Hello again. I haven’t blogged for a while — most of the time our life as a family is so ordinary, so ‘typical’, that there isn’t really much to write about. There is another reason why I haven’t been blogging, but I’m keeping that to myself for the time being.
One thing I haven’t ever written much about is toileting, for Freddie’s sake. but I have decided to mention it now, just this once, for the sake of other kids like Freddie and other mums like me.
I saw a post in a support group recently in which a mum was celebrating the fact that her pre-school aged child was now out of pull-ups at night. I went into the comments section with the intention of leaving a little note to say how pleased I was for her, and most of all for her child, but the comments already left by others hit me like a cricket bat in the teeth. They all said things like: ‘well done, mummy’, or ‘You’re doing such a fantastic job’, and so on.
What was the message I took from these comments, as the mum of a child who is much older but still not dry at night, despite being fully toilet-trained in the day for years? The message I got was that I wasn’t trying hard enough, not doing a good enough job, perhaps even that I was too lazy or incompetent as a parent to give this important gift to my child.
BEDWETTING IS NOT THE PARENT’S FAULT. IT IS NOT THE CHILD’S FAULT. HAVE YOU GOT THAT?
Yet both of the above are long-standing and frequently held beliefs, even among some medical professionals.
For a long time I have been asking professionals for help to get Freddie dry at night, because this wasn’t happening, even though he’s been fully toilet-trained in the day for several years. Not once have I been offered any kind of assessment, treatment or referral for him. Instead I have been repeatedly fobbed off with patronisingly basic advice on toilet training. Last year, one doctor even recommended I limit fluids DURING THE DAY IN THE MIDDLE OF A HEATWAVE! Leaving aside the obvious dangers of dehydration, one of the side effects of it is constipation — which exacerbates any kind of problem with urinary continence. My mouth managed not to say ‘Are you fucking kidding?’ but I’m pretty sure the rest of my face said it eloquently.
Do I look like I came down in the last shower, or something? I am (and indeed look) old enough to be a granny. I have done this before you know — I toilet-trained my older children and they came out of nappies at night without any trouble, notwithstanding the fact that one of them also has not-insignificant additional needs.
Eventually, via an online support group, I came across a couple of articles on the subject of bedwetting by specialist nurses from Bladder and Bowel UK. Armed with this information I went back to the GP yet again, and this time they conceded that Freddie has a problem that is not down to my lax parenting or the fact that he has a learning disability, though he seemed a little put out by my ‘defensive’ attitude (for ‘defensive’ attitude read ‘Don’t give me any of your shit’ attitude).
Night-time continence is not evidence of either good parenting skills, or the amount of effort put in. It cannot be taught or trained like daytime continence. There are things you can do to reduce the likelihood of your child wetting the bed, but if your child is aged 5 or older and has been toilet trained in the day for three months or more, but is still wetting at night (despite reasonable precautions) then they have a medical condition. Yes, bedwetting is a medical condition, and it requires treatment. And it’s very common, even among typically developing children.
Bedwetting occurs when a child:
Is unable to produce enough Vasopressin — the chemical messenger that tells the kidneys to produce less urine at night, or
Has a bladder that is not big enough to hold all the urine they produce when asleep, or
Has a bladder that ‘twitches’ and empties before it is full, or
Is unable to wake up in response to signals from the bladder that it is full.
Bedwetting is not something that your child will just ‘grow out of’, either. Any child affected by it needs assessment and treatment. The problem is that many healthcare professionals do not recognise it as medical problem because they are unaware of the causes of it, and this can cause delays in treatment.
Tonight Freddie will be going to bed wired up to an Enuresis alarm. This is the first step in finding out why this problem is happening and what we can do to tackle it. Wish us luck.
If you’re in the same position as us — don’t beat yourself up about it. And remember — when a parent gets their child out of nappies at night at what is considered the appropriate age, they can’t really take the credit. That goes to another parent, namely Mother Nature.
For information and advice on bedwetting and other continence issues take a look at http://www.bbuk.org.uk