I am currently down for the count with my third bout of mastitis in Magpie's short two months of life. My left breast looks angry, the skin hot to the touch and reddened, extending up under my arm. I am achy and febrile. I am on antibiotics again (I will have taken more than 30 days of antibiotics for mastitis by the end of this round). Caring for Magpie at the moment is out of the question. Thank goodness for Will.
I never realized how debilitating these infections were prior to having Magpie. They last approximately two to three days, and I spike a high fever (~103-104) and have severe pain in the affected breast. It makes it very difficult to pump (but of course stopping in the midst of it is not an option because I would become engorged and only make the blockage situation worse). The intensity of symptoms means that I have had to ask for or hire help to care for Magpie each time. I don't know if I am particularly vulnerable to this type of infection for some anatomical reason, but it stinks.
The multiple episodes of mastitis (not to mention the multiple blocked ducts a week that I manage to clear prior to their developing into an infection) are just some of the many aspects of trying to give Magpie breast milk that have been a challenge. She has major problems with sucking, either from my breast or from a bottle, and so ours is, at least for now, an exclusive pumping relationship, and not an easy one.
Not how I thought it would be. And yet, so far at least, I can't give up on it. It seems so important to try to give her breast milk. Beyond the basic research on the subject (which on my more cynical days I might call almost propaganda), my personal reasons include my and my family's cancer history, my gestational diabetes history while carrying Magpie, and perhaps the fact that I and my siblings were not breastfed and have had some significant medical issues along the way (which of course we might have had anyway...who knows). I have the hope that I can offer Magpie some protections against these things by breastfeeding. Also that it will help me not develop type II diabetes (which after the GD I am at risk for) or breast cancer, which I am also at higher than usual risk for.
|Not sure if this is supposed to be encouraging or admonishing|
I tell myself that at least while I am on maternity leave, feeding and nurturing Magpie is my sole responsibility, and so it doesn't matter how hard it is. I tell myself that I went to great lengths to have her and that I want to give her "the best," no matter what. That perhaps to go an easier route would signify a lack of gratitude for her (some version of the "you made your bed, now lie in it" adage).
It boils down to another case of Mo's ridiculous persistence when all evidence points to stopping something (which of course has been reinforced in the past...most notably with the creation of Magpie herself). Or framed another way, it boils down to my intense focus on regret management. No matter the amount of acute suffering in the moment with the efforts to extract the milk from my breasts and get it into my beautiful daughter's body, I worry that if I stop "prematurely," I will look back later in her life and regret it. And what would constitute stopping prematurely for me? Prior to three months? Prior to six months? Prior to one year? I'm not sure, and honestly, I try not to think about it, because imagining going through this for any of those lengths of time feels undoable. So I don't look ahead, I just get through the next day of pumping and feeding. We're a one day at a time pumping and feeding family.
I also feel so aware of and grateful that I've been able to produce enough milk for Magpie to drink. So many of my friends and fellow bloggers have struggled mightily with this, having to supplement due to PCOS or insufficient glandular tissue or bad advice at the beginning of their attempts to breastfeed. That I am actually making what Magpie needs to eat (and some), is huge, particularly given the fact that she has never been able to latch on and that I didn't get started pumping until she was about 10 days old because of poor advice from the lactation consultants in the hospital after her birth. It feels selfish to squander this gift of milk we've been given when one of my dear friends pumped every three hours around the clock for nine long months to give her son 3 ounces of breast milk daily and the rest formula. She's a neuropsychologist (and knows her research) and felt it was that important to try to give him even a small amount of breast milk. I, on the other hand, am able to pump 3 ounces for each feeding, sometimes significantly more during the overnight hours. To just quit after working so hard - and being so lucky - to get to this point feels foolish.
This is tough, folks. Capital T Tough. And no one seems to talk about it. Instead, I read that breastfeeding is normal and natural and easier than formula feeding. I read Dr. Spock's advice that most women can successfully breastfeed if they give it a fair trial (i.e., if they just try hard enough). Well. Huh. I guess I'm not trying hard enough, because despite consultations with numerous professionals and 11 weeks of daily attempts, we are not breastfeeding and I am struggling mightily with exclusively pumping.
At the moment, I hate my breasts. I feel I am a prisoner to them. I am also extremely grateful for the milk they are producing. But who knew it would be so hard!
I'm sure when my fever passes, things won't seem as overwhelming. But this is where things stand today.
Off to pump again and then rest. Hoping this fever clears soon.
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