blog post. So I'll just give you some places to start for your own research.
And I'll leave you with my favorite advice: Be informed, be informed, be informed. Trust your God-given motherly instincts. Ignore negative comments and stories from people who have never had a natural birth. And remember that "birth is a natural process, not a medical procedure."
"You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face." - Eleanor Roosevelt
Myth #783 - Birth is Scary
Birthing Naturally - Is It for Me? - Benefits of natural childbirth
How to Have Natural Childbirth in the Hospital
Giving Birth Naturally - "Natural childbirth empowers women. It instills self-confidence. But this is not why women choose it. They are not trying to prove their worth or be martyrs. It's not about them at all. It's about making the safest, gentlest choices for the well-being of their child." (from website)
The Natural Family Site
Active Birth: The New Approach to Giving Birth Naturally
The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth
Ina May's Guide to Childbirth
The Birth Partner: A Complete Guide to Childbirth for Dads, Doulas, & All Other Labor Companions
The Business of Being Born (DVD)