Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Circumcision- A Mother's Ramblings
I have noticed lately that in my classes there are lots of questions about circumcision. It is a subject that I try to approach very gently so as not to upset people or turn them off, no matter what direction they are coming from. As people who are NOT YET parents, their take on circumcision is a little different than those of us who have already made this decision for our child. Generally people who have little boys have some kind of emotional investment and pride or guilt when it regards the choice that they have made regarding the foreskin of their son.
People however, who have yet to make this decision, look at it differently. Sometimes mom and dad lean in different directions on the subject but both seem to want to make the best choice yet find it difficult when there are so many voices, experts, studies and opinions on either side. What they express to me is that this cacophony of noises makes it really difficult to listen to anybody. Then, when the couple needs grounded, thoughtful, and unemotional information, they feel they have nowhere to turn.
Here is my stumbling response as somebody who would not circumcise but also does not consider herself a vocal intactivist. (I can not guarantee no emotion either, but I tried to just lay out where I am coming from. Links at the end also with good info.)
There are many reasons for me that natural birth is an important choice for me and something that I want to share with others. One of big reasons I think that natural and instinctive birth is important though is because it makes sense.
It makes sense, logically, that the female body is designed beautifully to both gestate and birth with power and joy. Women have long done this and it seems obvious that the entire process must occur for some reason that is important for the species and for the woman and child.
If we follow this line of thinking, it seems to also make sense that the baby boy, when born, is beautiful and perfect just the way it is. Just as we would not cut a hole in the mothers abdomen unless absolutely necessary, we would not cut off a part of his body, unless there were some very good reason for it. Why would he be born with an immediately expendable and useless part?
~Peaceful Baby Days~
Another reason why I love natural birth is that it is not an emergency- it is just a natural and peaceful act. I also think that it is important, especially in those first few days and weeks as a baby, for life to be peaceful. I admit that I choose out of hospital birth for my second and third children not because I didn't think I could do it in a hospital (I had already) but because I was disturbed by the postpartum experience. I thought that it all together had a very negative effect on the baby and on me and on our start together.
So, as a mom, if I am seeking to cherish those first few days with my newborn, and if I value them and feel that they make an impact on the child and mother-----forever----- how does circumcision play into this idea?
When I think of how an infant is treated in the current hospital system I am frankly disgusted. I realize that this varies greatly regionally but here is a common layout of what we do to babies.
-Baby is born- rather than emerging naturally and being allowed to turn and move and participate in the process, the baby is at the very least tugged and pulled on and "assisted" and at worst yanked with a device like a vacuum.
-The cord is cut- this is still often done almost immediately. A huge amount of the BABIES blood may not get to it because of this premature cutting and clamping.
-If you are lucky you get your baby right away- if you are lucky. Still, the room is often brightly lit and full of strangers.
-Eye ointment- A preventative goop for potential STD's is placed in the infants eyes often within the first hour or two of life.
-Tests, weighing, and general poking and prodding- many procedures and tests are done on baby, often within the first hours of life and often in a room separate from beloved mother, to whom he has literally been tethered for the last nine months. He is rather surrounded by strangers in a brand new world.
-The clear casserole dish- I have to give my beloved Bradley teacher credit for calling the clear, safe, infant bed in the hospital the "baby casserole dish". I couldn't describe it better myself. Sadly, the infant is often not in mothers arms, against her warm bosom or by her side.
-The experts descend- they can be extremely helpful, but it does seem somewhat contrary to the natural process for a new and enormously instinctive and hormonal mother to be surrounded by experts in everything from pediatrics to breastfeeding rather than just basking in her own intuitive knowledge and the unique bond that only SHE has with this baby.
-Then before you leave the hospital, circumcision- and last but not least, before the baby is sent home, we take it to a separate room, strap it on a circ board, and remove his foreskin. Without getting graphic, or overly emotional, this is simply how it is done.
How many mothers do I talk to who have strange trouble breastfeeding? How many have issues with their own self confidence? How many have a baby that they feel is a stranger in their home? How many have postpartum depression? How many babies are colicky and difficult to soothe?
I sincerely wonder if the way we treat babies impacts them in ways that we simply can not, and maybe do not want, to understand.
The circumcision at the end of it all seems to be just one last assault on what can and deserves to be an euphoric and amazing part of both mom and babies journey into their new life together.
For me, many subjects all mesh into one when I consider birth and baby care. I realize that life is difficult, even traumatic for all people. But I see a baby as a pure vessel, sent here to be loved and cared for. They come NEEDING love and attention and touch. They are programmed to need others. They must touch another human in order to eat. Their birth can be peaceful and ecstatic. I want this baby to have the best birth possible and have its entry into the world be joyful and a calm transition to a very new life, outside the protection of the womb.
Trying to avoid as many unnecessary traumatic and invasive procedures right after birth is a gift that I desperately want to be able to give my children. Avoiding circumcision is just one thing among many others that for me just doesn't fit into the first days of a babies new life. I believe that how they are treated in their first hours and days can impact them forever in ways that we can not see or measure immedietly. That is why I chose not to circumcise.
I have tried to include some resources that are not too emotional, may show both sides, and are informative.
Other resources on circumcision-
Very descriptive and information filled statement by the AAP on circumcision, reasons, cleaning, etc. Many sources refrenced also-
Educational video on circumcision- anti-circumcision but informative and not too emotional-
Doctors who oppose the procedure
A basic breakdown about infant circumcision, with many links (including handouts, studies and the statements of various groups) included at the bottom on various circumcision issues.