In another of the innumerable reasons why motherhood is not for the faint of heart, I offer this anecdote.
On a recent phone conversation, an old friend and new mother described to me a problem she was having breastfeeding her 8-week-old son. She had what seemed like a blocked milk duct, she explained, but one that was visible by a strange white dot on her nipple. A little scared by this development, she called a lactation hotline as soon as she could.
A very helpful lactation consultant said that, in fact, she did have a kind of blocked duct, but a special one that appeared externally, and might hurt internally.
“D@*! right, it does,” my friend confirmed, citing the shooting pain she felt whenever her son latched on. “I can feel it all the way into my chest cavity,” she complained.
“Ouch,” I said, and asked what this thing was called.
“A bleb,” she said. “Really, that ‘s what it’s called: b-l-e-b.”
That’s right, ladies, the official name for this nasty and painful problem is bleb.
Are you kidding me? I am offended by this name. I mean, really, bleb? That’s the best we can come up with to describe one of the many difficulties dedicated mothers face when trying to nurse their children? No disrespect to non-nursing mothers intended, by the way. In fact, I think if you’ve managed to get that little bugger to ingest any liquid at all — breastmilk or formula — you should consider yourself wildly successful.
But back to blebs. I am quite certain that were this a man’s problem, the medical establishment would have attached a sufficiently weighty and frightening name to it. Something like “internally-callused-externally-calcified-mammary-secretion-disorder.”
But it’s not a man’s problem, so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by how you treat blebs. Take a deep breath, Mommies, this is gonna hurt.
If warm compresses (the medical establishment’s panacea to all women’s problems) don’t work, you should lance it with a sterilized needle. Yes, I said, lance it.
If having a small, gnashing creature constantly gnawing on your most delicate parts isn’t enough, why not try sticking yourself with a needle? My poor friend related how, after a week or so, she became so uncomfortable that she actually tried this method. She heated up the needle and sat, open-bloused, holding it an inch or so away from her chest.
“You can’t imagine what it felt like to be sitting with a small, hot sword pointed at yourself,” she said. “I told my husband I was ready to turn in my ‘Mommy Badge’ once and for all.”
Again, if this were a man’s problem, I’m sure there would be an emergency surgical procedure, complete with general anesthesia, to solve the problem. Or there would at least be a little blue pill for it.
And I’m certain that health insurance would cover it.
Alas, my friend survived the hari-kari, and nurses her child happily once again. Her son is gaining weight like a fiend, thanks to the free-flowing milk, and his mother tries not to allow the bleb-letting to disturb her precious-little sleep.
But anyone who says nursing mothers are softy-granola-types should think again. Or, better yet, they can just go lance themselves.
Shearer is an Oak Cliff Mom with a doctorate in American Literature, but barely a pre-school education in Mommyhood.