Dot writes: yesterday I abandoned my innocent child and went gallivanting into work to indulge in scholarly pursuits. At Trinity we have an annual lecture named after John Mitchell Kemble, an early 19th C Anglo-Saxonist who came to give a lecture in Dublin and ended up dying here (a less than encouraging precedent for the distinguished scholars we invite to commemorate him, I always think). The first three lectures were all given by scholars from the field of English Literature, but Kemble was a historian and an excavator as well as an editor of Beowulf, so this year we invited an archaeologist. In fact it was the first time I was the person to propose and invite the speaker, and he is a professor at the university where I did my PhD.
I slept badly the night before the lecture and woke feeling drained and mentally feeble. I put it down to worry. As always seems to be the way of these things, our carefully chosen date had attracted rival events the way a bus attracts other buses. Not only had the medieval studies graduate students scheduled a paper for only an hour before our event, the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies had scheduled a visiting speaker for exactly the same time, competing directly for Dublin’s plucky but not that large audience of medievalists. I learnt during the day that UCD had managed to arrange a clashing talk by someone from Time Team, so dividing the archaeology audience as well. However, our speaker arrived safely, we gave him a big fancy lunch in the college restaurant, which I think he enjoyed, and I managed, I think, to be cheerful and friendly if rather moronic (it’s hard suddenly switching from childminders and weaning to princely burials in Essex).
There was a nasty moment when we realised my colleague Helen thought we had booked the Walton Lecture Theatre (and had put it on all the posters) while I had been told by the secretary we had booked the Thomas Davis Theatre (and had told the speaker so). There was an even nastier moment when we checked with the porters and found we had no lecture theatre booked at all. Fortunately the Thomas Davis was free and we didn’t need to mention it to the speaker. The audience was fairly small, but plenty of students came, which always looks good, there was a decent question session, and the reception was very lively. Slightly to our surprise, the occasion was a success.
And so back to my Prawn. He had taken his bottle during the day – a great relief – but we had missed each other and our reunion was rapturous. My breasts were engorged and painful; I hadn’t quite had the bottle (boom boom) to get out my breast pump during the lecture. My right breast seemed particularly uncomfortable, and when Hugh woke again around six I encouraged him to feed again from that side. Only then I noticed it wasn’t getting any better and indeed I could feel a big, hard lump.
In York Ken and I had a housemate who got breast-cancer at the age of twenty-seven. 6am is a bad time to find a lump. Oddly, the first horror scenario that occurred to me was that I would be rendered infertile by chemotherapy and would be unable to have another child. (I must be a glutton for punishment.) Only after that did I embark on maudlin contemplation of my Prawn facing a motherless future. I tried to massage the lump away in case it was just milk, but it didn’t go. Then I thought it might be some sort of cyst. And then, when I got up and saw how red and blotchy my breast was getting, I decided it was probably an infection. My worry then was that I might have to stop breastfeeding. I love breastfeeding, and Hugh loves breastfeeding, and I was looking forward to carrying on breastfeeding as much as possible when I go back to work, so we can continue to enjoy that intimacy and comfort together.
Anyway, I trekked back into town, for the fourth time this week, to see my doctor. She confirmed my last, least sensational diagnosis. By the time I saw her it was quite obvious. I felt seedy, exhausted and sweaty, and my breast was hot, hard and painful with a great patch of red. I was prescribed a course of antibiotics. Happily, the doctor said it was OK to carry on breastfeeding, though she suggested I might pump and discard the milk from the right breast as it may not taste very nice. I shall take this advice. Hugh in his livelier feeds tends to punch or kneed the breast he’s sucking with his upper hand. He wouldn’t want to losde his mummy to archaeology or cancer; I’m sure if she shot into the air with pain and shock and brained herself on the ceiling he would find that pretty inconvenient too.