For the best possible delivery, surround yourself with people who understand that giving birth is a heroic, if painful, act that benefits those who embrace its challenge. Our cultural tendency to eliminate pain from this rite of passage negates women's physical and emotional powers, says childbirth educator Kathy McGrath, M.S.W., L.C.C.E. When pain is lessened, the mother's sense of accomplishment is also diminished, she believes. Birth involves both agony and ecstasy, she says, and "when we dull and diminish one, the unintended result is we often dull and diminish the other."
Ironically, a woman who chooses medication early in labor may need the most support from birth attendants to help her stay aware of and emotionally connected to the birthing process. Caregivers and family members who think how a baby is born doesn't matter, as long as he's healthy, are missing the point, according to McGrath. Women are meant to emerge from childbirth filled with confidence, exhilaration and a sense of capability. Having only genuinely supportive caregivers present at the birth can improve birth experiences, she says: "The psychological impact of birth, be it positive or negative, can last a lifetime. The only people who should be there are those who really make [the mom] feel strong."