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“I have referred you to the Urinary Incontinence Team. They should be able to help you.” Never in my life did I imagine I would hear those words. When they came, so did the tears. I’m still unsure whether they are tears of shame or relief.
I have a clear recollection of my mother telling me that I would lose all my dignity in childbirth. I have a clear recollection of there being 12 people in the room as Firstborn arrived and yet, compared with that experience, I have less dignity now than I did at any point during my delivery.
Wherever the dignity went, other things have followed. I feel only shame and embarrassment. I have stopped caring what I look like- I haven’t washed my hair all week- for what is the point in that when I walk around smelling like an old lady? I wear oversized sweaters, grateful for the cold snap, to cover my shame: the enormous bulge where pads of nappy-sized proportions absorbs the accidents or, worse, the tell-tale wet patch.
I stay away from friends, avoid communication, avoid public outings. I stay at home, close to the loo, close to changes of clothes and safety and all that I know and love. And I eat to assuage the sadness, the shame, the anger.
Why is it that I should have this issue? I did everything right. I brought two children into this world, into a home filled with love, a home that can afford to give them everything. And it wasn’t easy. Even conception wasn’t easy, but pregnancy ended with me in a wheelchair and a lifetime of deep bone-ache to content with. An unstable pelvis.
I did all the exercises, kept all the appointments. I know where my pelvic floor muscles are and keep them busy, yet they just don’t seem to work properly. I sneeze- I wee. I cough- I wee. I laugh? I wee. The cough that I have had for over a month has had a significant effect on an already delicate issue and I now know more about incontinence products than I would wish on anyone.
I have no-one to talk to, because I cannot bring myself to tell anyone. It was only a chance comment at the doctors that made me realise this is not normal for a woman of 35. I could not look at my husband when I told him. At least it explained why I had been keeping my distance from him. I just hope he isn’t as permanently scarred by this experience as I have been. I hope that the Urinary Incontinence team can help.