The first time I wet the bed as a teenager, Mom and I shrugged it off as a fluke.
After a second wet night, Mom gave me one of my younger brother’s disposables. It was purely practical, not punishment. “It’s more comfortable for you and less work for me.”
I didn’t fight it. I had already spent a couple of miserable nights. If it could keep me out of a pool of urine, I would wear it more or less gladly.
It didn’t fit well and leaked so badly that it was hardly better than going without. I was getting desperate for a good night’s dry sleep, and after three wet nights in a week, it was clear that this wasn’t a fluke.
Mom got me Attends. They kept me dry enough to have a comfortable sleep most nights. But they still leaked. It wasn’t usually a big leak — even if it was big enough to wake me, I could change, put down a towel to cover the spot and go back to sleep quickly and in relative comfort. But about once a week, it was enough that I needed to change sheets as well.
Mom got me a flannel-lined plastic pant to cover the disposable. The pant contained the smaller leaks, or at least kept the spot on my pajamas and sheets to a few inches. But it wasn’t enough to contain the floods.
After a few frustrating weeks, Mom made me cloth diapers.
I was not happy about that. Bad enough to wet the bed. Worse to wear something. But wearing a real diaper, complete with pins and a plastic pant — that was the worst that could be. Besides the humiliation, it was like sleeping with a pillow between my legs.
Not only that, I couldn’t just toss a wet one in the trash. A diaper had to be washed. Not only that, to avoid a rash, I had to take careful precautions — changing and washing thoroughly as soon as I woke, even in the middle of the night, and Desitin. Desitin has a distinctive smell, which I thought everyone around me could smell all the time.
The only thing good about the cloth diapers was that they didn’t flood and they rarely (and then only barely) leaked.
Eventually, I learned to fold them and wear them so they weren’t so uncomfortable. But they were still a dreary necessity.
When I was on a sleepover or school trip, I wore an Attends with a diaper doubler, inside an unlined plastic pant. Mom sewed a waterproof lining in my sleeping bag for sleepovers. I had a few leaks, but never enough to soak through the sleeping bag.