Wednesday, March 27, 2013

My (Carrie's) Story

When I was pregnant with my first child, I didn't research much, to be honest.  I was excited to be pregnant, and we had just moved, and I was working, and I just thought about baby names, and car seats, and making a registry.

I wanted a natural birth, and I just assumed it would happen.  I didn't research anything.  I wanted to breastfeed, and just assumed it would be easy-peasy.

I never even thought twice about circumcision.  I thought that's just what you did.  I had never heard anyone talk about it, or seen any information on it.

When I was about 37 weeks pregnant, my OB went on and had me "sign all the necessary consents-just in case".  I signed an induction form, a c-section form, and a circumcision form.  I remember where I was sitting.  I didn't even want to read the induction or c-section forms, because I didn't want those.  But I was "Required" to sign them-"just in case".  I glanced over the circumcision form.  It said some stuff that I didn't want to hear.  So I didn't read carefully.  I didn't know what I was having, so I just hoped for a girl, and signed the form I was told I needed to sign. I was alone, on a bench, and no one went over these forms with me.  No one discussed any risks of the procedures.  No one told me that the circumcision was optional, or cosmetic, or unnecessary.

I should have researched it for myself.  I own that.  But a doctor, knowing that I was a first time mom, and didn't know what I was having, should have taken the time to discuss this procedure with me.  It was their duty.

No surprise to me now, looking back, I ended up with all THREE of those "just in case" procedures that I had pre-emptively signed for.  After a failed induction turned c-section, I had my beautiful baby boy.  On the second day, they came and told me it was time for his circumcision.  Again, no one discussed it with me, or went over the risks, or in any way indicated that this was optional.  I let them take him, and I felt sick the entire time.  Something in my fresh, new "mommy gut" knew that something about this was all wrong.  He was a tiny, defenseless, brand new baby, who had only ever known safety and security, and I let them take him for a surgery that I really knew nothing about. I sat there nervously the whole time.  I remember eventually telling my sister that it was taking to long, and I wanted to go get him.  We walked down to the nursery, and they gave me my baby.  Years later, I figured out that he was in shock.  That's why babies sleep for so long after a circumcision (most of them in the United States are performed without anesthesia).  Not because they are peaceful and happy that they just had surgery-but because their little bodies are in shock. Breastfeeding with my first son got off to a hard start, and I later learned that both cesarean delivery, and circumcision surgery can have a negative impact on breastfeeding.

After my first birth, I desperately wanted a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean), so I began researching that almost immediately.  I worked so hard on that, that I didn't research much else.  Again, I still didn't realize that circumcision was optional. I came across some circumcision information in my researching.  It was so hard to see, and so disturbing to think about, I couldn't even allow myself to "go there" mentally.  I remember having one conversation with a friend, and said that I wasn't sure about circumcising this baby (once I was pregnant again), but was nervous because my first was circumcised.  She said "That IS something to consider", and from there, I began to think that I should "do" this baby because I had "done" my first.  How wrong I was.  I again was hoping for a girl-at least then I wouldn't have to face the issue.

I got my VBAC! It was an amazing and empowering birth.  I was ecstatic.  It was another boy-an amazing, awesome, perfect boy.  I don't remember signing a consent form.  I know that no one discussed it with me.  Once again, I consented to a surgery on my perfect baby, without knowing the risks, or that it was completely unnecessary.  I felt terrible when they came to get him.  Everything in me was screaming NOOOOOOO.  But I thought I "should".  I was sick while he was gone.  I kept saying to my mom "what if something goes wrong".  Again, in my mommy gut, I knew something wasn't right-but something kept me from saying "not my son". I felt sick when I changed his diaper, and kept thinking something didn't look right.  And it didn't-no baby should be bloodied like that immediately after birth, for no reason.  It shouldn't have been done.

Between my second and third pregnancies, I started to hear friends talking about this issue, and seeing information on facebook pages.  This pushed me to investigate further.  I began reading, researching, and looking at scientific studies, personal stories, Biblical studies, and pictures. It was so, so hard to read, knowing that I was learning that I had done something wrong, and painful to my first two sons.  I wanted to run from the information, but I knew I owed it to any future sons to be fully informed, even if that came at a cost to me.

Even before I found out I was pregnant with my third child, I approached my husband.  I had reams of research ready. This is how our conversation went:

I asked him first "Do you believe that circumcision is Biblically mandated?"
Him: "No"
Me:"If we have anymore sons, I don't want to circumcise them."
Him: "Why?"
Me: "Well, I've been doing a lot of research, and the first thing is that it is cosmetic, and unnecessary".
Him: "OK"
Me: "OK? You don't want to talk about it more? You don't want to see more?"
Him: "No, I trust your word and your research.  If it's cosmetic, we don't need to do it"

I can't tell you how thankful, and how proud I was.  I had heard that a lot of men have trouble with this concept, and I had prepared myself for a lot of talking, and praying, and time.  What a gift to both me, and our future son, that my husband was tenderhearted toward this issue.

While I was pregnant, I wrote on my birth plan that I would not be circumcising if the baby was a boy.  My (Jewish) OB was looking over my birth plan, and I wondered what he'd say. He said "Thank GOODNESS." and then described what he thought of the procedure, and his description included some of the rough to hear words that I promised not to use.  He also told me that while he didn't like to do them at all, he did when people asked, because he was the only doctor in the town where I was living that used anesthesia, and that if it was going to be done, he felt the babies deserved pain management.  It made me sick to know that the fact that babies were having surgery with no pain relief wasn't just a myth.

I had my third son, and my nurse asked me if I was circumcising, and when I said no, she said, "good, because it is really just cosmetic".  I was thankful that these medical folks were confirming what I already knew, but I was ticked that no one had shared that information with me when I was doing it to my first two sons.

This is why I talk about this.  Because I researched, even when it was hard, and I came out changed.  I was sick to know what I had done to my children, "just because"-just because it was what I thought I was "supposed" to do-just because it was culturally accepted-just because I didn't research for myself.  I don't want any other mom to feel those same feelings, and I don't want any other baby to go through what my sons did, and will, as circumcision changes the body for life.  I would take it back if I could, but since I can't, I want you to know that you don't have to do this.  You don't need to do this.  Your baby is perfect, just as God wanted Him.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, I'm really impressed with your husband's response. He sounds like a good guy.
    My husband was really good about it too. One or two initial questions and semi-nervous jokes, but I told him it was really painful, not recommended anymore these days, and could negatively affect breastfeeding. We have two intact sons.