My Boobs. Did You Miss Them?
April 02, 2008
So I'm dreaming about the baby pretty regularly now -- shockingly nice, normal dreams where he (he is always a boy, apologies to the hair-bow hopefuls) is indeed of the human variety, although I did have one dream where he was born with a full set of teeth -- and weirdly, every dream eventually includes breastfeeding. I say weirdly, because breastfeeding always seems to be really easy in these dreams.
DING DING DING! BIZARRO WORLD!
(I know the loyal, long-time readers hate it when I spend half an entry recapping three-year-old plot points, but I cannot help it! It's something of a compulsion with this pregnancy, to neatly file everything into Then and Now columns, and I'm entirely too lazy to dig through the archives for links.)
(Plus every time I go into the archives I get delete-happy because can you honestly BELIEVE what a fucking longwinded know-it-all neurotic twit I was back then? God.)
(BACK THEN! HAR HAR HAR HAAAAAAAR COUGH.)
Anyway, the Cliff's Notes version of Mah Boobs:
I have fibrocystic breast disease. It's been relatively quiet lately, but during my early 20s it was a constant source of annoyance and cancer scares. The cysts would occasionally fill up with blood, meaning they very closely resembled malignant lumps during exams and ultrasounds. And even though we sort of KNEW it was really a benign cyst, it's not exactly the sort of thing you fuck around with, so off to the aspiration races I went.
I once went to a doctor who...I don't even know what his problem was. He spent the entire procedure trying to talk sports with Jason while impatiently jabbing at my right boob with a needle, and then proceeded to randomly aspirate cyst after cyst without removing and reinserting the needle, meaning he was, essentially, tearing through my breast tissue while hunting for cysts. (Hi! Were you eating? Nom nom, suckas.)
After it was over, I sat in the car and sobbed and sobbed because it hurt SO MUCH, and then reached up to examine my boob and HOLY LIVING FUCK, he'd left the very lump I'd gone to see him about in the first place.
I called my OB/GYN from the parking lot and started shrieking at the receptionist because HOLY LIVING FUCK, after all of that, he'd aspirated the WRONG CYST.
We drove to the office for a quick ultrasound to confirm, and yes, I was right. He'd roughly aspirated a slew of clear, obviously harmless cysts and left the solid-looking suspicious one completely alone.
I was referred to an actual breast center that specialized this sort of thing and that doctor actually got the right fucking cyst and was extremely gentle during the whole procedure. The cyst was -- surprise! -- benign and I've never had anything else aspirated since.
But the damage was done. My right boob is a mass of lumpy scar tissue from the botched aspiration, and while I should have known that there would likely to be milk duct damage as well, it wasn't really something I thought much about at the time.
So. Flash-forward to Noah's birth and our subsequent attempts to breastfeed. My milk took a really, really long time to come in, and my supply was nowhere near adequate for the 10-pound chunker I birthed. He was born with the appetite of a six-week-old, I swear to God, and I imagine I would have struggled to ramp up a decent supply even WITHOUT the gimpy right boob.
But no matter what I did -- and believe me, I tried everything increase my supply -- I was, at best, working with a boob and a half. The more fenugreek I consumed and the more I pumped, the more painfully engorged my left boob would become -- it was even showing signs of OVERSUPPLY, projectile milk and everything -- but the right side could eke out an ounce or two every few hours, and Noah had absolutely no patience for that nonsense.
I felt like a big. Fat. Stupid. Failure. I remember paying my co-pay at the pediatrician's office the day after we brought Noah home and just. Bawling. Right there in the waiting room. Our dog had a broken leg and our baby had just been slapped with a FAILURE TO THRIVE diagnosis and we had to get his weight back up or he'd go back to the hospital and it was all my fault. All of it. My fault.
We didn't have any formula at home and I had some bottles I planned to use once I went back to work but I couldn't remember where I'd hidden them and Noah's first week of life is kind of blur, but I remember the crying. There was so much crying. Mostly from me.
Looking back, it all seems so head-slappy obvious that nursing exclusively was just not in the cards for us. I was damaged goods! Hello! Domperidome ain't gonna squeeze milk out of non-existent ducts, babycakes. So nurse on the good side and follow up with a formula chaser, GOD.
And that's what we did for awhile, although it was always treated as our temporary stop-gap solution. The lactation consultants continued to give me advice that would lead to the end of the bottle, because THAT was the goal. Not like, feeding the damn baby or coming to terms with the obvious problem. "We'll get him off that formula junk yet!" one of them told me, six weeks in, just when I'd finally managed to get Noah to stop rejecting my boobs altogether. They openly admitted that the surgery I described would "likely impact my supply" but kept telling me it was something I could overcome if I just tried hard enough.
(You know, as this is all coming back to me today, I am sort of filled with this overwhelming desire to drive by their office and pelt the windows with rancid Similac.)
Then I went back to work. The gimp boob dried up almost immediately (and OH, what an attractive rack I had there for awhile!), and the other one wasn't doing so hot either. I'd assumed that because Noah's daycare was close to work and I had an office with a door that I wouldn't have any problems nursing him during the day or pumping regularly at work.
(Head! Slap! Obvious!) Even though I had a completely enviable set-up at work, I still needed to do...like, WORK. Huh! I'd get called into a meeting right when I planned to pump. I'd get stuck behind a deadline and would get to daycare late for a feeding, meaning my baby was screaming and the caretakers were frustrated. Noah wanted eight ounces at a time -- I'm guessing I could give him four. Then maybe two. Finally, when he was about five months old, he pulled away one morning in a pissed-off fury and would never latch again. There was nothing left.
We were done. I still felt like I hadn't done enough. If I'd just pumped more or held on just ANOTHER COUPLE MONTHS until the freelance work came through I could have kept going. I still got comments and emails from people telling me I should have tried X, Y and Z and that there's no way my milk dried up and I was using that as an excuse and spreading terrible misinformation across the Internet because milk only dries up if you stop putting the baby to the breast, don't you know that?
A recent post that dared to even MENTION bottles got one of those "you should just breastfeed" drive-bys. Ay yi yi, and so it begins.
I wish I could tell you that it doesn't still sting a little bit. That I don't still feel a little bit defensive about it, but OBVIOUSLY this entry tells you otherwise. The "just breastfeed" business makes me especially stabby, because there is no "just" from my bust, okay, sweetcheeks?
The closest thing I can compare it to is the time I had to put my cat to sleep. In my head, I knew I'd done everything I possibly could have done for her. I knew it was time and the right thing to do. But I was still haunted by feelings that I let her down and could have done more; that in the end I just plain gave up on her.
And then I went and got another cat, knowing full well that it might end the exact same way. Why? Because it's worth it, duh.
These dreams, though. Almost every night. Cute baby boy, nursing like a champ, while I ask Jason what my big fucking damage was last time. (I dream in 80s movie lingo a lot too, yes.) This is easy!
I've done research this time about damaged ducts and breast tissue, and even found some breast-surgery sites that suggest your ducts will sometimes heal themselves and regenerate with each subsequent pregnancy and lactation. That's a really nice thought. And it would really great if that happened, but I'm not counting on it. I can still feel the hard mass of scar tissue under the surface, and there's almost a full cup size difference between right and left. Just like last time.
I do plan to breastfeed again. I also plan to supplement again, to make up for ol' gimpy here. I hope, since I'll be staying home for awhile longer, that I'll also be able to nurse for longer. Or not! These babies do come with that pesky will of their own, after all. I mostly I plan to cut myself some goddamn slack. It's on my iCal and everything! October 2008 Through Sometime In 2009: GIVE SELF A BREAK FROM SELF; REMEMBER TO NOT LEAVE NEWBORN AT TARGET. It appears my subconscious likes this plan.
It might end the exact same way, sure. But even that will still be easier. And it will still be worth it.