For me, it's hard to say... my first birth definitely wasn't terrible and it wasn't nearly as bad as it could've been. But, it wasn't the birth that I would want NOW, if that makes any sense?
I had some pretty spectacular physiological issues (parts of my body had to be literally cut away so I could deliver vaginally), and that could've been made to be truly terrible if my oh-so-randomly-chosen OB had been less trusting of women's bodies. I got LUCKY!! I was pretty young and didn't have a clue what I was doing and was so overly trusting of everyone. I might seriously have believed them if they had just told me I needed a CS b/c of my uterine type.
All in all, I've had 3 decent births, but all of them, for different reasons, left at least a tiny something to be desired. I definitely PREFER my birthcenter births to my hospital experience. I actually tend to focus less on the birth itself as on the immediate aftermath. I spend my energy ensuring that from the moment baby is here, everything goes according to my plan. I don't necessarily have control over when/how/how quickly my labor will develop. But, I *can* control how my babe is welcomed into the world. That I insist on. The birth environment must be calm, gentle, and peaceful. If all is well, babe never leaves my arms, until I'm ready for a shower. Well, and dad gets a cuddle now and then.
I know that, for me, an intervention during labor is much less traumatic to me than being separated from my baby would be. So, I try hard to make sure that doesn't have to happen.
I can absolutely say that the more educated that you are about what you want and *why* you believe that is the best choice, the more likely you are to have your wishes respected. Make sure that your support network is on the same page, and is willing to speak up on your behalf. Plus, be sure you trust your CP. If you have even the tiniest smidge of doubt, WALK AWAY. I've heard too many stories of mama's whose intuition told them that their OB/MW/whatever was only telling them what they wanted to hear, and then ended up doing the exact opposite during their labor. Ugh. Plus, check your hospital's policies. And don't believe them if they say that you can usually "bend" the rules. It's Murphy's Law that the day you're in labor you'll get the crusty ol' bat who thinks the rules are G*d and will even ratchet them in a bit. So, if there's something that is non-negotiable for you, find the place that does it that way routinely, even if it's a little farther away.
Hmm, is that enough of a novel??
In other news, mamas have been having healthy babes for, oh, forever.... You'll do fine, mama!