I am a graduate of the University of “My Boobs Fed A Human” and hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Breast Feeding. In order to graduate, I had to enroll in classes such as “Breast Pump 101” and “Your Breast and You: How Not To Get Eaten Alive By A Small Human”. There were all nighters and field work was done in parking lots, restaurant bathrooms and under the cloak of darkness in movie theaters. The instructors for the classes were demanding, needy and hard to please. Course work was constant and the workload was insufferable. I graduated, barely, by the skin of my dry, cracked, beet red nipple.
To say breast feeding was a challenging experience for me is the biggest understatement of the new millennium. I was ill prepared for the demands of the whole shebang and, if I’m being frank, I was just plain weirded out by the shapes my ta-tas were capable of taking at the helm of a child’s mouth. For some women, breast feeding comes naturally. For me, breast feeding made me feel like a cow with size 36DD udders.
Adding insult to injury, two weeks into my breastfeeding odyssey with my son, I came down with what will henceforth be known as “The Worst Case Of Mastitis In The History Of The World” (because that’s such a mouthful to type, I will be referring to the aforementioned mastitis as “Mastitis From Hell” or MFH for short). Fever of 102? Yep! Boob the size of a cantaloupe? You betcha! The inability to raise my left arm above my head? Bingo! I was septic and hormonal. You can imagine how much fun I was (Note: best not to ask my husband about that….he’s blocked it out to preserve his sanity).
My case of MFH landed me in the hospital for a week and said hospital was also where my husband was completing his family practice residency and chief resident. I was the lucky gal who got to show her tomato boob to just about everyone who walked in the room. You don’t know awkward until you’ve had to disrobe for a room of residents that you’ve hung out socially with in local bars.
To this day, I still can’t look some of them in the eye. It got to the point that Housekeeping would come to clean my room and I’d start to take off my gown.
The MFH bought me a PICC line (a long term IV line inserted into your arm that is floated directly to your heart….yeah. It was awesome), six weeks of continous IV antibiotics, a visiting nurse once a week and a lovely portable IV pump that I had to carry with me at all times (on top of the infant carrier, diaper bag and my purse….awesome, I tell you!). A note about the CADD pump I dragged with me everywhere: I was usually pretty aware of it except, of course, during the approximately 32 minutes a night I got to sleep in between feedings. It was around week 5 that I finally started remembering to actually pick it up off my nightstand to take it with me when getting up for a feeding. Up until then, it was a regular occurrence for me to get out of bed to the sound of my screaming child and realize halfway down the hall that I was not only tangled in IV tubing but that the pump was banging all over the hardwood floor. Good times. Goooood times, I tell you.
My favorite part of the MFH experience was when I got to have a needle aspiration/biopsy of the offending clogged milk ducts. Picture me and my red boob in all it’s glory, my 4 week old son in the stroller, a nurse and a doc in a tiny room. Of course, immediately upon seeing his meal ticket exposed, Fruit Loop #1 declared mutiny because I was denying him a meal (boobs, boobs everywhere but not a drop to drink…). Needless to say, the room was tense. One would think this story would end with a quick and painless biopsy. One would be wrong.
The needle got stuck. The needle GOT. STUCK.
Let that sink in for a moment. Needle. Stuck. IN MY BOOB.
And not a “Let me put my foot on the table for stability and yank harder” stuck. A “Hmm. We might have to amputate” stuck. Well, okay. Not really. But stuck none the less. And stuck in my boob. With a screaming newborn.
When a physician says to you, “Wait here, I’m going to get my colleague”, you know things have gone from bad to HELL (and, incidentally, WHERE THE HELL DID HE THINK I’D BE GOING???). As I waited in the tiny room trying to make small talk with the nurse above my son’s murderous screams, all I could think of was that you just can’t make this schtuff up.
Finally, after an eternity (Note to doctors: don’t make a postpartum woman with a needle stuck in her boob wait. It’s not nice), the head of the practice came in, assessed the situation and said, “Huh. Well, now, this is the weirdest way I’ve ever been introduced to someone”. I resisted the urge to say, “Huh. Not me….”. Long story short, he pulled, I avoided amputation, my son got to eat and I added one more doctor to the list of doctors at cocktail parties I can no longer look in the eye.
My odyssey with the MFH, as trying, ridiculous and exhausting as it was, did not stop me from breast feeding my son until he was nine months old (he was five months old when it cleared up so I figured I was owed some “normal” months of bonding). Due to complications from the MFH, I made it all of six days with my daughter. While I did not receive my Masters Degree in Breast Feeding, I have since earned a Bachelor’s in Toddler Potty Training and an Associates in Toddler Time Outs. But those are topics for another blog…..
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