Monday, March 25, 2013

Incontinence in Women

As a young girl and then a young woman, I heard a lot of things about being pregnant and having babies.  I was pregnant for our daughter in 1988 when I was 28 years old.  That was the year I discovered that there were a lot of things that no one ever told me.  Oh, women joke about having to pee often, but they don’t really tell you all the gory details.

I was pregnant again the following year, but miscarried at about 12 weeks.  And then pregnant again about a year after that, and again miscarried at about 14 weeks.  In each of those pregnancies, I was already wearing maternity clothes by the time I miscarried… meaning I was big in the belly area.  And even though I was no longer pregnant after the miscarriage, my body felt pregnant.  My uterus was all “dusted and cleaned” out, but it was still enlarged, putting additional pressure on a full bladder, so all the frequent need to urinate that comes with pregnancy for months was an experience I had to go through to some extent during those times.

My fourth and final pregnancy was in 1994, when our son was born.  Sam was a big baby, and during the final weeks of pregnancy, I believe he kept his feet on my bladder 24-7.  I peed often.  No, really.  I peed OFTEN.

Peeing often affects the size of your bladder.  Who knew?... But even if you have never experienced a pregnancy, we are still taught as young children that when you have that urge to pee, quick! hurry! run and go pee!  Good girl!  GOOD girl!

The size of your bladder has an impact on incontinence.   As adult women, we actually can train our bladders to be smaller or larger.  The more often we give into the urge to pee, that is, if we pee frequently, the smaller we train our bladder to be.

And those Kegel exercises we learn about are not really explained very well.  I heard about those, of course, long before pregnancies.  Probably covered in several articles in Cosmopolitan.  Keep that area tight, women, and your man/men will appreciate it and so will you!   A tight tata will give you a more intense orgasm!  And who doesn’t want that?!

Forget that!  The most important aspect of exercising “that area,” aka your pelvic floor, is to prevent incontinence later in life.  Seriously, if you’re in your 20’s, pay heed – you will care about this all too soon!   Much more than you will care about more intense orgasms.  Not that you won’t care about that… just not as much as caring about being able not to piss yourself.

And those Kegel exercises are usually explained by telling you to stop urination mid-stream, and then work those muscles.  Ever hear a woman in the stall next to you peeing like she’s turning a faucet on, then off, then on, then off… Kegel! 

As years went by, I found myself doing what so many, many women do:
1)  Squeezing legs together for sneezing or coughing
2)  Leaking a little (or a lot) with a great bout of laughter
3)  Staying away from trampolines and horseback riding
4)  Etc etc etc
5)  and oh yeah, wearing panty protection 24-7

And then I hit the perfect storm for incontinence when I was 48 years old.  In mid-January 2008, I had a neck surgery to repair my C6 vertebrae to remove a piece of it that was broken off and pressing into my spinal cord.  As a result, my C5, C6 and C7 are fused with steel rods and brackets.  The morning after that surgery, I felt supreme relief.  But then, I got an infection and ended up with a second surgery a couple of weeks later on the same site to remove a big pocket of puss.  Then under anesthetic a third time to have a PIC line inserted, and I took antibiotics for 3 months.

During that time, I was taking pain medications – Vicodin, Valium and Flexeril, and I think Darvocet was in there, too.  I spent a lot of time on our sofa, because that ended up being the spot I could find some comfort laying down.  The antibiotics made me so ill that between that and the physical pain emanating from my neck, I pretty much lived on that sofa for weeks and weeks.  At age 48, that was my first major experience with incontinence.  One day, instead of taking Vicodin, I decided to switch it up and take Darvocet.  My prescription for Vicodin was for me to take 2 pills, so I took 2 Darvocet without thinking, but I should have taken only 1 pill.  I was zonked out for over 12 hours.  I remember feeling my body sink very, very deeply into the sofa.  Then I woke up on a very cold, wet sofa cushion.  Holy crap.  My husband, Kevin, had tried to wake me and was actually to the point of being excessively worried when I finally decided to return to the land of the living.  And then he took such good care of me, helping me to get off the sofa, out of my soaking wet nightgown and into the shower.  He took the cover off the sofa cushion, washed the cover and tried to wash the piss out of the cushion.  He dried my tears, took a cushion from the love seat and put it on the sofa for me.  And major kudos to Flexsteel, the brand of our sofa and loveseat –  because our sofa has a lifetime warranty on the cushions, and Flexsteel didn’t even care that I ruined the cushion by pissing on it!  When I called them to order a new cushion, they sent me one free – didn’t even charge me postage!

When I eventually returned to sleeping in our bed on a regular basis, I learned something else new… when you get out of your bed, you don’t really even think about it.  Likely you sit up and swing your feet to the floor in a smooth motion, and probably most people reading this sentence right now are trying to think to themselves, “How is it exactly that I do get out of bed?  Hmmm…” 

What I learned was that after my neck surgery I could no longer just “get out of bed.”  Instead of rising up and swing my feet to the floor, I had to roll almost over onto my stomach and push myself up.  So every morning, with that full morning bladder and not yet fully awake, I would try to get out of bed the usual way by a 48-year force of habit, which would send screaming red hot pokers of pain from my neck through my entire body.  And then I would pee, a little or not so little depending on the day and the level of pain.  Oh, good times.

That was the year that my body went to hell in a handbasket, including my bladder and pelvic floor muscles.  I was going to physical therapy for my neck, and then I found myself going to physical therapy for incontinence. 

And I bless that physical therapist for her fine teaching skills, amazing, wonderful bedside manner and empathy.

Here’s what I learned and want to pass on to every woman I can.  And if you’re in your 20’s reading this and think this doesn’t apply to you, baby, think again.  You’ll be 40 all too soon.

First, train your bladder to be larger. 

On your first morning pee, make sure you empty your bladder as much as you can.  And isn’t that a wonderful feeling?  My 4th favorite feeling.

Also, try waiting as long as possible between urinations throughout your day, and again, take time to fully empty your bladder.  This is to train your bladder to be as large as possible.  Size does matter, ladies.  And helps you to sleep through the night without having to get up and go pee when you should be deep into REM sleep.

After your morning starts, you’ve had coffee or whatever, you should try not peeing more than every 4 or 5 hours throughout your day and evening.  Obviously if your schedule is to pee every hour, you’re going to have to build yourself up to a longer length of time between urinations.  And in the evening, wait until just prior to bed to pee. 

Do NOT start and stop your pee stream.  This actually can do more to cause incontinence than to prevent it!

Exercise your pelvic floor muscles often.  You can do this almost anytime – driving in your car, sitting in a chair, even walking with your grocery cart.  But here’s the catch:

These exercises should start at your sphincter muscle, i.e., your butthole, yes, your butthole. 

Tighten that anal opening and then take that tightening all the way up to your urinary tract opening, i.e., your pee hole.  You should be able to tighten that whole area without feeling the movement on the outside of your hip or butt.  These are your pelvic floor muscles; it’s not just about your dainty little lady parts… it has to include your asshole.  Hear me and listen.

Exercises include tightening in 3 steps, start with your butthole and tighten and hold, count of 5, move forward a bit and tighten and hold count of 5, and then move forward to your pee hole, tighten and hold count of 5, release, count of 5 and start again, doing at least 5 reps.  Another exercise is to tighten the entire area all together, count of 5, release, count of 5, 10, 15, etc, and again 5 reps.

So that’s the secret I learned: train your bladder to be as large as possible and exercise your pelvic floor muscles correctly and often.

Pass it on.

Caveat:  If you’re really having trouble with incontinence, tell your doctor and get to a physical therapist, preferably a woman PT who has been trained for incontinence.  The physical therapy was slightly uncomfortable/disconcerting for me initially – I had to pull my pants down so she could stick these sensors on my butt for a machine to measure the muscle movement, and of course, talking out loud about your butthole to anyone is a rather unique conversation… but it’s worth it.  So worth it.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Thy leaves are so unchanging!

Our Christmas tree has been de-decorated for quite some time now, but Kev only just today took the lights off and carted the tree out of the living room.  We’ve been enjoying the lights so much that we both procrastinated.  The tree was surprisingly still keeping its needles well, mostly losing them only by the small clumps the cats chewed off (mostly Fat Murray).  We got the smallest tree we’ve ever had in this house... since 1993.  This year’s tree was once again a Frasier Fir (our favorite kind), and it was only a little bit over six foot tall.  Our typical Christmas tree has been closer to twelve feet, so this tree at first seemed tiny.

Kevin and Sam went over to the Christmas tree lot that we always go to, and they picked this tree out together.  I was still recuperating from the knee surgery I had in early December, so I didn't go with them.  (Arthroscopic surgery for torn meniscus... the most common of knee injuries... of course!)  The tree was the only Christmas decorating we did this year, foregoing all of the other stuff... Sam, Kev and I all had trouble getting into the decorating spirit this year.  Me because of my knee, Kev because of so many extra hours he had at work, and Sam because I am pretty sure that if any further decorating got done, he’d be hauling boxes up and down the stairs all by himself.  Not a lot of fun.

So now our living room is so much bigger!  Isn’t it nuts how the day you take the tree down, your room grows.

I thought the cats would be pissed off at Kev, but once he moved the loveseat back where it goes (where the tree was), they both plopped their butts on it and went to sleep.  The cats enjoyed the tree immensely... I thought they'd miss it more...

Kevin also got the Meyer snow plow on the old ’78 Chevy pickup today.  Kev uses the tractor to plow our driveway, so he gave the old truck to Mike and Joyce for their incredibly long, straight driveway.  The plow hasn’t been on the old truck in about five years, but Kev said it went on pretty easily and worked like a charm.  That old truck is rusting out like crazy, but she’s still dependable as heck.  Love that old truck. 

We’ve had a spell of nice weather... the annual January thaw.  This past week was lovely.  It started to get cold and a freezing rain began just as Kev finished with the old truck this afternoon.  Shortly after he got inside for evening, it turned to big, fat flakes of snow.  Now it’s snowing small and fast.  Little snow, big snow.  That means it should accumulate.  Yay!  Love the snow.

Sam wants to do some more senior photos in the snow... he did a photo shoot in the fall with the beautiful autumn colors.  So here’s hoping we get a lot of beautiful snow, because I would like to have some photos of Sam in the snow, too.  The same photographer who did Joyce and Mike’s engagement photos and wedding is doing Sam’s senior photos, and he’s so good.  Joyce and Mike did their engagement photos in the snow, and they were awesome photos.  There is something about snow... I have loved snow since I was little.  I love the first snow... I can smell it in the air.  It’s a wonderful smell that first snow.  Like the first cold morning you can really smell autumn.  Makes you wanna hug the air.

This past week, I have finally been able to get back into the pottery studio.  I didn’t get in there hardly at all during December, due to my knee.  I had two tears in the meniscus of my right knee, so it was very painful for a while.  After the surgery, it was amazing how the pain was gone.  I had pain from surgery, but that deep, intense inside pain was magically gone.  Very nice.  Then almost exactly two weeks after the surgery, I fell outside on the frozen ground directly onto that knee.  I was afraid I had done some damage to the meniscus, but I didn’t... but... I did bruise my patella.  The surgeon said it would just take time to heal.  And then he said he could give me a shot of steroids into the knee which would help with the pain.  I said, “Now, please.”  That was Monday afternoon, and by Tuesday morning, I was raring to get into the studio.  Wasn’t even limping!  I’ve been making things like a woman possessed.  I’ve missed clay so much. 

Most recently, I made eight tumblers which are currently in the kiln, just bisque fired over this weekend.  I will hopefully be able to glaze them all tomorrow, and they’ll go through a glaze firing this week.  These are a test lot, because I’ve taken on a commission to make 200 stoneware tumblers which must each hold 20 ounces.  I had made a luncheon set of stoneware dishes last year that’s still at the Serendipity 181 shop downtown, and a husband and wife saw them there.  They are opening a pub just down the street from Serendipity 181, and they want the 200 tumblers to look just like the ones they saw at the shop for their “mug club” at their pub.  I am very excited about this project.   And nervous.  200 tumblers by May 1st.  Gonna be fun!

But I don’t wanna do only tumblers from now until May.  I’ve been dreaming ideas for clay... I have more ideas than time!  That’s a lovely feeling.  Since I’ve been selling pieces at Serendipity 181 (which is an artist consignment shop), it’s like I’ve been freed up to try anything with clay.  I don’t have to make something that I want in my house or I want to give to a family member or friend... I can’t make any crazy thing I want!  And, the pieces sell.  It’s awesome.  Gives me money to keep my clay habit going.  I love being at the studio, being there with my friends, working with clay, creating something and then seeing it come out of the glaze firing.  Opening a kiln from a glaze firing is like Christmas morning.  So freakin’ fun.  And now my fingers are itching to get into clay right now!

This past Saturday I worked at the studio from 9am until about 2pm.  It is amazing to me how many muscles are used when making stuff at the studio.  Being forced to take a month away from it, this week has reminded me... but it is a wonderful type of soreness.  By 2pm on Saturday, though, I felt almost too tired to drive myself home.  Joyce worked the front desk at the studio, and she was busy working, but she was there (I love it when she's there), and we had lunch together.  Joyce helped me take care of a couple of things when I was cleaning up... she carried the heavy things for me because she could see I was struggling by that point.  I got out into my car to leave and realized I had left my water on the table... totally too pooped to go back in and get it so I called Joyce.  Setting in my car on the other side of the glass door, I talked with her and told her I left my water... she laughed at me and then got it and ran it out to me.  Love that girl. 

I made some ridiculous little salt and pepper shakers yesterday... I used a plaster mold of a baby face, so the shaker is a baby’s head.  Joycie said they’re freaky.  I like ‘em!  It’s a Duncan mold from the 1960’s that I bought at an estate sale last summer, along with about one hundred other molds.  I took quite a few into the studio for everyone to use, mostly simple shapes we can use for slump or hump molds.  I also have quite a few in my garage that I picked up for a friend, and this included 2 Duncan baby doll molds, a boy and a girl.  There are also little hands/arms and feet/legs parts in these molds... I might try using those for something wacky, too.  These plaster molds are meant for slip-casting, but I am just pressing clay into the mold, using the bit I want of the face... we don’t do slip-casting at the pottery studio.  I do a lot of hand-building (that is, instead of throwing on a wheel), and I like using plaster molds for some things.  I will have pottery on the mind all through the night now.  Sometimes I get up in the middle of the night to write down stuff, so I can remember my pottery ideas/dreams.  Often I can’t make sense of what I wrote.  But it’s damn fun.

Life is so good.  I love being retired.  I worked for 35 years, and I have not missed it at all, not for one minute.  I'm so happy.  A bad day in retirement is still better than the best day working.    I am totally grinning as I type this!!!

Sam and Allie are at the movies tonight.  Sam just texted me and asked me to set up a timer to record Honey Boo Boo on TLC.  I did it, though I could feel brain cells dying from it.  That’s crap TV Big Time.  And my son and his girlfriend wanna watch it.  Sigh.   Our family enjoys our TV.  Kev and I are hooked on a lot of shows... Blue Bloods, CSI, Elementary, Bones, CSI New York, Castle, Rizzoli & Isles, Rookie Blue, Person of Interest, Sons of Anarchy, Justified, and so on... so basically anything to do with crime!  We also like New Girl, Parenthood, Revenge...  And I have to have my Big Bang Theory weekly fix.  Many of the TV shows we watch are not Sam’s choice.  Now that we have the Dish Hopper, we share the DVR with Sam... before the hopper, we had a DVR in the living room and another upstairs, so we never saw what shows Sam recorded.   I know I sound old when I say this, but I can’t believe the shit Sam watches!  Damn kids, get off my lawn!

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Ready or not...'s 2013!  I don't think Wiley is all that ready...

Kev and I have had a super quiet day, if you don't count the football noises coming from the TV off and on since this afternoon.  It's been nice starting the new year off with a day of no urgency, no to do lists, just rest and laziness.  Unfortunately, both of us have kinda felt a little bit crappy today, so looks like our 2013 is probably going to begin fighting the cold/flu that's been going around a lot.  Could be worse... someone could have taken our photograph while laying spread eagle with our privates in full view, just to make fun of us...