Monday, April 06, 2009

Mastitis Sucks

So yeah, I have mastitis, and in case you were wondering, it totally sucks.

Last week I attempted to nurse Harrison on several occasions, and a few times, it actually worked a little. I had originally made the attempt because Harrison was hungry around the same time I was scheduled to pump, so I thought that I would just give nursing a shot, just to see what would happen and maybe save myself the hassle of pumping and cleanup, etc. To my surprise, Harrison latched right on and nursed for a good ten minutes and then we finished up with some breast milk that I had stored in the fridge. I tried again several more times last week, but I never had the success that I did during that initial attempt. Either Harry decided he didn't want to work hard and wanted a bottle instead, or his inability to form a good latch at the breast proved to be way too painful for me and I abandoned the attempt after a minute or two of pain.

On Friday, Aaron took the day off so we could go car shopping, and I packed up my pump and all of my pumping paraphernalia to take with us, as I was certain we would be gone most of the day and I would need to pump a couple of times while we were gone. Unfortunately, we decided to test drive a car right around one of the times I was supposed to pump and I accidentally left the pump in our car, so I quickly became uncomfortably engorged (and cranky) and didn't have an opportunity to pump again until we got home a few hours later. By that time, I was so engorged that I had leaked all over the front of my shirt (luckily I wore layers so no one was able to tell) but I felt much, much better after I pumped for a while.

Saturday came and I was so, so excited because that was the day that Aaron and I had planned for our long-awaited getaway to Door County. We were going to drop the kids off at my parents' house and then head up to a bed and breakfast for the night. We planned on doing a winery tour and eating a nice, leisurely dinner at a romantic restaurant and then spend the night drinking wine in our room's whirlpool. So, Saturday morning I got up nice and early even though I was feeling REALLY tired and run down, packed everything up, and got ready to go. I decided to pump one more time before we left, and I noticed that my left breast looked really swollen and it was extremely tender, but I thought the pain and swelling would go away after pumping. It didn't. Before we left the house, I grabbed a gel pack that I used to help with clogged ducts, tossed it in the microwave to warm it up, and stuck it in my bra in the hopes that it would help.

We had to make a stop at Target on the way out of Milwaukee and I noticed on the car ride to Target that my back was feeling really achy, but I chalked that up to hunching over when I feed Harrison, so I thought nothing of it. While Aaron ran into the store to pick up what we needed, I stayed in the car with the kids and called my mom to let her know we were on our way. I mentioned to her that my boob hurt really bad, and she asked if I was feeling sick at all. I said, "Not really," but mentioned my achy back and my mom asked if I had a fever. I said that I didn't think so, but that I could check my temp when we got to my parents' house. My mom suggested giving my doctor a call if things got worse, and then I told her we would be seeing her within an hour and a half.

In the twenty minutes or so from the time that I hung up with my mom until the time Aaron finally finished up inside Target, I went from feeling mildly achy to feeling downright shitty. My entire body ached and I was starting to feel some chills. I also took a peek at my breast and noticed that it had long, thin red streaks on it that weren't there before. I asked Aaron to feel my forehead to see if I felt warm to him, and he said that yes, I felt warm. I was worried about what this might mean (I had a feeling it might mean mastitis) so I called the clinic and had the OB/GYN on call paged and we continued our trek to my parents' house.

As the trip passed, my condition rapidly deteriorated. My entire body ached so much that I couldn't find a comfortable position in my seat and I was shaking even though the heat was on in the car. The OB/GYN that was filling in for Dr. Fab finally called me back about an hour after I had him paged, and I ran through my symptoms with him. He determined that my symptoms definitely sounded like mastitis, and even though he hadn't physically examined me, he wanted me to start on antibiotics as soon as I could, especially since I was traveling out of town. I gave the doctor the address of the Walgreen's pharmacy that is near to my parents' house so he could call in a script for me, and he told me to pump my breasts every few hours for the next several days to help clear up the infection but to dump the milk for the next couple of days, just in case.

By the time we arrived at my parents, my teeth were chattering from the chills I was experiencing and I felt sick enough that I considered going home. I snuck into my parents' bathroom to take my temperature, and it was 103. I quickly took some extra-strength Tylenol and grabbed my pump to try to relieve the pain I was feeling in my breasts. Much to my dismay, the pumping itself was extremely painful and I got almost no milk out of my left breast. After I had finished pumping, my mom tried to convince me to call the bed and breakfast to see if we could postpone our reservations, because, as she told me, a woman can get very sick from mastitis. I told her no, that the bed and breakfast had a 72-hour cancellation policy and we would have to pay for the room anyway and that I would probably feel better anyway once I started taking the antibiotics.

We ate a quick lunch with my parents and the kids (I had to force myself to eat because I had no appetite at all) and then Aaron and I left for Door County, stopping at Walgreen's on the way to pick up my medicine and some more Tylenol for the trip. Mercifully, the Tylenol that I had taken at my parents' house kicked in shortly thereafter and the two-hour ride from my parents' to the bed and breakfast was at least bearable and I was able to enjoy some nice quiet conversation with Aaron.

Our time in Door County was fine...the bed and breakfast was beautiful (and quiet, since peak season doesn't start until May), we had a very nice dinner at a quiet bistro, and we visited a lovely winery and tasted some fabulous wine (hey, since I had to pump and dump anyway, I figured I could have a few glasses of wine), but I felt pretty crappy all weekend. I was extremely tired and felt like I had a bad case of influenza all weekend. By the time we got home last evening, I was so wiped out that all I could do was sprawl out on the couch with Harrison laying on my chest and whine to Aaron that I wanted to go to bed.

The worst thing about this is that I have been faithfully pumping every three hours since Harrison was born and now I feel like I am back at square one. Every time I pump it is excrutiating and now it appears that both of my breasts are affected, so even though I pump for twenty minutes or more, I get less than an ounce of milk from each breast. And in the meantime, Harrison's appetite is more ravenous than ever--he has been averaging five ounces a feeding and with the way I am going, it will take me an entire day to pump what he needs for one meal.

I can't figure out what caused this...from the research I have done, it could be one of two things. It could be because I went several hours without pumping on Friday, or it could be because I nursed Harrison several times last week and the bacteria he has in his mouth made it through cracks in my nipples and caused the infection (this seems likely to me because I did have a couple of painful cracks in my nipples late last week, probably because Harrison never really latched on correctly while he was nursing). Either way, it sucks big time. The pumping hurts so much that I want to quit all together but then again, I feel selfish for thinking that way. This is the worst that I have felt, emotionally speaking, since Harrison was born.

I see Dr. Fab for my six-week postpartum check on Wednesday...we'll see what she has to say.


Carrie said...

I am so sorry this happened to you. I have never been filled in on the full details of mastitis and it is much worse than I'd imagined.
Please don't blame yourself for going a few hours without pumping -- I've done that plenty of times without suffering ill effects or maybe I'd get a blocked duct now and then. You were just very unlucky.
And no matter what decision you make about continuing to pump/attempt nursing, don't feel guilty. We all know that you want what is best for your baby, and I had really hoped it would work out for you for BOTH of your sakes. If you decide to continue, great, if you decide not to, I think the info we've both read recently shows that it's not THE determining factor in a kid's health, not by a long shot. Anyway, you have already done a GREAT job getting him through the preemie period and all the pumping you've already gone through is more than many/most women could have mustered.