Mastitis And Me

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woman having chest painThere are a lot of things to worry about when you’re pregnant. Most of those involve how that baby is going to leave your body. I didn’t give a lot of thought to what would be going on with my body after giving birth, because I was too busy trying to master the art of the swaddle. And as far as breastfeeding was concerned, I was going to give it a try but I wasn’t hell bent on making it happen no matter what. Therefore, I prematurely dismissed my breasts as a cause for concern. Then, I got mastitis. And I prayed for death’s sweet release.

When I was told about mastitis in my childbirth class, I lumped it in with all the other bad things that could maybe happen but that I was going to choose not to worry about unless I needed to. My mother believes in being fully prepared for disasters — I prefer the adrenaline rush that comes with making quick, uninformed decisions. So it won’t come as a surprise to anyone that when breastfeeding didn’t work out and decided to quit pumping and move directly to formula, the idea of making this change gradually didn’t occur to me. I just stopped cold turkey so I could enjoy those forty extra minutes of sleep. And boy, did I hear about it from my breasts.

For those of you unfamiliar with it, mastitis is when your breast tissue gets infected. Tell you more? Okay! Mine happened as a result of clogged milk ducts, most likely brought on by my abrupt end to pumping. Here’s how this whole situation is described by

Mastitis is what they call it when tissue in your breast becomes painfully inflamed. (It generally affects one breast at a time.) The area may be red, sore, hard to the touch, or unusually warm. The swelling may or may not be caused by an infection. Signs of an infection include chills, a fever of 101 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, and fatigue.

Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeee. I didn’t even realize that there was anything wrong with me until my doctor made the diagnosis. I felt shitty 24-hours a day during that time, so no one particular agony stood out to me. She got one look at the pink, inflamed knots in my boobs and said, “Let’s get you on an antibiotic.” Huh? I thought crying in the shower was a given in new motherhood. I didn’t realize that it shouldn’t be because a droplet of water grazed my breast.

There were two parts of mastitis that were the absolute worst for me: the shower treatment, and taking off my bra. The shower treatment is one of the things my doctor asked me to do to help get rid of my clogged milk ducts. What you do is get in the shower, turn on the water as hot as you can take it, and then massage the knots in your breasts to help break them up.

Having a baby is a beautiful thing, y’all.

Trying to rub those knots out was, without a doubt, one of the most painful experiences of my life. It wasn’t always easy to convince myself to do it while my body screamed, “Why are we doing this to us?!” It was a dull, burning, white hot pain that I wouldn’t wish on my worst ene…well, maybe I would. But just for a day or two.

Taking off my bra was like moving heavy, expensive furniture. “Okay, easy…easy…let’s put them down slowly…slowly…shit! No! Too fast!” Am I the only woman who slept in my bras sometimes because I didn’t want to deal with the pain of taking them off? Because I did. A lot. And I am not ashamed.

So do I wish I had educated myself more on things like mastitis? No. If that hadn’t happened, some other awful shit would have. You can’t spend your pregnancy obsessing about all of the problems you might have, but maybe you shouldn’t forget that they’re out there, either.

Anybody else get mastitis? I welcome all horror stories below.

(Photo: Chris from Paris / Shutterstock)