Let’s face it: People love to judge other people, especially on the Internet. So when I heard about the photo of runner Anna Young pumping breast milk during the recent Revel Big Cottonwood Half Marathon in Utah going viral, I was ready to go to bat for her. I was fired up, immediately thinking, “Good for her!” and coming up with a list of bodily fluids people expel during races, in her defense: Snot rockets, check. Loogie-hocking, yup. Blood, via chafed nipples? Lots. I had a growing list of totally natural, mid-race bodily occurrences all lined up to defend the 27-year-old Utah runner’s personal choice to pump breast milk during a short walking break at mile 8 of the race. (And by the way, it was a race in which she in 1:44:36 and held a 7:58-minute pace, just five months postpartum.)
And even then, with my list of bodily fluids regularly expelling at races, did I think, “These things don’t even compare to pumping breast milk, as far as acceptability goes, because she’s a new mom.”
New moms face challenges unlike anyone else in a race…unlike anyone in life in general. It’s physically and emotionally taxing to be pregnant. It is a major, wild undertaking to have a baby (after having two, I am still floored at how the feat of childbirth happens every quarter of a second throughout the world). And caring for a newborn rocks both mom and dad in ways they never could have imagined, both good and bad.
And if you’re a runner—or athlete of any sort—before becoming pregnant, you’re just dying to feel a little bit like yourself after giving birth. You miss running, and your runner identity away from being a breast-feeding mom. The physical, emotional, mental power you get from running is something some new moms crave with all their being.
So the brave Ms. Anna Young had more than one-up on the snot rocket-blowing runner. And I was ready to go to battle in support of her.
But then I started poking around the web, and found that she had almost 10,000 likes on the photo of her pumping breast milk during the race on Sept. 10. She’s had a breast pump company publicly offer to send her free product. She’s had legions of folks supporting her, praising her, rallying behind her. Her story has been covered by CNN, the Today Show, even People magazine. The international press even picked up the story, with an Irish publication, the Irish Mirror, running a headline that read “’Inspirational’ half-marathon runner pumped breast milk for her five-month-old baby DURING the race.”
There may also be some naysayers. There always are.
But instead of a rant, what I really want to say is, “Wow” and, “Good job, society.” Seems we’ve come a long way since a photo of someone breastfeeding drew more sneers and criticism than praise and awareness. And moms, dads, grandparents, non-parents, make like Anna Young, and do what you gotta do to get through a race…to do what makes you happy, running or otherwise. You might be surprised that you get more “likes” than criticisms.