Jeannie’s Story (adapted from My Bedwetting Victory)

I’ve been there. I know the desperation, shame, frustration, anger, embarrassment, and helplessness. This is my story. And this is my children’s story.

I had an 11-year-old and an 8-year-old who were soaking overnight pull-up pants every night. How did this happen? I was a mother of eight. I had a degree in special education with certification to teach behavior disordered, emotionally disturbed, and learning disabled students. I also had a psychology minor.

The last thing I expected was to have trouble with bedwetting. But bedwetting happens, no matter what kind of degrees a parent has and no matter how surprised the parents are about it.

My first two potty trained fairly easily, and nighttime dryness followed shortly after. We encouraged it with stickers for dry nights.

My next child, Will, took about a year to be fully trained during the days. I always figured I had probably started him too soon. If I had just waited, training would have been easier, I figured. Then it came time to work on the nights. As with his siblings, we used a reward chart and, sure enough, had success.

I have a very vivid memory that punctuates just how much success. Will was 4-years-old when we went to visit my sister, herself a mother of three boys. As I prepared blanket beds on her carpeted floor, she asked if I needed any waterproof pads. I smugly looked up and declared, “Nope. We’re good.” And we were.

Oh, how the mighty fall. About six months after that visit to my sister’s and a year after Will had started staying dry at night, he started waking up damp. These weren’t full accidents mind you, just big, wet circles of dampness on his underwear and pajamas. At first we told him “no” and explained dribbling isn’t ok and he needs to hold it or get up and go to the bathroom. Since it was just a little bit, we figured his bladder was full and he really needed to take a full bathroom trip. Even with our explanations and teaching, the wet clothes continued.

Since he clearly knew how to keep dry, we took this as an obedience issue. Teaching turned into scolding. And as is so often the case in my parenting experience, as scolding ensued, frustration stepped right up and hung out in my heart. I don’t fool myself for one millisecond: Will perceived my escalating frustration. He perceived my husband’s escalating frustration. And he responded with confusion and disheartenment. I can still remember the look on his face every morning and the memory of it breaks my heart.

From there, things went from bad to worse. Soon, Will was waking every morning with wet pants and sheets. Our frustration increased and our relationship with Will was suffering for it.

Finally, things came to a head. This was not what I wanted for my family. I wanted joy, peace, and delight in one another.

I gave up. No more focusing on or fighting what was happening. Bedwetting woes would be put away. All pressure on Will would be taken off. We would buy disposable training pants and essentially ignore any negative behavior. If he had a dry night, we’d congratulate. Bedwetting would not be given the time of day in our home.

Will’s bed stayed dry while the training pants got soaked. I’d love to say that with this new stress-free approach, Will worked it out and soon stayed dry. Not even close. But we did all relax with each other and our relational atmosphere was positive once again. For that, I’m very thankful.

Meanwhile, Will’s younger brother was ready for potty training. It was tough for him and took quite a while. As for nighttime dryness, my husband and I didn’t have it in us to address it. Things with Will were just getting better and neither of us wanted a repeat of that negative time.

So now, we had two children in overnight pull-up pants who both soaked them every night. We moved on and bedwetting became the norm in our home. But at least it was stress free.

Until one day…I don’t know if it was an awareness that came from normal development or perhaps the feelings had always been there and he was now old enough and our interactions regarding bedwetting non-threatening enough that he could finally express himself. Whatever the case, Will wanted to be dry – badly. He was humiliated by using training pants. They were akin to diapers in his mind. He was 11-years-old and despairing of this shameful embarrassment. He did not want to be seen with our cart at the store, fearing someone would know the training pants were for him. Any comment from any of his siblings, no matter how innocent, sent him into a state of hopelessness.

It was time to face our old nemesis bedwetting. We tried everything we could think of. In the midst of this season, we began subtly hinting about our struggles to a few other parents who we trusted. Lo and behold, we were not alone!

As much as I felt badly for these other families, it was encouraging, in an odd way, to know that others were surviving this same battle. Sadly, though, we were not hearing the end of the story. We were not hearing about kids who had struggled but were now dry.

We were desperate. Surely, there had to be an answer.

Then, finally, in one of my searches, I opened a website that asked if I’d tried all the usual suggestions. Yes, yes, yes, and yes. Well, for a good portion of the population, the site informed, none of the usual works. No kidding, I thought. I also thought perhaps these people who set up this website might know something. I kept reading. They suggested the real problem is deep sleep and behavioral therapy is the answer. Now, I’m not sure about the deep sleep thing. I think it is one of several contributing factors, yet there was so much more promise on this website than I had found anywhere else. I kept reading.

Behavioral therapy? I knew about that. In fact, I’m trained in it. A lot of good it had done me so far! Again, I kept reading. As they outlined their program, which cost a princely sum, I recognized their use of a few other teaching techniques I was familiar with from my college and career days.

I kept reading. Wham! It hit me like a 2 x 4 between the eyes! I’m trained in every accepted (and some not so accepted) learning theory out there! My area of expertise is to look at a child who is having trouble learning, evaluate the situation, come up with a solution, and institute it. I had been paid to do this. I kind of felt silly and not so bright. How had I missed this? I could develop a program that would retrain my sons to have dry nights. I was absolutely sure of the possibility.

All this time it had never occurred to me to handle the bedwetting from this angle. Most kids learn to read fairly easily, but certainly not all. Most kids learn basic math fairly easily, but again not all. Most kids learn to stay dry at night fairly easily, but obviously not all.

I had been viewing potty training, and especially achieving dry nights, as a rite of passage. I thought it should be something everyone essentially “grows into” with only minimal teaching from parents. It was just a normal human function to my mind. So when I found myself with two older children who wet the bed, it is no wonder I was plagued with embarrassment and feelings of failure, as were they.

But now, I was ready to tackle it like any other educational challenge. And that’s what I did. You can read more about My Bedwetting Victory here.

A key component of the process was to work together with my son. So I brought Will in on the plan. While he was understandably skeptical after all we’d tried, he was hopeful too. Maybe this would be it.

About half way through our working on My Bedwetting Victory, Jay expressed his interest. I didn’t realize how much he wanted to be dry at night. So I started him on the program too.

Dry nights increased, wet nights decreased. We were heading in the right direction, but would we ever arrive?

Yes. Within months, both my boys were 100% dry. And they’ve remained dry to this day.

I am confident and my boys are confident. Bedwetting is conquered. I know help for bedwetting is limited at best, and I know what I have developed works. My hope is that other families will stop suffering and experience the same victory as our family.