I know that most first-time mothers who plan to breastfeed very likely have some major concerns, even if we don’t readily voice them. There are just so many unknowns with the whole process. Will I produce enough milk for the baby? Will it hurt as much as it seems like it would have to hurt? Will the baby latch correctly and eat well? I could list about 20 more that float through my mind whenever I think about it.
And if these “normal” worries weren’t enough, I’ve got an extra special one on my breastfeeding anxiety plate.
About 4 years ago I had relatively invasive breast surgery. My surgeon removed 1/4 of my right breast because of a rapidly growing pre-cancerous mass. I was 24 at the time, and it was terrifying to say the very least. And if the surgery itself wasn’t bad enough, I was one of the extra lucky women who developed pretty severe complications after my surgery.
The incision didn’t heal fully and about 2 weeks after my surgery I developed something called a seroma, which is basically when there is a direct an opening from my nipple to the inside of my body, and if not packed and compressed, it would leak large quantities of fluid. It was both scary and really gross, to put it mildly. Thankfully it wasn’t particularly painful.
For weeks, I had to pack the wound, wear compressive bras (in order to get them tight enough, I had to wear 2 kid sized sports bras, layered, at all times) and take very strong doses of antibiotics. It’s even better when I tell you that during this period was a round-trip 2000 mile road trip, my wedding and honeymoon and that in order to manage the situation in my strapless wedding dress I had to tightly wrap an ace bandage around my breasts. The timing could not have been worse.
After about 6 weeks, the incision finally closed, I was able to stop packing the wound and eventually even got to wear normal bras again. About a year later I had a second procedure to do a better job of closing up the scar, and thankfully everything that time was uncomplicated, though there are still some weak pockets along the scar.
The whole experience has left me absolutely terrified to breastfeed. I feel like my right breast is damaged, I’m afraid that the force of feeding is going to pull apart the scar tissue that holds it precariously together. I’m afraid that because I had several ducts removed I won’t be able to produce enough for the baby even if I am able to feed at all on that side. And I’m afraid that it’s going to hurt even more because of all the scarring and damage to that breast.
I know that women who have had various breast surgeries go on to successfully breastfeed all the time, but with as many complications as I’ve experienced with this breast, I just feel preemptively defeated. It makes me not even want to try because I feel like failure is inevitable.
I’m wondering if anyone else has gone through a similar situation? I’m looking into breastfeeding classes through my hospital, but aside from that, I don’t even know where to start on this one.