Re: natural birth
Oh my goodness... this is a touchy topic. First, I will tell you that I had 2 births naturally, and then the 3rd was with an epi (March 2012). My first was at a birthing center with all midwives. It was the worst experience of the 3 labors. Second in the hospital with midwives and OB's (practice with both who deliver in a hospital). The last was the same OB/midwife practice, and I finally had an epi. I have AWFUL transitions. They last 4+ hours with at least 12 hours of hard labor preceding that. They never got easier or faster. I only reached the urge to push on my own with the final labor (with the help of the epi). It was awesome, and I am only willing to have another child because I am willing to get an epi for the next delivery. Otherwise I would be done, and I would not be interested in having any more children due to the severity of my labor and deliveries.
Next, let me say that I'm an ardent minimalist. I did NOT want to have any intervention. However, I am at peace with the fact that I need and want it now. (not to mention, after my 2nd was born I hemorrhaged and they needed meds and almost surgery to keep me from bleeding to death, after a a NATURAL delivery, and I was only 28 years old then) There are many, many women out there who I think could have babies naturally, and it would go VERY well. Too many are way too afraid of the pain, and I don't think they should be. I think our society removes empowerment from women by telling them they can't handle the pain (but that's almost another topic). I know several women who have babies naturally with no trouble, which made me feel guilty and dysfunctional for my poor L&D experiences. But, that's not their problem, it is mine. My recommendation is to really try a natural delivery. You may love it, despite the pain. But don't feel down on yourself one bit if you go with an epi. I also highly recommend the OB/midwife practice. It's truly the best of both worlds. I had no really "bad" nurses at the hospital for my last two kiddos, but that's partly because they are a more pro-natural delivery hospital, and so is their staff. Another reason to look for a practice like that if you still want the option to have an epi.
Finally, look into getting a doula. They will be helpful if you had a natural, induced, or c-section delivery!
God Bless Mama!