I just want to share the top 5 products which helped me a lot during my transition to motherhood:

1.  AngelSounds fetal doppler

I was a paranoid pregnant woman!  I used to think all sorts of negative things happening to my baby without me knowing.  To make matters worse, my ob-gyn, who did an ultrasound during my first check-up (which is at my 6th week of pregnancy), won't see me again until I am 12 weeks. 

At 10 weeks, I was in a state of panic.  What if my baby doesn't have a heart beat?  What if he/she's not moving?  And all those crazy "what ifs"...I know it's perfectly normal to worry, but at that time, nothing can really calm me down.  I went to my doctor and asked him to check if my baby is still swimming in there!

I also decided to get the AngelSounds fetal doppler.  It's pretty cheap (less than $30) compared to other fetal dopplers (more than $50), which was a plus.  Though I read a couple of bad reviews (doesn't work & weak headphones), I still made the purchase...and I'm thankful I did!

The doppler's exterior is made of some cheap plastic..but hey, for the price...i have no complains!  For me, the pros far outweigh the cons.

Some say, you have to be around 15 weeks pregnant to hear anything.  But in my case, at 12 weeks, I can hear my baby pretty well (heartbeats & somersaults alike!).  You don't have to buy any lubricant/gel, I only used baby oil and some even says that water works just fine.  The headphones is also working properly, though, you can also use other headphones if you want to.  Another feature is you can record the sound and share it with family & friends...To do this, plug the doppler in a computer (where you're supposed to put a microphone)...and record away! =) 

I just have the following notes:
1.  Know where to place the doppler.  If you're on your 1st trimester, you have to go low...when I say low, it means around the pelvic area. 
2.  Be patient.  It may take a while for you to find anything....look for fast, galloping sounds...that's your baby, alright!!
3.  Know that the doppler is not a medical device.  You can not use it in lieu of a medical opinion.  If you feel worried about your baby, call your doctor.

Overall, I love this product...I did not use it everday but knowing I can listen to my baby anytime in between doctor appointments is assuring for me.
2.  Boppy pillow

I got this as a gift on my baby shower.  I so love it!  It provides great support while nursing and it's really comfy too!

My baby is now 8 months old and we still use it everyday.  Be sure to get a second slipcover though, in case the first one is in the wash.

3.  Lansinoh Disposable Nursing Pads

Of all the breast pads I have tried, this is the best!  It's really absorbent and thin.  You can compare it to your baby's diaper...Seriously, you'll forget you have them on too.  It also has two adhesive strips so you don't have to worry about it falling off.   

4.  Medela Harmony Breast Pump

To tell you the truth, the first time I used a breast pump, I feel like a cow being milked!!!  (So that's how they feel...Poor cows...)

I bought this because I want my baby to drink MY milk as much as possible.  Exclusively breastfeeding is tough, especially, if you have to leave your baby for a couple of hours.  This breast pump helped me a lot...It's very easy to assemble, easy to clean, and has very simple, easy-to-use parts...It also comes with two 5 oz bottles and nipples.  Feeding the baby is so easy because you don't have to transfer the milk to another bottle.

Some have been asking me why I didn't buy the electric pump and chose to go manual...For me, since it was the first time I'm going to use one, I feel like I would be more comfortable if I could control the pressure and the speed of how I express milk...

Though I have nothing against electric breast pumps, I just can't imagine myself with two of those stuck on my breasts...feel like I have to put the milk in a box and sell it in grocery stores... =)

5.  Nuk Nature Orthodontic Bottles

My mom bought these...when I read the label, I was like, "ortho what??".  My baby doesn't even have teeth yet and there's an orthodontic bottle??

But you know what, it turned out to be great!  The nipple is shaped like a mother's breast during feeding that's why it also makes the transition from breast to bottle easier.  It has a sealing disc which is great for travel (no leaks!!)...promotes healthy teath formation...and, it reduces the air your baby swallows.  I've never had any problems with this bottle...will be getting the 10 oz bottles soon!

continuation from Part 1...

We arrived at the hospital at exactly 7pm and went straight to the labor and delivery section.  The nurse asked me if I'm having any pains...which I answered yes...a little bit.  I feel really heavy!  Still no back pains...(why do I keep on waiting for the back pains?!?!)

They took me to one of the labor rooms and asked me to undress and put on a lab gown.  A nurse came in and asked me hundreds of questions...only thing I remembered was if I'll have epidural...which I answered “YES!” automatically.

After a couple more minutes, my ob-gyn showed up to check my progress.  He told me I’m already 8cm!!!  The dilation of the cervix before delivery should be 10cm...I'm only 2cm away!  Jude and I were shocked!  And I was even having second thoughts about going to the hospital!?! 

After that, the nurse asked more questions…asked me what my level of pain is (from 1-10)...seriously, for me it's just 7... She was like “just 7?"...So, through the contractions, I said “okay..now, it’s 8.”  I guess from reading too many birth stories, I imagined that the level of pain would be too high...

Another nurse came in, placed an IV on my vein and took some blood samples.  She told me we need to wait for the blood results before I can have epidural.  Honestly, at this point I knew God granted my prayer...no pain meds.

More contractions..like every couple of seconds.   The nurse came back and said we don’t have the blood results yet, and I might have to start pushing.  She checked me and I’m already 9cm...No time for epidural!  I feel tired and want to drink water...which, unfortunately, is not allowed.  She gave me a cup full of ice chips instead.

My water bag is still intact at 9cm dilation...my doctor said he has to rupture it.  He also placed some sort of device on my baby's head...to hear the heartbeat better. 

He left the room and the nurse said I have to start pushing...she'll bring me to the delivery room when they can see my baby's head.  Okay, so...I really don't know how to push!  That's the hard part...she said I was pushing with my face...I wanted to laugh but was too frustrated to do so!  What the heck is pushing with my face?!  She was teaching me how to push the correct way...Ugh! That was tough!  She told me I have to push like I'm doing "number 2”...why is it so hard when you're not sitting on a toilet bowl?!

I was so thankful that Jude was there the whole time...counting 1 to 10...helping me push...sometimes distracting me..  There's a tv inside the room and it was tuned in to a Peanuts Christmas Special.  Jude was like, can you tell me the name of this and that character?  Between contractions, I would say..."Oh, it's Pigpen...*contrations* and that's Peppermint Patty..."  Can we stop this please..I'm having a hard time breathing!  LOL.  It's funny now...it was frustrating then...up to now I still can't remember the name of that one character....there was also this one time he told me to "not look like I'm weak"...ummm...can you tell me how to do that...? 

Anyway, back to my story...After much pushing and little luck with doing it right...I looked at the clock and it's almost 10pm..I told myself, I want to give birth before 11!  I pushed, pushed and pushed!  Finally, they can see my baby's head...they wheeled me in to the delivery room and that was it!!!  It's time!!
Shandi's first picture!
The delivery team was composed of my doctor, a female intern, a couple of nurses...and my husband.  They were all urging me to push harder...to push through the contactions!  I was no longer looking at any of them.  I just closed my eyes and pushed as hard as I can. 

Then, I felt my doctor pull her out...our baby...whew!!  They cut the cord and brought her to the cleaning area.  Jude asked me if he can go and see her...

While he was taking pictures of our daughter, I gave birth to the placenta...double whew!!  It was such a huge weight off me...then they started to stitch me up (I had an episiotomy).  I felt everything!  Even the stitches.  Now I truly believe that our bodies are capable of so many wondrous things…that some pain are just in our minds..that women can make it though natural delivery without any pain meds...(just like the old times!)

The nurse from the labor room cleaned me up.  She pressed on my abdomen and I felt a gush of blood...old blood.  She said I wouldn't want that inside me.  She helped me move to a different bed and then handed me my daughter, Shandi.  I still can't believe it!  We arrived at the hospital 7pm...I gave birth 10:32pm.  God is great!

It all felt surreal.  Like, you know it's your baby...but you still can’t grasp the reality of it…Like, how did this happen? The miracle of life and my share in it…

Before, I imagined myself crying after giving birth…but being there...at that moment...I didn’t cry…I was immersed in the wonder and beauty of it all…of giving birth without pain meds, of being with my husband the whole time, of sharing this wonderful experience with him…and then, finally seeing and holding our baby in my arms…I didn’t cry…I was in awe…and full of thanks for all our blessings…I just want to say Thank you Lord!

Okay...I decided I'll write about my birth story...The purpose of which is either of the following:
    1.  Share my story with you guys.
    2.  Recount the event and kinda relive the moment.  Much like writing a diary where you can read the entry when you've forgotten some of the details.
    3.  Believe that our bodies are capable of such wondrous things.  Praise God, He made us that way! 
    4.  Make my daughter feel guilty when she's already a teenager and giving me a hard time!!! 

Okay, okay...the last one, I don't really mean...do you honestly believe I would do that???! (which got me thinking.....)

Honestly, I was scared as $#!+ about giving birth.  Here's my everyday mantra to boost my courage:
    1.  Of all the women who gave birth before me, I too, can go through this!
    2.  The Lord will help me have an easy, pain-free, normal (no c-section!) & fast labor and delivery.
    3.  When the pain is too much...there's a reason why the epidural was invented!

Two weeks before my due date, my doctor said I'm already 2cm dilated.  He wanted to see me after four days to see if I've progressed...he thinks I'll give birth before my due date.  I'm hoping he's right as my tummy feels really heavy already.  

Two days after that, I think I saw parts of my mucus plug when I went to pee...  I'm not even sure what a mucus plug is, really!  Up to now, I still don't know what the heck it is!  So instead of sounding all-knowing, I'll just say that I saw this thick, snot-like disharge.  I'm not scared and since I've read about this hundreds of times...I know it's normal.  I've had the discharge three times this day.  My mom said it means that I'm probably dilating (cervix opening up) already.

December 7, more discharge...I called my doc's office and the nurse said it's nothing to worry about.  But, just like what my doctor said, I should go straight to the hospital if I have the following:
    - contractions every 5 minutes for an hour
    - bleeding
    - water bag broke

At around 5 pm, I started to time my contractions since they’re closer apart and a little bit stronger.  It’s happening every 5 mins.!  I thought to myself, if I'm still having contractions by 6 pm, I'll tell my husband to take me to the hospital.  At around 5:30, I talked to my aunt on the phone and she told me to look for signs of blood.  She said on one of her pregnancies, she saw a teeny amount of blood...so little it's just the size of a pinhead.   

My mom left to go to my cousin's house so I'm all alone.  I went to the restroom and when I looked at the bowl, I saw more discharge with a tinge of pink.  Still not sure if it's blood...Guess I'm still in denial...LOL.  But just in case, I started to prepare the clothes I'll wear to the hospital.

When Jude got home (6 pm), I told him to have dinner first (I'm still wondering if labor has started as I don't feel any pain)...after a couple more contractions, I asked him to take me to the hospital.  I took a quick shower and off we went.  While in the car, I was praying "Lord, please...make this night the night!!  I don't want to go home and wait a couple more days!". 

I also knew I would forever wonder what it feels like to give birth without pain meds so I prayed, "Lord, if I'm meant to give birth naturally, when they check me, give me no other choice. I've heard that when the patient is more than 8cm, they no longer give epidural...and if I'm meant to give birth without meds, please, help me have a fast, easy, pain-free delivery..."

To be continued....Part 2