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Friday, January 25, 2013

How Breastfeeding Sent Me To Surgery...

Sounds like a sensational title. Unfortunately, it's far less sensational and far more true.
I'm writing this post for any other mom who, like me, received a similar diagnosis and spent hours searching the Internet for "galactocele", only to find very little on this rare breastfeeding complication ...

"Galactocele" I repeated the words to myself as I hung up the phone. I had just spoken with the nurse practitioner at the surgical oncology clinic. Just the day before I had been seen for an ultrasound and needle aspiration of my right breast. It had all started a week before when one of the lactation consultants noticed an alarmingly large lump in my breast. She told me it was likely just a plugged duct and to treat it as such. If it persisted for more than 10 days they'd have me seen at the breast clinic (the less scary name for the surgical oncology clinic). However, the lump grew so rapidly after that and became increasingly painful, I called everyday after that till they finally scheduled me for an appointment at the oncology clinic just a few days later.

I was hopeful that day. After 2 ultrasounds, which were so painful due to the large mass, I was sent for a needle aspiration. I held hopes that after the aspiration the problem would be taken care of. Little did I know what the next few days would hold...

It was that Friday morning, the morning after the ultrasounds and aspiration that the NP called and used that word that would soon become painfully familiar, "galactocele". I immediately began searching the Internet. All I found were descriptions like "small", "harmless", "resolves on its own", only none of these descriptions fit what I was experiencing. Things quickly went down hill. By Saturday all I did was sleep and wake to nurse because I was in so much pain and felt sick. But because there was no redness they didn't think I had an infection. Come Monday morning I was desperate. I couldn't get through to the breast cancer clinic. I paged the midwife on call- Kathy, the same wonderful midwife who helped deliver Caroline. She finally convinced the breast cancer clinic that I could not wait 10 days "the earliest they could see me" they said. As soon as the NP in clinic that day took one look at me she said, "you're not going to like what I have to say, but you're going to need surgery", for a severe galactocele and a staph infection. And before I knew it I was ringing in the new year on the operating table.

The surgery relieved the pain, but only for the night. The next couple days in the hospital were tumultuous and stressful. It was finally determined that a drain would be placed to manage the swelling while I stopped my milk supply. I wasn't upset by this at first, just relieved to find a break from the constant, terrible pain - the pain that kept me from loving on and enjoying my baby like I should.

However, after I finally came home from the hospital the realty that I wouldn't be able to breastfeed hit me hard. I kept calling the surgeon's office and the hospital's lactation consultants trying to convince them I needed to figure out a way to breastfeed despite everything else. But it came down to this being the only way I could get truly healthy again and stay out of the hospital. I still felt incredibly guilty, even though I realize now I had done everything I could and the severity of this situation was beyond my control. At the end of the day I can't control that I had to stop breastfeeding in order to heal and stay out of the hospital. However, I can focus on many other things like the quality time I spend with Caroline- reading her books, cuddling up for naps with her, making myself look like a complete idiot just to bring out one of those gummy baby smiles.

It makes me angry when I read comments by other breastfeeding women that they don't believe there are medical reasons for a woman to stop breastfeeding. Or how many moms and breastfeeding advocates judge moms who, like myself, are walking around Babies R Us with cans of infant formula in our shopping cart or pull out a bottle instead of a nursing cover when our baby cries. I'd like to ask these women if they would judge formula feeding moms like myself in the same way if they saw me unconscious on the operating table on New Year's Eve because of breastfeeding. Would they give me the same looks as the cashier rings up my formula if they knew about the 9 cm tumor that kept me from using my right arm for weeks? What a different experience motherhood could be if we spent more time supporting one another and less time judging another mother's decisions without even knowing her story.


A few days after coming home from the hospital. Finally feeling well enough to give this freshly bathed Caroline her bottle. 


13 comments:

Catherine said...

I'm glad you are feeling better, and what an ordeal that was!

Holly said...

I am glad you are feeling better! Hope you and the little one are doing well!

Olga said...

Glad you are feeling better. Although it is very upsetting to not be able to breastfeed your new baby, it is far more important that you are healthy and strong to take care of her and raise her. I had a c-section and breastfeeding can be challenging with c-section deliveries so I completely understand what you are feeling. We all want the very best for our tiny ones and to provide them the best nourishment if we can. You stay strong and remember that "no one can make you feel inferior without your consent". Youre doing a great job! Love your blog!

Romantic Savy said...

Oh goodness! How scary and sad altogether. It's just important that you're healthy and that's all that matters. You did everything you could and no one else needs to worry about that!

Casey said...

Hi Bethany! It's been awhile and a lot has changed since I last saw you! I found your blog incidentally when you did a guest post for Laura Underwood on lauravirginia.me. I grew up with her, as her family is good friends with my family. Anyways, congratulations on sweet Caroline! She is precious. Brandon and I had our first in September, a baby boy, and we named him Sawyer. I am so sorry to hear that you had an awful breastfeeding experience. I have had a lot of friends with various breastfeeding problems and it has been hard to watch them go through it. But just know that whether you are breastfeeding or formula feeding, you are doing the ABSOLUTE best thing you can possibly do to take care of your little girl. I feel like every mom has to go through something that they may not necessarily want or may think is not the best thing for their baby. For me, the plan was to have a completely natural birth. This is something we worked really hard for and it was the plan. Unfortunately, my body was not doing what it needed to do and Sawyer's heart rate was dropping really low with each contraction and it was not rebounding, so we ended up having an emergency c-section. It was extremely scary and I was devastated. Actually, it took me a couple months to come to grips with the fact that I had to have a c-section. And it makes me mad when people make negative comments about c-sections. For us, it was absolutely necessary for the safety of our baby and it was not "the easy way out". Enough on my soap box, though! I just wanted to send a word of encouragement your way and let you know that you are a great mommy and keep up the hard work! It's the best job in the world! Congrats, again to you and Mike. We hope you guys are doing well and enjoying this new phase of life! Brandon and Casey Lynch (from The Summit Church small group)

Elizabeth said...

Bless your heart! I have never heard of this before so I am glad you wrote about it! What a terrible experience to have to go through with a new born (and on NYE!). You are totally right though. Moms judge each other way too much and instead should be focusing on ways to support each other. Because really, at the end of the day, what really matters is that your child is happy and full. And it doesn't matter how or where she gets her food from. Hopefully your writing will help others think twice before passing judgement. (Although I truly hope and pray that no one would ever really judge you for how your baby is fed. That would be really awful).

Bon Bon said...

oooh yikes! How awful!:-( I remember leaving the hospital and being so nervous that I would get mastitis or whatever, cause goodness, once your milk comes in, hello weird crazy pain! So glad you are all better and so glad you have a sweet little bebe to snuggle. That's all that matters:-) xoxo

Rosemary Bridges said...

Oh my goodness! I've never heard of that condition before. I can't imagine how painful that must have been for you, especially after having a baby. Other moms are always going to judge no matter what your choice of feeding your baby will be.
I was judge harshly for not breastfeeding my first son, but they didn't know he just flat out refused my breast or how painful it was that he didn't want my milk. Now with the second I've had people tell me I'm crazy for breastfeeding because "I'll have no life" whatever that means.
I'm glad you feel better. All the better to give your baby kisses and cuddle with. :3

Kadee Cramer said...

I'm sorry for what you went through :( That is terrible, but what you said in the very last part was beautiful. I wish more people thought that way.

Julianne said...

Thanks for sharing your story! I had a similar situation...After having my daughter, about 2 weeks after she was born I broke out into a rash all over my body. It was the most painful and itchy I've ever felt! I went to my OB and they could only assume my body wasn't handling the hormone adjustment well. I went to 2 different dermatologists and they both said the same thing. No creams or over the counter medications would even touch it or start to give relief. I ended up having to be on steroids for almost a month...I tried to just "pump and dump" for about 2 weeks so once everything cleared up I could continue to breastfeed. After awhile I'd pump for 45 minutes and only get about 1/2 ounce!! After calling my Dr, she told me that yes, steroids can dry you up! So it was either be in crazy pain and uncomfortable and not sleep or be able to do anything that required me to get dressed in real clothes since that bothered my skin as well....or just decide to give my daughter formula. Obviously that is what we did and I got mixed reactions from people. SO frustrating when they had no idea what I went through before that decision with my health! Sad thing is, since they didn't know what caused it for sure, they can't promise it won't happen again with any future babies!

Unknown said...

Dear Bethany,

We are so proud of you for all that you did and for so bravely making it through all that pain, and for struggling with giving up breastfeeding...most people would just say easy decision...give it up! but you didn't WANT to...and I'm sure you suffered more pain for that, because you wanted to give your daughter the best. We are so glad you were able to get through and over the pain and all that you went through because you stopped breastfeeding. We were praying for YOU to get healthy again, and for YOUR recovery...because your baby needs YOU far more than she needs breast milk. It is so lovely to see how wonderfully you care for your little one...and so thankful you have come through your awful ordeal. Caroline is thriving under your loving care...don't worry about what anyone else thinks! <3 Oma

Allison said...

So glad you are ok. At least your sweet Caroline has a great mommy to care for who no matter what she is fed.

Cathy's World said...

My daughter tried so hard to breast feed. It worked for 3 weeks. What is the big hype about breastfeeding. I know that it is the best thing for baby. But she has a beautiful, very healthy, and may I add smart 4 month old that weighs 15lbs 10oz's. God bless those who can do it without any problems. But, to those who can't, trust me when I say. Your baby will be fine. I am so happy to hear that you are well. Your baby needs a mommy more then she needs your milk. Sorry, but it is true. You did the right thing. Next time someone gives you a dirty look for buying formula. Do what I told my daughter to do. Give them a big smile and turn away. :)

Your baby girl is simply precious!
God bless.

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