I’ve always had a high tolerance for pain. Several times I’ve stubbed my toe and hardly cried at all—although hang nails still leaving me weeping uncontrollably. I’m joking. I’ve had broken bones, and several operations, and I took exactly one pain pill. It didn’t do much, so I didn’t take them. The last few times I never even filled the prescription. (I’m a child of the sixties. If you take the pill and still know who you are, why bother–I’m joking.)
Some people can take pain and some can’t. I know a man who had his tonsils out and compared it to having a baby. He made two mistakes in doing that: first, I’ve known eight year-old girls who had their tonsils out, ate a couple bowls of ice cream and were out playing the next day; and second, as a lowly man you are never allowed to compare any pain you might experience to childbirth. You could have your legs run over by a bulldozer, and while you’re lying there, a wild Sasquatch could rip off both your arms and start beating your chest in with them while a rabid wolverine chewed your face off, and if you have two manly brain cells to rub together, your response will be: “At least I didn’t have to give birth.”
Child birth seems to be the barometer people use to gauge pain. The late Erma Bombeck once said that before a woman has her first baby, she goes to natural childbirth classes, because she doesn’t want to subject her unborn baby to drugs. For the second child, she doesn’t go to the classes, because she knows there is no way she’s going to do it without drugs. And for the third baby, she’s asking for an epidural in the fifth month.
Being a lowly man, I have never experienced the great joy of having a baby rip out of my body like a creature from the movie Alien. My wife—who says she’s going to pass out if she gets a paper cut—did it three times. And it was her idea to do it after she had the fun experience the first time. Either there was a boatload of endorphins going through her body that dulled the pain, or post-traumatic stress disorder kicked in and gave her amnesia about the previous times. One way or the other, I appreciate her doing it. I also appreciate her not slapping me silly every time I said we had a baby. All I did was watch, and that was plenty. It really didn’t look like much fun, and it’s got to smart.
In my life I have experienced my share of physical pain—although nothing close to childbirth. I’ve had injuries, broken bones, operations and infections that took awhile to heal. For overall pain, nothing can compare to having a cast cut off my leg. One day when I was playing softball, I slid into second base and broke my ankle. I knew instantly it was broken. It sounded like a cannon going off inside me. I still can’t believe people can break a bone and not know it. The doctor put a fiberglass cast on my leg that ran from just below my knee to my toes.
Six weeks later, I went to the doctor’s office to get the cast cut off and get x-rays to see if it had healed. The doctor took out his little circular saw and started cutting. It was easily the worst pain I have ever felt at any one time in my life. I couldn’t believe they expected a human being to go through this. I squirmed and cried with tears running down my cheeks and sweat soaking my shirt. By the time he reached my ankle I was wishing he’d just cut the leg off at the knee—it would have been a lot less painful. I could see the look of disgust on the faces of the doctor and nurse. I know the doctor was thinking: I cut casts off five-year old girls, and they don’t act this badly. And of course the nurse was thinking: Good thing he can’t have a baby.
When they finally got the cast off, I had second and third degree burns from my knee to my toes. The saw blade was dull and had heated up. It was like having a hot iron slowly dragged from my knee to my toes. But I survived the experience, although I know I never would childbirth.
I’m working on my fifth and sixth novels while I try to find a publisher for my fourth. I started both of them in first person point-of-view and then switched to third person. I just think I’m a rather boring person and thinking of me as a character doesn’t seem interesting.