Are Kidney Stones as Painful as Labor?

11.25.09 Why I'm grateful this week.


I’ve heard people say the only thing as painful as labor is a kidney stone. It was usually men I heard say that through and before yesterday, I figured they didn’t know what they were talking about. Labor pain being exclusively a woman’s domain, I thought these guys just needed something to show they could be tough too. Yeah, right, dude. Whatever.

Gentlemen, I apologize. I spent the day yesterday with one of my college-age daughters while she experienced pain so bad, it rivaled what I’ve experienced in labor along with unbearable nausea and countless bouts of vomiting. Poor baby had a kidney stone. When she eventually passed the darn thing (and we saw it when the nurse filtered her urine), the nurse and I shouted, “it’s out, it’s out!” as if she’d just delivered a big baby instead of a tiny stone. Of course, we teased it had to be a boy since it gave her so much trouble. Again, guys, my apologies.

I’m not a grandmother yet so I don’t know what it’s like to stand by my daughter’s bed while she goes through labor. I know what it’s like to be a worried Mama though. Yesterday gave me a glimpse into what millions of mothers go through, watching and waiting for their daughters to finally deliver so the pain will end. Grandmothers of the world, I commend your bravery. I credit myself for only chasing the nurses partway down the hall to make sure they brought my daughters pain medicine quickly.

And to those patients I’ve had over the years who’ve experienced the double-whammy of kidney stones while pregnant, I say, “OMG, I’m so sorry you had to experience that.” I knew at the time I took care of you it hurt like “the dickens” and I hope I brought your pain medicine fast enough. Now that it has happened to my daughter (and no, she’s not pregnant), I empathize with you even more.

During this week of Thanksgiving, here’s what I’m grateful for: I’m grateful my daughter’s college is only a two-hour drive away, the roads were clear and the car was full of gas. I’m grateful my daughter wanted me by her side (I know that’s not the way it is in some mother-daughter relationships). I’m grateful for compassionate, gentle, fast nurses and good pain medicine. Most of all, I’m happy it wasn’t anything worse and that it’s over. I’m also grateful for all the almost-grandmothers who’ve sat by my patients side over the years, wiping brows and whispering soothing words; mothering their daughters through yet another phase of parenting. Thanks for being there. You’ve made my job easier and given me a glimpse down the road as to what my own role as a mother will be in the future. Happy Thanksgiving.

Jeanne Faulkner, R.N., lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and five children. Got a question for Jeanne? E-mail it to and it may be answered in a future blog post.

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