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I am part Irish-American, part Italian-American, and have some Dutch and French blood running through me as well. Growing up, I most identified with my mother’s Italian side of the family. They were around more often.


Both of my parents were from Queens, New York. Their definition of “Italian” was quite different from people actually born in Italy.

My Grandfather’s name was Al Capone.

Sheer coincidence, but he was known to pack quite the punch. My mother was his first child, but he later had two other children with a younger woman, the same woman he had an affair with while married to my grandmother.

This left me growing up with an aunt and uncle who were my age. (That’s always been an interesting one to explain.)

My aunt and uncle were my first examples of what being Italian meant. At least what Italian meant living here in the tri-state. They had heavy New York accents, wore team jerseys, never shied away from bar fights, and had their own interpretation of the Italian language.

Have you ever eaten a ganole? Sure you have. It’s a cannoli. That’s right, ganole, gannoli, ganoul, ganoolie. All New York-Italian slang words for a cannoli.

Then there is hot gaba-goul. That would be hot capicola. Oh, It gets better. If you are an Italian, and you do something foolish you are called “Stu-nad” or considered a “stugats”, sometimes even a “doo-da-doo.”

If a woman is an undesirable female or skanky (for lack of better terms), she’s called a “skeevatz.” And, if you are a lady of the night or of the streets (or if you cross a jealous Italian woman), you’ll likely be labeled a “putana.”

Let’s not forget the many other entertaining and somewhat fascinating words that New York and New Jersey Italians keep in their lexicons. Goomba, goomah, oobatz, boombatz, ming, proshoot, biscott, buttagots and calamad just to name a few.

Needless to say, I didn’t have the best or most accurate examples of where my Italian roots first sprouted.

But, these family members were always fun and endlessly funny. They were also generous and kind in spite of their downfalls.

He didn’t have much, and he probably didn’t know much, but I loved him and all of them when I was growing up.

If you needed a dollar, my Grandfather would find you five. Even if that meant he went home with empty pockets. He didn’t have much, and he probably didn’t know much, but I loved him and all of them when I was growing up.

The Irish side of my family was, in fact, a stereotypical Irish family from a lower socio-economic status. My Grandfather, who passed away long before I was born, struggled with alcoholism. My two uncles, whom I never saw or spoke with for the majority of my life were also alcoholics, and from what my father had told me, very belligerent ones.

I listened to tales of nights when fists were thrown and noses bloodied in their home. I’ve even heard stories of my father having to lift his own slurring dad off the floor because he was so incoherent from drinking. A sight no child should ever see.

They didn’t have a lot of money, and they dealt with issues that come along with alcoholism; like anxiety, passive aggressiveness, bullying, and estrangement.

In social sciences as well as psychology and behavioral psychology, there are patterns called “multi-generational emotional processes” recognized in all cultures.

In the Irish culture, a few of these are; alcoholism, passive aggressiveness, teasing (also known as bullying), coping with tragedy with high drama but avoidance, and estrangement.

My father’s family fit the mold.

I didn’t have cousins my age on my mother’s side. I didn’t know my cousins from my father’s side except for two who lived in Florida. When I did meet my other cousins as adults, it was too late to have much in common with them. Several of them had inherited the generational process of alcoholism. Not something I wanted to be around.

It was difficult to feel so much disappointment time after time, but as I became an adult, I understood and respected why my parents chose to keep myself and my sister distant from many of our biological family members.

So, where did all of this leave me?

Well, inevitably I’ve inherited some of these traits. Some of the multigenerational systems have spread like a disease into my generation. My sister and I have been estranged for several years. I crave beer like most people crave sweets, I have a fiery temper and never back down from a verbal confrontation. It’s impossible for my father and me to have healthy conversations (he blames all of that on me of course, because it’s too painful for him to admit that these behaviors have been learned and passed down).

I hear myself using Italian slang with my children, and I even notice myself making facial expressions, gestures and sounds that my mother and father made.

It sounds as if I am only going to take a disgruntled turn here, but I’m not.

My mother sacrificed everything for my father and her children. She taught me what it meant to be strong through being stoic and also taught me when to draw a hard line when necessary.

My father worked hard with every bone in his body to give my sister and I much more than he had ever had and taught me what it meant to work hard and stay focused. One of the greatest pieces of advice came to me from my father. The advice was that “Jealousy is a wasted emotion, and it will run your life if you let it.” So, I have never been a jealous person and always embrace my self.

In spite of all of the insanity, I’m still proud to be who I am and have the parents I had and have.

In spite of all of the insanity, I’m still proud to be who I am and have the parents I had and have.

Both of my parents had a great sense of humor and were good to their friends. They loved music, food, friends, the arts and did their best to give me the security of family despite all of the “missing leaves” on our family tree.

And, when my mother got sick, my father never left her side. They taught me what it meant to love. What it meant to choose a partner that is also your best friend, and how to work things out no matter how difficult they may appear to be.

Now, what did I do with all of this baggage and negative genetic material? I still embraced some of it. Even some of the traits others may find undesirable.

I never let anyone push me around, and I protect the people I love fiercely. I took my hard-headed Irish-Italian mind and filled it with any source of information I could find so I could channel that power with intelligence, and not just emotions.

I also admitted my faults and sought out extensive therapy and education to stop many of these patterns so that I could have a healthy marriage, healthy friendships and be the best mother I can be.

Of course, I haven’t gotten rid of all of it. But I discovered great news on this extensive journey for change: it takes approximately three generations to break a multi-cultural emotional process. My generation is one of the first that has the knowledge and empowerment to stop these negative cycles.

That gives me hope.

I hope it gives many of you hope. In spite of the disappointing reality that it’s nearly impossible to repair damage that might have existed with parents or in the past, know that there’s great possibility that our children pave a new path. They can do more and be more than us, and change the ways of behavior in systems and society.

Be proud of what you come from. Crazy or really crazy. It has given you the tools to become who you are, even if those tools caused you great pain.

Your friends are your chosen family. They can help fill voids you didn’t know how to deal with as a child. And, work hard to change the things that cause you shame.

Don’t just pretend that they aren’t there, or someday you might see them in the clearest mirror of all, your children.

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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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