Right now, I’m slightly shaking as I write this, because this may well be the first post in which I reveal a part of myself that none of my real life friends know about! I’m also apprehensive because this post probably puts my own parents in a bad light; I want to be open and honest, but at the same time, I would like you to understand that at that time, they acted based on the information given to them and that they truly had my best interests to heart.
With that, let me start by reiterating the statistics I mentioned in my previous post on urinary incontinence: According to the US National Institute of Health, nighttime bed-wetting occurs in about 30% of 4 year old children; about 10% of 7-year-olds, 3% of 12-year-olds, and 1% of 18-year-olds. What does that have to do with me? Well, I stopped bed-wetting at the age of 14. No, that is not a typo; I used to have nighttime urinary incontinence until I was at least fourteen years old.
I was a very deep sleeper as a child. Even when my bed-sheets were wet with urine, I would slumber on until my mom or dad woke me up to change me out of my soggy clothes. I remember having to sleep on a bed-sheet covering a cold rubber sheet that irritated me; in winters, it was torture to lie on that cold, clammy thing, and I would curl up, waiting for my blanket and internal body heat to warm me up.
I remember my mattress being carried to the terrace once every week, to be aired out of the pungent smell that clung to it, and feeling nervous that the neighbours would be able to guess the reason why. I remember my room always having the odor of ammonia, even though the sheets had been changed, the windows flung open and the place wiped clean with bleach. I also remember the midnight visits from my mom, all groggy-eyed, sighing with exasperation and disappointment at not being able to be in time to stop the inevitable flow landing on my bed. Sometimes, she, out of sheer tiredness, did not make these nightly visits and I would sleep in my own urine until the next morning.
By the time I was 10, I had gone to a number of doctors, who took blood tests, gave me injections of nameless ‘medicines’, and listened to my faltering ‘excuses’ as to why I did not wake up and go to the bathroom like other normal ten year old kids. Finally, one such wise soul told my parents that he couldn’t think of a single reason why I would not get up at night other than the fact that I was just being lazy.
That was the day the floodgates opened. I guess all the pent-up frustrations for my parents got released on that day. To hear that they had been washing my blankets, cleaning up after me, and losing their sleep all for a lazy child was probably the last straw! How were they to know that a doctor could actually be wrong; so very wrong!
After that, every time I wet my bed, it was a living hell. My mother would rout me out of bed in the middle of the night and stand over me shouting while I crouched shivering, naked in the bathroom, washing my sodden sheets and nightie under the tap. I was then made to apologize for troubling my parents and for messing up, after which I could go back to sleep. I refused to say that I was lazy and that infuriated everyone further.
My extended family, including my grandparents and my mom’s sister’s family knew about my failings and they too would urge me to acknowledge and address my sloth. My cousin once pulled me aside and told me to just accept the accusation as “at least then, they’ll leave you alone!” But I guess I still had that stubbornness in me that, despite all the punishments, threats and insults flung at me, refused to buckle down and admit defeat. And, it was because of that, that I was punished even more.
Finally, when I was 12, a new, younger doctor set up his practice in our neighbourhood. My mom, at the end of her tether, decided to consult him too. The doctor paid a house visit and my mom started describing my symptoms, being careful to leave out the laziness quotient out. The doctor quickly said, “Yes, that’s a very common problem; it’s called urinary incontinence and there’s an easy remedy for that.” He then looked at me and said, “why don’t you tell me yourself what your symptoms are.”
I believe I opened my mouth to speak, but the calmness with which he had dismissed the monster that had tormented me for years was too much and I just sat there, sobbing and incoherent. I didn’t feel gratitude at that moment; only rage that I had been needlessly punished, that no one had believed me when I knew in my heart of hearts that I was not to blame, and that he had taken so many years to appear and prove me right.
That was a turning point for my parents as well, and I know that they were racked with guilt. No, it was never spoken of; that was not the day and age when parents apologized to their children; but they were gentler and kinder with me from then on. After that, my parents became my biggest defenders and pillars of support.
The doctor put me on medication* and then had me make a timetable to track each night that I stayed dry. I obviously did not stop immediately but there was a gradual decrease, with a few accidents here and there, until I finally stopped bedwetting at the age of 14 or 15. In the meantime, I had missed going for sleepovers, I missed the sensation of cuddling in a warm, cozy bed, I had burn marks from the raw ammonia on my inner thighs and buttocks, and it took a long time to get the confidence of asserting myself and hoping to be believed.
*I am not a medical doctor so I hesitate to write down the medication that I took, especially since it may have side effects. Hopefully, doctors are more scientifically sound nowadays compared to the quacks in my childhood and should be able to point you in the right direction.
This post took a lot out of me to write, but I want to publish it so that if there is any parent out there who has a child with this issue, please , please believe that this can be cured and that this is not something that the child can control.
Let’s not make the comments’ section a pity party for me! 🙂 If you have a story to share, I would love to hear it!