The act of giving birth can teach you a lot about yourself. From body image to mental clarity and strength; there's a lot more to giving birth than just contractions and breathing techniques. In fact, it's such a monumentally life-changing event that countless books and blogs are dedicated to the sole act of preparing women for it. However, there are things every new mom needs to know before giving birth that some of those books and blogs don't cover; things that could change a mother's labor and delivery experience; things that can make you acutely aware of just how much mental clarity and strength you really, and truly, have.

Giving birth is unique for everyone, and no two births ever go down exactly the same. There are ways to plan for your own labor and delivery but, truthfully, there's no way of predicting exactly what you'll experience or exactly how you're going to react to that experience. Until you're in that life-changing situation and you're either pushing a baby out of your body or having one cut from your body, there's just no way of knowing how your emotions and surroundings will affect you.

Which is why, honestly, it's not uncommon to be somewhat terrified of giving birth. After all, you're bringing another human being into the world and your body will be going through something it's never gone through before. It's kind of a big deal. The good news is, so many people have your back and can help you prepare as best as possible. So, with that in mind, here are just a few things every new mom should know about giving birth, because adapting to any potential curve balls labor may through at you, while difficult, isn't impossible. You got this, mama.

Your Body, Your Choices


How and where you decide to give birth is between you and your healthcare provider and/or midwife. If you're opting for a home birth, that's your decision. If you're choosing to get an epidural in a hospital, that's also up to you. If you're scheduling a c-section, that's your choice and it's not something that should be up for debate with people who want to tell you what they think is best for you. Your vagina, your preference. Don't make apologies for how you decide to deliver your baby.

Everything Might Not Go As Planned


The thing about giving birth is that while it's an incredible experience, it also has the potential to laugh in the face of your perfect plans. Having a birth plan is a great idea, yes, but something that you should understand ahead of time is that you don't always have full control over how the delivery actually goes down.

Don't panic if everything doesn't go exactly as you had meticulously planned. Sometimes babies and bodies are stubborn and they just don't want to work together in a productive fashion. That's totally OK (remember that girl whose husband recorded her delivering her baby while driving down the interstate? They're fine!)! No matter how your baby gets here whether it's according to your plans or not the important thing is that you get to wrap your arms around your baby's (or babies') perfect, warm, little body afterwards. Trust me, when you're holding your baby for the first time you won't even remember that you had a birth plan in the first place.

It's Going To Hurt, But You Can Handle It

A woman's body is built to do amazing things. Creating life is incredible, yes, but it's also painful. Even if you decide to get an epidural the moment you feel that first twinge of a contraction and you don't feel anything from the waste down until after your baby is born, there's still going to be some damage to your downstairs (or your abdomen, in the case of a cesarean).

A human is going to exit your body no matter how you labor and end up delivering your baby. Again, you won't remember that you were ever in pain once you're holding your sweet baby.

It Might Be A Very Long Process


We've all heard the myths about the women who labored for 15 minutes and pushed for 15 more before their babies were born. Sure, that happens but it's definitely not typical. Labor is a process and our bodies take time to prepare for giving birth (hence the whole 40 weeks of pregnancy thing). For some women it's a simple day long process, but for others it could take a lot longer. It might seem like time is dragging during those last few days but don't push your body before it's ready; it knows exactly the right time to start bringing your kid into the world.

Your baby will be hear soon enough. In the mean time, buckle up and enjoy the experience.

You Get To Decide Who Is Going To Be Present


There's a good chance that everyone is going to want to be by your side when you have your baby. That sort of support is awesome but if you don't feel comfortable sitting spread-eagle in front of your in-laws, feel free to ask them to give you some privacy (or demand it, because you don't need to be "nice" when you're in labor).

If you want your entire family present, and if the hospital permits it, go for it! But if you'd prefer for your delivery to be an intimate moment between you and your partner (or you and whoever), don't feel bad about requesting a little elbow room. You want your experience to be pleasant, not public.

Every Birth Is A "Natural" Birth

Despite what some people might tell you, every birth is a natural birth. Having a cesarean or using an epidural doesn't make the process of delivering your baby any less natural than a woman that has a vaginal delivery and forgoes pain medication. Giving birth isn't a competition, so don't allow anyone to take away from your experience by telling you that you didn't do it the "natural" way. Yes, you did. We all did.

There's Nothing Wrong With Using Pain Medication To Help You Bring Your Kid Into The World


Everyone handles pain differently. Some women can soldier through birth without an ounce of pain medication, while others would prefer to not try their luck. If you want to get an epidural or whatever else your provider offers you, do it! Don't let others guilt you into withstanding the pain of giving birth if you don't think you're able to (or even if you just don't want to!). This isn't about torturing yourself in the name of "womanhood," it's about doing whatever you need to do to bring your baby safely into the world.

There's Probably Going To Be Poop. So. Much. Poop.

Just because poop isn't typically something that people like to talk about, doesn't mean that it's something any of us should be ashamed of. People poop every day, so why is it such a big deal that women poop during the delivery of a baby?

The muscles that you use to push during labor are the same muscles used when having a bowel movement, so it's very common for women to let a little something slip while they're pushing during labor.

Sh*t literally happens, you guys, and it's not a big deal at all.

Your Body Is Freaking Incredible


There is nothing quite like giving birth that makes you realize how seriously amazing your body is. You grew a life inside of you; a human life came from your own body; you're able to feed that human with that same freaking amazing body just minutes later (usually, but if you can't, that's OK too and definitely doesn't take away from how truly incredible your body is). It's nothing short of superhuman, you guys. Be proud of your body, of its capabilities, and of its accomplishments. After all, it did a seriously amazing thing.

Giving birth can be terrifying and difficult and sometimes unpredictable, but you are more than capable of handling it. You're a grown ass woman and you're about to be someone's mom (yay!). Give birth your way and don't ever for a single second think about apologizing for it.