I know this is an old thread...but it is still relevant.
I have had 5 births (now pg with my 6th), so I have had a wide range of experiences.
With my first (hospital birth), I could definitely feel the contrax....but I remember thinking...."wow, these are not as bad as expected!". When I finally went to the hospital (which I wouldn't have went so soon...but my mom was having chest pains, and I wanted her to be close to medical facility if needed), I went to go check in at the nurses station and they didn't believe I was in labor. I had to seriously ACT like I was in terrible pain for them to even check me! And this was after 19 hours of contrax! So they finally agree to check me (after pretty much telling me they were going to send me home because there was no way I was in actual labor). When they checked me they were surprised to find me at 7/8! They hooked me up to all of the IVs and asked if I wanted meds....I said no. Each time they came to check me they would ask again if I wanted meds. I would say no. I was joking around with friends and family and having a pretty good time. They come in a check me and I am at 9 and they say, this is the final time we are going to offer meds.......scared of the unknown...I ask..."is it going to get worse?" they reassured me that it was going to get worse....so I agreed to a little bit of demoral. They couldn't give me much because I was so late into the labor. Obviously I didn't know that wasn't a pain reliever at the time and that it would just make me out of my mind. Obviously it didn't help with any pain relief, just made me not be able to think straight...which made things harder when it was time to push. They ended up breaking my water because they were convinced my water wouldn't break on its own. Once they broke my water, I could feel that "urge to push" that they had been nagging me about if I could feel. I had no clue how to push....so the first hour or so I was just me wasting my energy. Finally one of the nurses told me to push like I was going to the bathroom....I had been so concerned I WOULD go to the bathroom that I was barely pushing. Finally I pushed hard enough and she was born quickly. Pushing was definitely a lot of work and I could definitely feel it (as I could the contrax)...but it wasn't nearly as bad as I expected.
With my second(birthing center), my water broke and contrax didn't start for almost two hours. But unfortunately once they did start, the contrax were very strong compared to my first. But the pushing felt GREAT! It was such a relief and he was born so quickly once my body took over the process and decided it was time to get it done However, the labor was not the 24 hrs like my first but only 6 from the point my water broke to when I was holding my baby. It was only 3-4 hrs of intensity because the first almost 2 hours were pain free and the last hour or so, my body started pushing which felt great....but since I was on the interstate, I had to try to keep from having my baby. He would have been born about an hr sooner if I would have been at the birthing center! He was born 5 minutes after arrival (from when my dh dropped me off in front of the building...to when I was holding my baby).
With my third (first homebirth), I will say it was not as good as my two previous. I had back labor and the pushing was much harder than my 2nd. (7 hrs start to finish)
With my 4th (hb) my water broke, and contrax didn't start for about an hour. The contrax were definitely felt once they finally got intense. and pushing was very hard (she was tangled in her cord)....but her delivery was about 3 hours start to finish....and it could have been much worse...I enjoyed it way better than my 3rd.
With my 5th (hb), the contrax were pretty mild. I was actually falling asleep through most of them. In retrospect, I should have actually slept...but I wanted to be active and get things moving along....but instead I just wore myself out. Pushing definitely took some work, but it seemed somewhat easier than the previous. I would say it was most like my first birth. It lasted 7 hours I think.
So with all of that, I will say that the majority of my birth experience was better than I would have thought prior to having kids. I don't prefer the term "painful"....but more so "work"
The book "supernatural childbirth" helped me with my revelation of birth.
I would like to believe that I am a different type of birther. I don't scream or yell or cry....but am actually quiet unless I am giving myself a pep talk or saying I want something. I believe I perceive pain differently. I even have some medical back up to this. When I had my physical in highschool, the dr kept redoing the reflex test. He concluded that I had no response in my extremities. I didn't know what that meant. Several years later, I went to a chiro. He was messing around with my back and was like hmmm...hmmm. He pushed on a spot and asked if I could feel it. I said that I could but it didn't hurt. He said, "That should be making you come off the table right now!" He said he wanted to make a follow up apt...but I didn't. I went to a different chiro immediately and he had one of those machines that is supposed to connect to your back and check out synapses of your nerves.................he couldn't get a reading on me even though the person immediately before me (my mother) and the person after me were able to get readings without an issue. Then while in the ER with my last pregnancy (due to back pain oddly enough...lol), they of course hooked me up to monitors to make sure I wasn't in pre-term labor. After being there for a while, the pain lessened....I told the nurse that I think that things are better because the last 20 minutes I have barely had any pain. She said, "well that is strange because the last 20 minutes your contrax have been worse than the rest of your time you have been here!" So with all that being said, I think my back sometimes like to go on hiatus with transferring pain signals...lol.