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She messages me in the middle of the day, “Hey.” And that’s it. 


I never know how to respond. But there are so many things I want to say.

“Hey Kate, sorry I suck.”

“Hey Kate, I know it doesn’t feel this way, but I think about you all the time.”

“Hey Kate, I know you have no reason to believe me, but I never forgot about you.”

“Hey Kate, I was so young when I met you. I didn’t know what to do.”

She doesn’t expect much from me, but I already know that no matter what I say, it won’t be enough.

I just turned 40. My hair has started its slow fade from a bold, shiny brown to a dull grey. My hands hurt after a busy day at work. I know I’m not old, but I’m not who I was when I met Kate.

The invincibility and the eternal hopefulness that once spilled into everything I did, and everyone I loved, has been trampled by reality. I tread much more lightly. I hesitate to make my once mighty, now mild, presence known when I enter a new space. Maybe the reason I tend to be more forgetful is because I have so many things to think about. I feel like memories are becoming ever more distant and details are harder to remember.

But I remember the day I met Kate.

Her father and I drove for days. We left the New Jersey shore on a humid summer morning and headed west. I planned a route to get us to Arkansas in less than a week if we didn’t stop too much.

The stops we made in the other states we crossed should have been more memorable. Nashville and Memphis are faint blurs in my mind, maybe because I’d just turned 21 and felt compelled to drink whenever I had the chance. Maybe because I was so focused on getting to Magnolia, Arkansas.

In my mind, this would be as simple as checking off an item on a to-do list. We were heading out to see Kate. Kate’s dad was divorced from her mom, and a year had passed since he’d last seen his little girl.

The child in me was excited to be instrumental in their reunion. Convinced that he would be lost and empty without his daughter, I took him by his willing hands and yanked him into my world of impulsivity. We dropped everything for this road trip.

We arrived to find two girls and a boy standing beside Kate’s mother, and she directed Kate to go greet her daddy. Kate meekly ran into her father’s arms and gave him a soft, quiet hug. She was giddy, but polite. And she called me ma’am.

We spent a week in Magnolia and we saw Kate each day. Her meek demeanor changed as she got more comfortable with us. She was easily excitable and very expressive. Her little heart was overflowing with love and she had plenty to go around. She boasted about having two daddies and said she loved them both over and over. Her stepfather smiled and shrugged at us whenever she pointed this out in front of him.

Kate was delighted in that classic little girl way, every gift we gave her, every meal we treated her to, and every ride she took in our car made her little heart soar with happiness. I insisted to her father that we stay awhile. A little girl needs her father. I know this from experience.

It’d been days into months into years since I’d last seen my own dad. I wanted to save this girl from that crooked balance of a life lived somewhere between great hope and deep disappointment. We settled just south of the Arkansas/Louisiana border in Shreveport.

My heart was in it for Kate, but I quickly started hating Louisiana. My inability to adapt to a new place blurred my understanding that time and patience were the only things that could make me more comfortable. Louisiana is starkly different from New Jersey, and while I could have lived with that, I didn’t want to be so far from my family and friends.

Maybe it was this that dampened my mission to save this girl from life without her father. Maybe I realized that I alone could not be the one to force devotion and duty for her upon anyone. Maybe it was because I grew tired of encouraging visits, gifts, and involvement. Maybe there were many reasons I took a step back and started thinking more about myself, and less about “saving” Kate.

Months went by and we didn’t see her anymore. We returned to New Jersey and had a child the following year. I thought about Kate, and how she would love to hold her baby brother. I had naive faith that this could happen. I was certain that their father would feel consumed by love for both of his children, and he’d want to see her again. An innate wholehearted desire to be a father to his children would usurp his shame and cowardice.

Our baby was so darling and beautiful. I assumed that every time he held our brand new son, his daughter crossed his mind. I believed his love for Kate, rekindled and inspired by the birth of our son, would make him shove hesitation aside and propel him past the fear he allowed to take control.

He would no longer be too scared to attempt resolve, and he would pick up the phone and call his ex-wife. They’d discuss how he’d re-enter his daughter’s life for good. At first I hinted at this fantasy of mine. Then, I asked him how he felt about taking such actions. Finally, I started resenting him, and wondering if he cared about her at all. He couldn’t articulate his feelings except to say that it was, “too much to deal with right now” because we had a new baby, and we were barely getting by.

Consequently, he fell behind on his child support. Partial payments weren’t enough to keep him out of court. First, it was garnished wages. Then, it was a levy on our joint bank account. We lost much needed tax return money.

Court orders arrive, promising arrest warrants if he failed to appear. His ex-wife sent letters through an attorney stating he’d no longer have to pay child support if he signed his paternal rights away, and allowed her stepfather to adopt her. My heart dropped. It seemed like impossible debt from which we’d never recover, but I was absolutely sure he’d never sign those papers.

I held our baby on my hip as I signed for the last certified letter and wondered what made him work so hard for our child, but not for Kate. I fought with him about her, but it didn’t make a difference. His whole family agreed with him, saying this was, “for the best.”

I thought about that little girl and how on earth I might explain this to her someday. It’d been two years since we’d spoken. She was almost nine years old when he made his decision. I sent her little gifts on Easter and Christmas that year. The following year, I asked him if we should send her anything. I don’t remember his answer, I only remember being sad and disappointed.

I didn’t know that this could actually happen – that a signature on paper could erase a child from our lives. She went from being a someday to being a never. I could list a million excuses to justify why I wasn’t brave enough to object, why I didn’t take it upon myself to earn and pay that child support and the arrears, why I didn’t understand his family supporting his decision to stop being her father, why I wanted to help but felt that I couldn’t.

None of that matters now.

I thought of Kate all the time. It would have been more practical to wish that she’d forgotten about us. But I always hoped she’d remember the short time we spent with her. Even after her father and I divorced, I still believed that she would come back into his life and she would meet our sons. I still believed she’d remember the trip, and the time we lived nearby. I even hoped that she’d remember a little bit about when she was small, her parents were still together, and she saw her father every day.

His dismissal of her existence seemed as easy as turning off a light, and walking out of a room. I spent our whole marriage doubting his seemingly steady devotion to our children. Had Kate never existed, I would’ve taken his actions at face value, feeling proud and confident about his love for our sons.

Instead, any minuscule sign of indifference toward their wellbeing made me fear that he could turn his paternal love for them off as easily as he turned it off for Kate. Was he acting? Was he going through the motions, feigning the love of a devoted father just for show? Could I trust the love he professed for me if it was so easy for him to forget about his little girl? Living in constant insecurity wore me down – we had so much conflict and strife. So, before our oldest son turned ten, I chose to leave the marriage.

Twelve years slid by. Twelve years of wondering how Kate was doing. Twelve years of seeing cute little toys and clothes and TV shows that I wondered if Kate would love. Twelve years of wondering what she looked like, where she was, what she loved, and whether or not she needed her father. Twelve years of expectation turning into diluted hope and wishful thinking that her father would say, “I want to make things right with my daughter.”

When Kate was almost twenty years old, I found her profile on Facebook. She was nothing like I remembered, of course. The last time I had a good look at her, she was a cherub-like child. I marveled at the young woman whose photo stopped my heart.

Kate and I exchanged messages for a bit and I gave her my number. I rehearsed every possible scenario of this phone call in my mind for twelve years. I was ready for anything. Whatever she wanted to know or hear or tell me, I was ready. I would tell. I would speak. I would listen.

Her soft voice and southern drawl made me smile. Ever since my first pregnancy, I’d dreamt of this day. Kate’s brothers are my sons. And if I knew nothing else about her, this fact was enough to keep my heart wide open with space reserved just for her.

She’d done nothing wrong. None of this was her fault. It didn’t matter that the rest of the family seemed content to pretend that she never existed. It didn’t matter that her father and I were divorced, it didn’t matter that I could not remember the last time he’d spoken of her. Kate wanted to talk to me.

I felt a surge of excitement, mixed up with relief. Kate was the elephant in the room for the duration of my marriage to her father. Even after our divorce, when he’d provide for, indulge, or champion one of my sons, my heart would whisper, “what about Kate?”

She was the person I had hoped for and wondered about for all this long time. Any girl with a slight resemblance made me imagine what she looked like. Whenever our caller ID showed a number we didn’t recognize, I wondered for a split second if it might be her.

To finally hear her voice made my distant, hopeless dream come true. Talking to Kate after all these years felt like receiving a precious gift that I felt unworthy to accept. After she told me all about her life, what she wanted to study in college, and where and how she lived for all these years, she had so many questions. 

I answered them all. I told her the truth.

I didn’t know why her father never called. I didn’t know exactly why her mother wanted her to be adopted by her step-father. I didn’t get into the details back then because at that time, I felt like it was not my place. I told her I didn’t understand any of it, that if it had been up to me, things would be different.

I hoped that she understood this – it was never up to me. I would have made her part of our family. I would have sent her photos and videos of her brothers. They would have called her and we would have sent her gifts every holiday and on her birthday. I told her all about her brothers and confessed that they didn’t know very much about her. After her father signed away his paternal rights, her name was rarely mentioned by anyone in the family, but I never forgot about her. 

Kate is now twenty six years old. She has her own life, her own aspirations, and her own struggles 1,400 miles away from me. I can’t make up for two decades of lost time and I don’t have all the answers about her father’s absence from her life, but I will always respond when she messages or calls. I’ll always let her know she is welcome, she is family, she is treasured, and she is important.

I don’t know if that’s good enough for Kate. She deserves so much more. I can’t fill the hole her father left in her heart. All I can do is promise that nothing she says or does will ever change how I feel about her. All I can do is make sure she knows that I’m here for her now.

“Hey, how’s life?” I message back.

It’s not enough.

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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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