After I wet the bed the second time as a teenager, I went to see our family doctor.
It was awkward. He was the father of one of my best friends. His nurse was the mother of one of my childhood babysitters. However, they were sympathetic and completely professional.
Even though I was only 14 and a straight-arrow kid, the doctor went through the obvious questions: Stress? Fatigue? Depression? Anxiety? Drugs? Alcohol? Cigarettes? Unusually thirsty? Snore at night? Coffee, cola or tea at night? Prescriptions from other doctors? Nonprescription medicines? Big tests or athletic events around days after I wet?
No, no, no …
Did I menstruate? Yes. For how long? A couple of years. Changes in menstruation? No.
How heavy a wetting? Very.
What time? Between 2 and 4 AM.
Drink anything before bed? Just water. How much? A glass. How close to bedtime? Right before. What did I have for dinner? Different things.
He gave me the medical name for bedwetting — enuresis — but cautioned that it was just a name for a symptom.
He ran tests that ruled out some potential causes (diabetes and urinary tract infection), and referred me to the nearest medical center. He wouldn’t have been concerned if I had been wetting the bed regularly — even as a teenager — without ever having been dry (primary enuresis). That is usually simply late development of hormones or bladder capacity. But wetting the bed after being dry for over 10 years was a sign of something more serious than immature anatomy.
I saw urologists, neurologists and endocrinologists. They ran test after test: cystoscopies, urograms, urodynamics, ultrasounds, EEG’s. I had a sleep study and a spinal tap.
The urological tests were extremely unpleasant (although not the screaming pain of the spinal tap), and left me completely, gushingly incontinent for hours.
They prescribed various drugs. The little red pills made my heart race and made the wetting worse. The nose spray cut down on the frequency and volume, but the side effects were awful. I still wet the bed at least three times a week. Since I still needed protection, I quit using the drugs.
After a year of testing and no diagnosis, I gave up on it. It wasn’t finding anything and I was tired of getting poked at. I decided I would just live with it and wear a diaper.
All the doctors agreed that a diaper was an appropriate palliative. My bedwetting was a symptom of a medical issue, not a sign of immaturity. I had plenty of incentive without being forced to wake up in a pool of urine. A diaper was a practical solution.