Wow, I've just read this whole thread.
My first labor definitely was a "10" for me. I labored naturally for 36 hours or so before the docs got impatient and wanted to augment (I was already in transition with TRIPLE-peaking ctxs!). Eventually had a totally unnecessary c/s due to the clueless docs and me being waaaay tired and totally out of it. So when the nurses would ask how the pain was a couple of days later, my answers were always about a "4" or so. I mean, I'd just been through the WORST, so what do you expect?! I think I missed some due doses of pain meds just 'cause they totally didn't get that.
I really didn't mind that labor at all, though, until they started messing with it. It was very hard but totally empowering and I DID IT. I talked to my baby through three peaks at a time while I was stuck in transition and it was okay. It was never miserable until interventions started happening and I was out of control.
Fast forward 2.5 years to my homebirth VBAC. Labor was hard but I was cognisant and in control the whole time. BUT when I had a cervical lip AND the urge to push, it got hairy. The worst was not being able to find a good position and then having to have the midwife hold back the cervical lip.
Pushing was actually great once the lip was gone! And the ring of fire? No big deal! I had no idea we were as close as we were (we? I!), so when I felt it I though, "hm, that sort of feels like the ring of fire... but we're not there yet."
About a half a minute later he was on my tummy!
Stitches were also not bad - I got a shot of anesthetic which wasn't a big deal, and did feel the last stitch or two as it wore off. Healing was hard, and the hemorrhoids I get during labor were really tough. But the worst was definitely that part of labor where I couldn't do anything to deal with the pain and started to lose it a little bit, I think. But then we were DONE!!
So honestly, it was the only thing I've ever thought of as "hellacious," and yet I would NEVER do it differently and am looking forward to this next birth. Just praying it's a little easier!