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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Knowing is Better

A wonderful, well researched and emotionally charged article by informed parent Megan Robinson of "Meg-isms" blog.  Meg writes about her journey to becoming an intactivist, the struggle with the guilt that all of us feel when we are suddenly faced with the knowledge that we have done something brutally wrong to our son(s) when we allowed them to be mutilated and circumcised. Freely talking about our mistake is the first step that we mothers take towards healing our guilt, in this I applaud Meg for her honesty and brilliant article.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Knowing Better

I have something to say and it's that I am 100%, gut wrenchingly, without a doubt against genital mutilation, otherwise known as circumcision.

This wasn't always the case. My husband is circumcised and I never really gave it any thought until my second son was born in late 2008. Our first son was a victim of our ignorance...sadly and regretfully, he is circumcised. We didn't know any better at the time. We thought it was what we were supposed to do. So that he could look like his daddy, because it was cleaner and easier to care for, because if you didn't you were weird, or as one person told me, "It's gross if you don't".

When my first son was born in 2004 we didn't have great internet access to do research. I was also only 25 and none of my friends had kids at the time. I didn't have anyone to teach me or to guide me. So, if you're wondering why I care so much and why I'm posting about issues like this? It's because I wish I had had someone in my life 6 years ago that would have told me what a mistake I was about to make. Someone to tell me that all of my beliefs and feelings about circumcision were false. Someone to lead me to studies and to the knowledge I would need to make a different choice. We made a mistake and we are regretful but with all of our pain we want to make a difference for other parents and baby boys.

Here are some facts about circumcision that we find worth noting:

1) No health organization in the WORLD recommends the procedure.

2) It is the amputation of a completely normal body part, much like the amputation of a toe or maybe the outer ear.

3) There are many myths surrounding circumcision such as that it somehow helps to prevent some diseases and cancers or that it makes the penis more hygienic.

4) Circumcision is a huge money maker for the medical industry. Money that is hard to give up even though the AAP and WHO have made statements saying that there is no reason to do the procedure.

5) This procedure is highly painful for infants. Babies feel pain at a much higher level than adults. Even though anesthesia is sometimes used, it is never substantial enough to keep the infant from feeling the excruciating pain. Many medical workers or parents will claim that their baby boy slept through the procedure or was calm. This is because they enter a semi-coma state to deal with the excessive pain. After the procedure they are withdrawn and unsettled. This often interferes with sleep, breastfeeding and bonding. Circumcised baby boys often won't look in their mothers eyes after the procedure. There are studies showing that this kind of trauma in an infant can have LIFE LONG implications!

6) The foreskin has a purpose! It protects the glans (head) from abrasion (which if it is exposed causes a decrease in sensation over the years because of the formation of calluses). It also excretes essential fluids as it is a mucous membrane. It also protects the urinary tract from infection and guards against sexually transmitted diseases. The only way to protect oneself against HIV is abstinence, monogamy, barriers, no IV drug/shared needle use and sterile surgical instruments.

7) The foreskin plays a role in an adult males partner's life too. Many defensive men (and women) will say they are just fine without their foreskin. But one can also be just fine without a finger, arm, toe, etc.

8) There are many risks that go along with the procedure such as hemorrhage, infection, damage to the glans, tightness of the skin on the shaft (painful erection), scarring, and death. Circumcision has a complication rate of 1 in 500 and a death rate of 1 in 500,000. I believe the numbers are along the lines of 200-300 baby boys dying per year from the procedure. These numbers are higher in Africa.

9) Circumcision is a violation of human rights. Thus why it is called genital mutilation. It is the amputation of one's body part without their consent.

10) Just because daddy is circumcised doesn't mean baby needs to be too. One of my dear friends was counselling a couple who were expecting their first baby boy any day. The couple didn't really want to cut their son but were distressed that baby should look like his daddy. My friend brought up a good point. She said, "So, dad, if you were missing an arm, would you cut off baby's arm so he would look like you?" This was the ultimate deciding factor for this couple. Of course they wouldn't do this! Every child is unique and needs to be treated as such.

11) "The US has the highest rate of medically unnecessary, non-therapeutic infant circumcision in the world - and yet the HIV infection rate in North America is twice the rate in Europe, where circumcision rates are low." (The Truth About Circumcision and HIV by Gussie Fauntleroy).
HERE to read the entire article on Meg-isms