When My Son Told Me 'Getting Hit In The Nuts' Is More Painful Than Childbirth

by Tina Kelley
Pains, Stings, And Teenage Boys: confused looking teen boy on green background
Andreas Stamm/Getty

“Did you know,” my son asked me, “that getting kicked in the nuts is two hundred times more painful than childbirth, and ten times more painful than breaking two dozen bones at once?”

“Really?” I said.

“Yes,” he said. “And there’s a pain measure called a dol and getting kicked in the nuts measures 57, but giving birth is only 23.”

I cry b.s.

This is from the one who phones me from his room at seven to report he has overslept, and who complains the house is too messy to invite his friends over, when a quarter of the mess is his, who says “I won’t eat that” to his breakfast, all in the same hour. Twelve dols right there.

I say I would like to know who announced that a kick to the balls is more painful than passing a human through a small, nerve-rich pelvis? How hard is the kick? What kind of shoe? How big is the baby? Who has had both experiences, so they could compare them?

I know ankle sprains, broken foot, divorce, childbirth, death of father.

I know the Northern Irish have a word, eeroch, for “pains thought to be caused by the east wind in winter.”

But a scale? A measure of the angle of elevation of elbow behind back, orchestrated and committed by sister, before brother says “uncle”?

Turns out the internet was way off on the nut kicks. Dols only go up to 10.5, beyond which added pain doesn’t even register, and why didn’t they leave it at 10 flat to stay elegant? They were too busy putting hot lightbulbs on the backs of the hands of laboring women, back in the ’40s. Each woman had volunteered to withstand any reasonable discomfort “if it would help ease the suffering of future patients.”

Again, b.s. I cry. Researchers asked the women how much pain they were in, every five seconds during every contraction. I do not know a woman who could answer that question, on a scale of 1 to 10.5 — the .5 particularly vexing — more than once in an entire labor. Not Mother Theresa herself.

Son, let me introduce you to Dr. Justin Schmidt, who ranked the stings of 185 species of bees, ants, and wasps according to painfulness. Like a wine connoisseur, he described a scale of 1 (“A tiny spark has singed a single hair on your arm” – the sweat bee) to 4 (“you are chained in the flow of an active volcano,” the warrior wasp). Many datapoints, one constant algesia, or feeler-of-pain.

He theorized that social bees needed toxins as well as stingers or the bears would eat them by the hiveful. “Their sting was an advertisement of damage, and toxicity evolved as its truth.”

He named his poodle Dolores, for sorrow, pain, and melancholy.

I remember my anesthesiologist, when I had you, buddy. His name was Howard. I said I bet there were a lot of baby boys running around Manhattan named Howard in his honor. He didn’t really crack a smile, which pained me.

It’s always a bad idea to compare pains. The prick-algesimeter, the Sonic Palpometer, the dolorimeter — none is as useful as the ten yellow faces your pediatrician shows you, the ones that move from smiley to ok to nut-kicked.

Be glad your mother withstood the contractions, my boy. Be glad your father protected his groin in his youth. Fifty million Americans have chronic pain. Anyone who makes it through childhood gets a soccer ball to the crotch or breaks a bone.

May you fly free of it all, high above the urban legends.