She picked up her phone—a well-deserved break after a long day. Her colleagues were leaving already, but she would be here for some hours more, as always. Scrolling through her Facebook feed, her eyes caught a video reposted by one of her friends, and she started to watch. 

“I was 21 when I stopped bedwetting…” 

She shut her eyes and paused the video. No. It could not be. Normal human beings do not wet the bed into adulthood. Normal human beings—like her brother— gained bladder control by the age of five. She resumed the video.

“… I eventually learnt that there was a term for my condition; nocturnal enuresis.”

Again she paused. She scrolled through the speaker’s profile trying to make sense of what she had just heard. Nothing was outstanding; it could have been anybody’s profile. And then she saw them; posts and graphics and videos. All about this “nocturnal enuresis”. The speaker was an advocate for human beings that were not normal. Human beings like her, who wet the bed after the age of five. 

Her head pounded as she laboured to understand what this meant, the stress of the day taking its toll and keeping her from thinking clearly. She sighed as she tapped on the Chrome app and typed “Nocturnal enuresis”.

 “Nighttime loss of bladder control especially in children.” 

She ground her teeth as the memories came flooding. The wet clothes, the pungent smell… the sneering voices of her younger cousins as they taunted:

“Toole toole olodo

Konko bomi s’eja lenu”

She scrolled on.

“In older children and adults, it can often indicate an underlying health condition.”

She had been a healthy child.

“Its causes could include hormonal imbalance, small bladder capacity, sleep disorders, stress and anxiety or genetics”

She frowned. Genetics.

“A child with one bedwetting parent has a 40% chance of being a bedwetter. This increases to 77% if both parents wet the bed as children”

There must have been someone. Someone who had gone through the same. Someone who should have understood. Who was it? Her mother?

And now the memories took over. She dropped her phone, revering their presence. Her indifferent father blamed her mother for her predicament.

“Did I not tell you to stop pampering her when she was an only child? Whatever you see now, be contented with it.”

Her mother had taken different approaches over the years. At first, persuasive; “Stop drinking water once the sun goes down.” “Stop playing rough, or do you want to wet the bed again?” And she had tried. She had tried not to drink after sunset, but on the unfortunate days that she was so thirsty that she sneaked a cup of water, she wet the bed. Again.

Over the years, her mother’s tone had changed.

“You are five years older than your brother, and he doesn’t wet the bed any longer. What is wrong with you?”

And then the most painful memory. 

She took a deep breath, swarms of colour swimming in front of her eyes as she recalled her mother’s final, frustrated but terribly misguided attempt to put a stop to her teenage daughter’s bedwetting habit.

It was a Friday, and she had been on assembly duty. Halfway through, she had spotted her mother at the back speaking with a teacher. She had not thought much of it; she wasn’t in any trouble at school, and her cantankerous younger brother was likely the reason for her mother’s attendance that morning. As they rounded off, the teacher her mother had been speaking to announced that a parent wanted to address the school.

And there, her mother had betrayed her. She, a respected prefect in the school turned into a laughingstock. She had only a few papers left of her final exams, thankfully. She never looked back, choosing to forego the graduation ceremony and prizes she knew that she had won. She had changed her choice of university in her JAMB application without her parents’ knowledge to somewhere in the far North; somewhere she was sure that none of her schoolmates would ever think of attending. Miraculously, there had been no bedwetting after the incidence. 

A wane smile appeared on her face as she remembered the day she had had too much fluid in the evening as a Freshman. After worrying herself to death, she had resigned to fate, setting an alarm to wake up very early so she could clean up the mess before her roommates rose. That night she had voided her bladder many times, but not once was it on the bed. The feeling had been exhilarating.

The constant teasing as a child had made her withdrawn, and with her mother’s betrayal, she drew more into her shell, finding solace only in work and academics. There were no friends, except her coworker Tolu who insisted on pulling her out of her comfort zone. She could imagine now what Tolu would say if she told her all of this.

“You need to see a therapist. You have to heal your inner child; you can’t keep living like this.”

She felt validated in knowing that there were others who had shared her predicament. Maybe she was not so abnormal after all. Her phone rang. Her mother. Her mother who had tried in vain to build a relationship with her after hurting her so terribly. She called almost every day, but there was nothing to say. No relationship to build. She watched the phone flash on and off until it stopped ringing. It rang again. This time she picked the call.

“Can you Google the meaning of nocturnal enuresis?”

Her voice was calm, despite the raging in her head. It was the voice of someone who was realising how much of life they had missed for no fault of theirs.

A’isha Ibrahim