What is this?
Every so often, interspersed with the “how to” tips and advice on handling chronic pain and the posts where I shamelessly try to feed my kid via affiliate marketing (and for the love of God, please, people, go buy something, will ya? She’s already growing out of the three pairs of school pants I could afford back in January), I’ll share an excerpt from my work-in-progress tentatively and humorously (I hope) titled The Tramadol Diaries.
Unless specifically stated otherwise, I advocate trying NOTHING in these posts as a means of dealing with your own chronic pain (especially without talking to your doctor first). Except the humor. That works. Also? Self-delusion and self-imposed exile to Egypt — you know, the Land of Denial … well, at least it works for awhile …
“Does It Hurt This Bad For All Preggos?”
For nine solid months, and beyond, I hurt. Friends would ask, concern in their voices and eyes, “What exactly does it feel like?”
The first time I was asked this fairly simple question, I was floored. How to describe this hellish sensation that made walking, sitting, lying down, doing anything pure torture?
I thought for a minute, and then said, “Imagine it’s late spring and you’re in college. You’re wearing shorts. Short shorts, you know, the kind that barely cover the subject. Now imagine you’re sitting on top of a brick wall. OK? Now, say this really cute guy clear across the quad sees you. His eyes light up and he calls out to you, waving you over. You happily hop off the wall … and in the process, scrape the shit out of the backs of your legs. Got that?”
They’d wince, and then their eyes would go wide, and they’d nod. But I wasn’t finished.
“OK, now, while you’re in shock from that experience, the insane torture killer who just escaped from the local nuthouse comes careening around the corner and sees you in pain. You look just like his abusive mom, so he takes the fireplace poker he carries with him for just such a purpose out of his duffel bag with one hand, pulls out the flame thrower with the other, heats up the poker until it glows red and white at the tip, and then jabs that poker smack dab in the center of your butt cheek, then pulls it straight down your leg to your heel.”
At this point in the description, I’d get some strange looks.
So I’d shrug. “It’s like that.”
Colorful though the description may have been, it wasn’t overstatement or hyperbole. That’s exactly what it felt like. Most of the time, I’d be the girl who merely scraped the crap out of her legs on the brick wall. But at least once a day, I’d become the serial killer’s victim.
The worst part was I couldn’t predict when that transformation would take place. I tried, God knows. I kept logs — detailed logs of all my activities, my food and drink intake, my stress levels, my sleep — anything I could think of that might possibly be related to this awful pain. There were absolutely no commonalities. No pattern I could discern.
I was simply at the whims of some sadistic supernatural force that had decreed I’d be spending what should have been the most blissful time of my life — my first pregnancy — in screamingly debilitating pain.
And to make it even more deliciously sadistic? I was pregnant so I couldn’t take any good drugs. Nor could I even take any diagnostic tests to figure out what the hell was going on with me.
What I could do was research. So I researched myself blind. I read every book on pregnancy I could find, assuming the pain was somehow connected to my burgeoning blessed state. Made sense, right? They both struck at the same time.
And in fact, in one of those god-awful pregnancy tomes — you know, with the paintings of the long-haired earth mothers, rocking a baby with some intricately knitted shawl delicately draped around her shoulders? — what I found was that this devilish pain had a name — sciatica — and it was in fact commonly experienced in pregnancy. Bingo, I thought smugly.
Then I read the next paragraph, and my smugness vanished, to be replaced by utter confusion and dismay: sciatica was commonly experienced in pregnancy — in the last weeks of the third trimester, as it was related to the pressure of all that extra weight pressing against your spine. But I’d been feeling like this since right after the little blue line popped up on the white stick.
So I know what it is, but not why I have it, I thought. Crap.
In a master stroke of irony, I experienced absolutely no other negative pregnancy side effects. No fatigue. No morning sickness. Well, I was hot as hell, perpetually. I cranked down the house thermostat to the point that my husband swore he saw penguins leaving in the middle of the night, shivering, muttering “Damn, it’s too cold in there.”
“Ha. Ha. I’m growing a person in here,” I snapped back. “It’s hot work.”
The worst time was nighttime. I’d lie there on one side then the other, a long body pillow stuffed between my knees and clutched over my bursting belly, desperate for one moment of … not feeling good since that was clearly impossible, but at least of sufficiently reduced pain that I could finally reach that blissfully unaware state of sleep.
Predictably, as I grew bigger the pain got worse. But sometime around the sixth month, I discovered that I had superpowers.
Specifically, I had the power of auto-suggestion. I could convince myself of anything, it seemed. Even that my pain was fading. Even that it was gone. All I had to do was lie there, quietly, and repeat to myself over and over “I feel good, I feel great, my legs feel great, I can sleep, I feel good, I feel great …” Within five minutes, the pain subsided long enough to let me drift off.
Excited at this epiphany, I started playing this game during the day. I was devastated to find out it only lasted a few minutes at a time, and required serious mental effort — more effort than I could give, since I was still working. So I suffered through the days.
But at night? I was Pregnant Sleeping Cleopatra, Queen of Denial.