I know lots of women who really enjoyed having a doula - I guess it is really all down to the moment, and what you end up wanting in the heat of labour!
I've had an epi all 3 times. I sometimes wish I could do med-free because of how everyone raves about how awesome you feel after! Not having to wait for the epi to wear off.....etc. But I am a major wimp. With DD I laboured for 12 hours and was still only 2 cm. I could BARELY make it to 4 cm before I could get the epi. With my boys I have made it to about 4 cm before I get the epi, but I am just WASTED at that point. I have such low pain tolerance, there is no way I could do it without.
I also go very within myself in the later stages of labor and don't want to be touched or interact with anyone. The main reason I considered a doula with my second birth was b/c I wanted some help with attempting a different position during the pushing phase. Both times I've pushed in the traditional, on my back legs in the air position. I have had a second degree tear with each birth too and wanted to try to avoid the tearing by pushing in a different position. Both times I haven't pushed more than about 5 times and over no longer than 15 minutes and baby is out. So, IDK...it's still a concern with me this time but I'm just going to see what happens on my own.
I think in your position, I would at least meet with some doulas and see if you find someone you really click with. Also, they could tell you what they would bring to the table and then you can go from there with your decision.
I totally hear what you're saying. With my daughter my hopes was to go natural but I didn't want to put too many expectations on myself and then feel like a failure if I took meds or whatever. Then the breech thing happened and I had to go for the furthest thing from natural (a c-sect). Sigh.
This time I've been reading more books on birth and I'm really starting to realize the mind/body connection with the whole thing. I'm also reading about a lot of technique for moving labour along naturally so you don't stall. Obviously you can't know without doing...
One of my major concerns with doulas is finding someone who isn't too spiritually flighty or whatever you want to call it. I think that a 'profession' like that would lend to people who are a bit over the top spiritual granola type people. Don't get me wrong, I'm a bit crunchy...but there's a point where I think some of that stuff is over the top ridiculous.
As far as doulas - the other thing you should be looking for is someone who will advocate for exactly what you want. Even things that sound dumb like whether you want the lights on or off in the room. And what type of monitoring. You don't have to defer to everything the doctors/nurses say. And when you are in labor, it's harder to be your own advocate. And as much as we are doing most of the work, it's also a hard time for DH. He is tired and unsure of exactly what to do as well. My doc was very much in line with what I wanted, but it was important for me to have my mom to advocate anything for anything medical especially with the nurses. This time around I don't think I will need as much since I know much more about what to expect, and my midwife knows what things I am set on.