I have been searching for answers to my son’s bedwetting for seven years. Yes—seven years! He is a freshman in high school and would be horrified if he knew I was writing about his “dark secret”, the one that almost strangled the life out of his self-esteem.
Once I understood what was really happening to cause the bedwetting, it completely changed my perspective, as well as my commitment to finding the best treatment for my son. My background is in process management and root cause analysis. I wonder why it took me so long to apply this knowledge to my research for my son’s enuresis!
Every night my son slept with the real problem. However, my husband (the engineer) and I could only focus on the morning failure. This is what my husband began calling it when our son turned seven. Then my son began calling it The Failure. Every morning we tried not to make a big deal of the wet being contained In a diaper, then a pull-up, and then the wet mat. Even when we did nothing but remove it and throw it away, my son would look at me with sad eyes and even apologize.
I am sure the struggle is the same for parents of an aging bed wetter: You turn to the pediatrician who dismisses it from the very first time you bring it up – when your child is about to enter first grade, and every visit thereafter until they are tired of hearing you ask, beg, complain; demand a solution. Next comes a prescription for DDAVP, which I later researched and learn it is called Desmopressin and the side effects are extensive. My son has always been active in life and active in sports. We also live year round in a hot climate so hydration is essential. The physician never explained that dehydration is one of the side effects of this drug. How crazy is that?
We were directed to another doctor in the building, a urologist. He explained the steps he needed to take to rule out any internal issues. I asked about the chances of bedwetting being caused by a physical problem, and was stunned to learn how small the percentage was – less than 2%. He said he would not make any recommendations until he was satisfied with his test results. In addition to the nighttime wetting, my son was experiencing some daytime issues. I explained to the urologist that it appeared as if my son was waiting until the last minute to go to the bathroom, and would have some very small accidents if he could not make it to the bathroom in time. At nine, he did not soak his underwear, but he often came home from school and from soccer practice with damp underwear that had a faint odor. It would be enough for anybody to notice. If other children were to find out, there’s no telling what would happen.
The urologist told my son an ultrasound was an easy test, and that the results would help him solve the problem. My son asked if it would hurt. The urologist was very patient and told him the bladder ultrasound is painless. All he might feel is a slight pressure as the little flat wand about the size of a cellphone is moved over his stomach. He explained that he would need to lie down and be very still during the procedure so the sound waves could produce a picture of his bladder and help discover what was happening to cause the bedwetting. The technician told him I would be in the room with him at all times.
I was thrilled with the explanation and reassured my son. What he failed to explain was the need to drink a great deal of water before the exam so that you arrive in the room with a full bladder. Sounds simple enough. Except my son had a history of urgencies and leaking, which the urologist knew from the history, but apparently forgot to place any significance on when it came to being able to hold a full bladder from the time you drink the water until the time you are taken into the technician’s room for the ultrasound. They failed to tell him about the gown he would have to wear, which he ended up needed to change twice because he kept leaking urine. This turned out to be a very embarrassing and challenging experience for my little boy.
In the end, the urologist diagnosed a small bladder as well as an inability to completely empty his bladder. He then proceeded to tell us that this is what was causing all the problems. He prescribed Ditropan, another drug, of course, and wanted to set up a timed-voiding program. He told us to purchase an interval watch that would need to be set at two-hour intervals during the day. He turned to my son and said he could have fun picking out his favorite color, and would be able to wear his colored watch for the next six weeks. He also told us to make him drink more water during the day. How do we gauge that while he’s at school…and how much we would considered “more”? We ended up purchasing this special watch online, and shared with our son that this would fix the bedwetting problem.
Unfortunately the watch drew a great deal of attention and questions from his classmates. Questions such as why he was wearing a watch that went off all the time. Why did he need to go to the bathroom during class rather than waiting, etc. My son ended up not wanting to wear the watch. He seemed to try to break it, in fact. Regarding the Ditropan, my son developed a lack of trust in that as well, and every dose given was a struggle. Fourth graders are way smarter than we give them credit for!
I must confess we stopped trying and simply told our son—parroting the pediatrician—that his body would eventually outgrow this and he would not be wetting the bed as a teenager. Reflecting back on this, I cannot believe we continued to feed him this type of unfounded reassurance. Even though he continued with the sad eyes every morning he wet the bed, he stopped calling it The Failure, and thank goodness, so did my husband. In my mind, this meant it did not bother him as much. How wrong we were to assume something as insidious as waking up wet was the first thing to greet you in the morning was not bothersome. How is it possible to expect anyone to simply ignore this and simply wait for it to go away?
The bedwetting dragged on, and during the spring of my son’s sixth grade year, he came to us one night and begged us NOT to allow him to go to the sport’s summer camp his friend was attending. We had avoided discussing summer camp for several years trying to avoid putting any pressure on him. I was sad to see him miss the childhood joy of sleep away camp. He told us he was terrified of what anyone would do to him if they found out he wet the bed. It was an absolute heartbreak for us.
All of that devastation explained….why would we think bedwetting is a good thing?
Because it led us to the truth behind so much more of what made up my son’s experience of life. The more he turned into a little man, the more we started seeing changes in his mood like irritability. He wasn’t nearing puberty, and he said he wasn’t having problems at school, so we weren’t sure what was going on. And as we started to hear from two of his teacher’s that he appeared to be daydreaming or distracted, we were beside ourselves.
The miracle came when we discovered that bedwetting is actually related to sleep. So it turns out that my son’s style of sleeping was at the bottom of his bedwetting. And by recognizing that the sleep is actually not good for him, it made things crystal clear to us. Everything in our son’s life was starting to be challenged by not sleeping well! So in that sense, bedwetting was good…because finding a company that works with bedwetting and targets sleep to end it, my son was given the opportunity to flourish and function at his best. There is no better feeling. From heartbreak to full on joy! Persistence to find the truth of something is so important. You have to learn to go beyond what everyone tells you is true or right or wrong or good or bad. You gotta go for it based on all signs, symptoms, and gut feelings as a parent. And as a determined and resourceful parent, you find what you need. Fortunately, you don’t have to figure out how to make the change. A determined and resourceful mom has already found the solution. We are ever grateful to the Enuresis Treatment Center for curing my son and liberating him from his cage. Thank you also to the “mom”, Barbara Moore. Truly, we cannot thank you enough!