Having a baby changes your life in so many ways. The hallway gets an over expensive travel system clogging it up and you get sick in your hair and you find yourself wondering if Mr Tumble could climb into his spotty bag and disappear forever. But becoming a mother for me has also meant I am grieving for my pelvic floor.
No one told me that having a child could result in me wetting myself on an almost hourly basis at times and how it could affect my life in such a dramatic way. A light run can mean can mean the weather forecast in my pants is a light shower whilst a go on the trampoline in the park means a full-on monsoon. It’s a total game changer for me and my child thinks it’s hilarious that mummy needs to wear a special pad to extract the wee.
“Mummy, what are these. They look different to the period ones” said my son as he held up a Tena Lady so big that we could have used it as a tent in the garden during a storm. I have reached the point of having no dignity, having had a child, and the majority of the delivery staff in East London present at my c-section (try having two wombs and two vaginas to turn you into a medical world celebrity and the hottest ticket in town is to see you in theatre, with your gynaecological tombola and a baby being pulled out of you). So I said to my shy and enquiring son – “they are different to my period ones darling. Not only does mummy have periods every month which means she can’t wear white pants or trousers for yonks or fit into any of her clothes, while feeling like a beast if there is no chocolate in the house, but mummy also, at times, wees herself. So these things that look like sanitary towels are in fact….” Well I couldn’t finish my sentence as the boy yelled out, whilst clad in a knight’s uniform with a rocket pack made out of a Ready Brek box on his bag “NAPPIES mummy? These are your NAPPIES? Why do you wee yourself? Why don’t you go in the loo like I have to? You start muttering under your breath when I don’t wee in the loo. Is it because daddy spends three hours on the toilet watching football and you think, oh no , I can’t hold it anymore? Because do you know what you do then mummy? You should do what I do – you wee in the bath”.
It all started at the end of pregnancy…
Oh how I would love to make it to the bath. But no. Be it a sneeze, a laugh or simply standing washing the dishes, I frequently find myself going to the loo right where I am. It started at the end of pregnancy. I was in the kitchen in my pants and a dressing gown , the height of pregnancy chic, and felt a warm sensation tricking down my legs. I hollered the husband and stood with my hospital bag by the front door as he phoned labour ward to say my waters had broken. He was yelling questions out to me as I rubbed my belly thinking it was time to meet the little one and the final question arrived. He asked me what the fluid smelt like. Confused , I thought, I have no idea you raging idiot – I haven’t smelt amniotic fluid before. I spent an age getting down to the floor to sniff said puddle by the sink and quickly realized it had a slight eau d’urine about it . The midwife informed the husband I had wet myself, this happens in the later stages of pregnancy and that I wasn’t about to drop my sprog. The start of things to come.
And then there’s the joy of exercise
Attempting to get back the figure I never had once I had given birth, I joined a gym and ventured into the world of Lycra. Jogging along on the treadmill, I felt the sensation I had by the sink in the kitchen. I realized 3 minutes on 5.5 speed wasn’t really enough to make my legs drip in sweat and realized I had wet myself in public. In the gym. Surrounded by muscles.
What the dickens was wrong with me I thought? Google informed me that this can happen when you give birth and told me to do pelvic floor exercises three times a day for three months. It guided me to YouTube videos of incredibly glamorous women in yoga pants and a crop top squeezing their pelvic floor, lifting their bum in the air for ten seconds which I truly believe to be medically impossible, telling me to visualize my wee being pulled back and remembering to engage and hold. And to breathe, must remember to do that.
It didn’t work. The changing bag not only contained nappies for my little boy but spare pants for me should I let out an unexpected mini-flood at baby massage. I felt terrible guilt that I hadn’t done kegel exercises in pregnancy which would have apparently made my bladder as strong as steel and capable of hanging a 8 stone weight from it. I had never even heard of kegel exercises and assumed it was some kind of bread roll.
It doesn’t matter which way the baby comes out
Women’s bodies are put through the right old ringer when they have a child. Pregnancy means you have a growing baby performing a dance off on your bladder whilst shoving all of your other organs out of the way and then you either:
a) push this human being out of your vagina . Yes yes, we know it stretches and this is what nature intends it to do but that doesn’t mean it’s a walk in the park.
b) have a c-section , which isn’t the easy way out in any way shape or form. The recovery can be a tad on the painful side and it’s also not a sure fire bet that you will avoid the weeing yourself part after.
Weeing yourself when you don’t want to isn’t fun. Having to cart bladder pads around in your handbag alongside a spare pair of knickers, tights and leggings and an old Tesco bag to put soiled items in can actually make you feel really low about yourself.
Taking my child to the soft play used to make me really anxious. I would see other mums bouncing up and down on the trampoline looking like a coiffed dream. White jeans, no bra, not a hair out of place. As they would bounce up I would also see a g-string peeking out which looked like it was made out of three pieces of thread. Meanwhile, I had a boulder-holder bra and ripped leggings which made my arse look like I was smuggling ferrets through customs due to the 6 foot long bladder pad that went up to the middle of my back. And the pants needed to hold these in were akin to potato sacks. No g-strings playing peek-a-boo for me.
On I would climb, tucking everything up and in as my manic child would hang off my ankles getting precariously close to flashing my wee armour. Every little bounce would result in a gush coming out of me which would then dislodge the pad holding the gush. Combine this with 10 more kids climbing on to bounce next to me and soon enough, the pad almost jumped out of my pants. Off I would get and run to the loo to find the pad stuck to me knees under my leggings and my pants dripping wet.
I read that nearly 50% of mums had urinary incontinence a year after giving birth. That’s a hell of a lot of mums but no one really talks about it. Andrea in baby rhyme time may look as though she employs someone to do her wees for her but she is probably sitting there protected by a bladder pad as well for all you know.
We all wee but we all learnt growing up that it’s polite to do it in the toilet, behind a tree if you are really desperate, and by the side the road if it’s 2am and you are hugging a bottle of gin. We were taught that weeing in our pants was not the done thing. And so when you reach 35, you do not expect to regress in some way and find yourself unable to hold your wee or stop it when it starts. I found it would start to get in the way of sexy time with the husband – it takes about three hours to get into a corset and attach the stockings to it so your other half can undress you with his teeth, but it can be a little different when you have an almost constant urge to run to the loo. And sexily trying to throw a bladder pad in the air so you can get your groove on, is ruined when said pad lands on husband’s back.
Stay dry pants for grown-ups
This may all sound funny but it can make you feel unclean and you wonder how on earth your partner finds you attractive . But there is no need to be embarrassed – I guarantee you that you definitely aren’t alone. My dear man does our washing and never once mentions it; he has even been known to buy bladder pads for me. Granted , it’s taken a few trial runs – he has returned home with nappies for newborns , a packet of cotton wool and panty liners thinking these all fit the bill but he now knows he is to venture to the section with the stay dry pants for grown-ups. That’s right – you don’t have to just wear pads these days – you can get actual whole pull on knickers . Which you then fling in the bin when done with.
Chemists say these are for maximum confidence and are elastic acted for a comfortable fit. And have an all important odour neutralizer to stop any rogue whiffs. Spanx they are not, so you won’t be two sizes smaller when you put them on and they aren’t the usual definition of sexy but if you can put that aside, they are brilliant. They are stretchy and suck up the wee so you don’t walk around feeling like someone has poured their pint of lager in your crotch.
Let’s talk about incontinence
We really should talk about incontinence after having a baby more. I am no longer embarrassed that I wet myself and maybe talk about it too much. My poor doctor constantly has to hear me babble on about it but says it’s a good thing – too many women are living with this in silence and they deserve to be treated for it.
The doc said to me that if you try and help sort the random weeing when it’s a tinkle , it could help stop it turning into a flood further down the line. She asked me lots of questions – do I wee when I sneeze, are there times when I need to wee more than others and made me keep a diary of when it happened. I then had to have a vaginal exam which consisted of her putting a finger in me and coughing while she talked about how she cooks her brisket of beef on the hob instead of the oven. As she pulled her finger out she informed me I had weed while she asked me to cough and I was mortified. I had just urinated over my doctor’s hand. She of course, didn’t care and said this happens about ten times a week and there was no need to be embarrassed and she carried on talking about how she rolls her potatoes in onion soup mix before she roasts them.
She told me there are lots of treatments for women like me – surgical and non surgical , including pelvic floor muscle training. I remembered how good it felt to have a catheter in after my c section and asked if I could simply wear one of them all day. She said no.
So back to the muscle training. It’s like a resuscitation for your damaged pelvic floor and it can bring them back to life. I had a nice lady at the hospital tell me to squeeze my pelvic floor eight times, three times a day to give them a lower body kiss of life. She said this may help and after a few months, I may not leak like a broken tap constantly. I also had to insert some special cones into my vagina – these aren’t like the cones you get when you buy a Mr Whippy from the ice cream van but look more like mini microphones. They are like little weights and you place them inside you and see if you can hold it for one minute without it going crashing to the floor . You then build this up, by increasing the weight and see if you can hold it in for 15 minutes. I have never got past ten minutes or got to the heaviest weight but have accepted I have a lazy vagina and that even the smallest workout I give it is useful.
And these little workouts did work. Not to such an extent that I can jump up and down on the bed in nothing but a g string , but I definitely don’t leak almost constantly anymore. And I have to do these exercises everyday now forever otherwise I will start to flood myself again. I still wear bladder pads and I do so proudly knowing that it’s okay – when I walk around the supermarket, I know there are secretly lots of other mums like me.
Weeing yourself isn’t fun. It’s a whole other bag of tricks that adds to the very high pile of woes that mums can have. If it is happening to you , take thee to a doctor and don’t tape your mouth shut with a bladder pad and remain silent They really have seen it all before and they can support you and guide you to help. And if they do have to insert a finger into you and ask you to cough, just remember , you aren’t alone. We have all weed on our doctor’s hands. Because #NoMOLOFliesSolo
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Eve is 37, is mum to her son Joe who is 7 and in her proper job she does important government work whilst clad in pink stilettos and a rara skirt. A postpartum psychosis survivor, she is a mental health campaigner and blogger and can usually be found brewing homemade limoncello whilst drinking a double gin and bitter lemon.
You can read Eve’s brilliant blog here
Image credit : Eve Canavan