Throughout my pregnancy I had the highest of hopes, like any mom does. I would be the best parent I could be, we would provide the best of everything, and nothing could stand in my way. We had tried for so long to get pregnant and now our daughter was almost here after all that time. I committed to myself that she would be breastfed at least until one, this was the plan and that was how it would work. I took breastfeeding classes and my sister is a lactation counselor so I felt like I had set myself up for success.
When Stella was first born nursing wasn’t easy but it was also worth it to me and we started to get the hang of it and I thought, “okay this is great, this is working, I am able to provide the best food for my baby”. Then when she was around six weeks the pain began. Slowly, but surely, I started to develop pain in my right breast that became unbearable. I had a clogged duct, which is pretty common, but it would not go away. Finally at my wits end with the pain and frustration I visited my OB and was referred the breast center where I had my first (of many) aspirations to remove the build up from the clogged duct. Except this wasn’t just a clogged duct, nor was it mastitis, which can be easily treated by antibiotics, no no I was feeling so much pain due to having an abscess in my breast. Don’t google it, I did, and was immediately horrified and terrified.
The relief from the aspiration was immediate, and they send off the sample to the lab to be tested, but the relief didn’t last long. It built up again and within 24 hours I was in the emergency room having another aspiration. With the sample results not back yet and the limited medications I could take while nursing, they started an antibiotic but were unsure if it would treat my exact infection. That night was the first time I had left my baby, who had never taken a bottle and wasn’t eating and the stress of it all was unbearable. She survived but I was scarred and still in incredible pain and wouldn’t give myself a break. I was adamant that I would continue nursing and that I wouldn’t take the “easy way out” and use formula.
Then the results came back, and the abscess was so persistent because it was MRSA positive. If you know anything about infections you know that MRSA is a particularly aggressive staph infection and it can be difficult to treat and dangerous for babies. I immediately started to cry and frantically called my pediatrician terrified that I had harmed my baby. They assured me I could keep nursing as she likely had already been exposed and to keep an eye out for symptoms. Despite their assurance I stopped nursing on that side and started to pump. I could not nurse from that side knowing how infected and contagious I was. Not getting much and needing yet another aspiration a few days later I started to loose all supply on that side. Trying to keep up with one side was killing me but I as going to do it!
The straw that finally broke the camels back was waking up covered head to toe in hives. I was allergic to the ONLY antibiotics that could treat MRSA orally and were safe for nursing. My options were to be admitted and take IV antibiotics and pump or stay home with my baby and stop nursing. Exhausted, overwhelmed, in pain, and terrified to leave my baby I chose the latter. I knew that I needed to be healthy for Stella, and in the end this is what I needed to do for her. The relief was legitimately immediate once we started to use formula. I had gone through three weeks of almost daily hospital visits, ER visits, six aspirations, multiple medications, excruciating pain, and it was finally over.
Emotionally I was so spent but I was also so relieved that I was no longer nursing. I mourned the loss of what I had hoped our nursing relationship would be, but I was finally able to enjoy my time with Stella. I was no longer dragging her to a doctor every day and exposing her to extra germs in the hospital. I was able to just BE with her. Feeding her from a bottle didn’t change our relationship for the worse, it ended up helping as I could be relaxed and enjoy my time with her. Part of me regrets that I didn’t stop earlier, part of me regrets that I stopped at all. In the end my daughter is happy and healthy and this is what matters. The (literal) scars I have are a daily reminder of what we went through but we made it to the other side and this little face couldn’t be more worth it.