There are certain aspects of motherhood that no one tells you about ahead of time. I’m not sure why. Maybe they are too busy being a mommy. Maybe they are too embarrassed. Maybe they forget. I’m not sure. All I know is that some of them were quite upsetting to me when I thought I was the only one experiencing them. I’ve made it a small mission to make sure Jane knows what may be in store for her.
No one warns you that you might start growing little black chin hairs as you age. This one isn’t related to motherhood, just advancing age. I found this mortifying until I found the courage to whisper it to some people and discover that I’m not the only one with tweezers in my purse for something other than extracting splinters from children’s fingers.
They also never tell you that if you have too many children, the skin on your stomach might just give up and decide to stay that way, no matter how much weight you lose. How many is too many surely varies from woman to woman. For me, the number is three. Hal, I paid a heavy price for you. I hope you appreciate it.
I remember asking my doctor when my stomach was going to finish contracting a few months after he was born. She looked me in the eye and said matter-of-factly, “It’s probably not going to. Just remember you’ve got three beautiful babies to show for it.” Thanks.
The single worst effect of childbirth however, is unquestionably the loss of bladder control. The first time I wet my pants when I sneezed, I was shocked. What just happened?! I soon learned how to discretely cross my legs – sometimes even while walking – when I felt a sneeze coming on. Certain activities were immediately off my can-do list: jump roping and trampoline jumping being at the top.
I suffered in silence for awhile before looking up at a kid’s birthday party being held at a gymnastics gym and noticing one of the other moms was missing. I had seen her jumping on the trampoline with one of her children just a few minutes earlier. When I asked someone where she was, she leaned in and whispered, “She had to run home and change clothes.”
“Why?” I asked.
She looked at me like I was a fool. “She peed in her pants jumping on the trampoline.”
“Really?! It’s not just me? That’s why I didn’t dare get on it. Has it ever happened to you?”
I got the you’re-a-fool look again. After that, I started paying attention and dropping comments. I soon found that many – not all, but many women have the same problem. It can be minimized with targeted exercises, but only if you remember to do them and do lots of them. I was a busy mom and couldn’t seem to remember. So I continued to eschew trampolines and jump ropes while perfecting my sneezing/laughing leg cross.
And life went on. Until now. I got it into my head to try the Couch-to-5K program. I knew my walking regimen had stagnated. I needed to ratchet up my exercising. This seemed like just the thing. The first day on the treadmill, I realized my problem. The jarring motion of running was remarkably similar to jumping. I stopped the treadmill and took a potty break. After that, I made sure I used the bathroom immediately before starting my exercises and all was good.
So good, in fact, that I kind of forgot that it had been a problem. When I agreed to run in a 5K race recently, the team captain offered the opportunity for people to show up at the local track and run a mile to get our pacing times and a work-out plan. I had focused on staying hydrated all day at work and then used the bathroom just before I left. But then I had to drive to the track and go through preliminary instructions and warm-ups. It was probably close to an hour since I had used the bathroom and I had been drinking a lot of water that afternoon. I registered the fact that I needed to pee but since there were no facilities available, I put it out of my mind.
About a fourth of the way along the first lap, it started. Every foot fall. Ok, you can’t cross your legs while you run. I’ve become quite gifted at doing it while walking, but only for one step. What was I to do? If I stop, besides looking like an incapable wuss (in my mind), I won’t get the pace time and targeted workout. There was nothing to do but keep running. And get wet. Very wet.
I tried to take comfort in the fact that I was wearing black shorts, so no one would be able to tell they were wet. That anything visible could be passed off as sweat. I tried to ignore it. The run was brutal. It was my first time to run outside and it was summertime in Texas. It was hot, I was tired and winded, and I had to contend with wet clothes sagging down uncomfortably. But I finished the four laps. And even participated in the stretches. Then whispered my situation to my husband, who looked at me with a shocked look on his face. “Really?!”
Yes, really. Unfortunately, we couldn’t go home. Jane would be back from summer camp within a half hour. So we drove to the church and I changed back into my jeans from work. Commando style. Pretty sure that was a first for me and it just felt weird.
When Jane climbed out of the van, she ran to me and embraced me in a hug. I returned the hug tightly, leaned in close to her ear and whispered, “Do you have any clean underwear and shorts in your suitcase?”
She tried to pull away to look at me but I held tight. “I have clean underwear,” she responded.
Again she tried to pull away. “Um, why?”
“Because I ran this afternoon and completely wet myself. I mean, like running down my leg. My sock’s even wet.” She started to laugh. “I’m not wearing any underwear and it’s really uncomfortable.” Her laugh became a loud cackle. “And you had better not speak a word of this to anyone, especially your friends.”
So why am I writing about it? Well, first off, it’s a really funny story. And I’ve told embarrassing stories about my kids here. How hypocritical is it to refuse to shine that spotlight on myself? But mostly, it’s because it’s a reality that many, many women live with. And we all hide it. And many of us think we are alone. Well, we aren’t. The event became so preposterous because I wasn’t willing to let it stop me from doing what I set out to do. But I am sincerely hoping that it will help me remember to do those darn exercises. Maybe it does happen to a lot of women, but I think I’m ready to see if I can stop being one of them.