Picking up a prescription for Amoxycillin from the chemist last week, I sat waiting for the pharmacist, staring absent mindedly at the tidy rows of medications for sale on the shelves in front of me. As absent mindedness came into a more aware focus I noticed that the medications demanding my attention were for the treatment of haemorrhoids.
Haemorrhoids is a common affliction for pregnant woman and women who have recently given birth yet it is rarely spoken about. Why is it that we think very little of intimate internal examinations involving two fingers of a midwife yet the idea of varicose veins around the anus remains largely taboo.
I feel a bit strange about writing this post. Do I really want to admit to anyone who cares to visit my blog that Yes, I suffered from haemorrhoids?
And suffer I did.
The itching is bad enough, making it very difficult to get comfortable. And the more you try to ignore it the more persistent and all consuming it becomes.
When it is causing pain, it is so much worse.
During the course of a normal day, there would not be many times when you are actually aware of your own anus. It nestles discreetly tucked away between the cheeks of your bum, ready when you need it but hardly impacting on your consciousness in any way. However, when the veins around the anus are swollen causing the pain and discomfort that for me, became all too familiar, there was no distracting myself from that otherwise unassuming body part. I started to feel defined by it. It was all there was. I felt dirty.
And there was yet worse to come. At some point, the unavoidable need to use the toilet would catch up with me. Sometimes it was hard to believe that my body hadn't been torn open in an excruciating, brutal fashion - because that is what it felt like.
I was so young and inexperienced when I had my first child. My relationship with the baby's father wasn't great and I certainly could not have shared my intimate concerns and expected a sympathetic ear. I suffered completely in silence with my affliction and would have been mortified to have to mention it to any of the medical professionals that I was in contact with. I kept hoping that somehow they would just know and offer something to relieve my suffering but of course that didn't happen.
It cleared up and I put the horror of it behind me.
I suffered with each of my subsequent babies. By baby number six, the familiarity was such that it was almost like the return of a barely tolerable old friend. Older and wiser, and in a much better relationship, I was able to send my husband out on Preparation H or Anusol buying missions and treat the whole sorry situation with humour. However, no matter how much you are able to laugh about it, it doesn't stop it being (and there is no better way to say it) a monumental Pain in the A*se.
Despite being in a much better place to deal with an embarrassing and seriously unpleasant condition, I was horrified when I ever plucked up the courage to actually look at what I was dealing with. The reflection in the mirror of that place the sun don't shine was NOT a pretty sight. I'm not a particularly squeamish person but I recoiled in disgust at the purple protrusions that looked swollen to the point of bursting. It was SO wrong.
Sitting in the chemist, feeling quietly smug that that my anal blood vessels were behaving themselves and giving me no cause for embarrassment or misery any more, I observed the treatments available.
There was an impressive selection of ointments, creams, suppositories, sprays and soothing wipes.
I wished with everything that there is to wish on that I could load my basket up with one of each, travel back in time to a young woman trying to deal with the isolation of a bad marriage, the anxiety of a becoming a first time mum to a projectile vomiting baby and the discomfort, pain and fear of a problem she was too embarrassed to mention. At least one of her burdens could have been made lighter.