WARNING: mine is probably not the best approach
but I successfully birthed a 9 1/2 lb baby girl with NO MEDS of any sort and NO TEARING.
I JUST DID IT! I feel like the birth process is natural, that it's not going to kill us, that we can handle what our body gives us. I feel like doing all these classes, reading all these books, learning all these techniques, etc. just adds to the stress.
Be confident that the pain will not kill you. You are strong, you can handle it.
My midwife (one asssigned to me by my clinic -all hospitals in France have midwives - and whom I did not meet until I arrived for the birth) commented to my dh how incredibly calm I was. I think that's the key.
Have dh or partner there for you (even if he's looking at the wall the whole time like mine did
). Have him/her (whatever) rub your neck, or stroke your arm (mine stroked the inside of my forearm and that just did it for me...but he kept stopping!!
and I had to coax him back into doing it again...in the end I wanted to scream at him to keep doing it!
Once I started to push, the pain was GONE. I mean it felt SOOO GOOD to push. I don't know if this is a common experience, but I wish I would have known.
One thing I will do next time is learn how to push properly, and not with my face! I ended up with popped blood vessels all over my face for 2 weeks. Not a pretty sight.
I guess you probably won't want to do it my way, but I just wanted you to know that it's not as hard as you think and that it's an absolutely empowering, beautiful experience.