Being a working mom is one of the most complicated, yet rewarding jobs there is. Trying to figure out how to both meet the needs of a child, or multiple, along with the expectations of one’s employer can bring great stress, and sometimes, complications. Dearica Hamby knows that all too well.
The WNBA champion and two-time All-Star, who joined the Los Angeles Sparks at the top of 2023, recently gave birth to her second child. A month later, she started putting in the work, physically and mentally, to get back on the floor in time for the beginning of the new season, which started on May 19. It hasn’t been easy, but Hamby’s been determined to be at her best.
“Every day is different and I have to be patient with myself, but I know my body doesn’t want to sit around and wait,” she tells ESSENCE. “I’ve never missed a season so I’m not going to start now.”
Integral to her return has been support. She’s received a great deal of it, including from her mother, her teammates —and from her breast pump. While on the go, Hamby’s been pumping to provide breast milk for her newborn, son Legend. The wearable Willow 3.0 pump, specifically, as well as the brand as a whole, have been a great help in that effort.
“Using my Willow pump has been a game changer,” she says, noting that she pumped with her firstborn, daughter Amaya, but initially had some struggles due to stress while breastfeeding with her son. Then she tried the latest pump from the brand. “It lets me pump on the go, in between practices, before games, at home, wherever and whenever I need to. Not only that, but the company truly stands for what I believe in. They support working moms with tons of different resources like the What the PUMP Act Guide so any mom can know her rights and advocate for herself as she’s going back to work. Willow also provides resources for businesses so they understand their responsibilities to support breastfeeding and pumping parents as they return to work.”
Moms knowing their rights and advocating for themselves as they attempt to return to work is something Hamby is passionate about. Her own experience inspired that, and made some headlines. She previously played for the Las Vegas Aces, winning a championship under coach and former WNBA star Becky Hammon last year. Months later, Hamby was traded to the Sparks in January, while pregnant, and shared that she was told she was being traded because “I wouldn’t be ready and we need bodies.” In a public Instagram message speaking to the news, she said that she was “heartbroken” not because she simply had been traded, but because she was “lied to, bullied, manipulated, and discriminated against” while attempting to push herself, with child, for her team. She also stated that “disgusting comments” were made to her by an individual who, following the league’s complete investigation, would be identified as Hammon.
“The unprofessional and unethical way that I have been treated has been traumatizing. To be treated this way by an organization, BY WOMEN who are mothers, who have claimed to ‘be in these shoes,’ who preach family, chemistry, and women’s empowerment is disappointing and leaves me sick to my stomach,” she wrote at the time.
The WNBA suspended Hammon for two games at the start of the season for violating its policy on respect in the workplace and decided the Aces would lose a first-round pick in the 2025 draft. While she doesn’t speak on that situation in depth now, Hamby does say that she is glad she spoke up about what she was experiencing.
“I know I made the right decision for myself and my family, but it was not easy,” she shares in retrospect. “While my journey to the Sparks may not have been what I planned, I’m beyond grateful my son is here, happy and healthy, and that’s what is most important.”
Granted, the move to LA came at a tough time, but she’s thankful for the warm welcome from her team and coaches.
“The support from the LA Sparks has been what has made this switch and transition possible for me. I’m surrounded by good people and they are constantly embracing me,” she says. “You play better when you are around people and players that care about you, and who are enjoying each other’s presence.”
She also expressed her gratitude to her mom, who stepped in to help her with hands-on support as she made the move, returned to the court, and carved out time to pump milk.
“Right now my home looks very different than it did in Vegas, as everything was so last minute, but I’m able to enjoy every moment of it because my mom has been such a huge help. She’s made everything so much easier for me, and it really speaks to the village of support moms need to be successful in their feeding journeys and returns to work,” she says.
Hamby shared her thoughts with us while taking a brief break from caring for her babies, using her Willow, and hustling up and down the court as the new season forges on. She knows she wouldn’t be able to do it all without her village, and spends any moment she has off the court and not on the road with her kids. But overall, she is happy to be back, thankful for the support at work in LA that makes an almost impossible balancing act feel doable. And she’s happiest to show her kids, and the world, that you can be a mom and go after your career goals — at the same time.
“A big reason why my partnership with Willow is so important is because it takes courage to understand and speak up about your rights as a new parent and to transition back to work while breastfeeding, and Willow is helping through their intuitive products and mission to support all moms,” she says. “It wasn’t until I had Legend that I really felt I knew enough to advocate for myself and other moms in the league, and it’s critical that I stand up for myself to prioritize his needs as well as my family’s.”
“Unfortunately, our society and work culture perpetuate ‘mom guilt’ as they go back to work, or making moms feel like they can’t both parent and provide,” adds Hamby. “It’s a false choice, and I’m proud to show just how strong moms are and to support other mothers going back to work. Being a mom and doing what I love is really special.”