Re: natural birth
All three of mine were natural births, with no pain meds. In general I don't like taking medication, but I'm not opposed to it. I researched the good and the bad about epi's and the other choices my hospital had so that if I choose that route I would be informed. I felt like I would go for as long as I felt okay reserving the right to request pain med if I wanted/needed it.
Every labor and delivery can be very different- individual and across all women, but these are some things that helped me cope with labor (which for me was very similar to muscle cramps as opposed to shooting pains).
Laboring at home
Taking a bath
Rocking/Rolling on an exercise ball
Taking a shower (I had the exercise ball in the shower to sit/rock on)
For me water is a big relaxer and coping with the pain. Relaxing (in whatever way works for you) is very important to getting labor to progress. If you are relaxed, your body knows that your baby will be born in a "safe" place.