The Angry Boob

WhatIWore: Last week was, by far, the worst week of my life. I had a severe infection that ended up in surgery and five days of hospitalization. I don’t want to write this post as a pity party, but because my symptoms were abnormal and when I googled the living hell out of what I was going through and found nothing, I wanted to share in hopes that no other woman will ever go through what I did. I won’t spare the gory details, so if that’s not your thing, (or you’re my dad or a future employer!), scroll on down to an outfit post.

This whole thing started three weeks ago when i woke up with two super painful lumps on my breast and hurt way too bad to let baby latch. I switched to pumping, called and left messages for two different lactation consultants and thought I might have swollen or enflamed Montgomery glands.  Both nursing and pumping were agony so I resorted to hand expression, but couldn’t keep up and my breast became very engorged. Through the whole week I did everything I could to reduce the swelling and wailed in agony through trying to nurse off of that side. The breast was tender and a little red, but the rest of my body was ok. No other symptoms. I was going on daily walks and decided I felt recovered  enough from birth to start going to the gym again the following week. By Thursday I finally got some help and through lymphatic massage, got the swelling totally down and was back to nursing Felix, but I still had four suspicious bumps (about the size of a lentil) on that breast.

The following Wednesday at Nurse and Chat I had the LC take a look and she immediately diagnosed these as plugged ducts. She gave me some pointers (hot compresses, massage, nursing frequently) and we were able to get one out that morning. I went home feeling really hopeful to get everything back to normal. I followed a routine diligently waking up every 2-3 hours at night and nursing what felt like all day long.

Then on Saturday, it hit me. I felt like lightning bolts were shooting through my breast. I was in complete agony and put in a call to my doctor’s office. My midwife got back to me in minutes and wrote a perscription for an antibiotic and painkillers, thinking I might have mastitis, an infection in the breast. She told me to call her in the morning if my condition worsened.

In tears, I texted her around 7am, we followed up with a call and set up a meeting at the hospital for noon. Up until then I had been able to pump on that breast all night, but got less and less milk each time.  When she saw me, she knew right away I needed an ultrasound and feared I had developed an abscess.  I was admitted to the post partum ward of the hospital so Felix and Adam could be with me (baby is exclusively breast fed and I was able to feed him entirely on my right side when it was too painful on the left). I also had bloodwork done to check my white blood cell counts.

The ultrasound didn’t show an abscess but they wanted to get me on IV antibiotics right away, which meant I was going to stay at least two days. The pain I felt at that time made natural labor seem like a massage. It felt like someone had cut off my nipple with dull craft scissors. It was excrutiating pain, even on a high dose of Norco, so they switched me to Percoset. Because they were waiting on the ultrasound results (to possibly to into surgery that night), I couldn’t eat for the majority of the day. When I finally got the ok, I was ravenous so I really went for it and one of the nurses ordered me a bunch of comfort food that wasn’t on the normal cafeteria menu. 

Unfortunately, the cocktail of meds I was on caused me severe nausea, so I kept getting sick and couldn’t hold anything down, but still needed to take my medicine. We tried to figure out if it was the antibiotics or the pain killers that made me so sick and ended up going back to the Norco (which I also had after Felix was born). It was absolute hell. I finally got a fever and the aches and pains associated with mastitis that night. I was freezing cold, weak, nauseous and a general mess. Luckily we were able to supplment Felix donor milk during this time, but that led to another problem - a super swollen and engorged left breast.

Every few hours during the day, a lactation consultant helped me to pump and massage my super angry boob, which became meaner and more mad every day. 

On the fourth day in the hospital, the antibiotics caused the infection to coalesce into an abscess, so back to ultrasound to get a clear picture of what we were working with and off to surgery for an I+D (incision and drainage). It ended up being about a golf ball sized mass, and a drain was inserted to help the fluids escape.

And that’s where I am now. I have what looks like a straw sticking out of my boob, I’m still encouraged to nurse on that side and the wound leaks breastmilk 24/7. I saw my surgeon yesterday and he told me it has to stay in for at least another week, maybe two.  I’m so passionate about breastfeeding, but my supply has been seriously compromised so I right now I can just hope for the best. I know my other side will ramp up to make enough to feed the baby and he’s gaining weight (although a little more slowly), so fingers crossed.

I’m still taking oral antibiotics, pain killers, and have added in lecithan. I’m eating yogurt to keep some good bacteria in my system. I feel better each day, and can’t wait until I’m back to normal again. 

When I was researching my symptoms online, I couldn’t find anything about mastitis without the fever and achiness, so when I consulted with people over the phone, they didn’t think it had progressed that far, but one nurse in the hospital (my favorite) thinks I’d actually had mastitis for a few weeks. We still aren’t sure if it was the clogged ducts or some other bacteria that caused the infection (Felix has never latched really well on that side and that could have been a major factor). I guess we’ll never know. The redness was the only indicator and I wish I had gone in sooner. I never, ever, want to be in the hospital like that again. 

I had my phone with me by my hospital bed and I just want all of you who emailed, sent fb messages or commented on instagram or facebook that your notes and stories meant so much to me. I felt so hopeless and afraid and evenutally I’ve been getting stronger and stronger (although still on bed/couch rest). It’ll all be over soon and I can finally get back to just being a parent.

And finally, speaking of parenting, what would I do without my husband? He has been a saint over the past week - caring for Felix full time, sleeping at the hospital with me all of those nights, doing all of the laundry, grocery shopping and cooking, changing my bandages, administering my pills at the right times and just being a loving, kind man and supporting me emotionally. He’s been everything to me over the past week and a half and totally living up the “in sickness and in health” promise we made to each other when we got married. I am such a lucky woman to have him.

Now… I have a smiling baby to go play with!