If you are a pregnant woman, it might seem like every person you meet to wants to
A) Touch your belly without asking
B) Tell you a horrifying birth story
C) All of the above
Why do we do this to each other? As if there wasn't enough to worry about when becoming a parent, you have to deal with strangers (and worse, friends and family) undermining your confidence and giving you whole new categories of things to worry about.
On the other side, you may hear unrealistically positive stories, where the birth doesn't hurt at all, angels sing, and the mother ecstatically welcomes her new baby who is clean and beautiful and wouldn't have dreamed of pooping in utero. These stories can make you feel like you won't be able to live up, or that you'll be a failure if your birth isn't perfect just like that (hint: it won't...it will be perfect just like you).
The most useful stories, I think, are the ones that are somewhere in between. Real stories from women who say things like, "It was really tough, and I wasn't sure I could do it until I did, and then I was amazed at what I could do".
Some of my favorite birth stories can be found in Adventures in Natural Childbirth and Ina May's Guide to Childbirth. I also love Spiritual Midwifery, but you'll need a hefty dose of nostalgia for 60's hippie culture for that one (it works for me, but your mileage may vary). All these books are available in my lending library for clients.
Reading birth stories can help you to get a sense of what the range of sensations and feelings of birth are and ways to cope, as well as counteracting the negativity of pop culture. Enjoy, and surround yourself with strength!