Why is labor confusing?!!

OK, I'm 8 months pregnant with my first child and I hear all these ladies at church asking me how I'm doing then they go off how they had their children. Each of them had a different story which I get that. But why can't labor go in order? For instance, your water breaking then having contractions? Then I hear some women say they get contractions and keep dilating and then their water breaks? Not sure if I made sense there, sorry I'm a first time mommy to be so I'm a little nervous to how it's all going to go down. And when I will know when I'm in actual labor...the water breaking is an obvious sign right?