Thursday, September 3, 2009

Pain is Relative

Since we just talked a little shop...well, I guess I wrote, you read...but, anywho, let's talk a little more nurse speak. If that's okay with you.

In my life, pain is in, once you've experienced labor and delivery, does any other pain compare?

Heck, no!! Well, I've heard kidney stones compare, but I've never experienced that...and besides, I'd much rather suffer for a cuddly little baby than a rock passed through my ureters, you know?

We nurses operate on a pain scale of 0-10 (well, I guess I can only speak for my hospital, but...whatevah!) tell me 0, I say great, you tell me 10, I say "Oh sweet mother of mercy...we need to act FAST!!!"

Then there are those people. Those who say "zero" but mean ten...suffer quietly, stoically, never wanting to put anyone out, so they'll just suffer. Ahem...okay, I have yet to meet this person, but still. And then there are "the others"...

"The Others", sitting comfortably on their just repaired perineums, moving about with nary a wince or a grimace, chatty, smiley, they look you in the eye, think a tad and say "I'm at an 8" (rarely do even the others have the courage to say 10).

"Really?" I think. 'Cuz I'll tell you what...if I were at an eight, I'd be hunched over, curled into a ball, crying soft tears of agony (or, truly, sobbing...a slobbery, boogery mess). I'd not be sitting on the source of the pain with my legs crossed, nibbling on a bran muffin and watching Dr. Phil.

Perhaps we just handle pain differently, I and "The Others"?

No!! I am completely convinced "The Others" have no concept of the pain scale. It's kinda like the in Emergency in EMERGENCY!!! (But that's a whole 'nuther post!!). It's all relative, no?

Epidurals = happy, sweet young mothers. But, back in the day, the sweet young mothers toughed it out. Bit on a bullet, or a chunk of wood, or their own finger...they knew pain like we have no idea! And those were some tough mamas!

But, now? One meager, slightly uncomfortable, tad bit sharp contraction...and the anesthesiologist in on his way up...all to happy to poke a ginormous needle into your back and get the heck outta there as fast as he possibly can (OB is really not their thing).

I think we're gettin' wimpy, folks!

So, the epidural wears off, and "Holy Mother of God"!!!! the pain sets in. 'Cept, this pain, this post delivery pain is now more than what labor felt like, when in reality, it's a drop in the bucket, my dear!!!

And, hence, we've created "The Others".

Once, when a sweet young mother arrived 'cuz she thought she was in labor...walked up, laughing with her entourage, cute and pretty and smiley...she reported she was "cramping". When asked what number she'd give her pain, she responded (yup!) "A 10".

The nurse, dumbfounded, said "Really? A 10?"

To which the sweet young mother replied, "Well...for cramps."

Perhaps we need to be more explicit...a 10 is reserved for "the worst pain you can ever imagine having"...not the worst cramps you've ever had.

A co-worker recently told me that she once overheard a co-worker tell a smiley, happy, rating her pain at 10, patient this..."Really? A 10? So, if I ripped your arm off, beat you with it and lit you on fire, that's how you're feeling right now?"

Oh, sweet Jesus, how I wish I could say that.


  1. Adults are whimpy lovely goober! I was in nursing at first, then after the third person puked on me (seriously - you can't lean the other way?!?)I gave it up for education. Now, well soon, I'm going to go back in - but I'm going back in for peds. Pediatric dialysis to be exact. :) When I talk to the nurses at Egleston during Matthew's treatment, they all tell me that they moonlight at adult facilities or Tuesdays and Thursdays. And they all tell me that grown men ask for the numbing gel before getting their fistula stuck. The 11 year old girl next to Matthew just request the channel be turned to Spongebob. When cramps or headaches set in, the kids moan quietly not to disturb anyone or just raise their hands. The adults cuss and swear and can get rather agitated.
    As for kidney stones and birth - I've had both. (and both births too) Kidney stones hurt most before they come out, the head hurts like a %&*#!!! and the recovery is worse the morning after the c-section. :) Now you know. :)

  2. Hey.. I figured out how to leave a comment..LOL (just needed to be logged into blogger)

    BUT anywho I remember a year ago being that young pregnant mom who thought a mere braxton hicks was a "10" that was until I actually went into labor and realized what a 10 was!! Love the nursing stories

  3. Oh that made me laugh so much especially the last ripping your arm off bit, you see I'm a physiotherapist specialising in chronic pain management, the fake 10's are awesome but my personal favourites are the how is your pain on a scale of 0-10 with 10 being the worst pain you can imagine......"well it's a 20!" some people really need to toughen up

  4. I love it!!! Keep the shop talk coming! I agree- people are wimps. Now, that said, I need to tell you that I did have an epidural with both boys- but my first was facing the wrong with a 14 inch head. I seriously could feel his head GRINDING on my pelvic bone (felt kind of like when you need new brakes on a car...). Yeah, I'm all for the epidural.
    BUT - I NEVER went over 8.
    I figured there was room for more pain if my arm was torn off.

  5. I blogged about the tutu..I better win!! :-) I have to say that I had c-sections..And with my first I never dilated enough to have an epidural..I'm one of those stoic people by the way...:-)

  6. What is this "post delivery pain" you speak of?

    Are you serious?!!

    I mean.....after the whole natural birth pain....there was NO "post delivery pain". Maybe "post delivery mild discomfort".....

    And...the nurse singing Happy Birthday for 20 minutes straight at the pinnacle of my birthing pain....she sent my pain level to a 10. It was AWFUL!

  7. Wow, I cannot imagine a nurse singing during childbirth. That is funny. Seriously though, nothing hurts like afterpains when nursing. That is the only time I need pain meds. I remember instinctively pulling my baby off her latch...that didn't really help. I was sore everywhere at that point.

  8. Tootaches are pretty bad! I would rather have a baby than a toothache. or maybe I just don't remember what it's like to be in labor???

  9. I can't wait for the ER post!! Promise that one is comming!!! I suppose I could post a few too:)!!

  10. I love it! I was laughing so hard reading this--I just had my 2nd daughter 5 1/2 weeks ago...without an epidural (I wanted one at the time, but I would so go without one again! I felt amazing afterwards!).

    And I just read the induction post...loved it, too! I was over a week past due with my first daughter so they induced me (failed epidural with this one) so this one made me laugh, too. And I so don't understand why women want to go so early?? What's a few more days, you already lasted 39 weeks!

    Anyway, I puffy heart your happy I found it :)

    And I can't wait to read more stories...haha!

  11. Haha, thought your post was right on! I am a recovery room nurse (although the closest we get to OB is emergency c-sections). I will ask people "are you comfortable?" and they will say yes but then if you say "are you having pain?" Its at least a 7/10 when they were just sleeping and obstructing 5 seconds ago and i had to wake them up. People are funny. My favorite things to hear are:"I just didn't expect that surgery would hurt"..."I just have a low " pain tolerance"..."I need Dilaudid and Benadryl"...and the 40 year old men who say "my mom brought me in, when can i see her?" :) anyway. Enjoyed your post, I can relate!

  12. My in-laws thought I was crazy for not having a epidural with either of my kids. With Tim there was no time at all. Heck they had to invert the bed just to give the NICU time to race down the hall. With Stacey I can honestly say i the the worst pain was when the dr gave me a shot before he did the episiotimy. Had a shot of nacs at 9am asked for a 2nd at 11:45 to late was already 9 1/2-10 and she was born at 12:01pm.

  13. I've been leading my SIL to your blog and nursing stories...she too is a L&D nurse. She's gets a kick out of your posts. Anyway, I'm one fo the suffer in silence girls. I think the highest I ever went on the pain scale with my regualr birth is a 3, and with my c-section, a 5...and that was after getting up to walk the first time. Felt like my insides were coming out to join the world, but hated being a bother!

  14. Oh dear... I thought I could just "catch up" by reading through and not commenting until your most current post!

    But here I am at the first one on my "catch up" and I have to say....

    HILARIOUS! I could never gage that 0-10 scale! I would be the one (although I can NOT take pain) to say maybe a 3 when I went in for the birth of our 3. No epidurals here...not enough time. (which thank goodness they were quick!)

    Blessings & Aloha!

  15. Hahahaha! That last bit was hilarious.

    I'll be honest with you, I KNOW I have no concept of the pain scale. When they'd ask me to rate my pain, I'd say, "Uh...I dunno...3? 4?" I really couldn't answer, but I KNEW it could be a lot worse, so I figured it was somewhere below 5.

    I guess I'll be getting an education soon.

  16. As an RN on a trauma unit (read: narc-seeking unit) I totally LOVE this post. I'd love to be able to say something like that, too


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