Urine for a Treat
(I'd like to point out some unusual formatting in this week's column. Every time you see an asterisk [*] in the text below, I want you to squeeze the muscles of your pelvic floor. I'll explain later; just do it. Every time.)
Being the mother of a teenager brings an undeniable sense of accomplishment. By the time our kids are a decade-plus out-tha-womb, we're masters at soothing bee-stung toes and sleepover anxieties. We can produce perfect potluck side dishes and create a Shutterfly holiday card in 20 minutes flat.
We're competent. We're confident. But ... we're not especially continent.*
Let me paint you a picture: I'm the cool mom who buys my kids a trampoline, relinquishes half of my backyard to the unsightly contraption, and then — excellent sport that I am — scrambles onto the bouncy spring pad with my boys to have a go on the thing.
Yes, good times. Look at us, cavorting together. Get a load of me, the fun mom, launching into the air, cackling with glee, and flopping around like a middle-aged rag doll until — excuse me?
What* just* happened?*
It seems I sprung a wee leak. And being neither a potty-oblivious infant nor a nursing-home resident, I'm confused. It's as unexpected as if my eyes had just popped out of my head — things that have no business leaving my body without my say-so.
"Uhh," I stammer. "I'm, um, needing to ... can you stop bouncing for a ... listen, goddamn it, I wet my pants." Not a full-on piddle puddle, you understand, just a splotch in the ole bikinis.
"What?!" say my sons. "Eww! Mom! Really?!"
Did I mention that before I bought the trampoline and allowed it to uglify my yard and gamely climbed aboard it, I spent a year and a half of my life bearing these children and a good (well, good is a strong word) 20-plus hours birthing the tight-bladdered little bastards?
My only consolation is the discovery that my girlfriends regularly tinkle themselves, too.
"Jumping jacks* are my nemesis," said one. "I've done it twice while cheering* at the end of a Dodger game," admitted another. "My family got the Xbox Kinect last year," confessed a third, "and there I am, jumping* over obstacles in a virtual raft, and I have to quickly abandon ship and hightail it to the restroom."
The official diagnosis is "stress incontinence." The cause: movement that puts pressure on the abdomen and bladder. And my friend Melanie Landay, an ob-gyn, said it affects up to 50 percent of women.
It's not unique to moms (I know a yogi who spends two hours a day "squeezing my bandhas into a semblance of crushing deadly weaponry" and still has to cross her legs when she sneezes*). But pregnancy and childbirth ... well, they stretch your odds wide open. Also, don't age if you can help it.
What can we do about this? Aside from surgery and collagen injections (I know; I nearly peed myself just thinking about that one), there's only one fix. Kegel exercises — those little squeezes* you've been doing throughout this column — really do help. "Mild symptoms, even if present for years, may respond very well," swears Dr. Mel. "I do them whenever I can."
But I have a friend who resigned herself to the situation and bought a pack of Depends so she could whiz through the air with her daughters, carefree, on their trampoline. Does investing in adult diapers prove that a mom is not as competent as she thought? I actually believe it makes her more so — but let's keep that information between us, shall we? I wouldn't want it leaking out.