Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Next up on that crunchy path

This may make some of you cringe. And if you have a son/sons, it's possible you may come away from this with feelings of regret and loss. I felt the same way. It's taken me some time to forgive myself. I just keep telling myself the mantra from Maya Angelou, "I did then what I knew how to do. When I knew better, I did better."
I'm talking about circumcision. Of all the things I've learned about natural living, children, parenting, and raising a family, I wish I had known this first. I wish someone had given me this information--the truth--before M was born.
I was told a lot of untruths and outright lies. I have since discovered that circumcision was promoted in the 1800 to prevent masturbation. Good ol' 1800's, eh? But in the last century, dr's realized that they could make a couple hundred easy bucks off of roughly half of all the children born in the US. Follow the money is a good strategy for questioning any accepted practice. Basically, if I do X, who profits? If that is the same source as your information, start digging!
I won't copy and paste all the info, but I am providing lots of links. I will also give my current feelings on the subject.
For starters, the circumcision rate in the US is falling rapidly, so I'm probably preaching to the choir. It was over 90% in the early 90's, but has already fallen to the low 50% range. That is still way too high.
Let's look at it this way. Say a man had had plastic surgery to remove his nipples. Because, well he didn't want them anymore. But then he has a son. And he decides that he wants his son to look even more like him than he already does. So he asks the dr to chop off those nipples real quick--no anesthesia, just go for it.
Sound ridiculously crazy? Of course it does. But this scenario would actually be more logical than performing a circ. What??!! Well, yeah. For starters, other people are much more likely to see the dad and his son's nipples (or lack thereof). Who really goes around showing off their penis to the general public with kid in tow--no one who wants to stay out of jail and off the sex offender list. Secondly, as far as I know, nipples on a man serve no purpose and are less sensitive than a foreskin. Here is a list of what is lost when that little piece of skin (which actually amounts to a full 1/2 the infants penis).
For a long time, medical professionals told parents that it was hard to care for a foreskin (my doc sure did) and that eventually he'd need a circ when he was older. Infection would follow, along with all kinds of other complications. What they were missing was the vital information on how to actually care for an intact penis. Want to know the complicated secret? Don' t do anything! Nothing at all. Don't touch it, don't pull it, don't stretch it, nothing, nada. Infant skin is very fragile. And the foreskin is attached to the penis. Pulling it back, even a little bit, will break the skin. Broken skin has to repair--y'know, scars? Those scars result in adhesions. It can also lead to infection. Nature has a pretty perfect system worked out. 99% of the time, if you leave Nature alone, Nature does just dandy.
So this "medical advice" actually led to the problems it was warning against. The professionals told parents that if they were crazy enough to not circ, then they had to be extra vigilant about retracting and cleaning every time.
More and more research is showing the effects of stress on babies. Stress leads to a flood of chemicals on the brain. It cause actual physical changes. This stress response effectively turns on "survival mode" in the infant. By not allowing mom and baby to just relax and bond, all kinds of things are interfered with. Breastfeeding, recovery from birth, immune system, and all kinds of things we probably can't even fathom. Operating without anesthesia is certainly high on anyones list of "stressful." Would you have your genitals cut without anesthesia?
Another thing to consider with an elective surgery with a newborn is consent. Who owns that foreskin? Not mom and dad. Not the hospital. It belongs to him. You wouldn't chop off any other part of his body for aesthetic reasons (I hope).
If you or someone you know is expecting, or thinking of expecting. Here is a list of links to read up on circumcision. A lot of times I hear about couples where the mom is horrified by the idea of circ, and the dad thinks his son needs to have it done. So first up is a video of a circ. Make him watch it. Then he can decide. And read him my analogy of the nipple surgery.
The video from Intact. Please be aware that it is NOT work appropriate and should not be viewed by children. It is graphic--as it is surgery on a penis. And it may be just too much if you are sensitive. But it needs to be seen if you are going to make informed consent.
A cute article that puts a few things in perspective.
Organizations committed to educating the public about circ:
Mothers against Circ
Intactivist blog
Birightonwoman's thoughts on circumcision
Stories and quotes


Brightonwoman said...

I was kinda freaked out to make my first intactivst post, but I'm so glad I did!!! Even one person convinced is one (or two, or ten) babies spared!
I think their are two main methods on this issue--people who go at it emotinally (most folks) and the ones who approach it with logic. I had to do the logic route, because dh sees right through emotional arguments (ie, just because you have strong feelings doesn't make you right). I think both have their place, and you jus thave to know your audience.

MMM&M said...

we had m circ'd-- and I completely feel the same way that you do now.

I just wonder---- if this was the initial event that now makes him hysterical being around dr's or having something painful done to him? or was it when he had to have stitches in his knee when he was three? either way, he is 10 now, and he completely goes in another place (a hysterical place) whenever he is faced with something potentially painful.

so sad.

Lanna said...

My first inkling that it might not be necessary was actually our dear family doctor saying as much. But I guess we figured we'd go with the status quo. It wasn't until I moved to Britain that I realized that, yes, the majority of the world gets along quite fine without this cultural quirk of a procedure. I completely regret it and it's frustrating that there's no way to unviolate J. I guess part of being a mother is knowing that some mistakes are written in indelible ink but it's possible to use that guilty energy to do something positive. Your post is doing just that, so thanks.

RasJane said...

Thanks for your kind comments. I was a little worried--but not too much. I am so sorry that I am not alone in this. How sad that there are so many parents with this sadness and guilt over something that could have been prevented with just more honesty from our dr's and family.
M, I wonder too. My M is terrified of being strapped down in any way. The first visit for cavities to the dentist was a nightmare.
And, I'm adding a link to Brightonwoman's posts on this topic.

Shallay said...

I am glad that you posted this. I met a woman the other day who didn't even know there was a choice. Her doctor told her they were going to do it and did it. I think that is so wrong. Word needs to be gotten out and I loved your links!