When I think of the most painful experiences of my life, it goes as follows and in no particular order: labor and delivery, acute neuralgia localized on my occipital nerve, these two times I really, really had to pee but I was on a boat (you'd think I'd have learned after the first time), and the time I got mastitis. It was once, it only lasted a day, but it was one of the worst days of my life. When I asked other moms to describe what mastitis feels like, I was comforted to learn that, no, I'm not a massive wuss and it's precisely as bad as I thought.
I'd heard about mastitis, but I went a long time without ever having experienced it. It wasn't until my youngest was about 10-months-old that I had the misfortune of catching the Boob Bug. A warm, tender spot on the side of my right breast began to grow hotter and radiate heat. Next thing I knew my whole body ached (especially the aforementioned boob) and I was splayed on the living room floor, unable to move, feeling sicker than I'd ever felt in my life. It was around this time my baby wanted to nurse and, seeing as I was still her main food source, I didn't see how I had much of a choice. So I figured, "OK, I feel like crap, but I've nursed while sick before. I can phone this in."
Friends, there would be no phoning this in. The moment my daughter latched I felt pain the likes of which I had never experienced in (at that point) 27 months of breastfeeding. It felt like her little baby jaws were a bear trap that was also triggering an internal bear trap and I was the poor defenseless bear, sitting there, roaring in agony.
Fortunately, I had read up on mastitis enough to know what it was. Even more fortunately, I had an awesome midwife that I could text, and she diagnosed me over the phone and prescribed me an antibiotic which began to work its magic within the day.
Still, mastitis is a curse from on high and may strength and courage bless any poor soul who has to endure its tortures. Here's what some of those dejected wretches had to say about it:
"Pain. Pain. More Pain. Like hot burning lava being poured into you, from the inside out and you want to scream from pain and throw things, but you have this tiny critter attached to you and you want to lash out at the source of the pain but you can't, because this critter had the eyes of your husband who you love so dearly."
"Flaming hot, hard boob with a fever and flu-like chills. It's freaking miserable. And then you have to keep breastfeeding through it."
[Writer's note: "Flaming Hot Hard Boob" sounds like either the title of a porno or a description they write on the cover to entice you to buy a porno. Nevertheless, I 100 percent co-sign Cate.]
"Like you have the flu with a painful hard rock stuck in your boob. Nursing through it is like daggers to your boob."
[Writer's note: Marcie just shared this gif, which honestly needs no additional commentary because... yeah.]
"Like death, with a warm rock in your boob. My armpit hurt too because of where the infection was. And, for extra fun, you try to encourage the baby to suck the remaining life out of you as often as he/she is willing, because it allegedly clears the clogged duct faster."
[Writer's note: Nursing on all fours also helps clear a duct faster, in my experience, on account of the gravity. It may feel degrading, like you're a barn animal or something, but it helps!]
"Literally the worst flu you can imagine with a side of rotten boob."
[Writer's note: When I suggested to Jillian that "Rotten Boob" sounds like a punk band, she agreed but asserted, "But really that's the best way I can describe the festering death boob." Festering Death Boob sounds like a metal band. I could play this game all day.]
"It starts feeling sore, like maybe you've just been breastfeeding around the clock and need to leave alone for a bit. Then the tingling starts, then the burning, then you get a hard knot that won't go away and you start to get shaky and feverish. The only thing you can do is take the drugs and breastfeed like your life depends on it. Then, if you're super lucky, you cross the line from mastitis to abscess and all bets are off. What follows can only be described as a one way trip to downtown Hell."
"I was at a pizza place with friends in a rare outing away from my daughter. I noticed vaguely that one boob felt a little sore while eating salad, and figured it was time to nurse soon. A while later I reached across my body to grab a slice and felt horrible pain when my arm brushed my boob. I excused myself shortly after and headed home, and the seat belt stretched across my chest was unbearable. I was starting to feel feverish and desperate, but still foolishly hoping that all I needed was to nurse to relieve the pressure. I ran in the house, ripped my top off, grabbed the baby and sat down on my bed to nurse only to experience blinding, horrifying, nauseating pain the moment she latched on. I screamed for my husband to bring me a bucket and promptly puked up pizza and beer all without her unlatching. Let's just say that I have only vomited from pain three times in my life, and the other two were when I was in transition during the deliveries of my daughters. It was absolutely awful.
Oh, and bonus: hubby didn't understand what was going on and asked if I had too much to drink and if I was sure it was safe to be feeding her. You can guess the reaction he got."
"It's like having burning rocks in your boobs and having them expressed as razor blades."
"When I was in college I had the flu so bad, but I was obsessed with getting perfect grades and being the teacher's pet so I figured I could power through a final exam. I wound up literally hallucinating and passing out half-way. The professor was really sweet and understanding and scolded me for coming to sit the test in the first place. Mastitis is like that, only your baby is screaming at you the whole time and doesn't care that you're basically dying."
"Immeasurably better when you take an antibiotic."
[Writer's note: For real. It's a night and day difference. I know a lot of people are nervous about taking any kind of medication when breastfeeding, but there are antibiotics that are compatible with nursing and the sooner you get this hell on earth under control the better for everyone involved.]
"Tit flu. It feels like tit flu."
[Writer's note: OK, all those in favor of officially changing the name from mastitis to tit flu, raise your right boob.]
"I'm not sure what will be worse: dragon breathing fire or dragon breathing ice, but neither compare to mastitis."