Thursday, February 07, 2008

mammary misery

Super Tuesday was anything but super for me. I have returned to the land of the living to tell about my 36-hour bout filled with pain, chills and lots of time spent horizontally.

When I woke up Tuesday morning I felt hopeful and inspired at the reality of my 6:30 am gym date with my pregnant friend, Stephanie. The workout session went as usual- lots of movement, but even more talking. What do we speak about? If a topic exists, you better believe it is touched on during our 45- 50 minute encounter every morning- hat day's Primary Election, the new evidence in the Natalee Holloway case, heartburn during pregnancy, guilt about consuming excessive amounts of chocolate, my friend's upcoming move (yes, sadly, they are returning to sunny Southern California in March...) and anything and everything related to toddlers.

As I began my run on the treadmill, I could feel that something just wasn't right "inside my sport's bra" (this is to avoid the "b-----" word for the sake of any of my male reader's, my brother included). I hadn't even ever been this sore during those first few weeks of milk regulation over the postpartum period. It hurt. Only one, but nevertheless, it hurt.

I had to (sadly) cut my run short and felt as if my condition worsened by the minute during my three-minute drive home. I'm sure by the time I walked in the house at 7:30 am I looked like something pretty sad. Sore, achy, chilled, fatigued.

By 9:30, while still in my gym clothes and un-showered, I threw in the towel. Curled in a ball on the sofa ready to fall asleep, I quickly sat up, read my children the riot act-
"Everyone stay downstairs with me", "Nobody play with water, the stapler or scissors", "No painting, fixing your own food or googling anything Sophia"
and resumed my fetal position. It wasn't looking good.

I drifted in and out of sleep all morning and received a 20 minute bout of revival just long enough to prepare lunch and put Elias down for his nap. Fhew. Now only two to keep at bay.

Mike returned home at about 2:30 pm to find me in pretty bad shape. He didn't say much, but the look on his face said enough. He knew I was hurting and would do just about anything needed to help me help myself (and the children).

At this point, I was starting to make some mental connections about the pain in my breast and my "flu-like" symptoms. Surely they couldn't be two separate events. Surely more, it couldn't be what I though it could be.

The whole day passed and my nighttime I thought I should surely die and very creepy and sudden death- in my gym clothes, with one swollen breast and a really messy side ponytail.

I shivered my way to sleep that night. I secretly planned how we would arrange for middle-of-the-night childcare so that Mike could drive me to the ER.

Well, morning came and I was still alive. The pain was still there, but I believe I had more a will to live at that point (and the sound of my husband saying, "CALL YOUR MIDWIFE NOW!!!!!!!!!". I did just that and after a day and a half of writhing in pain, countless amounts of ibuprofen and time spent slowly cooking myself under layers of quilts I received the call-back from one of midwives confirming my hunch. I had mastitis.

MASTITIS? How in the world could a non-nursing woman have mastitis? Oh, it is quite possible. I was told that any woman who has ever produced breastmilk can suffer from mastitis at any point even after weaning.

In my head, it was eons since I had last nursed Elias. When I tallied up the days since weaning, it had been a mere 40 day span since my darling toddler had dined on his favorite cuisine.

I know, I know. Most of you probably think that this weaning event happened sometime in the summer of 2007. Well, it never lasted. He was really desperate and I was even more desperate (to sleep that was).

Mastitis? This was certainly some kind of Murphy's Law episode. I had successfully nursed all three of my children for an extended period of time without so much as a cracked nipple, a painful latch-on, leaking, or much engorgement. With a whopping 52 months of cumulative time spent breastfeeding I was just NOW getting mastitis? This couldn't be possible.

"Start the antibiotics tonight. Take two even. If you don't feel better within 24 hours call me and let me know. Then we may start thinking something else", my midwife stated kindly over the phone. That was it? A few pills and I would be on the road to recovery? This was too good to be true! That was all I had to hear to take that much-needed shower and get myself over to the Target pharmacy to pickup my little plastic bottle of heaven.

The description on the pharmacy information sheet stated that my pills would be "a Swedish-orange, oblong-shaped pill". Oh, doesn't that sound pretty! I had never heard of Swedish-orange. I was intrigued. Oh yes! Swedish orange. Coral really. But yes, so pretty; so sunny and optimistic. Just what I needed.

I did take the two pills in one sitting that night and prayed for God to take the pain from me.

I awoke this morning with a new outlook. Things were looking, and feeling pretty fantastic. In fact I woke up first (I am sorely spoiled with a husband who typically wakes up with the children, brews an amazing pot of coffee and then gently rowses me at about 8 o'clock) and prepared a pancake breakfast in honor of my recovery. "Are you feeling better Mommy?", I was asked as Sophia tip-toed down the stairs. "Yes honey. Better. Much better thank you!". For you see, she was my nurse on the first horrible and swollen night; my temperature-taker, quilt piler, phone-call maker ("Um hi, Stephanie, this is Sophia. My mom has a fever and won't be able to join you at the gym in the morning. Okay. Call me when you can."), and voice of comfort. Oh-so touching.

And so here I stand. I am feeling quite good. A bit sore still in the "affected area", but only a hint of the pain that I suffered with for those dreaded 36 hours.

I suppose I could sigh and rub my temples and go to my calendar and cross off important things that I didn't get to do. But I won't. Because as I look back on those blink-of-an-eye (eternally speaking) moments that I spent "not living life" in the worlds' eyes (and sadly, mine at times too), I realize just how much living went on in this home during that time. Time when my children just played and played and cooperated and played and helped each other do things like climb stairs and reach granola bars and pull their corner of the fort-quilt tighter. Time when my daughter wrote down (in her own way of spelling!) a grocery list of items for Mike to gather at the grocery store ("jouise", perhaps this is the French way of spelling "juice". Our French lessons may be paying off after all). A time when my husband was oh-so attentive to my needs, the needs of our children and home. A time when my daughter and I lay next to each other in my bed as I told her stories (using every bit of my energy, so as not to appear to affected and desperate) about when I was young and how important it is to look at people's hearts before their faces.

It really wasn't so bad, mastitis. It was one last reminder of what grew my children and how nicely they have grown into our little happy family.


Kathryn said...

Yep. I knew you were going to say that was what it turned out to be. But seeing how this is my first time to your blog, I thought you were still breastfeeding. I had NO IDEA you could get Mastisis after you have weaned already. WTH?
I had Mastisis. It is nasty. I didn't go on antibiotics though. I was told to take lots of pain medications and rest (HA! with a toddler and newborn!) and massage. Anyway, it was crappy.
So glad you are feeling better now.

Thank you for visiting my blog. I'm so glad you did!

Jackie said...

ok, only you could find the silver lining in a bout of illogical mastitis... ;)

Charles & Rebecca said...

Hope your feeling better. Oh and by the way it might have taken me a while to figure it out (I never was good at playing Hangman) but the word was....BREAST! Thanks for your consideration but I wanted to prove we men can handle it-maybe not Seth but I'm working on it with him!

Julie Pippert said...

Glad you are better from that!

Make sure, please, to get a mammogram now that you've weaned. :)

Another little known thing ( ;) )is that bre@sts are ALWAYS mammary glands, which means those ducts are always there. Milk production is hormonally created, so later life when hormones and body parts alter, one might get a little mammary production if one is out of whack, so to speak.

Amanda L. said...

Horrible. Horrible. But I did laugh out loud at your telling Sophia not to google anything!

paige said...

Was nice to hear your story. Glad that you only had to endure your pain and suffering for 36hrs. I had my last baby 20 yrs. ago and never breast fed and just recently had 2 bouts with mastitis. I unfortunately was not as lucky as you. My mastitis was extremely severe landing me in the hospital for a week and lasting me over 2 weeks on 2 antibiotics, with a breast left raw from the skin peeling off in pieces and red and hot like a 3rd degree burn had gotten to it. The pain was so excruciating I was on morpheine. The chills and fever so high I was almost delusional. I had blisters that had to be drained with green infected pus coming out of them. The nurses were changing the dressings everyday and scraping off the dead skin, just like they do a burn victim. Again it was like having a 3rd degree burn. Absolutely excruciating pain. And I've never breast-fed either of my kids, who are 22 and 20. How I developed mastitis twice now, I will never know, neither does my doctor. It will forever be a mystery!! Frustrated!! Paige