‘My biggest fear was you would continue bedwetting till you were into your teens!’ That was my mother. I was discussing my childhood issue of bedwetting with her.
I told her, “Ma, remember when you would put the mattress out to dry in the sun and then our neighbour would yell out across our floor, ‘Oh, so Seema wet the bed last night!’ and all the other neighbours, would hear it and snigger.”
She recalled with a frown and said, “Yes, I sometimes didn’t want to put the mattress out to dry! It was rather insensitive of her to say that, isn’t it? As if we were not doing everything that we could to help you? It was so frustrating.” And I said, “Yes Ma, I used to hate it! Remember I would tell you not to put it out, it was because of that.” And I squeezed her hand and said, “Ma, dad or you never shamed me for it and I think that is why I am so comfortable talking about it. Thank you for that.”
Today, my heart goes out to all those children whose parents may have unknowingly or even knowingly made them feel really bad about themselves for having a problem like this. What a burden to carry!
And what she said after that brought tears to my eyes, because 7-year-old me would always think it but neither she nor I had ever said it aloud before this — ‘But, you couldn’t help it either. We knew it wasn’t your fault and you wanted the bedwetting to stop as much as we did!’
I realised in retrospect, how a child who wets their bed longs to feel understood!
I used to wet the bed at night until I was seven years old, maybe twice or thrice a week, but that was enough to make me cringe the next morning. My instinct was to touch the bed near my bottom, first thing every morning and if it was not wet, I would wake up with a bounce. Wetting the bed meant, Ma would have to wash out the sheets herself as this was a time before washing machines. She and dad would also have to lug the mattress out to sun it.
I hated that they had so much more work to do. I hated that they had this worry. I hated being the cause of all this fuss. I hated the fact that I was unable to stop it. I felt quite helpless.
From about 2 hours before bedtime, just after dinner, the negotiations, wheedling and pleading would start — ‘Just a sip, please ma, I really just need to wet my lips.’ ‘No, no more water. You know what happens.’ ‘I promise I will wake you if I need to go the bathroom, please let me drink just one teeny tiny sip!’ Then finally just before I slept, I would get a teeny bit and I would walk to bed triumphant, happy and hopeful. Some nights would be dry and some nights wouldn’t and logic suggests that drinking or not drinking water didn’t make such a difference.
Around this time, dad started gently waking me every night to ask if I needed to use the bathroom. As funny as it sounds, some of my earliest memories of connection with him, was him gently leading a very sleepy me to the bathroom and taking me back to bed. And then eventually I started waking up when I had the urge to go and would call out to him. Today, as a parent myself I can imagine the depths of tiredness he would have to stir from, at the soft call from another room and I don’t remember him once losing his patience or snapping at me.
Eventually, the frequency of wetting the bed at night drastically reduced and eventually stopped when I was about seven and a half. I am filled with gratitude to my parents for never shaming me and for their gentle and accepting approach that helped me grow out of this without any scars.
Now, as a parent educator, having researched this topic for better understanding and looking back on my own experiences, so I can help other parents, I now know that bedwetting till the age of seven is not uncommon.
There are so many reasons why some children struggle with bedwetting which could be both physical and emotional. Even with the best of intentions, parents may end up using force, bribes, punishments, shaming … every possible means to get their child to stop wetting the bed. These methods are a double whammy for the child as they have to deal with their physical struggle with wetting and emotional pain of facing so much criticism and lack of understanding for their genuine difficulty. Part 2 of this article, next week will deal with science-based information about bedwetting, common causes and what helps and doesn’t help the child.
— Seemanthini Iyer is a certified parent educator with Parenting Matters, an organization which empowers parents to build deeper connection in families. To know more, look us up on www.parentingmatters.in