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In 2014 when Laurie Kilmartin’s father was dying from stage IV lung cancer, the stand-up comedian and Emmy-nominated writer for CONAN, did what she does best: she cracked jokes. Laurie documented her father’s decline by writing 140-character bits of observational comedy – dark, raw, visceral, and hilarious – tweeting them out into the ether for her followers to capture and read. 

And read we did, laughing and crying our way through Laurie’s loss. Or maybe more accurately, through our own losses, uncovered by Laurie’s words, her play-by-play on death and dying granting us permission to – perhaps at long last – examine our own grief.

Laurie’s new comedy special, 45 Jokes About My Dead Dadnow streaming on Seeso, offers a documentary-style backstory – including interviews with Patton Oswalt, Andy Kindler, Conan O’Brien, and Cheryl Holliday – followed by Laurie’s cathartic stand-up.

I had the opportunity to speak with Laurie about the experience of losing a parent while also raising a young son.

When you were tweeting about your dad – I’m sure so many people have said this to you – but it really hit home, having lost both my mom and dad, and having survived so much of it by laughing with my brother. 

Oh, I’m sorry to hear about your parents.

Thank you, I’m sorry about your dad. It’s such a loss. And you’re a parent yourself. Really – authentically – how are you? 

I’m okay now. It’s weird how the first year is really surreal, and then you kind of get used to the new order.

It’s a year of firsts.

Yeah. There are still times where I miss my dad intensely but the intervals are further apart, and I also feel like I grieved him properly. I think about him a lot and – this sounds incredibly trite – but he has a permanent place in my heart, and I feel like I can remember him and access him all the time. That makes me happy.

How old was your son when your father was dying? How did you weave him into – and/or protect him from – the experience of this loss?

He was seven when my dad died and I know he has memories of my dad, but when I look back on being seven, I don’t remember anything. It’s all from photos that I’ve seen.

I’ve really tried to mention my dad a lot and say, “Grandpa would love that.” and, “Grandpa would think that was so cool.” as a way to keep my dad a living thing in his life.

I guess my son’s primary memory will be how important my dad was to me. That’s how he’ll be important to him.

I think, much like yours, my father was central to my life. He died when I was pregnant and I’m always remembering him to my son. It feels like a sort of oral tradition. 

It does. It’s odd though, I think our dads are the last generation whose every move is not completely recorded. They’re the last unknown people in a way, and they’re going to exist only from a few old photographs and what we say about them.

What would you say to people trying to raise young kids while also caring for sick parents and coping with death?

It’s about how you talk to your kid about death. And it’s weird – just talking about death in general – when the person you’re talking to hasn’t lost a parent yet, they’re frozen in fear. It’s almost like you have this contagious thing and they don’t know what to say.

And, really, that’s fine. I was the same way when my parents were both alive and people would say, “My dad died.” I’d be like, “How can you even say that?” I almost thought, “No, they can’t die. They didn’t die. That doesn’t happen.”

It happens. It’s an emotional river and, once you cross over, you have an empathy that you won’t get until it happens, so you can’t fake it.

With my kid, I don’t think he understood when it was happening. He knew I was sad, and I’m not super religious, really, so I didn’t have a thing to say like, “Oh Grandpa’s going (wherever) now.”  But after my dad died, my sister noticed there was just one mourning dove at the house – and mourning doves travel in pairs – and my son said, “That’s Grandpa.” It was profound. Until the other dove showed up and we were like, “He’s already found a new girlfriend.”

Oh, great. Now we have a wicked step-dove.

[Laughs] Exactly.

Do you feel like you hear your dad’s voice in your head?

I guess I hear his laugh more than anything, and I can see his eyes crinkling. Especially when my son does something funny, I know my dad would have this kind of high, loud laugh. I keep that in mind.

And I have a lot of my dad’s stuff. I took his drafting table, and I refinished it. He had it for 50 years and now that’s my desk, so I think about him all the time. I just like seeing it and knowing that he touched it.

What was the the most surprising thing for you about watching your dad die?Besides actually losing him?

With hospice – and I did jokes about this in the special – but when they tell you you can’t call an ambulance – that’s so shocking. You just have to let this thing happen. They make you sign something. It’s like I even can’t believe this is legal.

It’s so counter-intuitive.

Basically, death is counter-intuitive. I think you summed it up perfectly.

Thanks! I guess we’re done here since I just nailed it. I’m going to put that one in the bold – quote my own self.

[Laughs] You should. Give me an assist on that one, but that’s you. That’s all you.

Once your dad was gone, what was surprising about life without him?

That everyone else goes on the next day as if my father didn’t die. You go to the store and people are shopping and they’re not upset, they’re not sad. Everything just goes on. I’m in this horrific despair and no one else seems to give a shit. My friends do, but the rest of the world doesn’t care and that’s so weird.

My mom wanted my dad’s cell phone number for sentimental reasons and I had to go to Verizon to transfer all the stuff over and I remember walking into the store after we’d been crying for three or four days straight. And people are working and cheerful and I felt like, “Guys, the greatest man who ever lived just died. How can you even be at work right now?”

Yeah. Go home.

Right. Why are you here? Why are flags not at half mast? But then, you think about it, it’s kind of comforting. You probably wouldn’t want everyone else crying and mourning and apocalyptic. We need somebody to be in control here.

It just makes you realize – when you’re out at Safeway or wherever – there’s probably someone in the store who’s really horribly upset about something and this is a surreal day for them.

A hospice nurse told me that sometimes people need permission to go. One of your tweets describes your dad’s nurse saying something similar. Did you have that experience?

Yeah, I was like, “No. You do not have my permission.” [Laughs]

When he was just shutting down, and he knew he was shutting down, he seemed content, as much as he could be. I remember my cousin Kathleen called – she couldn’t be there – but she called him and said, “Well, Ron, you did it. Everyone’s healthy. You have two daughters, you have grandchildren, you did it.”

My dad’s one of those guys that worried about everything possible thing happening all the time –  a terrorist attack, all the calamities that can befall humanity or the family. So, I remember watching him take that information in and going, “Yeah.”

He could feel like, “I did it.”

Yeah – he did it, he delivered us as far as he could, and we’re okay.

When it was all happening, did you feel more like you were losing your dad, or that your son was losing his grandfather, or a combination of both?

Oh yeah. I was really upset that my son was losing his grandfather.

No one loves you like your grandparents. Grandparents love grandchildren – I think – more than their own children. As much as my mom drives me crazy, my son has never had the sort of devoted love that he gets from my mom.

You cannot replicate it, you cannot find another alternative. It only exists as long as the grandparent’s alive, you know? It’s a unique, special bond, and it really sucks when it ends early. 

How many times a day do you look at your son and think, “I wish my dad was here to see that.”

My son’s funny, and my dad would have just enjoyed him so much. Also, my son apparently has the math gene that my dad had. It skipped me. He would be so excited my son’s doing well in math. He never had a son, so a grandson was just exactly what he loved.

What was the darkest moment?

The night he died, I was in his office, and being around his things knowing he was never going to touch them again. It felt like there had been movement in the air when my dad was alive, and now that he was gone, even the air was still.

There was this stillness, and just knowing it would not be broken up by my dad walking in again. It was really devastating. Then I just started screaming, really loudly. I did that for a while, until I was out of screams.

Yeah. I know that feeling. It’s not a choice. It’s very primal, very animalistic.

It’s totally primal. It’s beyond your brain and it connects you to every single person alive and it connects you to the stars and it connects you to everything.

Here’s to the dads.

Yeah. Here’s to the dads.

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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.


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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