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Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!): Are we wimps for pain?

Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!)

My goal here is to make your life easier, especially those who are in the unique situation of being a military spouse. Yes...I've been around...but in a good way...and hopefully can share those tips, tricks and shortcuts with you too. I've been on this military bus for over 40 years now. My goals in life are to have a well-run home, few money worries, well adjusted children, money socked away and whatever happiness I can scoop out of life.

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After life as an Army brat, being in the Army myself and marrying a soldier, I can honestly say I have a bucket full of life lessons I can share to help you make your everyday life easier and enlightening. Don't waste your time making unnecessary mistakes and benefit from others who have come before you on your journey through life.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Are we wimps for pain?

Hey, I don't take a Tylenol unless I have some kind of a shit-kicker headache...and I frown on drug use if I can help it, but sometimes, it's just the knowing that there is some possible pain relief waiting in the wings so to speak, that keeps me going sometimes.  I have been DREADING going to the dentist.  No, no check-up needed...those are the easy appointments.  I have a tooth that is being overly sensitive to the point of warm water making me hit the ceiling (and not just cold or hot water).  I dug in the back hallways of my brain and realized that about 10 years ago, I had a crown put on that tooth..or something....great.   I thought I could get a few more good years out of it.  So, I've been dreading it.  Yes, our on-post dentist will see you, and they do have dental sick call for dependents here, BUT for most folks, they will send you off post for the actual work...meaning, I will have to see a Belgian dentist to get it "fixed" if it needs "fixin".

Why am I being hesitant?  Because of the pain soothing alternatives, or should I say none!  I've come to find out that Europeans have a different sense of pain than Americans...they really do. Europeans EXPECT higher level tolerances for pain.  You see that in the kids at an early age on the playground, skinning knees and rolling off playground equipment with no safety features.  No parents come running when the little one falls....just a quick glance to assess the blood and look for any bent limbs from a distance, usually from the nearest bench.  European kids are conditioned growing up that pain can be a good thing and no one even hovers over them. 

I birthed two children in a German hospital.  I was told right away not to expect an epidural or any pain relief.  Their answer to pain relief is to sit in the warm water (if it's available) or to get an enema which will supposedly speed things up (I won't even go into that one).  I knew I had to do something as an American, so I ended up teaching myself the Bradley Method.  Honestly, it worked swimmingly, and I went through two babies...or should I say they went through me...with no pain pills, epidurals, shots or anything else...perfectly natural and no issues.  Okay, so I hurdled over that challenge but only thanks to Dr. Bradley.  And that's of course with almost picture perfect labors (and fast too) saying what I would've done with difficulties along the way!  I might've been telling a totally different tale here.

My former neighbor's teenage daughter had to get her wisdom teeth taken out...yes, they were impacted, meaning they had to be dug out.  The German dentist scheduled her to have all four done at once!  I swear, when I had them out as a teenager in the US, I was drugged during the procedure, had only two taken out at a time AND got some mind-alternating drugs for the recovery....both times.  Not so here.  You'll be lucky if they deaden the nerve right in the vicinity, and I have plenty of German relatives who choose NO pain relief when getting a cavity filled!  Back to the neighbor's daughter...yes, she did have pain relief during her procedure, but she was sent home with pills, nothing and had trouble handling the pain.  Her cheeks were ballooned to chipmunk size, and she was so miserable, her mother went by the medical facility on-post, and they were able to prescribe her something to make her more comfortable.  They laughed...and said that this is the norm over here, and they typically give out drugs to those who've been to the German dentist.  I am hearing similar stories here in Belgium.

So, my question to you is you think this gives Americans a low threshhold for tolerance of pain....and does it translate into tolerance of anything else?  I see little ones running around without coats and people biking somewhere before they would drive, like my neighbor lady who must be close to 80 but dutifully pedals her bike up and over the bridge in all kinds of weather.  This is certainly not the easy fact, it's gotta be painful, right?.....are we too pampered as Americans?  Is this going to hurt us in the long run?  You know, survival of the strongest and stuff like that.  I read somewhere that our soldiers in WWII were such good fighters and fought long and hard because they had come from Depression-era life, and that this is what made them so strong, especially when the chips were down.  Any thoughts on this or am I way out there again?  I would just like to hear another opinion or have someone tell me I've been smoking dope or am otherwise unrealistic here.



Anonymous Sarah P. Waukesha, WI USA said...

Nope, don't think you're smoking dope (however, maybe that would help when you have to see the Belgium dentist ;-) LOL) I think you are right on with your assessment of Americans vs. European (or any where else!) in terms of our survival of the fittest level. We are sooooo pampered from birth on up! I would gladly take pain meds for dental work or injuries, but not for labor and delivery. Drugs are counter productive against what is suppposed to naturally happen in a woman's body in order for labor to progress - as it should without medical intervention. Your birth experiences are testimony of that. Even if they were long labors, if our weak American bodies were more accustomed to HARD WORK (physical and mental) we'd be better equiped/prepared to handle that experience. I am thankful for medical intervention when it is needed, though - to save a life (birth or otherwise) or fix an injury...I just don't support choices that are like flashing lights pointing to the intervention need in the end.

November 18, 2010 at 3:15 PM  
Anonymous susanna said...

As I sat in the dentist chair yesterday morning I was thinking of your post. How fitting that the morning I was scheduled for 3 crowns and an extraction you had posted this. I grew up in Germany and I was 23 when I had anesthesia for the first time during a dental procedure. Maybe I have softened a bit too. But yesterday I was thinking: Thank heavens for every shot they gave me b'c it felt as if they were digging and pulling my brain out!

November 19, 2010 at 4:46 PM  

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