Under new management

I’m trying Tena Night Super pads.1

I’ve been using Abena’s highest capacity anatomic pad for years. They recently changed from a plastic back to a cloth back. Since the change, I have been getting leaks.

Mostly, it’s a damp crotch on my stretch panty and pjs. It seems to be urine seeping through the (supposedly) waterproof backing. That’s bad enough – I have to launder them, right away. The smell would drive me crazy if I left them in the wash basket for even a couple of hours. And it’s an extra change of nightclothes and an extra load of laundry.

What’s worse is that I’ve also had real leaks – and a wet bed.

I have a waterproof cotton bed pad on top of the sheet (as well as a plastic cover on the mattress and another waterproof bed pad between the sheet and the mattress pad. So it’s not getting to the mattress. It’s easy to toss the bed pad, panty and pjs in the washer, get a quick shower and get back to bed. But I absolutely hate it all.

It’s easy to tell myself that bedwetting isn’t a big deal when it’s just tossing out a wet disposable in the morning. It’s less trouble than washing my hair in the shower.

But that’s a little hollow when I wake up in the middle of the night in wet, cold, smelly pajamas, on a wet, cold, smelly bed. When I have to do a load of laundry in the middle of the night. When I have to take another shower in the middle of the night. When I’m blundering around the house trying not to wake up J and the kids in the middle of the night. (PS: It’s been darn cold in this drafty old house this week!)

Most of the leaks have been little spots on the pad. That’s enough to get me out of bed. But a couple have been big. J and I could sleep in a single bed and have room left over. We snuggle tight and sleep in each others’ arms. I’ve been mortified that J is going to find out just how unpleasant a wet bed can be. It’s one thing to accept that your wife wears a diaper, it’s quite another to have her soak you in the middle of the night.

So I’m trying something different. J says I should give Abena a call. Maybe I will.

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1 Not the confusingly named, available-everywhere, Tena Serenity Pad Overnight. I tried them, lured by the name into thinking that they were for a real bedwetter. They aren’t. They would be fine for a slightly leaky bladder or low-volume stress incontinence. I opened the bag and was skeptical (too small!), and I was right. The one I tried just flooded out.

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“My spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend wets the bed”

The most common search terms that lead people to this blog are, “bedwetting spouse”, “bedwetting boyfriend” and the like. I ran them through Google, just to see where this appeared in the list.

What I found were cris de couer to medical sites and advice forums:

“My husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend wets the bed, what can I do?”

“My boyfriend/girlfriend is trying to hide his/her bedwetting, but I found out.”

On the other side, I see equally desperate cries:

“I wet the bed – How can I ever have a boyfriend/girlfriend? How can I ever get married?”

“How can I tell my girlfriend/boyfriend?”

If you’re asking one of those questions and wind up here, my advice is the same as my advice to anyone who wets the bed:

Relax. Live your life. Protect your bed and yourself. Date. Fall in love. Get married. Have kids.

If your spouse/lover/boyfriend/girlfriend wets the bed, reassure him/her. Get him/her to a doctor.

Bedwetting is not a big deal. No one who loves you will care that you wet the bed.

If you love someone who wets the bed, don’t let it bother you. It won’t affect you at all. Properly managed, you shouldn’t even notice. Bedwetting is not a big deal.

J

I dated J for several months before I told him that I wet the bed. Telling him was prelude to spending the night together (not intercourse — that was much later).

Over the next few days, J asked a hundred questions — some intelligent, some silly, some touchingly sweet — as they popped into his head. A college girl who wet the bed was … different. He was kind and sympathetic, without being patronizing. If he had pitied me, I would have dumped him.

After I assured him that I wasn’t hurt or embarrassed by his curiosity, he wanted a “fashion show”. (I wore briefs back then; it was before I discovered pads.) For the next few weeks, he was sneaking looks as I went from bathroom to bed, although he (comically) tried to be discreet. There wasn’t much to see — I wore a big, baggy, flannel Lanz nightgown, just so nobody could tell what I was wearing underneath. Super sexy.

The sense of its peculiarity passed for him as quickly as it had for me as a teenager. It became conventional, as interesting as me brushing my teeth. My fascination with his shaving lasted longer than his interest in my nightwear.

J was just like Mom: practical, compassionate and matter-of-fact. He was relaxed. He was reassuring. It didn’t mean anything to him. It just wasn’t important. And why should it be? It didn’t interfere with my life; there was no reason it should interfere with his (or ours together).

Then we got married. And really intimate.

Incontinence wear isn’t sexy. (I have Simone Perele and Eres for that.) I’m not ashamed of it, but there’s nothing to be gained by flaunting it. Last thing before going to bed, I go to the bathroom, close the door and put on a pad. First thing in the morning, I go to the bathroom, close the door, take off the pad and throw it out. The only thing J ever sees is the pad lines under my pjs. With the modern disposables and my baggy pjs, I don’t think he even sees that.

It doesn’t interfere with intimacy, any more than pajama bottoms do. If I’m in the mood, I don’t put on a pad before getting in bed. (Pretty good signal, no?) If we get in the mood, it comes off PDQ.

I’ve never slept unprotected with J. He’s never woken up in a wet bed. I would never want him to subject him to that misery, especially not to the misery of my wet bed.

I doubt my bedwetting crosses J’s mind more than once a month. Once in a while he’ll ask if there’s anything new, or joke about it.

Maybe I should ask him to make a guest post.

UPDATE: J has reviewed and approved this message, after making me take out some PG-13 material. He also pointed out that “protection” has a different connotation in the intimate context, so I changed it to “incontinence wear”.

Mother-in-law

We were at J’s parents’, with his brother and sisters and their families, for Thanksgiving weekend.

While we were there, my mother-in-law dressed down Ellen1, my sister-in-law, for “keeping her kids in diapers”. Mother-in-Law saw my niece, Sara, Ellen’s 12-year-old, disposing of a wet pullup.

Sara’s problem, according to Mother-in-Law, is lack of discipline. Wearing a diaper (Mother-in-Law’s word) gives Sara no incentive to grow up and stop wetting the bed. She has no signal to wake up.  She is comfortable in a false security; it is as bad as letting her have an infant’s security blanket. She is lazy. She is looking for attention. She is emotionally immature, and will not mature. The diaper, and not suffering the consequences of wetting the bed, infantilizes her. If she had to sleep in a wet bed, she would stop wetting.

This is part of a larger picture, one convenient opportunity for sniping in an ongoing war. Mother-in-Law thinks her children and their spouses are poor parents. I’m the best of a bad lot; her own daughters and her other daughter-in-law are even worse than I am. I don’t think she really likes any of her grandchildren, although they are all terrific kids.

I am a more conservative, traditional parent than anyone I know. But I am too permissive for Mother-in-Law.

She is an intelligent woman. She has an advanced degree in nursing from a prestigious medical center, although she retired when her oldest was born (40+ years ago).

Without getting Freudian, I wonder if this is driven by something in her own experience. She had a tough childhood, as the only (and unwanted) child of a parents who were narrow-minded and demanding to the point of being abusive. I wonder if she wet the bed and was punished for it or forced to sleep in the wet bed.

Her attitude may have been shaped not only by her childhood, but also by the era in which she learned nursing. As I understand it from my Mom — and from the doctor who would not do anything for me when I was in college — that was the received wisdom at the time, frosted with a dollop of Freudian psychobabble.

Ellen gave as well as she got, which just confirmed Mother-in-Law’s belief that Ellen is a bad parent and insufficiently respectful of Mother-in-Law’s age and wisdom. I didn’t jump in because I didn’t need to. Ellen defended herself (and her kids), along many of the same lines as I have argued here.

Ellen’s kids are a little older than mine. They are seeing the light at the end of the bedwetting tunnel, but they still struggle with it. When they are away from home they wear pullups to protect their hosts’ beds.

I don’t know if Mother-in-Law knew that my kids were in pullups, too. I don’t know about my other nieces and nephews. They are all older than Ellen’s kids, so I assume they are probably beyond this.

If I had told her that I wet the bed — and wear a diaper, too — she probably would have had a stroke.

Nobody wants to be in a wet bed. Trust me: I’ve been there. I’m still there. You only need to have suffered through it once. It is miserable. It is humiliating.

Bedwetting is a symptom. For younger kids, it’s a symptom of slow-maturing physiology: a small bladder, inadequate hormone, deep sleep. The cure is time. The child will outgrow it. For a teenager or adult, it’s generally something more serious.

The idea that it’s laziness, or emotional immaturity, or attention-getting, isn’t just bunk. It’s harmful bunk. It’s bad enough to have a humiliating, demeaning problem. Far worse to be told it’s your fault, that you’re lazy, that you have a mental or emotional problem.

It also leads people to believe that it can be cured with the right incentives. But incentives only work to influence choices, and this isn’t a choice. Punishment, or forcing a child to sleep in a wet bed, might prevent a wet night or two as a child is in the last stage of outgrowing bedwetting. But it’s not going to make a bladder grow or glands produce hormones.

It will certainly cause misery beyond the considerable misery of simply being a bedwetter, of waking up in a wet bed and of having to wear a diaper. And it will cause real harm if it inhibits a parent (or a doctor, like the one at my college) from seeking the real urological, neurological or other medical cause.

Sara — a smart, mature and usually happy girl — was devastated by her grandmother’s attitude and beliefs about bedwetting and about her. My Emily, who heard some of it, and still wets the bed sometimes (and wears a pullup) at age 9, was bewildered. It took a long talk and some tears before Emily was reconciled with herself and her grandmother. I came this >< close to telling both Emily and Sara that I wet the bed, although I wasn’t sure whether that would help or hurt.

1 Names changed to protect the innocent.

Dating

I was sexually conservative. I didn’t jump into bed with guys, so I didn’t need to tell my boyfriends.

In addition to J, my husband, I had two boyfriends in college that were serious enough to tell.

I had dated the first boyfriend for months. It was something that he should know if our relationship was going to go anywhere.

I told him over a long, romantic, white-tablecloth-and-candles dinner. Over dessert, I took his hand, looked him in the eyes and told him that I wanted him to spend the night. No intercourse, just snuggling. And one other thing: I need to wear something to protect him, because I wet the bed.

I was so nervous I was shaking. My boyfriend laughed and said he thought I was nervous because I was afraid that he couldn’t be trusted to stick to the rules.

I had the same romantic dinner and the same talk with the other boyfriend and with J. Their reactions were, essentially, “That’s interesting.”

It didn’t matter to any of them. I had been close enough to each of them for long enough that it was an addition to a bigger, longer context. Of course, all three were curious — the cause, the prognosis, how I dealt with it.

It was a bond with each of them, as an intimate secret tends to be. All of them joked about it with me, as people tend to do with intimate secrets. But it wasn’t a big deal for any of them. It certainly wasn’t a cause for breaking up or drifting apart.