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1: Upside Down & Inside Out

It was a delicious plum, sweet-tart and juicy. I wanted all of it, every last bite. But you can’t actually eat the whole plum, pit and all, or you’ll choke. Which is exactly what my mother said to 5 year old me just seconds before I tried to do precisely that.


The pit immediately became lodged in my throat, probably because of physics, but mostly because mothers are always right. Before I could even consider what it might mean to no longer be breathing, my mother grabbed me by the ankles, raised me up as high as she could, and shook me up & down, up & down, up & down.

This was a woman with a nursing degree, and this was a technique her nursing teachers had expressly told her never to use on a choking victim.

To hell with it though, when your own child is choking, you are more mother than nurse. I remember being upside down. I remember thinking: I’m upside down! And I remember, mid-shake, swallowing the pit, getting some air, and yelling: MAMA! MAMA!

I wanted to let her know I could breathe, and maybe lightly suggest she could let up with the Herculean jackhammer maneuver.

Once right-side up again, my mother took a long, suspicious look at me and said: GET IN THE CAR. So I did. She was clearly unhappy about my almost dying, and there was no use arguing that maybe we could just stay home and eat more delicious plums.

She sped to the hospital, propelled by both fight and flight, as though I was still actively choking. If your sorry-ass car happened to be anywhere on the road near our car, then you were a GODDAMNED HOT DOG SON OF A BITCH SHIT DRIVER because for my mama, this was still a matter of life and death.

At the hospital, the doctors x-rayed my chest and showed us exactly where the plum pit hung eerily in my lung.

Ok, ok. It was in my stomach. But in my cartoon memory of seeing a plum pit inside of me, it is, and will always be, in my lung. Now and again, I’d remind my mother about the plum in my lung.

She’d say: You DO NOT have a plum pit in your lung, Autumn! Stop saying that or people are going to think I’m a bad mother.

2: Boy On Fire

My mom loved to drink tea & she made the best damn cup of it too. The tea kettle whistled throughout our childhood, a snaking tendril of steam weaving together days and years.

It’s an interesting psychology that allows a shrill and crazy-making feral cat sort of sound to remind you that you were loved, and yet, there it is.

Along with the shrieking kettle came the ever-hot stovetop burners and the ceaseless warnings about their danger. We went to Catholic elementary school and wore uniforms. That seems unrelated other than to foreshadow forthcoming tales of guilt, shame, and pranking nuns. BUT.  The uniforms were polyester. In other words, highly flammable.

One night, my brother, still in his uniform and distracted by his conversation with our mom, leaned up against the stove just after she had made her tea.

Instantly, he was on fire. ON FIRE.

I watched in paralyzing horror as my mother tackled my burning brother, bringing him down hard on the floor like a stunned quarterback getting sacked.

She enveloped him with her arms and legs, forcing them both into a roll, down past the dining room table and into the living room. How that even worked I will never know. It was surreal. There was no: Hey, Josh, this is that fire safety thing you learned in school, ok? It’s that STOP, DROP, & ROLL business? Ok? So, do that. Nope.

My brother was ON FIRE and my mother put that fire out with her OWN BODY.

Did she quickly calculate: If a boy on fire hits the ground with a speed of I WILL NOT LET MY SON DIE and then his mother slams down on top with an added velocity of TAKE ME INSTEAD, LORD … can we put this fire out?

My computation was decidedly more self-serving: JOSH IS ON FIRE GOING TO MY ROOM NOW BYE BYE.

When I finally re-emerged, the ambulance was on its way and my mother, herself with badly burned hands, was speaking softly to my brother — soothing his fear, easing his pain.

To this day, only two scars remain from that accident: the E-shaped one my brother has along his back. And the memory that my mother still made me go to school the next day.

3: Ride or Die 

We were faculty brats. Our father was a college administrator and we lived on campus in an apartment on the ground floor of a huge dorm. It was fantastic. It was magical.

It was my big brother putting toddler me alone on the elevator and sending me up to the cafeteria to get us hamburgers. It was 3-year-old me knowing exactly how to acquire said burgers. The dorms were our king & queendom, and we were its wily pack of child rulers.

If we made trouble, which we absolutely did, our mother would rescue us. If we hid under the pool table and messed up your game, and you attempted to complain, my mother would threaten to call your obviously terrible parents and explain exactly what sort of pathetic man-baby they had raised who would dare pick on little kids.

She was both loved and feared by the students. And she had our backs. The halls connecting the dorms were walkways of sloping cement ramps. As in, find anything with wheels and spend the afternoon doing yo-yo laps.

Early on, I was given a great chariot with which to survey our domain, a well-engineered driving machine, a Big Wheel. It was a low-riding yellow beast, with a red seat, and shiny red tassels on the handlebars that would fly straight out when I hit top speed.

One fateful afternoon, as I was making my 1000th trip down the ramp, I sped by a group of students. WHAT WAS THAT? They must have mused. Was it Ronald McDonald in a flying saucer traveling at the speed of light?! Was it Haley’s comet arriving years too early?

Just as I skidded to an elegant stop, arching around to see the respect and admiration their faces would surely reveal, they laughed at me. Those Cretans LAUGHED AT ME.

I was broken. I was mortified. I was embarrassed by what I saw in their expressions: that I was only a dumb little kid riding a dumb little toy. For a minute, I was completely defeated.

But then, I thought of my dear old mama. My mom who was always saying things like: Stick up for yourself. Be proud of yourself. Damn it all to hell if I was going to let her down.

Stepping slowly off my Big Wheel with all the swagger of Calamity Jane dismounting her mighty steed, I stood beside my beloved whip, pointed forcefully at the group of heartless students, and yelled: YOU! WERE! LITTLE! ONCE! TOO! Then I climbed back on and pedaled away as fast as I could, turning back only once, briefly, to expertly flip my tormentors the bird.

Later that day they conspired against me, telling my mother about my obscene gesture, disguising it as “we thought you’d want to know, Mrs. Engroff.”

She listened as they spoke. I stood silently beside her, fuming and indignant. When they finished describing what I had done, my mother looked down at me, then up again at them, and said calmly: Well, it certainly sounds like you all deserved it.

Then she reached for my hand and led me away, turning back only once, briefly, to expertly flip them the bird.

 

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We spend a lot of time prepping for the arrival of a baby. But when it comes to the arrival of our breast milk (and all the massive adjustments that come with it), it's easy to be caught off guard. Stocking up on a few breastfeeding essentials can make the transition to breastfeeding a lot less stressful, which means more time and energy focusing on what's most important: Your recovery and your brand new baby.

Here are the essential breastfeeding tools you'll need, mama:

1. For covering up: A cute nursing cover

First and foremost, please know that all 50 states in the United States have laws that allow women to breastfeed in public. You do not have to cover yourself if you don't want to—and many mamas choose not to—and we are all for it.

That said, if you do anticipate wanting to take a more modest approach to breastfeeding, a nursing cover is a must. You will find an array of styles to choose from, but we love an infinity scarf, like the LK Baby Infinity Nursing Scarf Nursing Cover. You'll be able to wear the nursing cover instead of stuffing it in your already brimming diaper bag—and it's nice to have it right there when the baby is ready to eat.

Also, in the inevitable event that your baby spits-up on you or you leak some milk through your shirt, having a quick and stylish way to cover up is a total #momwin.

2. For getting comfortable: A cozy glider

Having a comfy spot to nurse can make a huge difference. Bonus points if that comfy place totally brings a room together, like the Delta Children Paris Upholstered Glider!

Get your cozy space ready to go, and when your baby is here, you can retreat from the world and just nurse, bond, and love.

3. For unmatched support: A wire-free nursing bra

It may take trying on several brands to find the perfect match, but finding a nursing bra that you love is 100% worth the effort. Your breasts will be changing and working in ways that are hard to imagine. An excellent supportive bra will make this so much more comfortable.

It is crucial to choose a wireless bra for the first weeks of nursing since underwire can increase the risk of clogged ducts (ouch).The Playtex Maternity Shaping Foam Wirefree Nursing Bra is an awesome pick for this reason, and because it is designed to flex and fit your breasts as they go through all those changes.

4. For maximum hydration: A large reusable water bottle

Nothing can prepare you for the intense thirst that hits when breastfeeding. Quench that thirst (and help keep your milk supply up in the process) by always having a water bottle with a straw nearby, like this Exquis Large Outdoor Water Bottle.

5. For feeding convenience: A supportive nursing tank

Experts recommend that during the first weeks of your baby's life, you breastfeed on-demand, meaning that any time your tiny boss demands milk, you feed them. This will help establish your milk supply and get everything off to a good start.

What does this mean for your life? You will be breastfeeding A LOT. Nursing tanks, like the Loving Moments by Leading Lady, make this so much easier. They have built-in support to keep you comfy, and you can totally wear them around the house, or even out and about. When your baby wants to eat, you'll be able to quickly "pop out" a breast and feed them.

6. For pain prevention: A quality nipple ointment

Breastfeeding shouldn't hurt, but the truth is those first days can be uncomfortable. Your nipples will likely feel raw as they adjust to their new job. This will get better! But until it does, nipple ointment is amazing.

My favorite is the Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter. We love that it's organic, and it is oh-so-soothing on your hard-at-work nipples.

Psst: If it actually hurts when your baby latches on, something may be up, so call your provider or a lactation consultant for help.

7. For uncomfortable moments: A dual breast therapy pack

As your breasts adjust to their new role, you may experience a few discomforts—applying warmth or cold can help make them feel so much better. The Lansinoh TheraPearl 3-in-1 Breast Therapy Pack is awesome because you can microwave the pads or put them in the freezer, giving you a lot of options when your breasts need some TLC.

Again, if you have any concerns about something being wrong (pain, a bump that may be red or hot, fever, or anything else), call a professional right away.

8. For inevitable leaks: An absorbing breast pad

In today's episode of, "Oh come on, really?" you are going to leak breastmilk. Now, this is entirely natural and you are certainly not required to do anything about this. Still, many moms choose to wear breast pads in their bras to avoid leaking through to their shirts.

You can go the convenient and disposable route with Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads, or for a more environmentally friendly option, you can choose washable pads, like these Organic Bamboo Nursing Breast Pads.

9. For flexibility: A breast pump

Many women find that a breast pump becomes one of their most essential mom-tools. The ability to provide breast milk when you are away from your baby (and relieve uncomfortable engorged breasts) will add so much flexibility into your new-mom life.

For quick trips out and super-easy in-your-bag transport, opt for a manual pump like the Lansinoh Manual Breast Pump .

If you will be away from your baby for longer periods of time (traveling or working outside the home, for example) an electric pump is your most efficient bet. The Medela Pump In Style Advanced Double Electric Breast Pump is a classic go-to that will absolutely get the job done, and then some.

10. For quality storage: Breast milk bags

Once you pump your liquid gold, aka breast milk, you'll need a place to store it. The Kiinde Twist Pouches allow you to pump directly into the bags which means one less step (and way less to clean).

11. For keeping cool: A freezer bag

Transport your pumped milk back home to your baby safely in a cooler like the Mommy Knows Best Breast Milk Baby Bottle Cooler Bag. Remember to put the milk in a fridge or freezer as soon as you can to optimize how long it stays usable for.

12. For continued nourishment: Bottles

Nothing beats the peace of mind you get when you know that your baby is being well-taken of care—and well fed—until you can be together again. The Philips Avent Natural Baby Bottle Newborn Starter Gift Set is a fan favorite (mama and baby fans alike).

This article is sponsored by Walmart. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.

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A viral video about car seat safety has parents everywhere cracking up and humming Sir-Mix-A-Lot.

"I like safe kids and I cannot lie," raps Norman Regional Health System pediatric hospitalist Dr. Kate Cook (after prefacing her music video with an apology to her children."I'm a doctor tryin' warn you that recs have changed," she continues.

Dr. Cook's rap video is all about the importance of keeping babies facing backward. It's aptly called "Babies Face Back," and uses humor and parody to drive home car seat recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

"Switching from rear-facing to forward-facing is a milestone many parents can't wait to reach," Dr. Cook said in a news release about her hilarious video. "But this is one area where you want to delay the transition as long as possible because each one actually reduces the protection to the child."

Last summer the AAP updated its official stance on car seat safety to be more in line with what so many parents were already doing and recommended that kids stay rear-facing for as long as possible. But with so many things to keep track of in life, it is understandable that some parents still don't know about the change. Dr. Cook wants to change that with some cringe-worthy rapping.

The AAP recommends:

  • Babies and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat.
  • Once they are facing forward, children should use a forward-facing car safety seat with a harness for as long as possible. Many seats are good up to 65 pounds.
  • When children outgrow their car seat they should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle's lap and shoulder seat belt fits properly, between 8 and 12 years old.

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[Editor's note: Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.]

Suicide rates for girls and women in the United States have increased 50% since 2000, according to the CDC and new research indicates a growing number of pregnant and postpartum women are dying by suicide and overdose. Suicide rates for boys and men are up, too.

It's clear there is a mental health crisis in America and it is robbing children of their mothers and mothers of their children.

Medical professionals urge people to get help early, but sometimes getting help is not so simple. For many Americans, the life preserver that is mental health care is out of reach when they are drowning.

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg just released a plan he hopes could change that and says the neglect of mental health in the United States must end. "Our plan breaks down the barriers around mental health and builds up a sense of belonging that will help millions of suffering Americans heal," says Buttigieg.

He thinks he can "prevent 1 million deaths of despair by 2028" by giving Americans more access to mental health and addictions services.

In a country where giving birth can put a mother in debt, it's not surprising that while as many as 1 in 5 new moms suffers from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, more than half of new moms who need mental health treatment don't get it. Stigma, childcare and of course costs are factors in why women aren't seeking help when they are struggling.

Buttigieg's plan is interesting because it could remove some of these barriers. He wants to make mental health care more affordable by ensuring everyone has comprehensive coverage for mental health care and by ensuring that everyone can access a free yearly mental health check-up.

That could make getting help more affordable for some moms, and by increasing reimbursement rates for mental health care delivered through telehealth, this plan could help moms get face time with a medical professional without having to deal with finding childcare first.

Estimates from new research suggest that in some parts of America as many as 14% or 30% of maternal deaths are caused by addiction or suicide. Buttigieg's plan aims to reduce those estimates by fighting the addiction and opioid crisis and increasing access to mental health services in underserved communities and for people of color. He also wants to reduce the stigma and increase support for the next generation by requiring "every school across the country to teach Mental Health First Aid courses."

These are lofty goals with a lofty price tag. It would cost about $300 billion to do what Buttigieg sets out in his plan and the specifics of how the plan would be funded aren't yet known. Neither is how voters will react to this 18-page plan and whether it will help Buttigieg stand out in a crowded field of Democratic candidates.

What we do know is that right now, America is talking about mental health and whether or not that benefits Buttigieg's campaign it will certainly benefit America.

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[Editor's Note: Welcome to It's Science, a Motherly column focusing on evidence-based explanations for the important moments, milestones, and phenomena of motherhood. Because it's not just you—#itsscience.]

If you breastfeed, you know just how magical (and trying) it is, but it has numerous benefits for mama and baby. It is known to reduce the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis, and cuts the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by half.

If this wasn't powerful enough, scientists have discovered that babies who are fed breast milk have a stomach pH that promotes the formation of HAMLET (Human Alpha-lactalbumin Made Lethal to Tumor cells). HAMLET was discovered by chance when researchers were studying the antibacterial properties of breast milk. This is a combination of proteins and lipids found in breast milk that can work together to kill cancer cells, causing them to pull away from healthy cells, shrink and die, leaving the healthy cells unaffected.

According to researchers at Lund University in Sweden, this mechanism may contribute to the protective effect breast milk has against pediatric tumors and leukemia, which accounts for about 30% of all childhood cancer. Other researchers analyzed 18 different studies, finding that "14% to 19% of all childhood leukemia cases may be prevented by breastfeeding for six months or more."

And recently, doctors in Sweden collaborated with scientists in Prague to find yet another amazing benefit to breast milk. Their research demonstrated that a certain milk sugar called Alpha1H, found only in breast milk, helps in the production of lactose and can transform into a different form that helps break up tumors into microscopic fragments in the body.

Patients who were given a drug based on this milk sugar, rather than a placebo, passed whole tumor fragments in their urine. And there is more laboratory evidence to support that the drug can kill more than 40 different types of cancer cells in animal trials, including brain tumors and colon cancer. These results are inspiring scientists to continue to explore HAMLET as a novel approach to tumor therapy and make Alpha1H available to cancer patients.

Bottom line: If you choose to breastfeed, the breast milk your baby gets from your hard work can be worth every drop of effort.

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