Well, I too, am Happy this forum exists! My second baby boy (born a year ago- may 2010) was a nightmare hospital labor and delivery. I received a fourth degree tear and, looking back makes me regretful about most of my choices from who my OB was to saying yes to the epidural so late in labor. There were so many factors, so it's hard to know which, if not all, contributed:
1. new OB, still kind of a student and , as I learned afterward, was recommended to me by my friend (a nurse) because of how well he performs c-sections...yeah
2. alot of checking and touching down there before and during 2nd stage of labor. He, at one point, had his entire hand in me trying to turn my baby (he was facing up)
3. of course, saying yes to the epidural is what I blame because I couldn't feel anything which led to purple pushing while the nurses yelled at me the entire time (like I said, nightmare) and were yelling at me about how I wasn't doing anything even though I was trying so hard! I pushed for about 1 1/2 hours and during my purple pushing, baby literally POPPed out! He Flew out of me!! First his head, POP, then just like a fish, his body quickly followed. I thought that was cool, except for NO, it wasn't.
4. They'd also broken my water at 8 cm, but I'm not sure if that had anything to do with the bad outcome.
The good news: After about a couple hours of surgery and all dignity out the window, I healed really well! My OB was smart enough to call in more experienced reinforcements and have me sutured up. He was very concerned about me recovering well and I followed all advice to a T. I didn't find it too painful in the weeks that followed and in actuality, it wasn't much different from the recovery of my first boy, where I only had a small episiotomy and no tearing beyond that.
So after lots of googling and thread searching, here I am a year later and that much more confident that indeed my next will be a vaginal and I WILL have a good delivery with minimal tearing. I shall be back when it happens. I am not even pregnant yet with a 3rd but sometime next year I shall revisit!