Duct Duct Noose

My son favoured my right breast from the start, possibly due to my "incompetent" left nipple, as the lactation consultant at the hospital had adjudged it. I succumbed to his protestations and made the mistake of allowing him to suckle on my right breast, leading to engorgement and plugged milk ducts on my left. Another joy of breastfeeding.

The first thing I noticed was that my left breast became very hard, with thick sturdy lumps and that there were white dots around my areola. The next thing I noticed was that the inner side of my breast, where the hard lump was, was bright red and hot. I cringed. It looked like the beginning of mastitis and I panicked. I was worried that if I had an infection, I couldn't feed my little one and that at this early stage of breast feeding, my milk factory would close shop and we would be vanquished under the dominion of formula for ever. Before I called a doctor, wondering whether to go to my OB, my GP, or just ask my son's pediatrician, considering we had a scheduled appointment with her the next morning, I checked in with Dr. Google. After a while I conferred with my husband, who likewise had a session with the search engine and we agreed it was time for surgery.

Heat packs, alcohol, needles, tweezers and a pump surrounded me as I lay on the bed, propped up by a pillow, eyes closed, wincing in pain. The heat pack came on first, which felt quite pleasant and then we pumped. A few droplets came out. Next, my husband assessed which milk ducts appeared to be working and we stopped pumping and he got to work. I closed my eyes as he inserted the needle into the uncooperative few. Next, curdling yellow matter frothed out of the popped milk ducts and he pulled it out with tweezers. No wonder my son had refused this breast, I thought, as I looked onto the puss that trickled out. I wouldn't want to be anywhere near that, let alone eat it. When no more came out, we pumped again and as we feared, more of the pussy substance trickled out and the tweezers went to work again. It was probably the least sexiest moment anyone could have scripted.

"I have never seen anything so gross" my husband said, continuing to tease out the puss, transfixed as if viewing a car crash. My breasts had been demoted from objects of desire to objects of disgust. Not only was there no sexy time, there was no dignity. I started to cry. My mind wondered back to when we had first met, when all the huffing and puffing had been reserved for one activity alone. Little had I known then, when we were on our extended third date, a one week sojourn in Puerto Rico, that four and a half years later, my husband would be poking my breast with needles, muting a conference call he couldn't get out of and I would be screaming in pain, our son blithely sleeping through the travesty across our loft, in his makeshift nursery. Every so often, he would stop, unmute his call and provide advice, as I waited for the next thrust of the needle, biting my lower lip.

Occasionally, I would yelp from the pain. My husband stopped his surgery and looked at me. "I hate that I have to do this to you" he winced. I grabbed his hand. "Do it. Ignore me" I yelped. "It has to be done." He nodded. The things you do for your children. We danced this danced three times that day until finally, my breast was shooting out milk. We were ecstatic.

"Let's never speak of this again" I said. My husband nodded. Some things are best left contained in the sarcophagus of faded memory.


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