I had big aspirations for this week. I’m usually full of energy and ready to tackle the week on Monday morning and this Monday was no exception. I had recipes in mind to test and photograph, grand plans for cleaning, and various tasks I hoped to accomplish.
After dropping Meghan off at school and putting Luke down for his nap, I already had one load of laundry in the washer and one in the dryer and a batch of “super healthy” brownies in the oven. (No, really. They are super healthy.)
Then I felt an all-too-familiar sore spot on my right breast. I figured it was another clogged milk duct, something I haven’t had in months now, and I cancelled my plans to workout during afternoon nap time and decided I’d rest instead. I thought if I drank some extra water, rested, and continued nursing, it would work itself out and I’d be fine.
Within an hour, I should have known that assessment was off. By this point I was so sore I couldn’t even button my jacket without wincing in pain, a headache was developing, and I had the chills. Somehow I was still holding out hope that it would pass.
Only by the grace of God did Tim happen to have a cancellation at work and came home for the afternoon. I tried to nap around one o’clock, but found myself unable to sleep. I had pains in my legs that made it feel like my matress was a stiff board and I could not get comfortable. Although I wasn’t sleeping, I couldn’t get up, either, and stayed in bed for 2 1/2 hours.
When I got up I had a fever and felt like I’d been hit by a train. My right breast was completely red on the underside with red streaks running up the sides, warm and hard to the touch, and extremely painful. The denial was over and I knew I had full-blown mastitis. I called my doctor, but was unable to get in for an appointment. Since this was my third bout of mastitis, though, the obgyn. was willing to write me a prescription for antibiotics and do a follow-up appointment in the morning.
I started the antibiotics at 6:30 Monday evening, so I had taken three doses by the time of my appointment on Tuesday morning. My breast was still very red and painful.
The doctor’s touch was not easy to endure. She was concerned about the red area and how hard it felt, fearing an abscess could have developed. She ordered me to have an ultrasound on my breast that day to check.
Tim had to rearrange his work schedule so I could go to the hospital and get the ultrasound. Luckily, the ultrasound showed only very inflamed tissue, but no abscess. The one bright spot in my day.
Now, on Wednesday, I’m feeling better but still tired. My breast is still a little red, tender, and slightly hard. Luke’s continued to breastfeed through it all, although he doesn’t seem to prefer my right side as much now.
Mastitis is common when babies start nursing less or sleeping through the night. This has been the opposite of what Luke’s been doing, so that’s definitely not the cause of my mastitis. A more likely explanation is that my body’s immunity defenses are down due to his night wakings and my lack of sleep. Fun.
For the last week, Luke’s not been sleeping well at night and I’ve analyzed every possible scenario that’s causing these multiple night wakings and prolonged times of being awake (he’s not just nursing and going back to sleep), but nothing I’ve done seems to make a difference.
I’ll admit, my writing this post is somewhat self-indulgent. It’s so easy to get down during the difficult times, and writing about it is therapeutic. I feel better already just writing the story out. It doesn’t seem so bad. I can do this.
Nobody said breastfeeding would be easy. Then again, I never expected it to be this hard. From being the sole person to wake with baby in the night, to the food intolerances, to clogged ducts and mastitis, it’s been quite a ride this time around.
But when I see this face and hold this baby in my arms, I know I would do anything for him.
If being able to give him breast milk means enduring sleepless nights and painful infections, I’ll do it. I know this time is short and won’t last forever.
I can’t say how long I’ll continue breastfeeding Luke. Before he was born I would have confidently answered that question with until he’s 2. Now I’m just focusing on making it until he’s 1 and then we’ll see. I’m taking it month by month now and trying to enjoy the precious moments of quiet feeding times I have with him and not dwell so much on the difficult aspects.