There are none so blind as those who will not see

Recently, I read an online article that I can’t find any more, but haven’t been able to get off my mind. It was written by a man who chose to have himself circumcised as an adult. His father was intact, and left the man intact, but apparently he had some problems with his foreskin tearing painfully sometimes during sex, so chose to have it all removed, and is now a proponent of circumcision.

Among the benefits he saw, was that he could now have oral sex performed on him, since before then, the sensations were just way too intense, and did not register as pleasure. So, he proves that removing the foreskin reduces sexual feeling. No surprise there.

In the article, he says that he cannot think of a reason why not to circumcise any sons he may have. But — and this is where the title of my post comes from — in the article he wrote, he gives ample reason why he should leave his sons intact, if he could but view it this way. When he told his father that he was going to have himself cut, his father was incredulous, and just sort of shook his head in amazement and disbelief that his son would do that. What? You mean that his father may have actually liked being intact, and may have liked having a foreskin, and may not have had any pain or discomfort from being whole? Okay, so the son didn’t — I’ll accept that as true; but does it necessarily follow that his future sons would wish to cut like their father, rather than uncut like their grandfather? The man writing the article was glad to be circumcised; fine. But that was a choice he made for himself. Can’t he let his own sons make that choice themselves, rather than forcing it on them as infants? What if his sons grow up and are mad that they are cut? — there are plenty of men who were circumcised as infants who are sad or angry about it, or are at least curious as to what it might have been like to be intact. There are also men who were talked into being circumcised as adults who now regret their decision.

One thing is certain, once it’s done, you can’t undo it. [Well, there are those who attempt surgery or stretching to re-approximate their foreskins, but that takes time, and it’s still not the same as being uncut.]

So, open letter to this man who chose to have himself circumcised, and is now planning on making that choice for his sons: Remember your father’s dumbfounded reaction, think of how he shook his head in disbelief, when he found out that you wanted to remove part of your penis. Realize that he never regretted having his foreskin, and can only wonder why on earth you would want to remove yours. And realize that just as you are different from your father, and are glad to be circumcised, even so your sons may be different from you, and be glad to be intact.


World Breastfeeding Week 2010

“If a multinational company developed a product that was a nutritionally balanced and delicious food, a wonder drug that both prevented and treated disease, cost almost nothing to produce and could be delivered in quantities controlled by the consumers’ needs, the very announcement of their find would send their shares rocketing to the top of the stock market. The scientists who developed the product would win prizes and the wealth and influence of everyone involved would increase dramatically. Women have been producing such a miraculous substance, breastmilk, since the beginning of human existence…” — Gabrielle Palmer

It’s World Breastfeeding Week, starting today. Check out this link for more information, and if you want to join in, help celebrate and/or raise awareness, you can change your facebook profile picture for this week to an image of yourself or someone else nursing. For more quotes about breastfeeding, click here.

Oh, and please remember your phrasing — it’s not “the benefits of breastfeeding”… it’s, “the risks of formula-feeding”! Breastfeeding is (or should be) the norm, so it is what formula should be judged by, and not the other way around. Since breastfed infants have lower risk/rate of ear infections (and many other diseases and even death) than babies fed by formula, that is not a “benefit of breastfeeding,” but rather is “a risk of formula-feeding.” Words are powerful, so let’s use them powerfully.

Also, be sure you read this awesome new NICU breastfeeding policy — “Breastfeeding IS our babies’ food!” — which will undoubtedly help save babies’ lives (for example, premature babies fed artificial formula have, I believe it is, twice the rate of necrotizing enterocolitis than babies fed their mother’s milk) and help improve breastfeeding rates.

Are you having trouble breastfeeding, or are you worried about breastfeeding in the future? Have you experienced or been told “horror stories” about breastfeeding, including cracked and bleeding nipples, and a latch so painful it takes your breath away or reduces you to tears? Let me tell you that that is not normal, and certainly not inevitable. Have you ever wondered why American women have so much pain and trouble breastfeeding, when breastfeeding is a normal and natural function of the body, and women in other cultures don’t have these problems?

The answer is often an incorrect latch, brought about by women not growing up seeing successful breastfeeding. We unconsciously imitate what we see or have seen; and what we tend to see is bottle-feeding, since “nursing in public” is often frowned on, so even if women do breastfeed in private, they will give bottles in public. Babies fed by bottle are held differently from babies fed at the breast… then if women hold their babies in a bottle-feeding position even though they’re breastfeeding, the baby won’t be able to latch on like he should, which will usually lead to pain for the mom and frustration for the baby. It doesn’t have to be this way, though. Breastfeeding with Comfort and Joy can give you the right “mental picture” of how breastfeeding should be, and with its clear, simple text, help you prevent or overcome difficulties with nursing.

Talking with kids about circumcision

Whether you’ve left your boys intact or had them circumcised (or did some of each), or only had girls, I want to ask you how you have dealt with the subject of circumcision? Have your children ever asked you what it means to be circumcised? Have your children seen both circumcised and intact boys, and if so, have they commented on the difference? Or if your children are too young, what do you plan on telling them if they ask why they were circumcised or

My boys are intact, but some of their cousins are circumcised. They’ve taken baths together, and so far my boys haven’t asked me why their cousin’s penis looks different from theirs, but I’m anticipating the day that it comes, and I want to be forewarned and forearmed. I feel rather like the mother of a child who doesn’t believe in Santa Claus, fearing that he will spoil the fun for all the other kids who still believe. Part of me wants to talk about it in strong terms, but part of me is afraid that in so doing, I will make my sons feel somehow superior, or that they will “spill the beans” to their cut cousins who will then be mad at their mothers, and I just don’t want to get into that, y’know? Of course, that may not happen; and my kids may never even bring it up, but still…

Over the past few days, I’ve been reading and watching more about circumcision (just watched the “Penn & Teller” video on it — warning that it has foul language and lots of penis wisecracks in it, but it was interesting), so the topic is on my mind. Some of the comments on these blogs and videos have been from men who are violently angry that they were circumcised as infants; others were circumcised as older children or even adults and are angry over it (with the men, it was usually because they were misled into thinking that circumcision was better than being intact, was necessary or was the only option for some condition they had, and they were dismayed over the outcome, and/or discovered too late that there were much milder treatments that the doctor never told them about). Reading comments like these made me proud and that I had “stuck to my guns” and kept our sons intact, and I want them to be glad but not at the expense of their cousins, y’know? And I don’t want my boys to tell their cousins, “Your penis looks weird because your mom had part of it cut off!” and then to have the cousins ask their moms about it. I’m hoping that the conversation never comes up, but I want to be prepared in case it does.

The biggest problem I foresee is that my older son has interminable questions and always wants to know “why.” And I anticipate that every answer I give him is going to be followed up with “why?” until it makes me uncomfortable. My hope is that if the question comes sooner rather than later, I may just say, “Your cousins are circumcised; that means that this part of their penis was cut off when they were babies.” And if they ask why, I will respond, “Because their parents thought it was the right thing to do; but we think that it was right to keep you whole.” If the question comes up later (or never) when they’re too old to spill the beans in a “Santa Claus isn’t real” fashion, I may just show them a video of a baby being circumcised, and say that I didn’t want to do that to them. How old they are at the time will be the determining factor of how much I say.

In the Penn & Teller video, they interview a pregnant woman and her husband who were trying to decide whether to circumcise their son or not. The husband was intact and didn’t want to cut his son, but the woman was for circumcision. It seemed to me that she was bowing to the cultural norm, rather than having any independent reason for circumcision; and actually her husband’s experience of being ridiculed for being intact weighed heavily on her desire to cut her son. She said with tears once, “I just want to do what is best for him,” and related that she didn’t want her son to undergo the teasing and tormenting that her husband endured as a teenager or young adult. The husband was very upset by being teased, but not enough to get himself circumcised (although there have been some men and older boys who have gone that route). I don’t anticipate my sons being teased for being whole, and I certainly don’t want them teasing anyone else for being cut; but I don’t want them ever to have misgivings about not having been circumcised as infants. So, I want them to be reasonably proud [not exactly the right word] and grateful [again, not really the right word] that they were not put through circumcision as infants, which means that eventually I will want to tell them my strongest thoughts and feelings on the matter, so that if anything comes up in a negative way, that they will not be caught off-guard, but can deflect any criticism (without being mean or critical in return).

Just in writing this, I foresee that at some point my kids will ask what circumcision is (reading through the Bible, you can’t exactly miss it), so I plan to give a simple and accurate answer as to not only what it is, but why God ordained it for Abraham’s offspring, and why it is not incumbent on Christians, and leave it at that. Maybe around the age of puberty (unless it comes up before), I will tell them that some boys are cut and others are intact, so they may see boys that look different from them, and just not to say anything (especially to their cousins); and also around the time of puberty (maybe before if necessary, or if I think they can handle it; or later, if they still seem to young at that time), I will give them a more thorough explanation, perhaps including a graphic video of a baby being circumcised.

What do you think?

Breastfeeding in Mongolia

You may not agree with everything in here, and I daresay that most of you will cringe at least once when you read through this, but it is a great read! Breastfeeding in the Land of Genghis Khan — very well worth reading. Here’s a snippet:

In 2005, according to UNICEF1, 82 percent of children in Mongolia continued to breastfeed at 12 to 15 months, and 65 percent were still doing so at 20 to 23 months.

Yeah, baby! That’s what I’m talking about! I don’t think the US gets those sorts of breastfeeding rates when mothers and babies are discharged from the hospital, much less at 6 months! At the very least, this article will show you some cultural differences in Mongolia that help promote the culture of breastfeeding they have. And you can have something to show those people who think you’re crazy for “still” breastfeeding at 3, 6, 12, 18, or 24 months. I don’t know that I would necessarily be completely comfortable with everything mentioned in this article, but I would like at least a cup-full of Mongolian attitude mixed into the American mix. We could start slowly, and at least quit the looking down our noses at women who are nursing in public or nursing their child past a certain age. Let’s celebrate breastfeeding, not look at it as some sort of necessary evil!

Kegels don’t do squat?

If there is one mantra, dogma, or axiomatic belief among women “in the know” when it comes to birth and babies, it’s that Kegels are wonderful, necessary, beneficial, etc. Now, someone is challenging that assertion. In short, the way the pelvic floor is understood is wrong, and needs to be changed. Tighter doesn’t necessarily mean better; it just means tighter, which may actually lead to a worsening of the problem. You need to read the whole article, because I’m skipping a lot (or else I’d be tempted to copy and paste most of it, but that wouldn’t be nice), but basically, squatting is what she recommends for incontinence and other things that Kegels are supposed to help.

If she just said that Kegels don’t work, I might be a tad suspicious that rather than being a lone voice of reason, she’s a lone voice for a reason [sorry, couldn’t help the chiasmus there :-)], although I’ve read enough from people who say that most women don’t do them right, and doing them “wrong” is worse than not doing any at all to know that there are many people who share her opinion at least to an extent. However, it was her suggestion of doing squats rather than Kegels which resonated with me.

Squatting is natural; doing Kegels is not, really. For most of human history, women (and men too) had to do a lot of physically demanding work, including a lot of squatting — tending the fire, garden, children, etc. Even in the absence of work, squatting was a natural way to rest and relax, if a chair was not available for whatever reason. Squatting is a normal part of life except for (primarily Western) adults who view squatting as either menial or childish. It’s not really a normal part of life to try to stop and hold the Kegel muscles, is it?

So, I’ll add this to my mental list of reasons to squat more regularly. What do you think of this article?

Skin-to-Skin in the O.R. after a C-section

Being born vaginally is good for babies, in part because it colonizes them with the mother’s good bacteria, setting them on the road to health; a C-section bypasses this normal process and may be part of the reason why babies born by Cesarean have higher rates of things like asthma. But putting the baby skin-to-skin with the mom, especially after a Cesarean, can restore some of this good colonization; otherwise, the baby will be colonized only with hospital bacteria. Skin-to-skin contact is also beneficial in facilitating breastfeeding. Typically, when babies are born, they have an innate ability and desire to get to the breast and self-attach; wrapping babies up in a blanket like a burrito prevents this. All too often, whether the baby is born vaginally or by C-section, babies are only briefly shown to the mom right after birth, and then are taken across the room for the newborn assessment and procedures, before finally being returned to their mothers securely swaddled in a hospital blanket. Then, many times, babies are taken to the nursery soon after birth for a bath, then kept in the nursery under the warmer for a few hours to warm back up, and then finally taken back to their mothers… just in time for them to fall asleep for a few hours. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Healthy babies can — and should — be placed skin-to-skin with their mothers immediately after birth, even with a C-section.

Update: Here’s a video showing skin-to-skin after a C-section

If you had a C-section, were you able to have your baby put skin-to-skin in the operating room? Did you even know that was a possibility? If you are a nurse or midwife, do you ever put babies skin-to-skin on their moms, even if they have a C-section?

Weigh in on this topic on the Breastfeeding with Comfort and Joy fan page [currently, it’s the most recent post, dated May 28]. Laura Keegan, the author of Breastfeeding with Comfort and Joy, will be giving Grand Rounds in June/July, so will have the opportunity to talk about this important topic to attending physicians, L&D nurses, and residents in OB, pediatrics, and family practice. She would love to have input from women about their experiences with skin-to-skin contact (or the lack thereof) after both vaginal and Cesarean births, to pass along to the doctors, nurses, and doctors-in-training. What did it mean to you to be able to hold your baby with nothing between you, and just a blanket put over both of you? What did it mean to you to be denied this? Please comment on the fan page post, and also spread the word (blog, share on facebook, Tweet about it, etc.), so that doctors and nurses can find out from you and other women what they otherwise might not hear.

The Vulnerability of Men

That’s the name of a post on circumcision, written from a man’s perspective as to why circumcised men want their sons to be circumcised. If the father of your baby is circumcised, he will probably want your son to be circumcised. Why?

Men who have been circumcised have an extremely difficult dilemma. For them to acknowledge that the practice is unnecessary and harmful means that they must acknowledge a painful personal reality.

You really need to read the whole article (preferably, before you bring the topic up the first time, so that you can bring it up in the way most likely to bring positive results). But this totally makes sense. As I was reading this article, I was nodding my head in agreement at the whole thing, because it reminded me of “the talk” my husband and I had — or rather, “the talks” because we discussed it more than once, just as in this article.  Men don’t want to have it thrown in their faces that there’s something “wrong” with their penises; and for a woman to want her sons to remain intact implies (to the men, whether women mean it this way or not) that there is something wrong with being circumcised. Therefore, for cut men to accept that, it requires them to accept that there is something wrong with them. Ouch. Far easier to retreat into the various fallacies and myths surrounding circumcision, rather than accept that they were subjected to a painful and unnecessary procedure when they couldn’t consent. And, after all, since most men don’t remember it, they assuage any qualms about it by saying that their sons won’t remember it either, and will get all the “benefits” of circumcision, like “looking like his dad!”

Women and men are different in so many ways. Is it sexist to say that? Perhaps; but it’s also accurate. We women need to learn how to communicate in our female way, in such a way that we can reach our men. Want to learn how to do it? Read the rest of the article. 🙂