I found this post and all the comments very interesting. I'm a mother and a midwife and I feel passionate that the actual birth experience does matter. I have spent the past 9 years researching women's experiences for my PhD with Professor Kathleen Fahy (at Newcastle Uni in Australia). My focus has been on how women's embodied self changes during childbearing. The 14 stories I collected for the research give a very detailed picture of women's experience before during and after birth. I've recently published them (called Feelings of change: Stories of having a baby). I don't give any commentary with the stories because they are pretty long the way they are, but I plan another book that shows my findings.
Briefly, here are some of the findings from my PhD (cited below). My findings indicate that any woman can experience an improved sense of embodied self as a result of childbearing generally and childbirth more specifically. Embodied self change that is most empowering occurs when a woman uses her own power during labour and birth. This process of change is facilitated by a sense of self-trust and by being inwardly centred. A woman’s improved embodied self is then manifested by an increased awareness of and capacity to use her inner strength. This has the consequence that a woman who experiences a sense of improved embodied self feels more confident in dealing with other challenging life circumstances. I therefore conclude that when a woman uses her own power during labour and birth she is most likely to feel an improved sense of embodied self during childbearing.
Parratt, J. (2009) Feeling like a genius: enhancing women’s changing embodied self during first childbearing. PhD Thesis. School of Nursing and Midwifery. The University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia
Parratt, J. (2009). Feelings of Change: Stories of having a baby. Raleigh: Lulu.com.