Thursday, August 26, 2010

Breast abscess - my own true account

Previously I said that I'm saving this story for another day. So here it is. But be warned: this is a rather long post. I've broken the whole story into 3 parts, so take your time. :)


It all started with the all-too-common breast engorgement in the early days after giving birth. Unlike most mothers whose milk “came in” three of four days after birth, my came in right after the birth. This could be due to the reason that I was still breastfeeding my 1-year-old daughter when I discovered I was pregnant for the second time. A few months along the pregnancy, when my daughter was around 14 or 15 months old, I decided to wean her off the breast completely because I was too tired to cope with the night feedings and the pumping.

The first 3 days at the hospital right after the birth of our son, the feedings were going on fine. Maybe because I’d just stop breastfeeding several months before, so I did not have too much problems breastfeeding my son. He seems to be latching on fine, too, that the lactation counselors gave high praises to me as the “expert” breastfeeding mom, though I wouldn’t say that I’m an expert. I had my share of problems too, only it got much better with experience later on.

I spent my confinement days at my parent’s house in Johor Bahru, which is 4 hours away from home. My husband would come and visit us on weekends. I don’t remember exactly when the engorgement started, it was probably the second week after the birth. I had the usual symptoms such as tender lumps, warmth and throbbing, the tightening of the skin, making it hard for my baby to latch on. Also, I came down with fever so many times, I lost count of the number. I tried nursing my baby often, which was challenging because sometimes he just could not latch on! This would usually end up with a) my baby screaming right in front of my nipple, or b) my baby screaming right in front of my nipple and me sweating profusely and almost in tears. Sometimes I just gave up, passed him to my mom and warmed up a bottle of expressed milk.

The engorgement did not disappear. I tried using cabbage leaves. I expressed more times. I tried both hot and cold compresses. I tried hand expression, breast compression and massage. Then one day, I was getting dressed, when I felt a hard lump on the underside of my left breast, which was painful when I pressed my fingers on it and felt warm. I told my mom about it. She told me that she had a lump too, when she was younger. Her gynae told her that it was not cancerous and had it removed in a minor operation. But she said that hers felt nothing like mine; it was small, hard and not painful at all. I was getting worried. I called my husband and he urged me to see a doctor immediately. I didn’t go immediately, but kept on trying to relieve the engorgement by myself. I told myself to wait until the next week.

The next week came and I was still in pain, and keep coming in and out of fevers. Finally I couldn’t ignore it any longer, so my parents took me to a clinic. She asked me to lie down and take off my bra. She took a look at it and said “oh, this looks like breast abscess.” She said the lump was red and swelling, which explained the warmth. She gave me antibiotics and asked me to come back in three days time if the pain had not subsided, in which case she would need to refer me to a surgeon.
This is how an abscess looks. (That's not me, by the way.)

Photo courtesy of
Okay, right about then, I was freaked out! I never had any surgery in my life and have been admitted to hospital wards only for childbirth, so you can imagine how I was feeling at the time. After the three days was up, I surrendered to the fact that I had to go and have my breast cut open. The doctor referred me to a surgeon at a specialist hospital. The doctor was an Indian-Muslim gentleman, about my dad’s age and gently told me to admit myself to the hospital ward the next day. He scheduled the surgery which he called incision and drainage for the day after tomorrow, 10 am. I called my husband telling him about the surgery and he promised to come home so he could be with me before the surgery starts.

My mom would have to look after both my kids during the nights I was at the hospital. My mom was not exactly young at 64, and I felt a little guilty that she would have to care for a 20-month old girl and a 1-month old baby boy, knowing that my dad was not much of a help in the middle of the night. My little girl still wakes up at night occasionally in addition to the baby’s night feedings. I told my husband to stay at home so he could take care of my daughter, leaving my mom to care for my son only. But my mom told him to stay at the hospital with me. And I can’t pretend that I wasn’t grateful that my husband was keeping me company at the hospital. It is unbelievably depressing to be lying down in a hospital bed after a surgery all alone.

1 comment:

  1. Hi,

    thank you for sharing ur story on this.I've been diagnosed with a 3cm of breast abscess and it has been going for weeks now,tomorrow is my follow up,whether to undergo surgery or not.Still breastfeeding my son,but my stocks only enough on daily basis.I'm so nervous whether I've to undergo surgery and unable to provide enough milk to my son.. :((


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