I'm joining the discussion late, but there are a few things that concern me.
The OP mentioned watching reality tv birthing shows as contributing to her thought that the perfect birth isn't possible. I've watched some of these same programs recently, and I am horrified at the way the show birth. Every single woman I saw was made to birth on her back, even with 2 separate cases of shoulder dystocia. Also those who did manage to birth without pain meds were made out to have some kind of super woman complex, rather than being concerned about the effect of those drugs on their baby. There are very real reasons for wanting to avoid interventions, but this is never portrayed on these programs. Watching them with give a very distorted view of what birth can be.
It makes me sad that everyone seems to feel so defensive about their birth choices and not just allow each of us to own our own feelings about our births no matter the method or outcome.
My first birth was definitely less than ideal. I read and prepared well, or so I thought at the time. I was using a LM who encouraged me to educate myself. However I was also one of the 10% who had my water break before labor started. What I later found out by experience was that choosing a LM rather than a CNM put a time limit on how long I could labor at home after the breaking of water. After 24 hours I had to be transferred to the hospital because it was State Law, not for any real medical reason (I had no infection nor showed any signs of infection or distress of baby). I was then under the care of the on-call OB, a complete stranger. Even when I informed the nurses & OB that I had difficult to reach veins I was ignored and instead treated as dehydrated, which then caused my body to swell up from the IV fluids they forced on me. After another 12 hours and only at 8cm I was told I had arrested dilation and the baby would need to come out by c/s. My son was then treated to all sorts of invasive tests as they were still obsessing about infection that wasn't there. He was very traumatized and never managed to successfully latch while we were still in the hospital. The long term effect was that nursing only lasted 12 weeks because of issues that started with how he was born and how he was treated during that first hour (away from me.)
With my second birth I only had 2 choices. I could have a hospital birth with an OB, but it would be a scheduled c/s, as none of the local hospitals did VBACs. Or I could try to find a CNM who would do a HBAC. Fortunately I found a wonderful CNM and she gave me a lot more info than I previously had, including how to avoid another early rupture of membranes (vit c from week 20.) She respected me as a mother and as a woman, and was content to stay as hands off as I wanted. I also found ways to work with my body during labor from The Pink Kit. My HBAC birth was 9 hours total with only 20 minutes of pushing. My HBAC baby was 9lb 8oz and had a nucal arm so the quick pushing phase was truly amazing. It wasn't just luck. I learned the right info about internal relaxtion during labor. I prepared for a long labor and was surprised that it went as quickly as I did. I did get a minor tear and a few skid marks thanks to the nucal arm, and my water didn't break until the pushing started. Recovery was harder 2nd time around because of one particular skid mark at the front. Yet this second birth was perfect. It wasn't just luck. It was many different things. It was the right birth attendants. It was the right education before birth. It was the right diet during pregnancy. It was the support of my husband. It was letting my body do what it was designed to do. And mostly it was accepting that each birth is different, not just woman to woman, but child to child for the same woman.
I've had the birth that didn't go as I thought it would, and I've had the birth that did. I don't think it was good or bad luck. I also don't think it was all me either. It was a complex mixture in both cases that made the difference. I will always regret some of the things that happened with DS1 even though I have been successful with DS2 in those same areas. It doesn't make me bad, unhealthy or someone who had deep seated issues. It just makes me human.
The perfect birth is possible even for those who did not like how a previous birth happened. I would however recommend switching off those awful reality tv birth shows and spend the time doing something/anything else instead.