Happy International Women’s Day! I Have Mastitis.

EDITED TO ADD: OK, so things have gotten MUCH better. I thought I should mention. The pain is almost entirely gone and we’re breastfeeding 75% of the time. I just thought I’d share the update. This is not a boast, however. I still went through Stupidville to get here. But now that I’m here, it’s OK. Things are OK.

About a week after I brought Elliot home, I started feeling sick. Chills came on with such intensity and at random times, I knew something was wrong. But I assumed it was hormonal and would eventually pass.

A few days went by and the aches set in. I ached all over my body. They took root deep within my body and radiated outward. I was having trouble walking. Was it my thyroid again? I took Advil around the clock so I could continue living a relatively normal life and caring for two kids.

The Advil worked, but as soon as it began to wear off, all the pain came rushing back again.

I still just figured it was a hormonal thing. I would work through it. It would get better.

Then Friday rolled around. I woke up at midnight after 3-hour power nap. I woke up covered in sweat, freezing. I moved from the bed to the couch where I would spend the next 5 hours. I didn’t know what was wrong so I began to google signs of mastitis.

I took it to Twitter.

Several people wrote back with mastitis stories and as I read through them, I became more and more sure that’s what I had.

People mentioned chills, fevers, aches, flu-like symptoms, intense breast pain, the red slap. People mentioned how they went from feeling OK to not fine within seconds.

Yes. All the above.

At 5 AM on Friday morning I woke up weeping. I was so sick I wanted my mommy. I could barely move. My entire body ached and I was freezing. I put the baby in his crib and crawled into our bedroom to wake up Toby.

“I’m so sick. I need your help. Something is very wrong.”

He got up and took over. I decided a hot shower was in order. Someone mentioned that heat would help my right breast, which was still in so much pain. That’s when I noticed the “Red Slap” people had mentioned. It was HUGE. It ran all the way from my right nipple out into my armpit. Even my lymph nodes were enlarged.

It would be hours before the doctor’s office opened, but I knew I had mastitis. And I knew I needed antibiotics immediately. Things were getting so much worse by the day. Not only did I feel like I had the flu, but my right breast was pumping out mucous with traces of blood and had been for over a week.

Fast forward to midday Friday. My doctor diagnosed me with mastitis and prescribed antibiotics. I have been on them since Friday and things have gotten MUCH better.

But still. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little pissed off. At what? Breastfeeding in general and why I seem to run into so many obstacles. I know it’s not supposed to be easy, but still. Dude. COME ON. Frustrated, I wrote the following.

I like breastfeeding, but this does feel stupid. I’m still going to try and make this work. I’m still feeding Elliot breastmilk, although, he’s frustrated by the slowness of my breast and much prefers the bottle. And I was warned that this might happen. But I pumped a lot while I was sick because my right breast hurt so bad. (Plus, I wasn’t too keen on the idea of feeding him bloody, mucousy breast milk. TMI? Sorry.) I fed him when I could on the left and pumped the rest of the time.

We do still feed via the breast, but he can’t be really hungry because he gets super frustrated and starts yelling. And that’s OK. I feed him pumped breastmilk and formula and give him the breast whenever possible. And I’m OK with that.

I promise, that no matter what happens, I will never, ever become one of those mothers who boasts about about “making it work” and “dealing with the pain”. Because, seriously? This just feels stupid to me.

But I’m going to give stupid a few more weeks. Because I’m kind of stupid.

41 Weeks. Update: Still Pregnant!

I had my 41-week appointment on Tuesday. I’m still pregnant. I’m 2.5 centimeters dilated. Nothing much else has changed. My doctor went ahead and stripped the membrane again. I requested it, even though I am sick with a terrible cold. And while the idea of going into labor and having to push with snot flying out of my face makes me kinda wanna die, I am ready to be done with this.

My brother and I went out for lunch directly following the appointment and I had some pretty intense contractions. But once we started walking back to the subway, they stopped entirely.

Speaking of the subway and other public places, I keep finding myself having the same conversation with strangers.

“When are you due?”

“Last week.”

At that point they usually let out the type of laugh accompanied by a gentle punch to the shoulder. You know, an, “Aww shucks! I bet!” type of laugh.

It’s like when you ask your boss when they need the project and they say, “Yesterday!” and you laugh because you totally get it. It’s of the utmost urgency! They need that project done, like, YESTERDAY.

Like that.

And then the stranger says something like, “Oh, yeah. It gets really hard at the end. You just want it to be over already. Soon. Soon!”

No, really. LAST WEEK. I think to myself. But I’m too tired to explain that this project was actually due last week and this kid ain’t paying a lick of attention to his boss.

CUJO: YOU’RE FIRED.

Yesterday, the conversation changed a bit. Em and I were at the indoor playroom and the woman behind the counter asked me when I was due.

“Last week.” I said.

She actually gasped as did young man sitting beside her.

“You are joking!” She yelled this. “But… but you look so happy! Why do you look so happy?”

“Because I’m drunk.”

Dead silence.

I had a non-stress test on Monday morning. The baby is totally fine, as is my blood pressure. The right amount of amnionic fluid surrounds him. All is well within the womb. That’s probably why he’s in no hurry. I have another non-stress test tomorrow morning. Here is a picture I took while hooked up to the monitors.

I swear I’m not voguing. My left hand just didn’t know where to go. I’ve been suffering from that a lot lately—what does one do with their extremities?

“Yeah, but you gotta put the other arm somewhere. You can either lay on it or shove it between your bodies. The only other option is to stretch it above your head. But sometimes my arm pops out of socket when I’m sleeping like that. So I was constantly searching for someplace to keep my arm…” –Brody

The annoying part about the non-stress test is the nurse kept coming in and pointing out all the useless contractions I was having. She was excited. I was not. I’ve been having useless contractions for weeks and weeks. Practice contractions! Dress rehearsal! I know one name this kid won’t be given: Braxton. Braxton = non-commital pussy—a useless piece of shit.

(Y’all do know I’m joking, right? I am not really THAT angry. And to anyone named Braxton: I am kidding. You are not a useless piece of shit but you might be a non-commital pussy.)

I don’t know what to say. I’m in holding pattern, purgatory. I’m a host. I don’t even feel like I really exist right now. I’m just waiting. I can’t do much. I can’t go far from home. I’m a zombie. But I do have a cool cat.

This is how I spend most of my days and nights.

I have a creature taking comfort on the inside; I have a creature taking comfort on the outside. I’m a host, a giant, fat zombie host.

Mornings are most difficult because they punctuate a most restless sleep. Everything seems pointless come morning, which is strange for me because I have always been a morning person. I love morning. Not right now.

At this point, induction is looking more and more appealing to me. I’m exhausted. And my exhaustion leads to tears and tears lead to more mucous and snot and congestion and I’m sick of all this snot.

Something has got to give, like, yesterday.

But What If All the Villagers Work Full Time?

Today’s therapy session went well. Although, I really have no idea what “well” means when it comes to therapy. Basically, she got to know me better. We discussed the way I felt after Emory was born. We discussed the miscarriage and how that experience changed me. We discussed infertility. We discussed how I feel about introducing another person to Emory, how I feel about having another child at all. Everything went smoothly, as expected. But at the very end of our session she said something that has me thinking long and hard.

“I’m worried about your lack of a support network.” She said. “You need support, live support.”

“How do I go about doing that?” I asked, more to myself than to her.

“Well, there are ways.”

Are there? I thought. Because I’m not so sure.

I’ve been here before—the weeks and months following the birth of Em, the fact that I had no one to talk to during the day. I would watch the sun rise on one side of our railroad apartment and then set on the other, ignoring the fact it was overhead all day long. I just waited. For what? I had no idea. But I waited for something.

Today it occurred to me that this lack of a “support network” is what got me into trouble the last time. I simply didn’t have one, leaving me isolated. I was/am a SAHM. Most all other parents in this neighborhood work. It’s that simple. I don’t know the exact percentage of mothers here who work, but given the number of nannies I’m often surrounded by, I know that we are a very, very small minority. I’m guessing maybe 5% of the parents in this area stay at home with their children. Maybe.

(Please note: I am not complaining about my situation. On the one hand I am very, very lucky. I get to stay home with my kids! My husband makes enough money for me to stay home. That’s awesome. But it has its downside. I’m often alone. I work alone.)

I’m facing isolation again. And she made that abundantly clear today. I will need to work super hard at finding a support network. If I do not, I risk becoming more depressed. THIS is something I can grab onto. This is, I guess, what therapy is all about: taking note of a past problem, accepting it, and then trying to figure out a way to avoid repeating said problem.

My homework is to find a “live” support network. Meaning, not an online one. That means I can’t rely on forums, blogs, things like that. And she’s absolutely right. As amazing as online support is (and has been) for me, it isn’t enough. People need face-time, a voice, the occasional hug.

So, I’m doing some real thinking today, hard thinking. And I know exactly what I need to do and where I need to begin. Today I’m going to start working really hard at getting some bitches fired.

What Does Pre-Labor Feel Like?

Ladies, the days leading up to when you went into labor, how did you feel? Were there any signs—big or small? I never went into labor with Em. I was induced due to high blood pressure. So, I am not really super sure what pre-labor (is there such a thing?) feels like. I have a pretty good idea what full-on contractions feel like, but not much more than that. And I’m curious.

Throw me an educational bone or two?

The Final Stretch

As of yesterday I entered the final month of my pregnancy. I’ve been hesitant to complain about being pregnant. After a loss, and then some infertility, I feel ashamed complaining. But, oh my goodness, am I ever ready to have this baby!

I am up 35 pounds and while I know that’s not too, too horrible. It’s far, far too much for my 36-(almost 37!)-year-old frame to handle. I get winded putting on socks, if I get them on at all. (Sometimes I give up.) I have to take breaks while walking up subway stairs, or any stairs for that matter. I’m unable to put on my own snow boots; Toby Joe always helps. Sleeping is difficult as my hips can’t handle the weight of being on my side. I wake up to shooting pains running up and down each leg.

But ultimately, it’s the lack of breath that beats me down the most. I don’t even have to be doing anything strenuous and I have to take a break because I can’t catch my breath.

The most devastating part of feeling this way is how hard it’s been on my very active 3-year-old. I feel like I’ve become a “lazy mom”, one who can’t physically do what he wants me to do, what most normal people take for granted. And it breaks my heart every day.

Before I got pregnant, I ran almost every day. As a family we’d hit the park and while he and Toby Joe played on the exercise equipment, I ran the track. And he loved watching me run! He’d run alongside me sometimes. It was awesome. And I felt proud. I was the parent showing my son that jogging is fun, exercise is a part of life, and his mother and father are both fairly active people.

Naturally, that’s not all I used to do with him. We’d play all the time. I’d hold him up to do the hand-over-hand monkey bars at the playground. I’d chase him around the gym. I was able to sit on the floor with him or have him on my lap. We played! A lot. All the time.

Now? Forget it. I get winded getting up off the sofa. I can’t read a book to my kid without feeling lightheaded or taking deep breaths. I can’t sit on the floor and have picnics with him because my legs get numb due to poor circulation. I feel so lazy. And he notices this. The other day he said, “When grandma and grandpa get back, can we go to their house? I want daddy to come so we can play bowling and ball together.”

Because mama can’t play bowling right now. Mama gets winded looking at a ball.

Did I mention I can’t get through a children’s book without losing my breath? That’s awful.

But the part that will likely haunt me forever is that sometimes I get frustrated for not being able to do something and I take it out on him. I’m not terrible; I’m not abusive or anything even remotely close to that. But he senses that I’m annoyed. And that makes me so sad. I end up feeling even worse.

I’m ready. I’m ready to get my body back. Being this heavy? It’s misery. And, yes, I realize I’m pregnant and gaining weight is par for the course, but it really shouldn’t be this hard. I should be able to read out loud. I should be able to play with my kid.

Mentally, I’m doing OK. But I have noticed twinges of depression, the same type of depression I had after Em was born and after the miscarriage. It hits me usually right around dusk, which isn’t new for me. Dusk has always been the hardest when I’m blue—has been since I was a kid.

I spoke with my doctor about it last week. She put me in contact with a doctor who specializes in postpartum depression. I am to meet her next week to discuss the way I’m feeling and how to deal with it after the baby is born. She informs me that 50% of women who suffer from PPD experience it during the 3rd trimester. So, I am not alone. And I’m quite pleased with myself that I’m getting help ahead of time. I was given a great big pat on the back from my doctor for even noticing. Because with Em, I didn’t know until it was it was over.

We’ll see how that goes. I haven’t ever spoken to a professional before, so this will be new to me. Her office is in the hospital I am to give birth, which means I’ll be visited by her right after I have the baby. I’m looking forward to that as well.

But ultimately? I’m pretty happy. Life is, overall, going really well. I am still attending culinary school (somehow!). I’m still making lollipops and selling them on Etsy. I rolled out a couple of Valentine’s Day lollipops. A personal favorite of mine is called Pop A Cherry. (Yes! I went there!) It’s champagne on the outside, cherry on the inside. It’s really quite lovely.

We also ordered a new couch! It’s set to arrive right around the same time the baby is. I’m hoping they don’t deliver it the day I go into labor or something. But that will likely be our luck! It may seem silly, but I’m exceptionally happy about this new couch. It’s the little things, people! THE LITTLE THINGS!

Anyway, I hate complaining, which is why I haven’t really updated in a while. I have drafts! But the tone borders on whiney. So, I don’t make them live. (Same old, same old!) But I’m ready to meet this little man. I know that I face a whole lot of sleep deprivation and quite possibly some depression. And I have no idea how Em is going to adjust to the new arrival. There are a great deal of unknowns here! I know the transition from three to four will be tough. But I am ready. And Em needs me, he needs an active parent and he doesn’t quite understand why I lose my breath at the slightest movement.

I hope to have more to say in the next couple of weeks. I wish to document my mental state as well as the birth of our second son. I am hoping to avoid PPD, but my doctor made it abundantly clear that women who suffer from it once, will likely experience it again. So, yeah. I will do my best to write through it and share it with others. That is, after all, why I started this blog: to make people feel less alone. I will do my best.

I PASSED!

Not only did I pass my gestational diabetes test, but I did so every hour by quite a bit. Awesome, right?

So, here is where I confess to something.

I did something before the 1-hour test that may have messed with my numbers a bit. When I admitted this to my mom and husband, both said, “You’re a moron!”

You ready?

The morning of my 1-hour glucose test, I may have consumed a fruit tart I had made in pastry class. Said fruit tart was made with homemade pastry cream. (The kind with a lot of sugar, cream and butter.) It was also made with flour and butter and fruit. I know! That’s probably pretty sugary, right? I had that at 7:30 AM.

But to my credit, I asked and read up on this. Everywhere I looked said NO NEED TO FAST before the 1-hour test. Even the nurse told me I didn’t have to fast. In fact, everything I found suggested one eat normally. So I thought, it’d be fine.

I also had a little bit of cereal at 9 AM. That’s more normal for me. So I thought that’d be OK as well.

Drank the orange soda at 10:30 and by 11:30 I was ready to go.

I’m thinking that had something to do with it. While everyone and everything said I could eat normally, I don’t normally eat fruit tarts for breakfast.

However, I asked the nurse about whether or not eating beforehand would have messed with my numbers and she said probably not. So who knows? Maybe I’m not that big of a moron.

Anyway. I passed. I am pleased. I’ve been eating really well since I got the news that I failed. I’ve been eating a low carb diet, barely any sugar. But I think I earned some freaking cake. Or pie!

OMG! I have class tonight and we’re making croissants. I will have two.

Thank goodness.

Now I must work on the anemia.

Gestational Diabetes

I just got a call from my doctor and I failed the 1-hour gestational diabetes test. I’m not yet going to worry too much about it because I seem to remember this being a common occurrence, and women go on to pass the 3-hour test. But I am curious.

If you’re reading this and you have had an experience with either failing the first test and passing the second, OR with gestational diabetes, might you share your experience with me? Does it just mean changing one’s diet? Does it mean I have to “take it easy” and will have to postpone school? Just wondering what my worst case scenario might be.

Also: did you end up with Type 2 postpartum? I have so many questions.

I’m also anemic and need an iron supplement immediately. Any insight there as well?

27 weeks and falling apart, my friends. Falling apart.

Hope.

The following is a text message correspondence between Toby Joe and me. It took place over the course of several hours on May 18th, 2010. I reprinted it word-for-word, so please try and overlook any grammar and spelling errors.

There is a backstory at the end of this post.

May 18th, 2010 8:51 AM

(From the doctor’s office.)

Michele: Had to pay upfront. 8900 on AmEx. We will get paid back. Lots to talk about. Give me a call later. Or I could put it in an emal.

Michele: I’m a little bit freaking out.

9:10 AM

Michele: You probably should have come to this. You have to inject most of the drugs this time as they have to go into my butt muscle.

Michele: But I’ll teach you.

Toby: OK. So is 8900 the total? Not 15,000?

Michele: No, there’s more later. It will be around 14 and change.

Michele: You have to take antibiotics starting tonight for 10 days.

Michele:I think this will work, but I do worry still about miscarriage. They said it’s probably not wise to do genetic testing to the embryo because we have no issues.

Michele:We have a perfect kid but I would love for him to have a sibling. But emotionally I think we need to say no more after this. If this doesn’t work I need to give up. Let’s make a deal an stick to it.

Toby:I agree.

10:32 AM

Michele: Head full of information about IVF now. Feel much better about it. It’s freaky but kind of awesome what they can do these days. I had no idea. I am waiting to talk to the nurse.

Michele: You will need to take care of injections. I hope this works. I may ask that you schedule some vacation days if poss. I’ll let you know.

3:19 PM

(From home)

Michele: Can’t do IVF this month. August soonest. I am so sad.

4:17 PM

Toby: Why not?

Michele: Too much to explain and I’m not even sure. I have a call into doctor. Assistant called. Left me message.

Michele: Fucking heartbroken.

Michele:I ovulate twice between the time they close and open again in July. I’m just barely holding myself together. I need hope of some sort and now it’s just waiting some more, experiencing more failure. Just terrible. Em is going to be three.

Michele: I just hate this. I feel completely alone, which I hear is normal but still. Maybe it’s time for some serious antidepressants.

Toby: Or therapy. This is about being able to cope and you keep getting deeper and deeper (as people do) and seem unable to pull back at all. You could use this as a welcome break if you had the right perspective but you’re stuck in a loop of obsessing and clock watching and though that is understandable it’s causing you misery. that means you need help pulling back in obsession. Maybe a month or two is a good break. But you won’t take it you will read more and more online and continue to make yourself ill. Being able to switch gears would make it much easier for you. That isn’t meds — it’s a skill I think.

Michele: There’s nothing left for me to google. I have researched to exhaustion. So really the next two months will feel more like purgatory as I have felt almost every day since the miscarriage.

Michele: Only worse because I’m not doing anything and Em is getting older. And I hate that.

Michele: I can’t not try. Just can’t. We have to try even if it’s naturally.

Toby: OK

Toby: I want a kid more than you know but don’t talk about it so it doesn’t get worse. But I am able to focus on other things. You aren’t. That’s the difference. This has become 100% of your self wroth. Not just something you want but can’t have. I stay hopeful but focus elsewhere and it usually works fine. But you seem to attribute all self worth to being pregnant. It’s not about you or your worth or anything. It’s just something – one of hundreds – that we want but haven’t yet been able to have. Those things won’t go away.

5:05 PM

Michele: Doc said I have to go on the pill in June. So no natural try then.

Michele: Apparently I have one bitch of a follicle that began to form already and if I start medication for IVF, I’ll likely only get this one follicle since it already started growing. And that’s a waste of a cycle. meds for nothing. Naturally the hopeful idiot inside of me says wouldn’t it be poetic if this actually works naturally? After all this time, this little lone gangsta follicle directly responsible for keeping us from doing IVF ends up being our next child?

Michele: This is what hope is. And I have learned to loathe it.

Toby: Gangsta! Ha!

Gangsta Due: February 13th, 2011

(A mere eight days after the due date for the baby we lost.)

Backstory

Toby Joe and I went through 6 months worth of Clomid and 5 failed IUIs (intra-uterine insemination). In April, we went through one round of injectables and then another failed IUI. In May (after vowing we would never go that far) we decided to try IVF.

Why the sudden rush? My doctor’s office always closes for a month and a half starting at the end of May, so we decided to try immediately. It was a whirlwind decision and we hit the ground running all within a 24-hour period. (Long story, but cycle days matter big time with IVF cycles. Oh, the things I have learned.)

We had a day to get everything going. That day was May 18th, 2010.

And I wish I could have written about the year we’ve had—how hard it’s been. I wish I could explain how lonely infertility is. I’ve read that it can ruin a marriage; I get that now. Granted, my marriage did not suffer. If anything, it brought us closer together as a family.

But my reclusive behavior has destroyed a few friendships over the year. And for that I’m sorry. But to quote a friend of mine who went through it, “Infertility is a huge mindfuck.”

It so is.

For whatever the reason may be, I wasn’t able to share this with people. For the first time in my life, I’d gone private—totally dark. That was difficult. I have always been a very open person, willing to discuss all things personal. But not this time. And I am not sure why that is.

It’s been hard—really hard. I can’t write that enough. If you’ve ever dealt with infertility, you know. I don’t need to tell you. If you haven’t, you’re lucky and I doubt all the words in the world could really explain.

I will never, ever move beyond what I went through over the past year. Even now, I worry that just by writing this out loud, I’ll miscarry. I’m getting heart palpitations just looking at that button: PUBLISH. Every time I go to the bathroom I look for blood. And at every ultrasound I am waiting for the doctor to tell me there is no longer a heartbeat. Five people knew I was pregnant up until Saturday. Five. I don’t trust this. I’m scared to death. But I’m trying.

For now, at 13 weeks, things look good. And I have to try and focus on that.

Miscarriage and infertility may remove one’s innocence, but all the heartache in the world won’t take down hope. And for that I am grateful.

To quote Chase from The Royal Tenenbaums: “I’ve had a rough year, Dad.”

But things are looking up.

Now I Know Why They Call It A "Stress" Fracture.

I run about 20 miles a week—sometimes more, sometimes less. But that’s been my average for a while. I love running. I run to avoid depression. I don’t take pills. (Not that I’m against doing so!). It’s just that running works for me. I run because it gets me high and makes me unbelievably happy. I can’t imagine not being able to do it.

A few weeks ago, I started to notice some pain at the top and center of my left foot. I continued to run, of course, because, if you know anything about runners, we tend to be a stubborn bunch. It was fine. I mean, it hurt, but I ran through it. I ran and iced and elevated and then last Sunday I hit Central Park for a NYRR 4-miler and finished in great time (for me). I was so proud of myself. I came home and immediately signed up for another race. Sure, I could barely walk at the time, but I figured I had time to get back to normal again. I guessed it was just a bruise but I made a podiatry appointment just to be safe. This time I even stayed off of it. I used the elliptical machine and lifting weights instead.

Today my doctor ran a series of x-rays and I have a stress fracture—a bloody painful one. When she touched the magic spot, I nearly puked. So, she put me in a soft cast and gave me a boot. She told me to stay off of it. (Yeah, right! Have you met my son?) But, worst of all? I can’t run for 8 weeks. I can’t even use the elliptical machine.

Of course, with every fairly uncool event that takes place in my life anymore, there’s always an element of humor involved.

You see, I live in Brooklyn and I have a car, so a depressingly large chunk of my daily life is spent abiding by the alternate side parking calendar. Naturally, I was concerned.

“Can I drive?” I asked her.

“Yeah, because you don’t need that foot to drive.” She joked.

“I drive a stick.”

“Oh gosh. Well, the more you use it, the longer it will take to heal. So, I would suggest you not drive.”

And you know what my first thought was? I wondered if she might write a doctor’s note so I could get out of having to move the car from one side of the street to the other, as if the NYC government was going to take pity on the fact that I am wearing a cast. You could be a headless person without hands and the New York State Department of Transportation would continue to ticket your car.  Hell, you could be giving birth and they’d give you a ticket and make you pay it. (YES, THAT HAPPENED TO ME! The birth part, not the headless bit.)

The NYSDOT does not care about my left foot.

When I left the doctor, I couldn’t call Toby because I knew I would just cry into the phone, so I texted him instead. I told him what was going on. Here are those texts:

Me: Stress fracture. I look like a freak. Huge boot and soft cast. WTF have I done? Can’t run for 8 weeks.

Me: Can’t do much of anything. This is going to make me into a crazy person.

Him: Will take care of ya. CAN YOU MOVE THE CAR?!!?

The first thing I did when I got out of the subway was move the car.

But seriously, people: what I am going to do without my antidepressant?