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"I worried that someone would put a mirror between my legs during delivery so I could watch. I worried that I would throw up. I worried that the pain would cause my personality to change, like a werewolf's. I worried that I wouldn't be able to give birth naturally."
— Laura McNeal, Fallbrook, Calif., mother of Sam, 9, and hank, 7
Though concerns about delivery run the gamut, the issue of pain probably tops the list. "Yes, labor hurts," says Joyce Weckl, a certified nurse-midwife with The Woman's Place in Camarillo, Calif., and a co-author of Fearless Pregnancy (Fair Winds Press). "But keep in mind that most of the time, labor is just one day of your life and the bad part lasts just a few hours. You will survive." If you need help with the pain, don't be shy about asking for medication, and don't be embarrassed if you curse, yell, vomit or poop: Doctors, midwives and nurses have seen and heard it all.
Many women also worry about labor and delivery not going the way they'd hoped. "The key is to have a care provider you trust, one who shares or at least respects your philosophy," Weckl says. "If a woman goes to someone who's on the same page philosophically and something does happen that's different from her wishes, she's typically OK with it. Most of all, you need to believe in yourself and your ability to give birth."
So, yes, create a basic birth plan (see "The Best-Laid Plan"), but be flexible and remember that your health and safety—as well as your baby's—is what really matters. "There's much more you can do in your child's life that's more meaningful and important than how he was brought into the world," Weckl says.
Reality check: "Labor can't possibly be that bad because people tend to do it more than once," Weckl says.
For more information on soothing your anxieties, go to fitpregnancy.com/fears.