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When I was 12 years old, my dad took my best friend and me camping for the first time in the wild Adirondacks.


He started preparing us weeks in advance. We needed everything, beginning with footwear. It was spring and the mountains would be muddy. Our white, unlaced Keds would not be “fine,” as we tried to insist. We were going to hike up an actual mountain and needed actual boots. Hiking boots were, according to my dad, absolutely necessary.

We refused. Hiking boots were ugly, and therefore embarrassing. My dad pointed out that the only folks we’d encounter on this trip – even if they happened to be teenage boys – would also be wearing hiking boots. We didn’t care. We compromised on high top basketball sneakers.

Of course my dad already had boots, and a good backpack, and gear aplenty. He’d been hiking since he was a young boy. He’s an Eagle Scout, a triathlete, a mountain climber. He’s always been “that guy.” But I was not “that kid.” I was a ballet dancer, prone to dramatics, and not a fan of getting dirty. Getting me to the outdoor gear store, let alone into the car to and out to the woods, was an uphill battle.

While my father tried patiently to explain what we needed in our packs, and how to organize it, we whined, yawned, bitched, and complained. We fooled around and laughed. We should have listened. Adirondack hiking is no joke. The terrain is widely varied, often steep and tough, and it changes rapidly, just like the weather.

But at 12 years old we cared not at all for any of my dad’s vast knowledge on the subject.We assumed he was going to do everything for us, and we’d be left to our giggly and moody tween ways. We wanted to zip ourselves into a tent in the dark and talk about boys. Fuck the rest.

Twenty-seven years later, the story of that first trip has become a family legend, told and retold so many times, that I often wonder how the  details have changed over the years.

On that first trip, it rained relentlessly. It rained so hard, and so long, that our gear failed – the tents leaked and we woke up before dawn on hike day in three inches of water. My dad let Theresa and me sit in the car with the motor running, heat blasting, while he worked on the tent in the dark to get the situation under control.

Our complaining knew no bounds.

We set off on the big hike in our sneakers and layers of cotton t-shirts and sweatshirts. We deemed all traditional gear too ugly and too dorky for consideration, in spite of my dad’s explanations of the practical purposes of wool, quick-dry fabric, and sturdy footwear.

“I hope you’ve got your rain gear!” my dad said, smiling at us.

Theresa snorted and shot back, “You’re looking at it.”

I’m still not sure if we ever actually made it to the top of Mt. Jo, our first ascent. I believe my dad may have given up on us three-quarters of the way up, told us we were done, and turned us around. There is, after all, only so much abuse one can take from two preteen girls in the name of outdoor pursuits.

We went home. Unpacking wet, smelly clothes from my backpack and digging mud from underneath my fingernails, I vowed never to hike again. My dad let it go.

I love my dad. My parents were divorced when I was nine. My brother and I split our time between them, and he’s always been there for me. Like my mom, he came to every ballet recital, every chorus concert, and patiently watched every living room performance I staged from my very first pirouette (there were many).

He chaperoned sleepovers, drove my friends and me to and from school dances, basketball games, and parties. He once drove us two hours away on a school night so we could go to an INXS concert, and waited in the parking lot until it was over, before driving us home.

He saw me through my turbulent teenage years, executing feats of parenting heroism I could never truly appreciate or understand until I had kids of my own. He was always encouraging, and always pushed me to do my best, even when I was making questionable choices. Even when I told him to leave me alone.

Watching kids grow into adolescents is painful enough for parents, even when the process goes smoothly. My dad, while always supportive of my various forms of self expression, had nonetheless hoped I’d work on the high school yearbook and take to wearing plaid skirts with penny loafers.

Instead, I saw myself as a rebel ballerina. I washed dishes in an Italian restaurant for spending money. I wore steel-toed Doc Marten boots, dyed my hair inky black, dated troublemakers, and smoked cigarettes.

He loved me anyway.

Seven years after that first hike, I was 19 and home for the summer from college, shell-shocked after having lived on my own in New York City for a school year. With a window between school ending and my summer job starting, I had a little time on my hands. My dad suggested a hike, and I surprised myself by accepting.

I’d just spent a year learning that I wasn’t good enough at anything. I was used to being good at things. School, like ballet, had come easy to me. I assumed college would bring more success. But during my senior year I’d abruptly decided it was my destiny to become a famous actress. So instead of a finding a dance program, like I’d always planned, I auditioned for a spot in a theatre program at a small school in NYC. I got in. Easy breezy, I thought.

I arrived at my new school in the fall to discover that there were at least a hundred girls smarter and more talented than me right in my dorm, to say nothing of New York City. And they knew what they were getting into. They had head shots, and resumes. I did not.

My hope of becoming a performer suddenly looked a lot less like a potentially attainable dream and more like a harsh reality that I wasn’t sure I wanted. I couldn’t bring myself to say this out loud to anyone, but I needed to regroup, and rebuild my confidence.

My dad was there. We drove North.

I don’t remember a lot of details about that trip, but I know that I relented and wore Timberland work boots instead of sneakers, but still insisted on my red cotton sweatshirt. And I remember that it was a turning point in my life. I was out of shape, having abandoned ballet, and sad. I climbed the peak anyway, and then down again.

In the car on the way home I was dirty, sweat-soaked, and exhausted. Every one of my muscles ached. But I was happy for the first time in months. When we got home I went out and bought a pair of real hiking boots – brown Vasque Sundowners. I started going on regular weekend trips with my dad.

Slowly, I began to understand how important the mountains were to him. Hiking had always been just one of the things that made my dad, my dad. I’d never given any thought to why he did the things he did.

But I was learning that hiking meant something to him, something big. And little by little – driving, camping, climbing, talking, breathing in the high elevation air with him – it started to mean something to me, too.

There were so many hikes, and there as many good stories.

Like the hike when my brother tripped on the trail and fell over a fallen tree that pierced his pants. Our dad, thinking that my brother had impaled his leg and trying to get to the wound, ripped his pant leg right off, leaving my brother half naked for the rest of the hike.

Or the hike my dad convinced me to keep climbing up into a storm cloud instead of backing off, and suddenly we were inside an thunderstorm, at 5,000 ft, leaning back under a tiny rock overhang for shelter. As thunder clapped all around us, I shouted, “DAD! I’m feeling VERY ALONE up here right now!!”

And the hike when I was so busy yelling at my dad for getting us lost in this wilderness and marching me to certain death, that it took me a minute before I realized we’d broken through the trees and arrived at our camping destination – the most incredible mountain lake and view I’d ever seen.

Or the hike when we woke up to find a family of mice peeking out of our drying boots.

These are my most treasured memories of my dad. Walking along, breathing hard in the elevation, watching his feet hit the trail ahead of me to keep myself going, or leading the way and hearing his steps behind me.

When I was hiking, I was on a clear path, even when I felt like I couldn’t find the right one in real life.

And my real life was kind of a mess. After three years of college I moved home from the city, disillusioned about my direction, unsure of my goals. I’d spent the last few semesters going to more clubs than classes, and I hadn’t made a very good actress after all.

The mountains were there. Steady. Same as always. Like my dad.

We teamed up with friends and formed a sort of climbing gang. It wasn’t unusual for me to be the only female on what became epic, weekend-long, multiple-peak expeditions. Eventually, my dad started talking about me finishing the 46 Adirondack high peaks, each over 4000 feet – something he had accomplished years ago. I’d learned so much, and come so far, the idea didn’t seem crazy. In fact, it seemed completely possible.

I enrolled in a social work degree program at the state school in my hometown. I studied, and I hiked. Every weekend the weather permitted, and sometimes when it didn’t, we went hiking.

I learned a lot from my dad on our hikes, and I marveled at his vast and (mostly) unfailing knowledge of the Adirondacks, and how to move through wild spaces. I learned that a positive attitude does truly improve any situation. I learned that on the trail, as in life, when someone is hurt, try to help them. I learned that a few bungee chords and some duct tape can improve, or even fix, nearly any disaster.

I understood that my dad’s life in the woods mirrored his regular every day. What he learned on the trail was applied in life. These were the values and practices that defined him. These were life skills worth having.

I learned that I could work hard, that I could accomplish what didn’t come easily. After years of having my appearance picked apart by ballet teachers and acting coaches, I began to truly internalize the idea that my body was more than an object. My body was me – strong and capable.

I learned that I could live on dried fruit and reconstituted meals in foil packets for days on end. That I could, in fact, dig my own holes and poop at 3700 ft of elevation. I learned that yes, “pack it in/pack it out” includes tampons.

I learned about the peace that comes with wandering out into the woods. I learned that I can see and hear more clearly in the woods, that the air changes the higher you climb, and that a good sweat has a purifying effect. I learned that nature is always right. More than once, I was moved to speechless tears by the raw and soul-shattering beauty of the place.

I chewed the same piece of gum from the bottom to the top of the giant and forboding Mt. Colden. My legs shook and I struggled to keep up with my partners. I did yoga on a rock in the sunshine at the top of Rocky Peak Ridge. I spent many freezing nights wrapped in a sleeping bag in the bed of a pickup truck parked at one trailhead or another.

I stared down a black bear.

I spent 18 hours in a tent with my dad, four miles from civilization at the base of the three-peak Seward Range, while an icy storm blew over us. We had one ancient trail guide between us for entertainment and we took turns reading it all day and night. I managed to tear our campsite down alone, and carry all of our gear four miles out the next morning when my dad woke up with the full-blown flu. It was the only time I ever drove him home from a hiking trip.

Even after the worst break-up of my life, the mountains were still there, still the same. My dad was too. Both waiting patiently for me.

I climbed my 46th peak alone with my dad. I was 23. It was a hot spring day. We started off in silence. A few minutes into the hike, I slipped on a wet log crossing a stream and fell in. My dad stopped and waited while I sat in the murky water, soaked and muddy with the entire last ascent still ahead of me, and cried.

I couldn’t articulate what I was feeling then. Now, 17 years later, I know. I was crying for my failed relationship. For my many mistakes. For not knowing where the path of my life was leading, or if I was even on it at all. I cried for everything I’d accomplished, and everything I hadn’t. And I cried for the final mountain, and for the journey about to end.

He waited a minute, then asked, “What do you want to do?”

“I want to finish this.” I replied.

And so I put one foot in front of the other, on the path in front of me. Just like we had so many times before. We hiked in silence for a while, up and up. We stopped a lot. I felt tired and heavy.

With the summit in sight, we picked up the pace, climbing faster and faster, ahead of my dad. I turned around once to make sure I hadn’t missed a turn and he pointed past me, forward.

And finally, there we were, on the top of the 46th mountain.

“We made it.” I said, catching my breath.

“You made it,” my dad replied, taking a bottle of champagne from his backpack.

On the way down, I felt different, changed. Half a lifetime later, I still do.

I later earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Development, but I skipped my graduation. I moved to Vermont and married a great guy. We eloped in the backyard of the Justice of the Peace. We have three beautiful kids. I have a community, and work, that I love. And I found it all through a series of unconventional choices. I love and respect tradition, I’ve just never been very good at following it.

I’m still not an official “46er.” I don’t have the patch, or a finisher number. I never completed the required journal of my hikes. I meant to, but after a few years my original notes were scattered, then mostly lost.

Eventually, I’ll finish the paperwork. For myself. For my dad. So that he truly knows how important those 46 mountains are to me, and to thank him for putting me on the trail, again and again.

But in the meantime, I wrote this.

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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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