Life is full of mysterious questions, such as, is there a God? What is my purpose here? What will happen after I die? And for me: What is Preparation H?

As a kid, most of my TV viewing was restricted to science shows on PBS, so for a long time I believed that I had missed the answer to this question because I hadn’t watched regular TV long enough or hard enough.

I tried to get as much regular TV at my friend’s houses as I could. But they took offence when I came over to play and just stayed glued to the boob tube. But I was a boob; one that wanted to know what that “itching burning sensation” was.

I had some itching. But that was mostly due to my unanswered questions. And I had some burning, frequent burning, especially when a boy I had a crush on sat next to me in math class. But, it seemed implausible that a small tube of ointment in a blue and yellow box could fix those problems.

This medicine was for swollen hemorrhoidal tissue that doctors everywhere were trying to shrink. I had gotten that much. This tissue was blowing up around the world, possibly like the Hindenburg. This was a large, fiery and dangerous epidemic that was also shrouded in mystery and unmentionables.

And then I grew up. And I got gay married (which is almost exactly like regular marriage, but without the legal protections or the tax breaks).  And I watched more TV. But I still had no answer. Then, one day, I found a tube of Preparation H in our bathroom.

“What’s this for?” I asked my spouse.


“What are hemorrhoids?”

“You don’t know what hemorrhoids are?”

(Because what you really want when you’re vulnerable and ignorant is to have your vulnerability and ignorance pointed out to you.)

“No, I guess I’ve never had one. And that’s why I’m with you and your affliction. So I can answer this lifelong question.”

“It’s when part of your intestine gets swollen and comes out your ass.”

Oh my God! No wonder doctors everywhere were trying to thwart this vicious, mysterious ailment. That sounded awful. But I remained calm.

“Oh.” (long pause) “Thankfully, I’ve never had one.”

Well. That jinxed it. Because then, I got one. Actually it was more like a plague of them. And some of them were actually like the Hindenburg – large, fiery and the fault of German engineering. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, because according to Wikipedia, “50% of Caucasians with a higher socioeconomic status” get them. And I was an almost 40, Caucasian, pregnant career-woman.

Actually, it was the fault of progesterone, which sounds like a German word in that it is long and sort of guttural. It’s amazing that the Germans came up with a word as simple as Audi, but I digress. Or I’m avoiding confronting the topic of hemorrhoids directly, just like the ads on TV. But it was the progesterone, which was keeping my baby in place while I pooped out yesterday’s hamburger, that started the real itching and burning for me.

And by the way, I would not necessarily describe hemorrhoids as itching and burning if I were in charge of the world and making TV commercials. I would describe it more as a sharp stabbing, followed by mild panic and finished off with an uncomfortable prickly sensation.

There is nothing like a bright red piece of toilet paper while you’re gestating a baby to cause your heart rate to rocket. I could live with the pain and the prickles. I just could have done with a little less hyperventilating in the bathroom.

But everyone experiences things differently, especially during pregnancy. And there is only so much you can do to prepare for the journey of having a baby and giving up red meat altogether due to the progesterone (now code for hemorrhoids), but I wouldn’t have minded a little warning.

That said: I probably did receive some warning. There was this lovely woman in a maternity smock who is suffering from a “painful flare-up.”  I guess I just missed that one. It wasn’t on PBS. 

{This ‘Best of Blunt Moms’ post was first published in July 2014}

Sarah Gilbert

Sarah writes with sarcasm about science, gender, feminism and fertility issues on her blog She is writing a memoir about her experience becoming a parent. Sarah lives in Denver with her wife, two girls and an ungrateful dog. If she had more free time, she would spend it lobbying the state government to make down vests and flip-flops the official uniform of Colorado. You can talk to her on Twitter @sarahanngilbert.


  1. The problem with typical over the counter treatments such as creams and ointments is that they are meant to ease the symptoms of hemorrhoids not eliminate the cause.

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