Have you ever wet your pants?
The answer is probably yes. We all were kids, right? And that’s just “one of those things,” as it were. That was a long time ago, though. Can you remember what it felt like? Can you remember how you felt?
When I was a kid, I used to wet my pants constantly. At school, at home, at different times of the day. It would come upon me suddenly– the urge to pee– and I wouldn’t be able to hold it in. I can’t quite explain the details of it. My parents, of course, asked the usual questions: “Did you wait too long?” “Couldn’t you just ask the teacher to go to the bathroom?” “Didn’t you notice that your pants were wet?” It was the pants-wetting that led my parents to approach a therapist in the first place.
They never found anything physically wrong with me. I’d get UTIs, but only because I wet my pants– it was an effect, not a cause. I had ultrasounds and took antibiotics and had invasive intra-uretal explorations. Nothing was “wrong.”
A while ago, I mentioned this whole debacle to my therapist. She looked at me askance. “Did your parents ever thing it was related to your emotions?”
I mean… they must’ve. But really? No. It wasn’t easily explained that way. It was easier to think of the pants-wetting as the “problem” instead of as a “symptom.”
I remember the way it feels to wet my pants. It is so embedded in my memory, and, embarrassingly enough, so recent in my own personal history (although I’m in great shape now, for the most part), that most times it still feels like a part of me.
I remember being 3 years old, crawling around on the floor, my bottom up, back arched.
“What are you doing, B?” my parents asked, suspiciously.
“Pretending to be a lion,” is what I said. “Trying to hold in my urine,” was the truth.
I remember sitting in a blue plastic school chair at 8, wiggling my butt deep into the groove, trying to keep from needing to pee. But I’m called on and I have to stand, and with a rush, I feel hot liquid run down the inside of my thighs and pool in my underwear. I remember sitting down in the wetness, trying to pretend nothing happened, but feeling enormous shame and complete discomfort wash over me.
I remember crouching in a bookstore aisle at 10 years old, the heel of shoe digging into my crotch to keep the urine in. I waited, pretending to look at something. I’d test, to see if I could make the mad dash, and I’d feel a think warm stream begin to inch its way out. I’d crash back down, brain whirring, waiting, hoping, praying the moment would pass.
I remember an accident in Florence, Italy at 13, on a trip with my family. Walking towards a church after lunch, an urge shoots through me like adrenaline. I arch my back, wiggle, hope, wish, pray… but then it’s over. I’m humiliated, wet, and horrified. I pull my mother aside and confess. She thinks “we were done with all that.” But we’re not. Who knows why, but we’re not. And in the most compassionate move my mother has ever made (well, one of many, but this one rings very strongly in my heart), she went with me to the bathroom and told me to hand her my white bermuda shorts and underwear from inside the stall. She hand-washed both completely in a public toilet in Italy, and then I put them back on. My bottom half was still wet, but I didn’t smell and at least the wetness was uniform and clear.
I remember the tools I used to manage the pants-wetting.
Wrapping toilet paper around my underwear, attempting to soak up the worst of it. Tying my sweater or jacket around my hips even though it was unfashionable or I was cold, just to cover the dark, damp circle peeking out from my crotch. I remember the way I had to walk when I needed to pee, I remember how I sat. I remember the smell.
I was reminded of this part of my life today, because it happened again. Today. Yes, I’m 23. No, “I didn’t hold it too long.” I don’t know what happened. I know it could have been worse. I’m not particularly worried it’ll happen again. I think I sometimes have bladder issues when I’m on my period.
But this minor episode today just brought me allllll the way back to those days when I didn’t know what to do, didn’t know what was going on inside my body or my brain.
And I’m so grateful to be a grown up, and to know that even though there are moments when I feel out of control, most days, when it counts, I’ve got this.