This weekend I attended my first event in addition to a steady writing campaign.
The Association of Texas Midwives decided to completely disgrace themselves in the natural childbirth community by hosting a Mohel to speak on, wait, let me choke this down: "holistic circumcision"
Now this is NOT a commentary on the Jewish ritual of Brit Milah. I am not there in my activism to protest a religious covenant (even though I feel strongly that this covenant can be replaced and others agree: Jews Against Circumcision) I was protesting the fact that this Mohel was there to SELL his religious covenant to Non- jews.
He is a circumciser for profit and the midwives who lead the conference think he is so funny and endearing and a delight to host.
His holistic circumcision includes no anesthesia. He is not a licensed medical professional so there is no way to properly report complications or to research his complication rate if you are a parent looking to cut your son's genitals.
The fact that he even abuses the word holistic is appalling:
HOLISTIC: Holism (from ὂλος holos, a Greek word meaning all, whole, entire, total) , is the idea that natural systems (physical, biological, chemical, social, economic, mental, linguistic, etc.) and their properties, should be viewed as wholes, not as collections of parts. This often includes the view that systems somehow function as wholes and that their functioning cannot be fully understood solely in terms of their component parts.
It beyond baffles me how midwives think its ok to send their clients to him. I am sorry but if you are a woman brave enough to research and choose out of hospital birth, You are brave enough and strong enough to research the purposes of the foreskin and protect your baby!!
"Before a baby boy knows he has a penis to protect a mother knows she has a baby to protect."
I went, we had numerous educational materials that many midwives took and at the end donations rolled into our booth! The mohel arrived with his bodyguard in tow and I couldn't help but think:
I wish baby boys had bodyguards to protect them from YOU.
I am glad though that many of us intactivists were present and we were a nice variety of folk!
While there and amongst meeting fellow intactivists I heard this question a lot:
So what is your story? How did you get involved?
Here is my story, since I think it is important to tell one's story. Education and facts are key but rarely make people question their own behavior as much as someone's story can. I knew all the facts of homebirth safety but it took many other's stories before I had the courage to go that route myself.
I was pregnant with my first in 1999, The internet was nothing like it is now and the most "pregnancy/childbirth" related info I referenced online was a belly gallery of others mothers at different phases of gestation. That was it. When the topic of circumcision came up it lasted roughly two minutes. My mom said "I like my men with little helmets" we all laughed and I believe one of us in the room said "its much cleaner."
I asked our pediatrician to be and she said "oh I DON'T do that" you have to talk to the obstetrician - they are the only ones who carry the malpractice surgery insurance.
**that should have been a clue.
I was asked to sign a form in the middle of a contraction to give consent to circumcise my child if it was a male. I didn't even read it and they didn't care if I did. NOTHING WAS MENTIONED about risks/benefits/ after care. NOTHING.
So on the second day of life in this world my son was taken from my breast and warm arms to go down the hall and be strapped to one of these:
I made Kyle go with him, it was the only way I felt I could handle the knot in my stomach. I didn't want him to experience pain and most certainly not be alone when he did.
They came back a while later, Kyle quiet about the happenings and my baby screaming his head off.
Then we went though the healing process, constantly aware of his tender parts, bandaging with vaseline and gauze. I myself had an episiotomy that stung like hell when urine hit it. I resorted to spraying warm water with the peri bottle as I went to dilute the urine and pray for less stinging. All the while pulling a diaper of urine and poo off of my baby's open penis wound.
It was horrible. And then there were complications. That I won't go into. I questioned our choice a lot but only to myself and never out loud. I didn't understand how all this pain could be "better"
One day I babysat my friend's son and he was intact, She was going to be gone for the entire weekend so I asked rather sheepishly "what do I do when I change his diaper, ya know to clean him?"
I had all those prevalent myths in my head.
She said - you don't do a thing. Just wipe the outside.
I know now that a baby's foreskin is tightly adhered to the glans and its is dangerous to even try to retract it. That will happen around puberty. The only one who should retract is the owner of the penis. Cleaning it then is as simple as a rinse, Cleaning a baby is as simple as wiping a finger.
I was devastated to think of the hassle we had tried to avoid but instead had caused a wound. A wound that needed super duper care and still had complications. I said then that if I ever had another son we would not circumcise him.
Then we had three daughters. And it wasn't until 2010 that I really researched the issue in preparation for our second son just to be absolutely sure. And it is very true what they say:
The more you know the worse it gets.
I learned that the foreskin is so adhered that the procedure starts with ripping it away and its pain just like ripping off your fingernail and cutting it off at the base. Except that it has MORE nerve endings and completely around the penis. You don't want to see a procedure but if you think you are going to to it to a baby you should. I can't look them up - they make me ill but there are plenty out there. If you heard from a friend of a friend that her baby "slept through it" - It was shock. Trust me. On the off chance they had enough pain relief to sleep does not even begin to make it ok.
The complication rates are very high. Much, much higher than the supposed complication rates of keeping one's foreskin.
Most of the complications from intact boys is because parents and doctors for years have forcibly retracted when they shouldn't causing scarring and infections. We don't break little girls hymens to clean them and that is the equivalent of forcibly retracting to clean a boy.
I learned that the potential social stigma of "smegma" jokes are silly. Females make FIVE TIMES more smegma than males. And bathing is pretty easy. If we teach our girls to do it, we can teach our boys.
Circumcision can interfere with breastfeeding. Circumcised babies often stop making eye contact as frequently after the procedure and struggle with bonding, breastfeeding, and sleeping.
There is NO medical reason to do it. It was started as a medical procedure to reduce masturbation. Now other theories are thrown around but often just to justify the industry. No research has been backed up. No medical organization in the world recommends infant circumcision!
Its is the most common surgery yet the person receiving the surgery, which is cosmetic, has not consented.
Men with intact genitalia are less likely to experience erectile dysfunction as they age. The countries with the highest circ rates have the highest use of viagra. The procedure has removed so much skin - in the adult male its roughly 15 inches of skin - that some men are going to lose a lot of sensation as they age. Men the world over are restoring their foreskin for this exact reason.
You can't undo it. Even with restoring you get more skin but you don't replace nerve endings.
I am sorry if this offends. I truly believe that parents that circumcise do so out of love, as do parents that keep their children intact, the difference is education. If my child was hurt by a particular car seat I don't think anyone would be offended if I spoke out about that car seat.
This is an issue that can be stopped overnight if people only knew. If social myths didn't trump actual facts. If doctors put their ethics before the risk of offending patients or losing money from not doing the procedure or selling the foreskin.
There are many things I feel strongly about but not many that I feel are so unnecessarily damaging or as simple to end as this one. Babies boys or girls deserve better than this. They deserve the right to choose what to do with their bodies. There are many, many decisions we HAVE to make for our children but this is not one of them.
If I had been educated I never would have made the decision I did. If I can save any babies from this pain then maybe one day I can forgive myself.
And that is my story.
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