No medicine for pain.

Labor can be so strong.... and so are women. I watch as Rachel moves and moans. I might breathe a little lower with her or encourage her to be grounded with her feet flat on the floor, but mostly she flows along intuitively with the sensation, riding the waves as they move through her. Like a swimmer she moves with them as they carry her, not through them swallowing salty seawater. She is her labor. As it becomes more intense, Rachel lets out a cry, maybe an intake of breath seems more guttural. Pressure increases as her baby descends. Labor rolls on and Rachel rolls with it. She finds her pushing position, kneeling over the edge of the tub. With an intake of breath the feeling has changed. As the power of her internal muscles bear down, her breath follows their lead, and she pushes her baby down and out. As his head opens Rachel's ring of fire, her mouth wide, she pants, and his head slips out and into the water, half born. The intensity of the moments between are as full as the moments of power. In the birth room all of our breathing anticipates, senses the almost born.... and here he is, through Rachel's legs into her arms and up to her chest. His cry and his breath signal Rachel's release, her enormous love.

How can we not know that pain in birth is about the ecstasy and love of a mother for her child?

I have chosen in my practice to not provide pain medications in labor. Some centers use narcotics in early labor to help with sleep. Some use nitrous oxide. But I believe love and the intensity of labor are connected. I believe that women's strength and power as mothers is enhanced by it.

Humans are resilient animals. Babies who are not breastfed can still grow up to be strong healthy intelligent adults. Babies born by elective C section also. Mother-child love is not so weak that it cannot be very very strong through adoption. But the start is important, and that moment of overwhelming connection and love is directly related to the intense experience and power of natural labor. That is surely the best beginning.