A friend posed a simple question as her FB status about a week ago: 'If you had a band, what would you call it?' Without hesitation, I replied with 'Blistered Nipple'
Besides being a totally kick-ass band name (you may steal it, but you sure as sh*t better give me credit -- or at least a free t-shirt when your hipster fan base gets big enough to warrant merchandising), it happens to also be a somewhat accurate description of the state of my right nipple.
That's right team, this is a blog post about my right nipple. So men, either commit to feeling grossed out and uncomfortable, or close out and move on with your day; carrying with you a strong sense of relief that your bodies aren't designed for childbirth and milk-production. Freud never talked about 'lactation envy' ... no surprise there.
So for those who are still reading (whom I suspect are mothers, men who claim to have strong stomachs, and possibly a curious teenage boy or two who just got done Googling the word 'nipple' and is holding out hope for a photo), here's my latest thoughts on the physical trials of motherhood: there's the physical agony of childbirth and the extreme pain of a thrush diagnosis, and frankly I am not sure which is worse. At least when you're delivering a baby, there's a distinct end to your suffering. That kid is coming out one way or another. With this thrush thing, it took me a week for a diagnosis and now I am on day three of my fourth treatment strategy and still feeling somewhat defeated.
It started at the end of last week, after my second marathon 12-hour workday in a row which resulted almost exclusive pumping and hardly any actual nursing. My nipple was red and raw and bleeding, like it had just gotten into a knife fight and had lost badly. I initially blamed my breast pump shields and promptly ordered a larger size (the 36mm, largest size you can get, designed for nursing baboons I think) on Amazon Prime, and began counting the minutes until it was scheduled to arrive. I limped through the weekend, tolerating nursing fairly well and pumping as best I could, but mostly just fighting back tears and flirting with the idea of violently throwing my pump and nursing cover out into the nearest dumpster. But, I'm a stubborn a-hole on a mission, so I wiped back the tears and pressed on.
After my new monster-sized shields arrived, I could finally pump with at least a little comfort. It took about twice as long because I initially still only tolerated the lowest setting on my pump. Still, that damn nipple just didn't want to heal. It continued to feel like someone had set fire to it and then started sawing at it with two dozen tiny meat-cleavers. And since it's not socially acceptable (especially at work or when your parents are in town) to walk around with your breasts exposed, I had to douse the damn thing in lanolin and tuck it in behind my bra after every meal/pumping session where it would protest loudly to it's restricted quarters for several minutes before resigning to it's defeat and letting me carry on with my life. This was often just as painful as the initial pumping and would cause me to catch my breath and mutter some colorful profanities through my teeth (also not super acceptable at work or around parents).
Finally, after almost a week of banging my head against the wall (metaphorically, of course), I finally had an afternoon open up and so I high-tailed it to my OBs office where I was given a last-minute appointment with a very sweet urogynocologist who diagnosed me with thrush and had my nipples and my poor baby's mouth painted with some pretty gnarly purple stuff that some of you may be familiar with: Gentian Violet.
Now, we both looked a little like aliens and/or something out of a low budget horror movie about blood-sucking demon babies. A word of advice for you ladies who haven't (yet) had the pleasure of a thrush diagnosis and subsequent Crayola-esque treatment: get ready to toss out a bra or two and at least three onesies because no matter how careful you are, that shit is gonna seep into and destroy at least that many items.
I also have a bottle of purple breast milk in the refrigerator that I'm not sure what to do with but it makes me giggle.
After receiving my diagnosis, I began broadcasting it via text and social media...because my misery enjoys both company and sympathy (I'm one of those friends). I couldn't believe how many of my poor mom-friends had quietly suffered through this agony on multiple occasions and soldiered on in their nursing ventures. Heroes. Damn heroes, all of them. They offered support and sympathy and a variety of tried and true treatment options.
A mom slash doctor-friend suggested Monistat, which (counting the new breast-shields) was treatment #3.
Treatment #4 was initiated after I got a text yesterday from my sitter reporting that our littlest man was bark-coughing and breathing like a locomotive. I wasted no time in scheduling an appointment with our pediatrician and whisking the little guy in for a closer look. He sounded terrible and freaked everyone out at first (myself included) but was ultimately deemed to have good oxygen saturations and was likely just suffering a virus causing mostly upper airway disturbances. He was prescribed oral prednisone to open things up and dare I say, it seems to be working so far. I took the opportunity to also discuss our apparent brush with thrush (because his purple mouth suggested either that or a lollipop) and they also passed me a script for niastatin.
So now, we are both at home, licking our wounds (well, not really--that's physically impossible--but you get the gist , you people get how metaphors work, I don't know why I keep explaining) and enrolled in night three of my self-prescribed Breastfeeding Bootcamp to attempt to boost up my now pathetic milk supply. The little man snoozed (quietly at times!!) in the bassinet next to my bed and nursing every couple hours. My nipple is stained and broken still--it looks like a smurf tried to take a bite out of it--but functioning for the most-part.
I may not be emotionally equipped to soldier through this setback like so many of you heroic nursing warriors out there....but at least I can say that I tried.