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Kidney stone vs. baby: Too close to call

I don't like to talk about my kidney stones in public. So I'm just going to write about them in the newspaper.

I remember thinking, when my wife and I were in our child-bearing phase, that it seemed unfair for all the trauma of delivery to fall on her. I occasionally had the fleeting (if slightly insane) notion that I'd somehow like to share her pain.

Since then I've passed three kidney stones. I'm inclined to call it even.

I've actually heard people debate which is more painful, giving birth or passing a kidney stone. Those who have experienced both generally seem to settle on the side of the stone, and I can understand why.

While it's true that a baby is somewhat larger than the birth canal, a kidney stone is many times larger than the ureter. Also, it's shaped like a sandspur, which a baby's head usually isn't, unless one of the parents has a head shaped like a sandspur.

Thus, the stone carves out a long, agonizing path from the kidney to the bladder, tearing tissue as it goes. Imagine someone sticking a red hot knife into your lower back and twisting every few seconds. (Note: If the person you're imagining with the knife is a co-worker, I suggest you look for another job.)

Moreover, the pain of childbirth is followed by the joy of holding your newborn baby for the first time. My kidney stones just sit in a jar on the shelf. Of course, they'll never throw up on me, total my car or put me in a nursing home, but that's another column.

Even more painful than the stone itself, however, is the process of receiving medical care. I suspect this is also true for those giving birth.

Look, I have a great deal of respect for anyone who went to school longer than I did, and that certainly includes doctors. The last thing I want to do is offend them, especially the one (you know who you are) scheduled to perform my complete physical in a few months. So you can take off that rubber glove now and stop smirking.

It's just that sometimes we get mixed signals from the medical profession. We're bombarded with public service announcements warning us to see a doctor immediately if we experience certain symptoms. Then, if the symptoms turn out to be something minor or nothing at all, we're treated like hypochondriacs.

Notwithstanding the fact that I am actually a hypochondriac, I thought having blood coming from someplace it has no business coming from was a pretty good reason to see the doctor. His diagnosis? "It's just a kidney stone."

Imagine my wife's reaction if I'd used that line when she was in the throes of childbirth: "Don't worry, honey. It's just a baby."

I think I'd rather have a kidney stone.

Lawrenceville resident Rob Jenkins is associate professor of English and director of the Writers Institute at Georgia Perimeter College. E-mail him at rjenkinsgdp@yahoo.com.