(This is part 5 of an ongoing series with a few tips and articles for students in or preparing to take a childbirth class.)
The first stage of labor is simply the time when your cervix opens to 10 centimeters in preparation for the birth of your baby. This link gives a quick overview of what happens.
In the Bradley Method (TM) you will learn to handle your labor best through deep relaxation. This will be practiced in class and hopefully at home by you and your partner.
You will learn to breathe naturally, trust your partner, avoid medication, and understand the emotional stages of labor so that you can calmly face what so many face with fear.
Remember also that birth and labor are much more than the physically measurable processes, but is also a mental and emotional preparation for the new family. Preparing for birth is a time for you to also face and deal with any demons you may have relating to childbirth. If you have heard terrible birth stories, had a traumatic birth, or had traumatic sexual experiences, take the time to discuss and deal with these issues during your pregnancy. This link has many resources dealing with birth trauma. I have not read all of them- but some are disturbing. They may be helpful for certain women.
Remember-Practice- Practice- Practice!
You were born to do this!