Welcome to Part 3 of the saga that became my 4 month-long entry into breastfeeding. I left you yesterday at the point where a lump had appeared in my left breast.
Any breastfeeding mum will know that your breasts will feel funny and lumpy sometimes, but this was different. This lump was hard, like a golf ball and would not shrink once I had fed. I began to get really concerned and called my GP immediately to book an appointment.
With a quick examination, my doctor believed it to be a cyst as I had no pain or redness but he sent me for an ultrasound that afternoon just to be sure. At the ultrasound, my sonographer was pretty certain she was looking at an abscess, not a cyst. My lymph nodes were swollen hinting at an infection and sure enough, upon my visit to my GP again the next day he declared that an abscess was the culprit. It had most likely resulted from the touch of mastitis I had when I first came home from hospital. We both commented on how odd it was for me to have no tenderness or redness, but he put me on antibiotics and sent me home with instructions to come back in a week to see if the abscess has receded.
The day after my GP appointment (Saturday), my breast started to become uncomfortable to feed from. Then it became very uncomfortable. Then it went red. And by Sunday, I was in tears of agony and the only thing that made it less worse was to grit my teeth and have Will feed from the afflicted breast. My God, I had never been in so much pain. I called the GP immediately on Monday morning and went in to see him right away. The abscess infection had most likely spread to the rest of my breast and it would need to be drained. So, off to hospital I went.
Speaking to my surgeon, he announced two options. The first less-invasive option was to drain the abcess with a needle under ultrasound and a local anesthetic. Should that not be succesful however, I would require surgery to flush out the cavity and have a drain put in place. This involved cutting into the breast tissue and possibly milk ducts and would carry a much more involved recovery period. So I was sent down to the see the sonographer again.
Lying on the examination table, the doctor performing the drainage gave me the heeby jeebies when I saw the needle he was going to stick in my boob. I was horrified. But for no reason as it turned out; they drained the abscess without a hitch. Next I had my first experience with intravenous antibiotics, flucloxacillin to be precise. It was like someone was injecting fire into my vein after which Mike Tyson swung a right hook into my arm. No fun – and they said I had to have it twice a day! **Groan**
So three days later I was chilling out in hospital being subjected to torture every 12 hours, when my surgeon gave me the bad news. The needle drainage hadn’t worked. The abscess had refilled with fluid and he would have to cut my boob open. I was concerned, but I didn’t care about the cutting part anymore after he told me that I wouldn’t have to be stabbed with fluclox anymore after the surgery. Woo hoo! Bring on the scalpel!
The next morning I went in for my surgery. About two hours later I awoke in recovery and half my chest was bandaged up. I freaked out! My GOD! They’ve cut it off! Except they hadn’t. When I got back to the ward, the nurses redressed the incision and I got my first look at what they had done. I had a small cut about 3cm long and a plastic tube stuck out of it. And it leaked. Yuk.
That night one of the nurses suggested hubby take Will home for the night and let me get some rest. That was harder than having the fluclox, spending a night away from my little man. Will and his Dad survived the night on formula but I nearly didn’t. Without little Will there, it was almost impossible to express anything out of the problem boob, and when the nurse woke me at 2am for obs my chest was on fire once again. All of a sudden I was a mess. I was in pain, I missed my boy and the stupid pump that I thought I’d said goodbye too was back and wasn’t even working this time! I spent an hour pumping only to express about 40ml. Not cool when I used to get about 150ml in 20 mins.
I can’t really remember how I got through the rest of that night. I’m sure it was full of pain killers. But morning came and things got a little better. Will came back and kept on feeding like the trooper he is. The milk ducts that had been cut in the surgery began to scale down their production and the leaking wasn’t as severe. I had a shower and all was looking up. Three days later I got to go back home.
My follow-up appointment with the surgeon saw the little plastic drain tube removed a few days later and some weaker antibiotics started. Antibiotics that I had an allergic reaction too! I swore at the universe! WILL THIS EVER FREAKIN STOP!!!! Breastfeeding was meant to be natural and easy! BAH! I had more tablets to stop the reaction and was told I didn’t need to take the antibiotics anymore. Three weeks later and I was back to normal. I was breastfeeding. No pain. No abscess. No worries.
Will is now at 7 and a bit months, still breastfeeding happily and I thank my stars every day that I get to experience it with him when I so very nearly gave up. My advice to those struggling with breastfeeding – keep trying. You know your baby and what they are telling you. Listen to your instincts and always check in with your doctor if you feel ill. I can’t belive how hard it got and will never forget, but looking back – I would do it all over again because it meant that my baby got a great start in life. A great start made by me. Made by my boobs. Yes girls, well done.