Sunday, December 26, 2010

My biggest regret

SIDS kills about 120 boys every year. Because of this, every mother is told by hospital staff to put her baby to sleep on his back to minimize risk. One mother whose baby died of SIDS was sentenced to prison for putting her baby to sleep on her belly after a prosecutor assumed a reasonable person would have known that action could result in death, thus meeting the definition of manslaughter. Women are told in no uncertain terms to avoid all blankets, toys, pillows, or even soft mattresses in the crib, not to co-sleep, and to keep rooms cool, all to avoid SIDS.

The same number of boys die from complications of circumcisions every year in this country. Not third world countries with poor sanitation, but right here in the U.S. That's just death, not recurrent adhesion, amputation, disfigurement, or scarring: death. And what are mothers told in the hospital about circumcision? That it's a simple procedure, a small snip, and that it is cleaner and better for the boy. All of these things, by the way, are outright lies.

When I was pregnant 13 years ago, I was planning to circumcise; it wasn't even an option to leave a baby boy looking unfinished and weird. Plus, I had heard that nursing homes were in the habit of circumcising elderly men. Thankfully, I had a girl. Two years ago I had a boy and didn't want to have him cut. However, it was important to me that Tom feel he was an equal parent and that we compromise and work together on things, and he was the one with a penis after all, so I let him make the decision. Two years of complications and my son's pain later, I had another son. I will never forget (or forgive) sitting on that hospital bed crying with my infant son in my arms, just repeating "I don't want this, I don't want to do this to him," and having Tom take him from me and hand him to the nurse at the foot of the bed.

I still cry about it. I cry about it because Tommy has "adhesions", a little-known complication of routine circumcision. Let me say right now that the circumcision was done properly. The doctor did his job well and there were no "complications" to speak of. But the skin reattached at the base of the penis, and then further and further up. We pulled it back like they taught us. We used Vaseline for a month! And it still happened. Still happens, to be honest. Over 2 years later, we still have to forcibly rip the skin back. He cries when I try to change him because of the pain he remembers. He cries at the doctor's because he fears the doctor doing it (it's made him bleed before) more than he fears getting shots. When I change him he cries "I try" and pinches his little penis hard in an attempt to keep me from doing it. I am not doing anything wrong; don't convince yourself that this is my fault for not caring for the circumcision correctly. This is a relatively rare complication but it does happen. In fact, persistent adhesions after circumcision is just as prevalent as phimosis in an intact baby. This is, however, 100% my fault because I signed the consent form to have my baby circumcised. I still wish I'd done my job and protected my sons. I failed them and I will never forgive myself for that. On my death bed I will still be apologizing for it. I will do whatever it takes to convince them never to have their sons circumcised. And if a genie showed up and asked me for 3 wishes the first one would be for my boys to be put back together again.

Oh, and if your husband ever says that it's important for a boy to look like his dad, ask him to describe his father's penis to you. If that argument fails, ask him if he plans to keep his junk shaved all the time, since it's a much simpler way of maintaining a similarity than amputating things.

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