I was excited to be in Harlem running my first race just three months after giving birth to my daughter Madison. The Harlem One Miler was where I would start my new journey as a mother of two beautiful girls. There were many emotions running through my mind that morning. I was eager to be in the streets running again with friends, but scared to have to pump in public.
As I walked towards Marcus Garvey Park, a little bit of panic set in. I started to think, “What time do I have to pump? Where do I pump? I hope strangers don’t yell at me while I’m pumping this time”. As I made my way to bag check I saw a few friendly faces that I knew and instantly felt better. It was as if a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
I kept looking at my watch, knowing that I would have to pump and be finished before the men’s second heat started. I walked away and sat on a bench in the park. I wanted to be close enough where people could see me, but far enough where I could pump and not feel embarrassed. My dear friend Vanessa initially sat with me but then walked away to get a closer look at the finish line.
I felt scared again as I watched her walk away and realized that I forgot my cover at home. Eeek! Now what? I did the best that I could to put my breast shields on without exposing too much of myself. In fourteen minutes flat I finished pumping and managed to do so without flashing anyone. I would call that a success!!
Everyone at the run instantly made me comfortable and ready to tackle this race. I made my way to the start line and looked for my running boo, Dawn, who had agreed to pace me. While waiting for the race to start, it began to rain. I hate running in the rain! I remember hearing Dawn say, “Slow and steady wins the race." As we ran she would periodically ask me how I was doing and I would respond by saying “Okay”. I was so out of shape I barely muttered a few words at a time while running.
At times I felt like my heart beat was louder than her voice. My lungs were weak and I could tell because my breathing was not controlled. I knew if I wanted to finish this race strong I had to focus. On various corners of the race there were volunteers and spectators cheering us on, smiling and ringing cow bells with excitement. It lifted my spirits to have so much support from the community and runners alike.
Being a running nursing mother has its challenges. It’s far from and easy and most people don’t understand it if they have not had to experience it first-hand. I’ve had to pump in bathrooms stalls, cars, storage closets, on public transportation and anywhere else when duty calls.
What has helped me through this challenging time is the love and support I constantly receive from family, friends and sometimes even strangers. A few weeks ago, I was volunteering with New York Road Runners and met another volunteer who had recently started running. I excused myself as it was time to express milk and she asked if she could come with me and keep me company. Her simple gesture made that moment pumping in Central Park so much easier. I thanked her over and over again as we walked over to the park benches.
I often get messages from loved ones saying how I’m doing a great job and to keep up the good work. My friends, family and my amazing running community will never know how much their support means to me. Their words of encouragement help me get through the moments when I’ve felt like quitting. But because that one person smiled and said “Mish, you're doing amazing”, I kept going. Because they gave me a high five and said keep it up, I ran up that hill.
I attended a Monday night run a few weeks after the Harlem One Miler. Some of the other runners were surprised to learn that it was my first Monday Night Run with them. Throughout my run I struggled - my lungs were struggling for air and my legs felt heavy. I knew the run would be hard, but I showed up knowing I would get the support I so needed from my Harlem Run friends.
I was one of the last runners to finish. Everyone was standing in a line handing out high fives. I was not ashamed to be last. I was proud of myself for being just three months post-partum and out there running.
Nursing in public will always be a challenge. The world does not always agree with this method of feeding for one’s child. But with the love and support from my family and friends it has been much easier for me. They all stand strong with me and remind me that I am not alone. I have a huge support system that supports what I do for my daughter Madison and for myself. And for as long as I have their support, I will continue to be brave and run and nurse my beloved.