On Saturday morning my dad came over to give me a hand with the little ones, and my choice was either to take a nap (which I desperately needed) or go for a run (which I also desperately needed). D was out of town again, and I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to run for almost a week, so I pressed myself into my two sports bras, and headed out the door. It was sunny and cool—the perfect weather for running, and as I plodded along the river road, I felt so calm. I thought about how glad I was that breastfeeding was so much easier with Zoe than it had been with Stella, and I thought about how I was finally getting the hang of two kids—how two now felt normal to me.
Well, a mere two hours later, on the way to Stella’s dance class, I started to feel some pain in my right breast. A plugged duct? Hmm. I wasn’t too worried about it, but when we got home, I soaked myself in the tub and tried to unplug it. No luck.
By 5 p.m. I had the chills and was shaking so much that my lips turned purple and I could hardly change Zoe’s diaper. (I kid you not.) By 5:30, I had a throbbing headache and a temperature of 102. I had heard how fast and furious mastitis was, but it seemed impossible to get that sick that fast. It felt like I had the worst flu of my life. I felt like I was going to die. I called my mom and burst into tears. (What if this interferes with nursing? Did it happen because of my tight sports bras? Why didn’t I take a nap instead of going for a run? Why did D have to be out of town?)
She said she’d be over as soon as possible.
I called my doctors, and the on-call physician agreed that it was mastitis and prescribed antibiotics for me. Luckily, a friend was coming over with dinner, and after making me some food (which I was too sick to eat) she went and picked up the pills for me. But then other worries set in: what if Zoe has a reaction to the medication? What if it makes her even gassier? What if I don’t really need them?
I was clearly very ill, though, and I remembered my sister’s horrible bout of mastitis, so I ended up taking the antibiotics (which I now need to take four times a day for two weeks). Another friend, who is a doctor, told me that the two main things I needed now were fluids and rest. “Kate,” she said, “you just started back to work and just started running again and you’re not getting enough sleep and Zoe isn’t even three months old yet.”
Oh right. I’ve been doing what I always do—too much. And even though I’m back to work only five hours a week, I’ve also been working on a freelance assignment, and there is my own writing—an essay with which I’m struggling—and then the details of keeping up the house, which now that D is traveling so much, fall primarily to me. Indeed, I’m doing too much.
So Sunday, I canceled everything, sent Stella to her grandparents’ house, and spent the day in bed. Warm breeze blew the curtains into the room as I lay next to Zoe on the bed, nursing her. I drifted in and out of sleep to the chirping of birds and the sounds of our neighborhood—lawn mowers and neighbors’ voices and the ice-cream truck tooling up and down the streets. And I realized I wanted to do this every day, all summer—lie in bed next to my baby, resting.
This won’t happen, of course. Stella will be out of pre-school in July and August, which translates into very little napping for me. And I do need to work—whether at this job or by picking up freelance projects—because we need the money. But I must find a way to balance it all without so much stress because I don’t want to end up here again—in mastitis hell.
What to do? What to do?