Well, let me calm you down!
I have THE lowest pain threshold around; cry at a paper cut (they HURT!); go into an absolute panic about getting blood drawn. AND I have had three babies absolutely natural, without any drugs or interventions of any kind. And it was not hard to do. I second the poster who said that it was intense but not really painful.
I grew up worrying about how in the world I'd ever have the kids I hoped for - since you hear so much about how awful labor is. I understand that many women experience it this way and I feel so sad about that.
To up my chances of a good experience, I took classes that taught me how my body works, how to help the process along instead of fight it, how to avoid interventions that lead to pain and trouble. Best decision we ever, ever made - to take Bradley classes. Do please find an instructor you click with as they are all different. (Bradley classes are NOT taught in hospitals - the rare one may include some Bradley ideas but you want the real deal! I believe the link is www.bradleybirth.com
- might be .org? They are small group classes taught in the instructor's home.)
If you know what to avoid, what your options are, how your spouse/partner can help you - you are well on your way to a much easier time. It doesn't guarantee you a pain-free labor but it most certainly can reduce the pain at the very least.
Stay home as long as you can - there is a chart in Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way (by Susan McCutcheon-Rosegg) that helps you figure out where you are in labor - what to look for in many ways, not just timing and length of contractions. My contractions were the length and time between so that I should have been much closer to birth than I knew I was. They were long enough and close enough together but I KNEW (on my first baby even) that they weren't strong enough to get a baby out of me. We hung out at home til I was unsure if/when the contractions were stopping.
Walk and walk and walk (during labor). Rest between - just sit wherever you are and lean forward onto your partner's shoulder (my dh kneeled in front of me when I sat on the couch, chair, bed). Drink plenty of water, just sips every few minutes. Stay as relaxed as humanly possible - I tried to go limp during contractions. This helps immensely!!!!! You want your head, your arms, your stomach (especially your stomach!) to just HANG down as you lean forward. Have your partner stroke your arm gently (I liked down my forearm from elbow to wrist, over and over, lightly - kind of like "any stress/tightness/etc. down and out"). If things got intense, I'd just kind of chant "muscles working, muscles working" because that is WHAT IT IS! If you think "ouch! OUCH!" and tense up, it will be awful. If you go limp and let your body work, it will be so much better, I promise.
Everyone is different - listen to your body. I felt best (during contractions) to be sitting and leaning onto dh, as limp as possible. Kneeling over a birth ball. Sitting backwards on the toilet, leaning on the back. Eyes closed, going limp, thinking or saying things like loose, limp, open, over and over.
This honestly worked so incredibly well for me that I was shocked myself. Pushing was tiring but no worse than running a long way - your leg muscles "hurt" - you can feel them and you are tired but you are ok. Ring of fire at the end (as baby crowns) was a sharper feeling and really the only part of labor that I'd call painful. That is over quickly.
I have helped two of my friends through their second labors and used the same Bradley techniques I learned. I really cannot recommend it highly enough. I know I'd not have had the wonderful births I had without learning those techniques/that information.
Fear will only tense you up and that makes the pain worse. You can do it; women have done it forever. Just learn what to avoid, what to do to help yourself, how to relax, how to work with your body. You can do it!!!!!