First, I had to combat my fear.
This acronym was like an epiphany for me. It helped me with my needle fear. I think for the longest time I thought that the nurses stuck the entire length of the needle into my arm, like they do on tv when someone runs up from behind and stabs a syringe in someone's neck to sedate them or like an epi pen.
So, in regard to childbirth, education of what really was happening was key. At first, I just wanted to be blissfully in the dark, but as my pregnancy progressed, the more I knew, the more confident I felt in my abilities to birth.
My doula gave me the book Prepared Childbirth-The Family Way. It is really informative even if you are not planning to birth all-naturally. One of the biggest things that stuck out to me from that book was another acronym.
For me, realizing that each contraction was my body opening up more and more for my daughter's arrival really helped me embrace the contraction instead of gritting my teeth and fighting through it. I remember several contractions that I would say "open" in a low moan to remind myself that that is what I was doing.
The "A" and the "N" go together for me. Knowing that I would experience pain and knowing that it was normal helped me not panic and think that something was going wrong.
I clung to the truth of "I"! Even when my contractions were at their worst, I knew there was a break coming soon. Instead of looking at labor as a whole, I looked at each contraction. I just have to make it through this contraction, and then I get a break.
In addition to this book, I also watched several birth videos. My husband and I watched the Business of Being Born as homework for our birthing class. Even though our hands were in front of our faces for some of the video, we both admitted that it wasn't as bad as we had thought. We also watched some clips in our classes. Although I was probably stunned at first, I am glad I watched because I knew what was going to happen. In labor, I could feel when the end was near, I didn't need someone to tell me they could see her head. I knew what to expect, and that helped me.
As far as actual pain-coping strategies, I moaned through each contraction. My goal was to keep my moan as low as possible. Once I started getting high pitched or screaming, I knew I was not in control of the contraction, and I would refocus and try to make my moan even lower.
Lots of love to all, regardless of how you choose to birth,