…about mastitis.

six weeks ago, my best friend welcomed her first child into the world. i remember telling her when she was in labor that life is about letting go of how we want things to be and working diligently to embrace, however hard it may be, the way that things are.

we may desire a birth experience that’s all candles and soft music and baby snuggles, or a marriage that’s all romance and spice.

but instead, we’re given a birth story {or two} that include early arrivals and c-sections and NICU stays.

instead, we’re living inside of a marriage that has sprinkles of romance and dashes of spice in the midst of heaping spoonfuls of regular life, like a trip to the grocery store with a lingering moment of hand-holding in Aisle 4.

but what i’m learning, and what i’m reminding myself each and every day, is this:

there’s beauty in the way things are, too.

even more than that, though, is this:

finding slivers of beauty in the unexpected is the hardest sort of work, but it’s the most beautiful work of all.

* *

i call it the ten-month curse, but most people call it mastitis.

i experienced this not-fun-at-all breast infection for the first time on L’s ten-month “birthday,” and i came down with it yet again with Q in September, just one day shy of his own “10 Month Day.”

yet despite the eerie similarity in time, it was different this round; with L, i was a full-time Mama at home, and he and i could work together, nursing the day away and snoozing in between, to combat the blockage and the pain. in short, even through mastitis, i never, ever had breast milk supply issues with L. not one time.

but with sweet Q, i am a working Mama, which comes with its own collection of responsibilities and {consequently} its own emotions, and so ever since mastitis said hi, it’s me again on that September day, i have been experiencing the first meaningful dip in breast milk supply in my entire motherhood experience.

every morning, i pour the previous day’s pumped breast milk into two bottles. and every morning, i top off two bottles with cow’s milk. i have to do this because i can’t pump enough to hit the magic number of 10 ounces, which is what he’s drinking per day at “school” {what we call daycare}. while we have our pediatrician’s blessing to give Q cow’s milk in small doses prior to his first birthday, i envisioned him having a taste of it here and there; i never imagined having to resort to cow’s milk to compensate for my lackluster supply of breast milk.

this stall in my supply is more than just a typical “bummer, i’m going to have to do another round of pumping before bed” – instead, it’s soaked in desperation, steeped in self-loathing, awash in inability. in other words – oh, the guilt.

* *

yet, even as i share this personal experience that’s tinged with shame {all self-inflicted, i assure you} regarding the way that i nourish baby Q, i sit here today committed to finding the beauty in this, my most recent unexpected thing.

don’t get me wrong – i’m not at ALL happy about this development {or lack thereof, as the case might be}

– and the sighs and the not-so-silent prayers and pleas to my breasts to just freaking produce more milk is evidence of that, and there’s nothing more that i want than to sit here, day after day, feeling the way that i feel {and whining about it to all of you} –

but that’s not what i want to teach my kids.

instead, i want them to remember that in the face of the unexpected, their Mama persevered. sure, she was sad, she pouted, and she prayed to God to allow her, just this once, to produce enough milk to build up a tiny little reserve, so that she could steal away for a date with her ever-patient, steadfastly-supportive husband.

but, what i want my kids to know is that after the sadness and the pouting and the praying, she moved on. she moved forward.


she kept pumping, day after day after day, when the magic hour hit. she pumped in the lactation lounge at school, she pumped in the narrow hallway at home, she pumped in the darkness of her bedroom as her baby slept beside her. she never, ever quit.

and when she didn’t produce enough milk, she topped off the bottles with cow’s milk, day after day after day, and she took comfort in the fact that the sum of the milk that she was providing and the nutrient-rich organic cow’s milk were nourishing her child the best way that she knew how.

she persevered. and that was enough.

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One Comment

  • Hugs, mama. I love the way you so eloquently write about the feelings we all have. Your sweet boys are blessed by you.

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