Cloth

Emily, my oldest (11), wants to try a reusable pant. She is only wet a few times a month, and thinks it’s silly to throw out a dry disposable most mornings. She is also worried about the environmental effect.

She doesn’t have any psychological aversion to cloth. When I was a teenager, I initially had an instinctive revulsion: It’s a diaper, for goodness’ sake! I am not a baby! But I was secure enough in my maturity and practical enough to understand that I wasn’t an infant and that cloth was the only adequate protection. Emily is mature enough not to have that reaction at all.

The main argument for disposables – convenience – isn’t that big a difference. A little more laundry (in a household with plenty of hot water whites to wash) is no more burden than disposing of disposables. There’s no need for the stink of a diaper pail if I launder wet things the same day. That’s what I did when I was a teenager, and I’d do that today.

My main worry is the capacity. The bedwetter pants my siblings had in my childhood wouldn’t be capable of holding Emily’s floods. I’m afraid that an adequate product would be the sort of diaper I had to wear.

So I gave her the project to research it.

Jake, my son, hasn’t wet in a long time. He still wears a pullup to sleepovers, out of his own choice. He’s not so much worried about the likelihood of an accident as he is about the consequences. If Emily goes to a reusable pant, perhaps he could wear one when he goes on a sleepover.

Emily’s project has seemed like such a logical idea that I’ve even thought of trying cloth myself when I get runs of dry nights. I’m not going to tell her to include my size in her research, but availability in my size might be a factor in the ultimate purchase.

My main reason for not wearing cloth is discretion. I don’t want my kids to see a big diaper in the laundry. I don’t want my kids or J to see (or hear) me wearing a diaper. The pads I wear are so thin and quiet that no one would notice. That isn’t true of an adequate cloth diaper and plastic pant.

The disposables are also more comfortable than I remember cloth diapers. Even the hourglass diapers Mom made me were a more uncomfortable bulk between the legs. Also, the quality disposable products keep urine away from the skin. That is not only more comfortable, it also reduces the risk of rash or irritation.

I’m not convinced of any ecological or other advantage to cloth. Cloth advocates do a good job of isolating only some of the benefits and costs without taking into account the entire range. Suffice to say that costs of manufacturing, use and disposal are well enough integrated in all forms of protection that I am skeptical that there is any hidden advantage. However, the equation changes if one is throwing out a dry disposable most mornings, and not having to launder a dry reusable.

Great ad campaign

I posted recently on  the good new days and on changing attitudes toward bedwetting – the recognition that, with modern products, bedwetting is not a big deal.

Depend, the largest selling brand of incontinence products in the US, has a new ad campaign that underscores my point.

The catch word is “Underwareness”. It aims to break down the stigma of incontinence and incontinence products among those under 35. The theme is “Drop Your Pants”, and exhorts us to drop our pants to show that Depend undergarments are comfortable and attractive as underwear, and that “wearing a different kind of underwear is no big deal”. (Does that sound familiar?)

I wouldn’t drop my pants and parade in my undies, so I don’t think I’ll drop my pants and parade in a Depend. But it’s a clever idea and it should help to reduce the stigma of incontinence products, particularly among younger adults.

The products advertised are for daytime incontinence. I am continent when awake, and these products are not adequate for my bedwetting. Still, the ad campaign seems to be right on target, and especially effective in showing that an incontinence product can be attractive, and that an ordinary (and very attractive) young man or women can wear it with some panache and without shame.

These products – and even adequate overnight briefs and pads – aren’t in any sense diapers: They don’t look like a diaper or feel like a diaper when dry. They certainly don’t look like a diaper, feel like a diaper or smell like a diaper when wet.

The campaign does a lovely job of showing that.

“You will grow out of it” – followup

Following up to “You will grow out of it”:

I don’t want to encourage pessimism. Nearly everyone does outgrow it, almost all (97%, if this and many similar surveys are accurate) by age 10. Even 7-year-old bedwetters are overwhelmingly likely (80%) to stop by age 9.

Parents tend to start worrying about bedwetting at a ridiculously early age (3 years, if this study is to be believed). Judging from postings on the internet, worry becomes obsession by school age.

Doctors, on the other hand, are generally unconcerned about bedwetting per se up to age 7, and downplay concerns even up to age 10. And with good reason; almost everyone in those age cohorts does outgrow it.

On the other hand, doctors are concerned if there are other symptoms of something other than late-developing hormones or bladders.

The pessimism is for teenaged bedwetters. That study indicates that a child that wets at age 10 is probably still going to be wetting at age 20. That’s a very tiny fraction of the population, but it’s a real problem for those in that fraction.

“You will grow out of it”

An interesting medical journal article, which is likely to be depressing to a teenage bedwetter (and parents).

Nothing surprising in the basic findings: Parents of a 5-year-old (or even 8-year-old) bedwetter shouldn’t be very worried. First, it’s common: About 16% of 5-year-olds wet the bed, with boys about twice as likely as girls. More important, the vast majority (about 80%) of 5-year-old bedwetters will stop wetting by age 9, and 85% will outgrow it by age 19.

Unfortunately, that means that a teenager who wets the bed is unlikely to outgrow bedwetting. Most 9-year-old bedwetters will still wet the bed at age 19.

And frequent bedwetters are the ones least likely to outgrow it. Kids who wet at least 3 nights a week are more likely to continue wetting the bed. At age 5, less than 15% of bedwetters wet every night. By age 19, almost half of the remaining bedwetters wet every night.

Conclusions:

The present finding suggesting that PNE [primary nocturnal enuresis, i.e., bedwetting] spontaneously resolves with increasing age probably applies only to those with mild enuretic symptoms. There are significant differences in characteristics between younger enuretic children and older subjects. As age increases there is an increasing proportion of enuretic patients with more severe bed-wetting. Enuretic children aged >10 years and adolescents have significantly more daytime urinary symptoms and incontinence.

“Differences in characteristics of nocturnal enuresis between children and adolescents: a critical appraisal from a large epidemiological study”, Yeung et al. Chinese University of Hong Kong and Prince of Wales Hospital, Hong Kong. BJU International. Volume 97, pages 1069 to 1073 (May 2006).

Attitudes

Recently, my daughter (11) invited a friend for a sleepover. The friend’s mother called to tell me that her daughter wore a pullup when she slept away. She wanted to be sure that the mattress was protected against a leak. She asked me to give her daughter an opportunity for a discreet change in the evening and the morning. It was unlikely that the daughter would wet the pullup, and even more unlikely that she would wet the bed, but the mother asked me to give her daughter cover if she did. If that was all OK, she would let her daughter know that she could rely on me.

She was comfortable making the call. Her daughter is popular, outgoing and friendly. She has probably been to many sleepovers. The mother had made this call before.

I assured the mother that her daughter would be in good hands. I told her that her call was thoughtful – both for me and for her daughter – and refreshing. She had a good laugh when I told her that our beds were well protected, and that we could provide her daughter with a pullup from our own inventory. I was touched that she thought enough of my discretion to share the embarrassing confidence. She said that she always called before sleepovers, and parents were always discreet and helpful.

We had a little more talk about the subject. Our attitudes and approach were the same: Neither of us was (as J would say) fussed. It’s not a big deal.

I cannot imagine my Mom or any other mother of her (or any earlier) generation doing that. I can’t imagine them discussing this with even their closest friends. It was a shameful secret. Although I don’t think either of my sisters would have cared whether Mom discussed it with other parents, it would have mortified me that someone outside our family – and, worse, a parent of a friend! – would know.

Maybe I’m more old-school than I thought, because I’ve never made a call like that. I’ve never even thought of it.

Maybe it’s a sign that parents are accepting bedwetting for what it is: a delay in one (minor) element of physical development. It isn’t an emotional or intellectual defect.

And maybe parents are also confident that other parents see it the same way.

Improvement in options is probably the major factor. Life is a lot easier for a bedwetter and her mom than it was when I was a child. Today, the unpleasantness of adolescent and teenage bedwetting is insignificant, at least compared to my childhood.

A pullup is discreet. It disappears under pajamas. Even if someone else sees it, it doesn’t scream, “Bedwetter!” or, worse, “Baby!” It’s as comfortable as underwear. It prevents all the awfulness of a wet bed. It doesn’t stink. In the morning, you toss it in the trash.

The old days were uncomfortable, smelly and obvious. They required laundering. They required a hot, sticky plastic sheet, not a breathable and comfortable bed pad.

It’s easier now to accept it, and even to ask other parents to accept it.

On the other hand, the friend’s mother and I agreed that we’d never have that conversation with our mothers-in-law.

Frequency

I’ve always had a few dry nights a month, sometimes two or three in a row.

Lately, I’ve had dry weeks. Last month, I had two dry stretches of over a week each.

When I was in high school, I had a similar pattern. After a few years of chronic wetting, I wet only a few times a year. I thought that I was finally done with it. But it came back. The cause was (and is) still there. There’s no current or likely treatment for it. Even if I stop wetting for a while, it will probably come back.

Still, it’s nice to wake up dry.

The kids are outgrowing their bedwetting. Except for a few isolated accidents, Emily has been dry for months. She’s taken pullups to camp again, but that and sleepovers have been the only times she’s worn them in a long time. Jake hasn’t had an accident or worn a pullup, even to a sleepover, in over a year. Megan is getting some dry nights. Maybe by this time next year, I’ll be the only bedwetter in the family.

Dad

My father died of lung cancer. He started smoking when he was in high school and quit when he was about 60. It caught up with him and killed him.

Dad was remote, at least to me. My siblings all have fond memories of Dad from their childhood. I don’t. I don’t have bad memories. I just don’t have many memories at all. He was away a lot on business when I was an adolescent and teenager, but even when he was around, he never took much interest in me.

My older sisters – simply by being older – were more interesting. By the time I was age X, my sisters had already put him through the adventures of a girl of age X. My younger siblings had the novelty of being boys. We were all good athletes, but, in the rural Midwest, girls’ athletics are recreation while boys’ athletics are life-and-death. Also, as my sisters and I moved out, the family at home got smaller and more intimate.

More than that, Dad and I never shared any interests. School and books were everything to me. Dad had been an indifferent student at best, more interested in basketball and girls. I don’t remember him ever reading a book until after he retired. When he was in school, teachers constantly compared him unfavorably to his academically inclined siblings. I imagined, rightly or wrongly, that his resentment at that transferred to me. I won all the academic medals at school, was valedictorian of my high school class, graduated with honors from an Ivy university and earned a graduate degree in a STEM discipline. But Dad never gave me a word of encouragement or praise, while he often belittled academics and mocked perceived lapses in my intelligence. Only after he died did I find out that he constantly held me out to my younger siblings as a model.

He never understood why I left town for the city, why I left the Midwest for the East. As I get older, I start to see some of the charm of my home town, but I could never live there. Conversely, he could never imagine living in a city.

When I was young, I didn’t understand why Mom married Dad. Mom is a lot like me, which is unsurprising: I’ve always tried to be as much like Mom as possible. Love is a funny thing. Dad and Mom loved each other more than any two people I have ever known.

Dad and I grew to appreciate each other over the last few years. I’ll miss him.