Yes, Urinary Incontinence Is Embarrassing. But Hiding It Under The Sheets Doesn’t Help

Urinary Incontinence is not unusual - many women around the world face it. Get help for it. It's not your fault.

Urinary Incontinence is not unusual – many women around the world face it. Get help for it. It’s not your fault.

It was almost 11 pm. Maya came out of the washroom, put off the lights and went to bed. Shruti, her daughter, was fast asleep next to Mitali, her sister in law. It was Christmas vacation and Mitali was very keen to meet her niece Shruti since long. So as a surprise to both Shruti and Mitali, Abhishek, Maya’s husband had planned this trip. Today was a tiring day. After lots of shopping, watching movies and enjoying the whole day, everyone was dead tired. Abhishek and Mitali’s husband Vaibhav had slept in the guest room while the three ladies were sleeping in Mitali’s bedroom.

Mitali was sleeping in the middle of the bed embracing Shruti. Maya just lay next to Mitali. The exhaustion of the entire day took hold of her and add to it, the Nagpur winter and the warm blanket, Maya too fell into a deep slumber within minutes. It was the most peaceful sleep she had had in many months.

Maya dreamt that all of them were visiting a nice hill station in the morning. The beautiful sunrise and the warmth of the sun was extremely soothing and made her feel energetic. But, there was something very unexpected. In spite of being in the warm sun, she was feeling extremely cold. She couldn’t understand why she was shivering. She felt there was something terribly wrong as she realized that her clothes were wet and there was water between her legs.

Maya awoke from her sleep with a big jolt, within a second. She was actually shivering and was feeling wet in reality – not in her dream. Her heart was racing madly with tension when she realized the actual situation – that she had wet her bed again, that she had peed in her sleep. For a couple of minutes she was completely stunned and couldn’t move even an inch. But slowly she realized the impossibly embarrassing situation she had landed herself into. Somehow, she managed to get hold of her mobile – it was 2.00 am. She just couldn’t believe it. How was it possible? She had completely emptied her bladder at 11.00 pm – just three damn hours ago. Already wet and cold with her own urine, she started shivering again with fear and confusion.

What should I do now? What if Mitali realizes what I have done? She is sleeping just inches away from me! I don’t even know how far my pee has spread. Can Mitali feel it already? How do I change my clothes now without making any noise? So many questions were clouding her thoughts and she was unable to think. Ashamed, scared and totally confused, she lay there like a stone for the next half an hour.

After what felt like a lifetime, Maya gathered the courage to get up from the bed making sure that she didn’t even touch Mitali. She lightly checked if the blanket was also wet. Thankfully it was dry enough. She kept it at the side of the bed, slowly pulled out another set of clothes from the suitcase nearby and went to the washroom without making a sound. After coming back, she inspected the ‘affected area’ of the mattress, took the extra bed sheet Mitali had kept if it got colder and spread it over the wet surface of the bed. She then lay over it very lightly and covered herself with the blanket. But she realized that it would be impossible for her to sleep anymore.

Maya kept thinking about the absurdity of what she had just done. She had made sure to drink very less water today – because she knew that more water meant more visits to the washroom. She had also done all of her kegel exercises and taken her pill. Yet, she couldn’t understand how she had lost control of her bladder so easily. She felt ashamed of herself now and cursed her decision to come on this trip.

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She thought about her childhood. The problem of bedwetting – which almost all children have – goes away when they turn around one year old. But with Maya this was quite prolonged. She continued it till she was 8 years old. Many a times she felt embarrassed when her mother awakened her in the middle of the night to make her change the wet clothes. She felt always embarrassed when she would realize her ‘problem’. She hardly went to stay with her relatives only because she felt she would lose control. Her parents were supportive and they also put her on various medication, but her problem would not go away. After she started sleeping in a separate room, she made sure she never let her parents know even if she did pee in the bed sometimes.

Maya started living in a different city when she got a job. With the new-found independence, she managed the courage to visit the doctor and share her problem. The visit to the doctor proved to be a blessing and Maya came out relieved. She realized that this was a pretty common problem and with proper medication and exercise, she would be able to cure this. The doctor taught her various kegel exercises which Maya did every day and after a couple of months, she felt confident that her problem had gone for good. For some years after that and even after her marriage she never faced the problem. But she was shocked to realize when two months after the birth of Shruti, she again felt wet between her thighs in her sleep.

Shruti was five years old now and Maya still struggled to control her bladder. She was again on medication and made sure she did her exercises. Yet, tonight she thought was one of the most unfortunate times. Why on earth would she face such a situation and that too at someone else’s home otherwise? She was scared, extremely scared to face Mitali in the morning. Even if she had managed somehow now, what would happen in the morning? Mitali would definitely smell it. And if the bed showed the stain? And the bed sheet? Abhishek would be so embarrassed and what about Shruti, what would she think of her mother?

Somehow, she waited restlessly for the sun to rise. For the entire morning, Maya remained near the bed, to make sure no one noticed the stain. She deliberately spilled a glass of water on the bed and using that as an alibi, removed the bed sheet and threw it in the washing machine to wash. She even managed to turn over the mattress so that any stain left would be invisible till it dried completely.

They stayed there for the next two days but Maya didn’t enjoy it for even a moment. She constantly feared that Mitali would ‘find out’ about her folly and confront her. However hard she tried, she couldn’t eliminate the guilt and shame from her conscience. Of course, lack of sleep made her even more miserable. Finally, the moment they boarded the train back home, she breathed a sigh of relief.

It was so difficult for her to accept that a small incident (that too, one which she could not control) could leave such a long lasting scar in her memory and confidence. She could do nothing anymore. What she could do was just try to forget this incident and pray that it did not happen again. But with the memories of the incident so fresh, it looked impossible  – at least for a time ahead.

Author’s note:

Urinary Incontinence or bed wetting or loss of bladder control is very common and one of the most distressing problems women all over the world face. It has the power to affect work, exercise, sleep and the entire social life of the woman as one never knows when she can lose control. But just like other sensitive issues like sex, menstruation, rape, or domestic abuse, we have so conveniently decided to hide it under the sheets (pun intended).

There are various types of incontinence.

  • If you leak when you cough, sneeze or laugh loudly because the opening doesn’t stay closed, it is stress incontinence
  • If you often have a desperate need to pee but can’t get to the bathroom in time, you have urge incontinence
  • In women, some high blood pressure medicines can relax the bladder muscles, leading to medication incontinence

 Loose bladder muscles, chronic constipation, childhood trauma, childbirth, smaller size of bladder, and inability to fully empty the bladder are some other reasons responsible for urinary incontinence.

 But one thing that is extremely important to note here is that it is extremely common and completely curable.

  • As per WHO report 2016, one in every three American woman has a problem with bladder control.
  • There are various medications available all over the world for it and some kegel exercises which can help strengthen the bladder muscles.
  • There are also various lifestyle changes that vary from person to person and can completely cure the problem.

Women in India, obviously are always told to keep mum about any problem related to their private parts. And where there is extreme shame and embarrassment attached, one can only think of the pressures a woman might have to experience if she speaks about it.

The only reason I wrote about this sensitive issue is to tell every such woman to come out of the closet. Talk to the doctor, to a friend, to your husband, mother, sister – anyone. Share your worry. Get help, start medication. It is as simple as getting help for your runny nose or a common cough.

There is no point in losing your sleep and self-confidence over something which is not in your control. Just be brave for one moment and speak up and you will find that the solution was just one step away.

Top image via Pixabay

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