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Tuesday, March 01, 2005

a tale of two penises

i found out about this bill proposal to outlaw circumcision from my friend pamela. ay-yi-yi, like i don't have enough to feel guilty about?? while i agree that it's not a necessary procedure, i don't buy that having it done will negatively affect a newborn's developing brain! or that it will cause them psychological trauma that will affect them when they grow up! *sigh* i feel like i'm making excuses, which is not what i'm trying to do, so let me just tell you my story:

when we found out we were having our first boy, i didn't really know anything about circumcision, but in talking about it with dave and from the few articles i'd read i felt that having jack circumcised was the way to go. i mean, i didn't have any strong feelings about whether or not to do it, and it seemed to make sense for us -- dave's circumcised, i'd never been with anyone uncircumcised, and it's been routinely done for i don't know how many years (but i know it's a lot) -- so the decision just kinda fell into place. little did i know how i'd feel about it when the time came...

jack was born healthy and cute and chubby -- he was so big he looked like he was already 3 months old! well, when you check into the hospital they have you fill out all the admission forms and, if you know you're having a boy, a form that states you want your son to have a circumcision. i didn't think twice about it. but after he was born, and i had held him in my arms and kissed him and breathed in his yummy baby scent (*after* they had bathed him, of course), the mama bear instinct kicked in fast and furiously! they came waving that form to take him to have the circumcision and my stomach dropped -- i didn't want my baby to hurt! at that point, it wasn't a matter of whether circumcision was right or wrong, it was just the fierce instinct to protect my son from harm. if you haven't held a newborn in your arms, it's hard to explain. i mean, they can't do *anything*. they are so completely helpless and defenseless, you can't help but want to take care of them. as the nurse started to wheel his little bassinet away i asked, "what about anesthesia?" "oh, we don't do anesthesia for this procedure. we feel that it's really not that effective, and needlessly painful for the baby because it would be an injection. don't worry, it happens so fast! he'll be just fine." "oh. okay...." my heart sank as they left the room, but i did nothing. again, it wasn't that i was unsure about circumcision, i was concerned about the pain, and she *said* it would be fine, right?? right.

well, it went without a hitch. jack came back totally conked out and the nurse said he barely peeped while having it done. i wanted to believe her, so i did. i mean, newborns are barely awake as it is, so it's *possible* that he was groggy and it happened so fast that it didn't really register, right?? whatever happened, jack and i were deemed healthy and ready to go home the next day. all's well that ends well. dave stayed home for a while and we basked in the glory of our new family. but after dave went back to work my lonely mommyness kicked in and i had to find solace in the world of too much information, the evil internet!!!

it must've been the now defunct hipmama chatboard where i discovered a whole anti-circumcision movement -- it's painful! unnecessary! circumcised babies cry more! they don't sleep well! these lovely nuggets of information prompted me to google all the anti-circumcision propaganda i could find! big mistake. all i could think was, "holy shit. what have i done??" jack *does* seem to cry a lot, nevermind the fact that he's a fucking BABY, and that's what babies do. and he's definitely a crappy sleeper! it's MY fault! wah!!! how could i do this to my baby?! i'm a horrible mother!!! now you non-parents out there, the guilt of a newborn parent is something that can't really be explained. it is so overwhelming and powerful to know that you are totally responsible for your child's well-being, you can't help but feel a little out-of-control! you're wracked with feelings of self-doubt and incompetence (for the first-timers, anyway), and you feel like the choices you make are so crucial, even if it's something as trivial as what kind of wipe to use on your kid's ass! but i digress.

jack had a rough 6 weeks or so, but that is totally normal for *all* babies. he was happy, hardly cried at all, and finally got into a decent sleeping routine when he was 4 or 5 months old, yet i still carried that guilt over the circumcision! i couldn't justify it. i know it was so easy for me to decide that it was okay, but i was an idiot. so what if everyone does it? it *has* to be painful -- you're cutting off a big chunk of skin! and if foreskin is so unclean why are males born with it? it *has* to have a function. and i know there are studies that show your chances of contracting STDs are higher if you are uncircumcised, but that just doesn't seem relevant these days. no son of *mine* is gonna bump uglies without a condom! heh. i can't believe i just said "bump uglies". i swear i've never said that in my life. it just sounded more appropriate than "fuck". heh.

so the second penis in this story is nate's. he is 100% au naturel. i had a little anxiety about how to explain to the boys why jack's penis looks one way and nate's another, but that wasn't going to affect my decision to not have him circumcised. i doubt it will even be much of an issue, but i *am* looking forward to the inevitable "no, YOUR penis looks weird!" arguments. heh. it's so much nicer to find the humor in things than feel guilty about them. i just have to remember that there are two sides to every story, and, for fuck's sake, to STOP researching parenting issues on the internet!

i don't know about outlawing circumcision -- to call it "mutilation" seems a bit much. but then again, if it *wasn't* an accepted practice and someone all of a sudden started pushing it on newborns without any good reason to do it? that changes things, hmm? ultimately, i think it's the medical community's responsibility to discourage circumcision. if you can't tell me why it's absolutely medically necessary to cut off my son's foreskin, then you need to tell me not to do it. i hate that doctors are seen as these omniscient beings, but i am totally guilty of following my pediatrician's advice to the letter. now, i LOVE our pediatrician and totally trust his advice, but i've met those doctors who pussyfoot around shit and tell you what you want to hear instead of taking a firm position on something that they don't consider to be serious. huh. maybe outlawing circumcisions is not such a bad idea after all.


Anonymous MB said...

Yeah, so I just had the "what wipe to use on my baby's ass" freak-out episode yesterday. Great penis story, by the way.

1:51 PM

Anonymous Mama C-ta said...

I wish I read this when I was still pregnant. This could be my exact wording from how the decision just feel into place to hearing about the anti-movement AFTER the fact and then reading information that I should have known better would make me want to kill myself. (But our doc used a local anesthesia, did they not even use that for Jack???) If our doc said no I don't think I could have gone through w/it. Well shit who knows b/c at the time it seemed so "this is what you do" to me. You are so right, I wish doctors would have tried to talk me out of it. They didn't go into any of the details w/me, I wish they explained how unnecessary it is and how common it is these days not to do it.

Also very interesting about having 1 son done and the other not. I am hoping to have more boys and I'm torn over this already. It would kill me to do it again but I just have a lot of anxiety over brothers looking different. It would break my heart if the uncirc'd said he had the freak penis and he wishes his was like J's. Parenting, you can't win!

Thanks for sharing this, I swear my feelings to the T.

1:45 PM


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