Here at Lily Bird, we feature personal stories written by smarty pants women from our community. That’s because telling your bladder who’s boss is better as a team sport. These women get you. They’re in your corner. And they’re here to remind you that your body isn’t broken. Hey, bodies age, bladders leak, and movie sequels bomb. Right?
This week Lindsay’s here to combat the stigma around leaks by talking to an unlikely audience…our kids. Take it away, Lindsay.
“Mom, why do you cross your legs every time you sneeze?” my 5-year-old daughter asked innocently. Is it that obvious?, I wondered silently to myself. My daughter doesn’t miss a beat and so I’d love to chalk this up to the fact that my kids notice – and comment on – everything I do. But much to my chagrin, I know she can’t be the only one who has taken notice of my not-so-discreet method of crossing my legs to avoid bladder leakage every time I sneeze or cough.
After clearing my throat several times to buy myself some time to think, I gave my daughter a quick answer. “Oh, mommy’s bladder leaks sometimes when I sneeze or cough, and so I cross my legs to stop that from happening.” My daughter followed up with, “So… “ she said, scrunching her nose up, “you mean pee comes out?” When I answered in the affirmative, that seemed to be enough info for my daughter, and she bounced off gleefully to play in her room. But I couldn’t help but think I had failed her – and myself – in giving a short answer that did little to explain what actually happens with my body, why and – importantly – how common this is.
I want to live in a world where incontinence and bladder leaks are discussed as openly as other physical ailments – a world in which our leaky bladders aren’t cloaked in shame but rather, discussed openly and honestly
Shortly after the birth of my second child, I developed what my doctor told me is “stress incontinence”, which essentially means I leak urine when I sneeze, cough, laugh, or take part in physical activities, like jumping on a trampoline with my kids (no longer a preferred activity of mine, let’s just say….). I lived with this for a long while, thinking it would “go away” in time, if I just did enough Kegel exercises. But it didn’t, and I finally worked up the nerve to talk to my doctor about it. When I first got the diagnosis, I was embarrassed. Mortified, even. I told no one at first, not even my partner. But as time wore on and I overheard more whispered conversations in my local mom group gatherings, I began to realize that urinary incontinence and bladder leaks are more common than I’d previously known.
Prior to my own diagnosis, I thought bladder leaks were something only older women experienced. Very few women talk openly about bladder leaks, and no one had ever explained to me that this may be a “thing” I could experience long before my twilight years. There is some shame and stigma surrounding bladder leaks, and because incontinence is considered embarrassing, many who live with it don’t seek out treatment or support, for fear of being ostracized by friends, family, healthcare practitioners and even society as a whole.
We can combat the stigma and shame, one conversation at a time
Here’s the thing – I don’t want a world in which my daughters don’t know about something as common as urinary incontinence. Nearly 1 in 3 women will experience bladder leaks at some point in their lives. I want to live in a world where urinary incontinence and bladder leaks are discussed as openly as other physical ailments – a world in which our leaky bladders aren’t cloaked in shame but rather, discussed openly and honestly. And so, I will continue to have conversations with my daughters about my bladder leaks – the why, the how, the when – everything.
As parents, it is up to us to educate our children on all facets of life – some topics are easier to talk about than others, sure. Talking about bladder leaks ranks right up there with revealing we’re having brussel sprouts for dinner, as far as conversations I want to have go. And through my talks with my kids, I’ve learned that kids love potty humor, so you can expect a giggle or two when you explain to your littles what’s happening with your body. I’ve learned to laugh right along with them. Because if we can tell our children about our bladder leaks in a no-nonsense, matter-of-fact, age-appropriate kind of way, we can combat the stigma and shame, one conversation at a time.
By Lindsay C.
Lindsay C. is a working mom living in South Florida. A writer by day and a reader by night, she spends her spare time overthinking the meaning of life, tending to her indoor plants, cycling, and avoiding her children’s trampoline.
Want to share your own story about leaky laughs or dribble dilemmas? Give us a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org.