This latest wound from the biopsy yesterday reminded me of a conversation I had recently about pain.
After each of my surgeries, it was very difficult to tell where exactly the pain I felt was coming from. Often, it turned out, the pain wasn’t from the incision site but from the bandages around it pulling on my skin.
However, I didn’t know a difference between “bandage pulling on the skin” and “incision site pulling apart.” It was all just “pain I want to avoid,” so I held my head in certain ways, made sure to sleep in certain ways, and damn sure didn’t go touching things around there.
Looking back now, I think it would have made a big difference psychologically to know what was hurting. For example, it wasn’t until literally the last week of interferon that someone (nurse? friend?) told me that there’s actually NO NEEDLE in an IV! I had NO idea! Most of the pain I was feeling from the IV was probably from the bandage being wrapped a little too tight and pushing the little plastic pieces into my skin. Maybe it was a coincidence, but I feel like after I learned that there was no needle sitting inside my skin, my IV hurt a lot less!
After surgery, I also made sure to stay on top of the pain, which basically means, don’t act tough and think that you can skip whatever pain meds you are taking, whether it be morphine or Tylenol. Once you let the pain get ahead of you and you really start feeling it, it can be REALLY hard to get back ahead of it.
There was only one time I ever really got behind the pain, and that was in the hospital when they tried to switch me from IV morphine to dilaudid, which I am apparently impervious to because my pain only kept increasing and increasing. That was the point when I realized just how much the drugs WERE working because the pain was awful. Luckily, I was able to get some more morphine to get ahead of it again and things were MUCH better.
The thing that all of the nurses and doctors kept telling me that made me feel better about all the morphine I was taking while pregnant was that it was much better for the baby to have the tiny, tiny bit of medication that would make it to her than to be exposed to the incredible stress hormones that my intense pain would have caused. It’s funny how much perspective I got on all the things pregnant women “shouldn’t” do/eat/drink while I was actively getting all kinds of drugs injected into me (although OBVIOUSLY I would never have done any of these things if it weren’t in both of our best interest).
When people think of pain, they often think of childbirth, and since I experienced both surgery and childbirth within 6 weeks, I think I had a pretty good comparison of the two.
Interestingly, I really feel like there IS no comparison. (Warning: discussion of labor/birth ahead. Proceed with caution if you aren’t into that kind of thing).
In labor, when I could move freely, I don’t think I ever had real PAIN, per se, although it wasn’t highly comfortable during the contractions. If I could move to the positions where I felt more comfortable, I definitely got through the contractions without what I would consider “pain.” However, when I had to lay down on the table because I was being monitored, my contractions were more painful and I really, really hated laboring like that. It was amazing how strong my instincts were, whether it was to move to a certain position, to know when a contraction was coming, or to try to get the hell out of that damn bed!
It may just be the benefit of the post-baby hormone haze, but even the classic “ring of fire” didn’t seem that terrible, although now I would say that was probably the part that was closest to “pain.” Knowing that the contractions were WORK and DOING something was very different from the kind of pain that made me want to run away from/avoid it (see above).
So now I am dealing with my latest wound, the one that looks like a gunshot wound to the gut (as Peter calls it). It’s a little better because I know that most of the pain I’m feeling is from the bandage around it, so that’s better than from the biopsy site itself. I did have a “real pain” moment today, when I tried to put Emmie in the Baby Bjorn while I did laundry. She only lasted about a minute because something must have pushed on the stitches and it hurt SO BAD. I had to take her right out and give myself a minute. But Advil works wonders and I was just fine again in no time (and she got some nice tummy time on the floor with her toys).