(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.
Starshine Roshell is the author of Wife on the Edge.