When we think of female genital mutilation in America, most have strong opposition to it, citing its barbaric victimization of women. Yet, there seems to be a blasé attitude towards neonatal male circumcision in America. It is what has been done for years, it’s cleaner, and we want little boys to fit in. The fact is, infant males are not born needing plastic surgery. While the rates of routine circumcision are declining in America, intact men are often left alone with health care workers who are unaccustomed for caring for an intact penis. But the intact penis requires no additional care! In neonates, and children, when the foreskin is not retractable, it requires no extra cleaning–just as you would not open your eyelid to wash your eyeball or cut off your ear to prevent a possible infection. Soap and water externally are efficient in the prepubescent years. Afterwards, a young man can be taught to gently retract the foreskin, rinse the glans of the penis and replace the foreskin.
You will find many arguments for circumcision; the reasons are well known, yet are out of date and no longer applicable. The truth is that “foreskin is perfectly normal part of the human body, and it has very definite purposes, as do all body parts, even if we do not readily recognize them” (Fleiss, 2009, p.51).
“Evolution has determined that mammals’ genitals should be sheathed is a protective, responsive, multipurpose foreskin. Every normal human being is born with a foreskin. In females, it protects the glans of the clitoris; in males, it protects the glans of the penis” (Fleiss, 2009, p.60).
Another argument for circumcision is that boys should look like their father. I have two sons who look like their father, and they look like me. No child is going to look entirely like their parent why compare genitals? Mine don’t look like my mothers’ though I haven’t actually compared for over 25 years.
In America circumcision is seen as a normal practice, “what is familiar becomes a cultural value. Circumcision is familiar” (Circumcision Resource Center, 2009). Even the term “uncircumcised” suggests that circumcision is the norm. Penises depicted in medical books are often circumcised giving the impression that this is nature’s way.
In America, circumcision began during the Victorian Era when masturbation was viewed as vile. American doctors then began “punishing” young men by amputating the foreskin. These same doctors claimed that circumcision would cure “epilepsy, paralysis, elephantiasis, tuberculosis, eczema, bedwetting, hip-joint disease, fecal incontinence, rectal prolapse, wet dreams, hernia, headaches, nervousness, hysteria, poor eyesight, idiocy, mental retardation and insanity” (F.A. Hodges, 1997, p.35). Circumcision became routine in the 1940’s.
The foreskin serves as protection. Just as the eyelids and eyelashes protect the eye, the foreskin protects the penis (Fleiss, 2009, p.52). The foreskin is also highly innervated and provides sexual pleasure. Amputation of foreskin victimizes the infant male and permanently disfigures him. The procedure irrevocably “externalizes the glans, normally an internal organ” (Fleiss, 2009, p.58). The common thought is that circumcision will be more hygienic for the male. However, a recent study published in the British Journal of Urology states the contrary: for at least a week after the surgery the baby is left with a large open wound that is almost in constant contact with urine and feces. Additionally, the circumcised penis is exposed to dirt and contaminants, so the wrinkles and folds that often form around the circumcision scar frequently harbor dirt and germs (R. Kerwat, A., 1998). The Circumcision Resource Center declares that routine circumcision denies a male’s right to genital integrity or choice for his own body (Circumcision Resource Center, 2009).
Mothers in America are often inundated with consents and forms further medicalizing birth. Its been shown that it is often difficult to make rational decisions in the immediate postpartum period because of the exhaustion and hormone surge that takes over. Yet this is the time mothers are presented with the decision. A nurse or doctor, may say something to the degree of, “You look so tired, why don’t you let me take the baby to the nursery for his circumcision so can rest. It will only take a few minutes and it will only hurt for a second.” Working as an obstetrical nurse, this is by far my least favorite thing to assist in. I am blessed to be able to witness birth on most days that I work. Unfortunately, I must also assist in circumcisions. Infants are undressed and placed on a cold, hard plastic board and then have all four limbs strapped down. Occasionally, a nurse stands at the bedside and offers a sucrose pacifier. Some doctors will give a nerve block before starting, which in itself is painful with four injections to the sensitive area. All babies cry. Some cry throughout the entire procedure, and some withdraw and appear to go in to a state of shock. We then explain to the mothers that it is common for a baby to be sleepy and not eat afterwards. Then a new string of problems arise with a baby who won’t wake to eat and has an increased risk for low blood sugar, jaundice and need for supplementation.
The nurse’s role along with the obstetrician and pediatrician caring for the mother-infant dyad is to provide true informed consent for the procedure. To make an informed choice parents should be given accurate unbiased information and be provided the opportunity to discuss decision. Risks mentioned should always include pain, damage to the penile shaft, damage to the urethra, hemorrhage, postoperative infections, penile amputation and death (Fauntleroy, 2005). Additional risks are irretrievable loss of sexual sensitivity, sexual function and pleasure, neurological damage to the developing brain, lowered immunological defense as a result of the loss of glans in the foreskin that produce antibacterial and antiviral proteins and disruption of the maternal-child bond in the newborn period (R.E.Marshall, 1982). When parents of newborns are presented with this information, only then they can then make informed decisions.
I live in the state of Illinois which, like most states, is in billions of dollars of debt and continues to deny necessary care to the severely ill. Yet routine circumcision is paid by public aid 100%, citing social and cultural factors that mandate circumcision for religious reasons. Of course, a parent can still choose circumcision for their son but only after true informed consent and paying for the cosmetic procedure out-of-pocket.
Cutting off any body part including foreskin is extreme and should be done with extreme caution and in extreme conditions when a life-threatening situation arises. When you leave your son intact you are respecting his wholeness in all of its perfection. Shame on the AAP for taking a neutral stance on circumcision. It is their obligation as professionals to protect the child. This topic is without a doubt a personal choice–so let’s leave that choice up to the one who will live with the result.
Molly is mama to 3 children and part-time obstetrical nurse and lactation consultant. When she is not fervently defending foreskin she enjoys hiking, cooking, reading and going to the bathroom by herself.
Fauntleroy, G. (September/October 2005). Whose decision is it?. Mothering, 132, 46-48.
R.E. Marshall. “Circumcision: Effects upon Mother-Infant Interaction,” Early Human Development 7, no. 4 December 1982.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (2009). Circumcision. retrieved 10 December 2009, from Healthy Children Web Site: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/prenatal/decisions-to-make/pages/Circumcision.aspx
Fleiss, P. (November/December 2009). Protect your uncircumsised son: expert medical advice for parents. Mothering, 103, 52-60.
R. Kerwat, A., “Reduction of Paraphimosis with Granulated Sugar,’ British Journal of Urology 82(5). November 1998: 755.
F.A. Hodges, “Short History of the Insititutionalization of Involuntary Sexual Mutilation in the United State,” in G.C. Denniston and M.F. Milos, eds., Sexual Mutilations : A Human Tragedy (New York: Plenum Press, 1997), 35.
Circumcision Resource Center (2009). Statement. retrieved 10 December 2009, from Circumcision resource Center Web Site: http://www.circumcision.org
I am preparing to return to work tomorrow after 12 glorious weeks bunkered down with my family and sweet baby boy. My husband (my rock) and I have run down the check list and I have diligently been building a supply of frozen breast milk in my freezer so that he will receive only the best in my absence. Lucky for me I have a super supportive family and employer that allows me time to pump and feed my baby while at work. My husband brings him at lunchtime for a visit and snack (it is my favorite part of the day)! For the two days that I am at work I will continue to pump every 3-4 hours and know that my children are in good hands with their daddy.
Throughout my pregnancy and over the last twelve weeks, I have received a ridiculous amount of marketing from formula companies. Samples, coupons, emails with “suggestions” on how to get more sleep, wean so that I can return to work, and let my husband “share” the joys of feeding. When I receive these items in the mail, I always write return to sender, sometimes if I have had a good night of sleep I send a letter back first, asking to be removed from the list, and secondly scolding the manufacturers for sabotaging my breastfeeding experience with their propaganda. Just this week as we broach World Breastfeeding Week the American Academy of Pediatrics released a statement urging Pediatricians to refrain from passing out samples of formula in their offices.
Everyone knows the innumerable benefits to breastfeeding. What fails to be conveyed is that giving formula comes with risks. Of course, every family has a right to choose how a baby is fed but the truth does not need censorship. In most of the world a choice between breast and bottle is a matter of life and death. The mothers who choose to breastfeed should not be inundated with materials, and samples that wreak havoc on their efforts. We know that mothers who receive samples of formula are more likely to give them. Formula companies are no longer just marketing their product to formula feeding mothers, they now frequently pass out “breastfeeding support bags,” in doctor offices and sadly at many hospitals.
In no way are these formula manufacturers supporting breastfeeding they are making women feel in adequate. The number one reason cited by breastfeeding mothers for weaning is lack of milk or perceived lack of milk. What I hope this post does is to tell all women that you absolutely have what it takes! Don’t let these companies play mind games with you, and remember this: Your body created and sustained life for 9 months and is able to sustain it for at least another 6 months purely with the milk your body makes. Thereafter breast milk continues to nourish and provide antibodies for your baby and protect you from a multitude of illness and cancers. Millions of women have sustained the life on many children with their milk alone. The fact is that lactation and breast milk are undervalued in our society there is no product out there that comes close to what breast milk is despite the claims. It is indeed a wonder food and drug that prevents and treats illness and is essentially free and never recalled. I urge you to fight back when you receive these products in the mail. Contact your local representatives, ask your pediatricians’ to follow the AAP’s policy and discontinue free samples at their office. These samples are not free and come at a high cost! How will you participate in World Breastfeeding Week check out http://www.biglatchon.org/ for events in your area.
Molly is a full-time mama to 3 and part-time nurse and lactation consultant. She has breast-fed in many places including under water-falls, tops of mountains, in the ocean and of course snuggled up in bed!
Nursing and the Older Sibling(s)
When I had my daughter nine years ago (gasp, where did that time go?), I took each nursing session as my opportunity to sit down (usually with a snack or cup of tea), relax, and sometimes drift off to sleep with her. Mostly it was a time to catalog into my memory the sweet milky grin and the so-soft perfect toes and velvety skin.
Fast forward four years. Avery was a bustling 4-year-old and she and my new sweet baby boy Oliver were both vying for my attention. Another four years, and it’s Oliver now who is 4, and my newest baby, Montgomery, is hungry. What is a mama to do? Without sacrificing the special nursing relationship, how does a mama give time to her older children?
I looked to my mother. We were poor, so my mom got creative and became the master of making up free games to keep everyone entertained and happy while she nursed and took a moment for herself. Here are some fun ideas that I learned from the master and a few that I made up on my own….happy nursing!
Breastfeeding on the Bus: Set your toddler up with a piggy bank on the kitchen table deposit some coins in (obviously being careful if your toddler might eat the bus fare). Then give him an unbreakable plate or really anything circular (this serves as the steering wheel) and settle down in the backseat with your baby. My little guy is happy driving us all around town, and especially likes it when I tell him to hurry or turn on his wipers because it is raining. A great imagination game!
Flashlight I Spy: If your little one likes to sit right next to you, this is a great game to play. Have them cuddle up close or even rest their head on your lap. Play “I Spy” as usual, but give them a flashlight to shine when they see the item. Only let them play with the flashlight during this special game, and it will be a fun toy to see each time the baby nurses.
Stage Play: If your child likes to be the star of the show and is battling for your time with the new baby, lay down a bath towel or blanket and tell your child this is the stage. You can give them a ticket to come to their show and let them take it away a time to dance, perform, play “Simon Says,” etc.
There is always snuggle room, or reading a book, and yes, sometimes a cartoon for your older child when you nurse, but try some of these fun games and please share your ideas, too!
My name is Molly. I’ve been eager to write my first posts for The Other Baby Blog, and was sure that it would be about breastfeeding advice (I’ll be the Ask the LC expert in the coming weeks). But I’m starting with my son’s birth story instead! My husband and I wrote it from each of our perspectives. Throughout the entire pregnancy we had a feeling that this baby would come on a full moon, low and behold exactly 1 week and 1 day “late,” Montgomery Charles made his entry into the world under the light of the moon. Enjoy!
Monty’s Birth 5/6/2012
From Dad’s view
It all started at almost exactly midnight. I came in to bed and Molly said that she was having a contraction. She got up to go to the bathroom and had another contraction while she was there. She then stated that if she had another contraction like the last two that it would be it. I asked her if I should get up and make myself some coffee and she said no, that we would try to go back to sleep. The next thing I kew, Molly announced, “I am in labor”.
I got the Kindle which had a contraction timer app and started recording her contractions. The first two contractions came around 4 minutes apart. I ran to get some coffee started and she had a contraction before I could get back. I guess the next one was between 3 and 4 minutes apart. I got dressed and missed another contraction and realized that the contractions were consistently close together. I kept expecting that the contractions would vary in their timing since it was so quick, but they never wavered from the 3-4 minute spacing.
Molly wanted to labor for a while in the bath. After her bath, she came out to the front room in her robe and rocked back and forth on the exercise ball for a couple of minutes. She asked me to make her some hot water, so I put on the kettle. During this time I loaded the suitcase into the car. Molly never touched the hot water (big surprise). This whole time she kept contracting at around 3 minutes apart. I asked her a couple of times if we could get moving to the hospital. She was worried that we would get there and they would say she was only 4 cm and overly dramatic. She ended up being pretty dramatic anyways.
The moon that night was called a “Super Moon.” It was a full moon and also much closer than usual. We thought that the moon might have an impact on when we gave birth, and it might have.
Molly walked outside to see the moon in her robe and stood there swaying beautiful below the moon for a minute. Then all at once her water broke outside under the moon. The image of her under the moon is one of the images that I will always remember from that night. I wanted to get directly into the car and drive to the hospital but Molly was sure she wanted to take a shower and get cleaned up before we got there. She did okay me to call in to the hospital and get Gretchen there. I was so nervous when I called it took me two tries to get my information across to the person on the other line. Almost immediately after the call Molly changed her mind about having time for the shower. She did want to get dressed though and I tried my best to help but I was getting more and more nervous and fumbled a bit.
Then we were out the door as quickly as possible. I took a second to scoop up our music and my coffee. Then we were in the car but I didn’t have keys and had to run back to grab them. As we pulled down the driveway, Molly said “Pushing!” and I stopped for a second to ask should I pull over. She said, “Just get there!” and I was off. I probably could have gone faster but I did not want to jostle her around the turns. I think I was going 40 or so through the subdivision and just rolled right through the stop signs. Once I got onto Crystal Lake Road, I pushed it up to around 70 or so. I remember that the music was on and I remember how hard my heart was beating in my chest. I don’t think that I was scared but whatever I was feeling it was pretty close. I do remember that I was conscious to drink some of my coffee (which was probably pretty silly) so that I would not be too tired it we had a very long night. When we got to the Bull Valley light I had to wait for a car to cross the intersection and then I blew the red light. I kept expecting to see police lights behind me especially after I rolled the light. Molly said that I should pull into the emergency room entrance and I managed to pass the first entrance (damn!) but then we were there.
The whole time I was driving I could tell that Molly was in active labor. She told me that she was pushing sometime during the middle of the trip and I did offer to pull over but she told me no. During most of the time Molly had her head out the window letting the wind wash over her.
As we pulled up to the emergency room entrance, Molly exclaimed “It’s the ring of fire!” since Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire had just started playing on the radio (which can mean that a baby is crowning). Molly tried to get up and I told her to sit down and I would grab a wheel chair. I ran around the car and was relieved to see wheelchairs just inside the entrance but when I got back to the car Molly looked like she definitely did not want to get in the wheelchair. I learned later that was probably due to the baby basically crowning at that time. After looking at the chair for a couple of seconds I got the attention of a young girl in the ER and told her to alert the ER of a labor patient. Molly ditched the chair and we walked carefully into the ER.
The crazy lady at the ER reception area started asking us a lot of basic questions that we truly did not have time for. Questions like “Who is your doctor?” etc. Then all at once Gretchen was there along with some of the OB nurses and they whisked Molly off. They led her to the nearest room and Molly quickly stripped her pants. I handed off the camera to a nurse and Molly yelled, “I feel the head!” Molly had positioned herself with just one leg on the bed. Gretchen ran over and started to catch the baby. She called me over but due to the position we were in, I was unable to catch the baby. When Monty came out he had his umbilical cord across his shoulder and I was afraid for his neck. To get the baby untangled Gretchen rotated the baby and passed him forward directly under Molly. I was so relieved to hear the baby start to cry almost immediately. The next thing I remember hearing is Molly saying. “Hi Baby! It’s a boy!” After that it was much more relaxed. Molly put the baby directly on her chest and the baby stayed there for an hour or two more.
After the actual delivery around 1:10 am things were more or less normal. Nobody ever tried to take him away from us and he was perfect. The doctors let us go within the day and we were home around 3:00 pm. Thank you Monty for giving us this wonderful adventure and showing people how to come into the world in style.
Mom’s Side of the Story…………….
While sitting at Veteran Acres watching Oliver play in the splash park on a hot August afternoon, I had a very special secret. I was going to have a baby! That night I came home and told your daddy and he was very excited! We shared the news with the rest of the family over the next several days and everyone was thrilled. For 13 people on the Wallin side of the family the pattern was girl, boy, girl, boy ending with Perry so we all assumed that you would be a girl, daddy and I wanted to keep it a surprise.
Over the next 8 months you grew and grew and grew inside of me. We liked imagining what you would look like, feeling your kicks and hiccoughs and what your name would be. April 28, your due date, came and went with no signs of you. We all thought you might come on Cinco de Mayo since we all like to celebrate this day and we were planning your birth party. Saturday May 5th we woke up and went to the farmers market. We walked all around and you stayed safe inside my tummy. My friends from work called and said we should get things started, so Avery and Oliver went with Gi Gi for the night and Daddy and I went to the hospital to meet Gretchen she stripped my membranes with the hope of getting you to come out! Then Daddy and I went to the library to look around and pick out some music to listen to. We came home and watched a little t.v. before going out for Cinco de Mayo dinner. It was a beautiful night so we went for a walk. It felt so great so we kept on walking all around the neighborhood. I had a few contractions but nothing too intense. At about 10:45 I went to sleep, sure that another day had come and gone and you stayed put inside my belly!
Daddy stayed up and played some video games but came to bed around midnight. I decided that since I wasn’t quite asleep, I’dget up and go potty. I had a contraction on my way to the bathroom that was stronger than what I’d had before so I decide to try and get some rest and go back to bed. I crawled into bed to have another very strong contraction. It didn’t feel good to lay in bed so Daddy made me a warm bath to relax in and turned on some music. It didn’t feel very good in the bath either so Daddy helped me out and put on my robe. Daddy timed my contractions and rubbed my back. He made some coffee because we thought we were in for a long night of labor and put the suitcase in the car so we would be ready. The ball felt better than the tub, but I was so hot and everyone had been talking about the super moon that was expected to be beautiful and bright, so I went outside to look at it.
Daddy came out to see too, but was bustling about getting ready for the hospital and reminding me that the contractions were coming quick. He suggested we go to the hospital several times but I wasn’t convinced that you were coming quite yet. I rocked and swayed under the moon and my water bag broke. It felt very good and I had some relief from the pressure in my belly. I decided to come in and shower before heading to the hospital and Daddy called the unit to tell them we’d be on our way shortly. Before I could get into the shower my contractions became more intense so we decided to go then. Daddy helped me get dressed but I think he was a little nervous because he put my underpants on sideways. Once I was dressed, Daddy grabbed the camera and music and we were out the door. I got into the car and buckled my seatbelt and Daddy grabbed his coffee and we were out the door. We only made it to the end of the block before I felt myself starting to push. Uh-Oh, I’m pushing! I yelled to Daddy hurry! Dad offered to turn around or to pull over but I told him to drive FAST! I rolled down the window so that I could feel the air on my face.
I started pushing again right in front of the hospital. Daddy offered again to pull over but I told him to drive to the Emergency Room entrance. I waited through another contraction before I got out of the car but before getting out I hear the beginning of Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire coming on to the radio…..a perfect song for the moment. I looked at the wheelchair and tried to sit down but it was just too uncomfortable! I held onto it for another contraction and thought that you might just come outside the ER because I didn’t see how I could walk one more step. Somehow Dad took my hand and we began walking inside. The admission lady asked me who I was and who my doctor was and lots of other questions but I just wanted to push. I looked up and saw Gretchen and she rubbed my back and asked me if I thought I could make it upstairs and I said no. So she asked the nurse for a room to put me in we went one way and then turned around and went to a corner room. Daddy threw his keys at the front desk and told them to move the car.
As soon as I was in the room I began taking off my pants, I wanted to climb into bed so that I could push again but was only able to put one leg up on the bed before I reached down and felt your head coming out. I calmly announced that you were ready and I was so HAPPY because I couldn’t wait to meet you! I pushed once strong and hard and felt your head deliver into my hands and felt Gretchen’s hand on my back coaching me to push the rest of your body out. In one more push I felt your body slide out from mine and you were on the bed in front of me. I kissed you and dried you off and then saw that you were a boy. I was so happy. I quickly took off my shirt and picked you up and put you on my warm skin. You looked perfect and you felt soooo good against me. Daddy was so happy too and was checking you over. The girls from OB had come down to help too and were congratulating me and covering me up with warm blankets and listening to your heart. Daddy was kissing you and me and we were all so thrilled that you had come. We had waited so long to meet you and then you came into our lives like lightning, about an hour after my first contraction!
You nursed for the first time in the elevator on the way up to the OB unit. They checked me over and you over again while you nursed and nursed. We could see the bright moon outside of our window. After you were done nursing I took a shower and Daddy held you on his skin while we called to share our news! No one could believe how quickly you came in to this world. I was completely euphoric. All the planning for your delivery, making the special song list and preparing special oils….no time for any of it! We did listen to music once we got to the OB unit and you seemed to enjoy it as much as me. That morning I snuck into the locker room before all of my nurse friends got there and shouted surprise. They couldn’t believe you were here! They all held you and loved you too! At lunch time after meeting your brother and sister and Gigi and Pops we decided it was time to bring you home. I felt amazing. Really Amazing! Each time I tell this story or think of it I remember something new, I’m so proud of how you got here, it is exciting and fun and …words just can not describe! There was never any pain only this wonderful energy that helped me bring you here. Your Daddy was amazing, and calm and has been so wonderful in taking care of you and me and your brother and sister. We are all so excited that you are here Montgomery! Welcome and Thank you!
My husband also made a slideshow of the event which can be viewed at:
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