Warning: This post contains descriptions my body that some might find offensive. In particular if the word "breast" or "nipple" makes you squirmy when spoken of in a public forum, you shouldn't read this post since it recalls an ordeal with Mastitis, a breast infection. This "moment" I suppose is really a series of moments, but you're really at the mercy of my whims if you insists on reading this, so you'll have to make do.
The Morning of Mastitis
My breasts began to get larger and more painful in the days after my milk came in. One morning I was in so much pain that I couldn't even prepare breakfast for my daughter. I had to sit down. I was feeling dizzy and nauseated. I called the doctor's office, who had me leave a message with a nurse. While waiting for a call back I decided to run to the store to get a nursing bra that would fit me better. A bra that didn't fit was probably aggravating my symptoms. I left Will with the kids at my grandparent's house and rushed off to the mall, planning to be back by my new baby's next meal time.
I was feeling horrible as I walked in to the Motherhood Maternity store. The saleswoman helped me pick out some bras to try on and led me to the dressing room. I had to very carefully remove my top so as not to bump my tender breasts. I had just gotten off my too-small bra when my cell phone rang. I felt strange talking on the phone in the quiet of the dressing room with my shirt off, but it was the doctor's office number, which was a call I needed to take.
“This is the nurse from Dr. Nichol's office. I'm returning your call could you please describe your symptoms?”
“Well, I feel really awful. I have a headache and my breasts really really hurt.” I start crying. Great. I'm crying on the phone to a nurse while topless and anyone outside the curtain door can hear me. “I have nausea and I just feel sick.”
“Do you have any redness on your breasts?”
“Well, maybe a little. I'm not sure.”
“Do you have a fever?” Asked the nurse.
“Uh, well, I don't think so. I don't feel like I'm hot.”
“Do you have a thermometer.” I pause. Do I really have to explain that, despite the fact that I've just told her I feel like crap, I'm dandy enough to go try on clothes at the mall? There's no way I'm going to discuss this here, when anyone in the store can hear this conversation. And I'm not going to admit to the nurse that I don't have a thermometer with me because, well, I felt the need to go on a shopping spree.
“Uh, I don't know where one is,” I say. “But I don't feel hot.”
“Well, without a fever, you probably don't have anything serious. Take some Tylenol and rest. But call us back right away if it turns out you do have a fever, because then it might be something worse.”
“Okay,” I agree, relieved that this sounds like the end of the discussion. I determine to take my temperature as soon as I get home. “Thank you so much.”
I hang up the phone and feel a pressure mounting in my chest as my breasts tighten. On no! I think. I'm letting down! Sure enough, I start squirting milk and quickly press a finger against each nipple to hold it in. I stand there like this for a moment, hoping that if I can just wait long enough the milk will stop flowing. A couple of times I let go of myself to check. But as arches of opaque liquid stream out each time, I realize that I must simply be at the top of my milk capacity. I just can't hold it in and besides, my fingers are getting sticky. I try to push my face out of the fitting room curtain without revealing my half-naked, lactating body. There's no one around.
“Excuse me!” I call out. I wish I had remembered the sales woman's name.
“Yes?” I hear her call back. She rushes over. I think she gets paid on commission.
“Do you have any breast pads?” I'm secretly hoping that a place that sells nursing bras will have random disposable nursing pads, the way some shoe stores have cheap nylons to protect the product from the customer.
“Yes.” She says. Hooray! Finally I catch a break! “We have a box of Medela and a box of Johnson's nursing pads. Would you like to buy one?” Oh. That's not exactly what I was hoping for.
“Actually,” I reply, “I was hoping that I could use a pair.”
“Oh!” realized the saleswoman, “I can open a box for you and bring you a couple. I'll leave the box at the register for you. The Johnson's are the least expensive, would you be okay with those?”
“Yes, thank you.” Actually, she is pretty friendly.
Now that I have something to catch my leakage, I take a moment to try and figure a way to try on bras with minimal incident. That's when the overwhelming feeling of lightheadedness kicks in. I've lost consciousness enough in my life to know when I'm about to pass out. Thank goodness there's a bench in the fitting room long enough for me to lie down on.
I try to regain a clear head and grab my phone. I'm crying to Will about how I just wanted to make a quick trip but now I don't know if I can even stay conscious and there's no way I'm driving myself home would he please come get me or send grandma to get me or something? Will says he'll come but when I hang up I realize that it might cause a problem if I actually do pass out and roll onto the floor. I imagine a mom-to-be browsing the maternity tops when she spots an unconscious nude woman protruding out from underneath a dressing room curtain, milk spilling from her breasts.
Once again I wish I had remembered the saleswoman's name. She comes over as quickly as the last time and, to her credit, notices right away that something is wrong.
“Does the mall have a medical unit?” I ask.
“I'll call security right away.” When she comes back, she has a water bottle with her.
The mall security arrives with a first aid kit, but doesn't come in to the fitting room. He passes an oxygen mask to the saleswoman, who's name tag says “Eden”. How did I not notice a name like that? When Security Guy talks to Eden through the curtain, who then begins asking me questions methodically, I discover that they've got the paramedics on the phone. At one point Eden asks, "Do you have any pain?"
"Yes, my breasts really hurt," I answer through the oxygen mask. Eden tells this to Security Guy, who pauses and then tells the paramedics I have chest pain. Poor sap. This must be really awkward.
When the paramedics arrive, they're laughing. The chest pain isn't the only thing they got wrong. I later find out that the dispatcher told them the victim was an 85 year old woman. What is an 85 year old woman doing in the dressing room of a Motherhood Maternity? They further check me out and, upon discovering my age is 25 and my temperature is 101, recommend that I go with them to a hospital of my choice. By this time Will has arrived and we are getting ready to leave.
Eden graciously tells me not to worry about the breast pads when she overhears me asking Will to pay for them. Though we're headed for the hospital, I don't take the ambulance. I for sure don't need that bill. But I do let them wheelchair me out to my grandparent's car that Will has borrowed for the occasion.