Monday, February 13, 2012

Confessions of a Mom who Circumcised and Wants Answers

© Copyright 2012 Shannon

I don't know how to start this. My heart hurts every day for the mistake I made that I can never take back. I cry every day and hope that my son can forgive me for the uneducated decision that I had no right to make on his behalf.

January 2011, my son was born perfect. My labor was unmedicated and fairly quick. I was proud of myself and my lil babe for doing so well. He was 8lb 3 oz of gorgeous chubby baby! He nursed right away and was very happy. My jewish husband always assumed that our son would be circumcised. I never questioned it. I didn't know I should. I didn’t think there were risks. I was so ignorant. I hardly even thought about the procedure until that day.

I have 4 younger brothers. Two are circumcised & 2 are not. My mother never really explained too much about it, she just said that my grandfather wanted his grandsons circumcised and then when she had the younger 2 boys she didn't want it done. The only experience I'd ever heard about the care of any of my brothers penis', was my youngest. I can remember at least 5 times in his childhood when he'd had an infection. He would cry and say his penis hurt. It would be red and inflamed. And my mother told me it was because the opening of his foreskin wasn't big enough when it was separating from the glands? I never thought too much about it at the time, but 8 years later, when I found out I was having a son, I remembered my brother's hard times and I sure didn't want that for my son.

So when the doctor came in to talk to us about our son's circumcision, all I could think about was how this was the safest best option for him in the long run. I asked the doctor how many he had performed before and begged him to be careful because my baby only gets one penis & there was no going back. He joked that this was his first, then reassured me that he had performed hundreds before and he would do just fine.

He even almost tried to tell me it was an unnecessary procedure, but he sure didn’t warn us of any risks or any dangers. We had asked permission for my husband to be present to say the Jewish prayer while they performed the circumcision. There was no way I could've been in that room, I said. Now I wish I was, because I'm sure I would've stopped it! I can not imagine seeing my perfect baby strapped to a table...

My husband was in the room while they physically and permanently mutilated our son. When my son came back to the room, he wouldn't nurse. I asked if this was normal and they assured me it was. They assured me he didn't cry and everything went perfect. They used something called a plastibell and told me it was safer. A plastibell circumcision leaves part of the plastic ring on the head of the penis for healing. It falls off on its own around the same time as the umbilical cord. I asked about how to care for it and they told me not to put anything on it!

I was surprised because I did remember a friend having a son not that long before and she said something about lots of vaseline. But I asked again and they said the plastibell required no extra care and not to put anything on it, it would heal on its own. Not to wipe it with a wipe, but drip a little warm water on it from squeezing a wet paper towel. That's it. No further instructions, no warnings, nothing to look out for, not how to care for it after the plastibell fell off. Sent us home...

So the first week was "fine". But when the plastibell ring started to fall off unevenly I got nervous. I called everyone I knew that had a son and asked if they were circumcised with a plastibell and if this was normal. A friend of mine stopped by who had 2 sons who had this type of circumcision and said it looked "normal". At our 2 week check up the Dr said it was ok and not to worry. Still said we shouldn't be putting anything on it. So when the ring came all the way off I was relieved. Everything seemed to be alright? But I've never taken care of a circumcised penis before! I noticed there was still enough foreskin to cover the head of his penis. Once a day I would pull it back just a little to wipe it clean. I never pulled it back too much because I didn’t want to hurt him. Everything seemed fine.

At about 3 1/2 months I noticed a small part of the remaining foreskin was reattaching to the head of my son's penis. When I asked the Dr about it at his 4 month visit, she said not to pull it apart because it would cause scarring and cause him pain in the future. So I was sure not to pull it apart! Well then I started to notice it attaching more. Every time I talked to my mother about my concerns, she would tell me I was “obsessed with his penis” and she was sure it was fine. This of course made me feel worse. Was I “obsessed”? I don’t know. How could I not notice it? I changed him 10 times a day!

We saw a different Dr at our next visit and he told us to separate it, but I was concerned about scarring like the other Dr had warned us about. So I did not. I started to do some research online. From what I’ve read, it seems like he has penile adhesions. Some sources say to separate it at home and some say he’ll need surgery.

At about 8 months I took him to a ND because I wanted to try out a more natural health care provider. Even though it was going to cost me $200 out of pocket for our 1st visit, I was excited to talk to someone more on my page. When I called to make the appt and spoke to the ND on the phone, she assured me that she could address every question I had, including his circumcision. Well I was extremely disappointed with our visit. Not only were we rushed and hardly had enough time to remember all my questions, but when she looked at his circumcision, she said “I think it looks ok, but I’m not a penis expert” Really? Ugh, we never went back.

A few months later I made an appt with our Dr for a referral to a urologist. I wanted to talk to someone who looked at penises all day. I needed an answer! Our Dr wouldn’t give us a referral. She said if he wasn’t in pain, not to worry about it. She said to give him a warm and then gently separate it and then apply vaseline. At this time he was 10 months old. He would not sit any kind of still for me to try to separate it. I still try on a daily basis. It is only an uncomfortable situation. I am terrified of making it worse, but don’t trust the Dr’s to help us. I am terrified that he will need another surgery to correct this!

He is now a year old. I am going to make another appt with our Dr to try to get a referral to an urologist again. I don’t know if I will trust what they say if we do get the chance to go after all the different answers.

He is my perfect little guy and I am so mad at myself for putting him through this. I feel like a failure of a mother! How could I not protect him. How could I just let them do a surgery on my one day old PERFECT baby without doing any research???? I am so angry at myself, I can’t stand it. I make myself sick to my stomach wishing I could go back to that day and change things.

Has anyone had their son go through this? What was the outcome? I feel so lost and don’t know who to trust.

I have permanently mutilated my perfect baby boy. I regret it with my whole heart and soul."

Plastibell circumcision method

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Birth Story of Ciarán James

Where does his story begin? The day of? The morning of? Or all the way back when he came into this world? He was unexpected, unexplained, although at least thanks to habit I can poke a guess at his conception date.

Ciarán didn’t fit into the pat, controlled concept of birth in the hippie world. He was close to his big brother and outside of a deliberate plan to conceive. I was nursing his two siblings. That’s just not responsible for a good hippie. The criticism was harsh, with some people even recommending abortion and telling me I was no longer part of the club.

It seemed strange to me, that people bent on telling the world about the strength and beauty of our bodies, could not fathom that a mama might be strong enough, dedicated enough, “attached” enough to care for more than 1 or *gasp* 2 children. I became somewhat disillusioned with the activist environment online and backed away from a lot of areas. Soon enough, though, I found that many people were still loving and supportive. They remained positive throughout the pregnancy and became a beautiful community of support.

The pregnancy itself was mundane, which I suppose is what every woman wants. No complications, no major complaints. My chiropractor deftly rubbed my hip pain away and aligned my ligaments with Webster Technique. Time passed quickly with two kiddos to entertain. Because of DH's history of severe CHD (Congenital Heart Defects) I always opt for one quick ultrasound scan later in the second trimester. Incidentally, CHD awareness week starts February 7th! And then, since I was getting an ultrasound, I had to find out if he was a boy or girl.

All the estimated due dates arrived, and passed. I looked into myself and did not feel any anxiety. It was not time. Ironically, I did not feel large enough!

Does this look like 11lbs of baby??
The night before labor, I joked on Facebook that I finally had a waddle. He was done swimming around and had moved into position. I didn’t think too much of it and went to bed as usual.

Contractions woke me up around 9am. (Hey, I like to sleep in on Sundays!) They were sharp, but about 10 minutes apart. An hour later, they were 5 minutes apart.

Unlike my other births, these contractions were severe and painful. By 11am, they didn’t seem to stop. I had a peak with sharp pain, but my uterus remained uncomfortably tight the entire time. I felt my ligaments getting sore and wondered how long I could continue to relax. I knew how effective it was to relax the body, to go with the contractions, but these were truly painful and shocking.

Meanwhile, of course, DH is running around the house because he can’t find the faucet connector for the hose. He eventually calls my sister and guides her over the phone on which one to buy! Things took so long that I barely had a waterbirth; the pool was about half full when he was born!

During this time, my labor was very random. I was in and out of the tub, on and off the toilet and running into various rooms or leaning against doorways. I wasn’t calm and didn’t want to stay in one place. Transition must have hit me at some point because I began to lose my positive affirmations. I remember asking DH if I was dying. He told me everything was normal and that made me very angry lol!

Although the total labor was about 5 hours long, somehow it just seems much more rushed than that, especially with the two kids being at home. DH didn’t call anyone to come over and I was too involved in labor to give any directions. Other than as I was experiencing a contraction, out of the depths of my mind I managed to tell DH to get the camera. He grabbed it and discovered the battery was missing. So I was trying to tell him where to find a battery while grunting. Ah, chaos!

As soon as the pool was filling, I climbed in, but quickly got out because the contractions were so intense that I felt caged. I ended up getting in and out frequently until about 7cm, when my body started pushing. It was a more rewarding sensation than the very painful contractions, but the pain was still there! I couldn’t believe I would be pushing with pain, and so soon! But I literally had no other option. My body was vomiting him out fiercely. I crawled into the birth pool and hollered out to the kids that the baby was coming out. They jumped in quickly and DH gave my 3 year old the videocamera.

I had a sudden moment of inspiration and yelled at DH to grab a rag and apply pressure along my rectum. He helped direct Ciarán’s head and this gave me the courage to go with the pushing. Without the pressure, I had a very scary image of my backside splitting. It was intense.

Push one, he was creating the horrible ring of fire. Push two, his head was out. After that second push, I felt a lull. I reached down and touched my baby, feeling his ear. Then I had this urge to keep tenderly feeling him. That's when I discovered a nuchal cord. I moved it over his head as it was fairly loose. This was all done on autopilot and didn't bother me. It's almost as if I was being guided completely on instinct. Interestingly, I later read a midwife's theory that sometimes babies with nuchal cords will remain "high" throughout pregnancy and labor until it is time for the pushing stage, at which point they will fly out of there. This is exactly what I experienced. Remember, I didn't feel him "drop" until the night before labor? It's fascinating how our bodies and babies work together in these cases.

Then, bam! Push three, he twirled from a transverse occiput/asynclitic position (sideways, tilted head) to normal anterior and his body slid out into my daughter’s hands with Daddy helping. My mind is still trying to process how quickly he went from being all the way up there, just barely able to touch the tip of his head, to flying out of me! I told DH I was going to scream right before push two, but I don’t know if I did or not.

The relief I felt as soon as he was out is not explainable. I suddenly felt completely normal, as if I could get up and go to work! Zon was over the moon that she was able to help the baby. I think this created trust in our relationship, because I told her she would be there for his birth and I was right. (Remember that she left right before her first brother was born and missed him arriving.) She seemed almost drunk, leaning on my shoulder and talking to the new baby. Ian said his usual, "OH WOW!" Then he happily ran around the pool, splashing. DH managed to get a family photo:

This rapid birth did not make for a calm entrance. Ciarán cried and swung his fists around, quite angry. He had a molded head, something my other children did not really experience. I could already see some swelling and petichia on his face. Poor guy! We found the videocamera in the water (bummer) and DH took a few photos, and then I moved into the bedroom because the water was getting cold. Ciarán latched right on and showed that he was a very strong nurser! He quickly calmed down and spent some time looking into my eyes. I love that alert newborn stage!

We waited an hour on the placenta, trying various tricks and herbs. After an hour, DH cut the cord so I could try traction, too, because by then I was consistently bleeding and did not like the amount I was seeing. As I moved to squat and took a looksy down there, I realized I had perineal tearing all the way into the rectum. At that point, with the blood loss and the desire to be stitched up, I decided to go into the hospital.

DH cut the limp cord.
When I arrived at the hospital, it threw everyone into a tizzy to see a woman with an umbilical cord hanging out and no baby. I filled them in and they moved me to a room. The doctor had the same concern I had when he saw the consistent blood flow. He couldn’t figure out why my uterus was so well clamped down, but the placenta was not detaching and I was still bleeding. So he used a light scope to check for lacerations on my cervix or any other complications. He tried some cord traction and said I had hit 200cc of blood loss. Before he could tell me what the next plan was in that situation, I stopped bleeding. The placenta still wouldn’t come out, so he used a catheter to see if I had a distended bladder. I didn’t. Then he gave one more push above the pubic bone and the placenta squirted out.

Everyone in the room had a perplexed look. We looked at the placenta and it was intact and healthy. He had no answers for me.

I brought the placenta home for encapsulation and smoothies. 

Meanwhile, the nurse IV’d me with some fluids to help with the blood loss and drew a vial to check my blood levels. The doctor injected lidocaine and began stitching me up; it took him about 20 minutes so it wasn’t a bad case, but also confirmed my instincts to go in for repairs as opposed to letting it heal on its own. He designated it as a 2nd degree tear.

He chatted with me while stitching and brought up the homebirth topic. I tensed, waiting for an argument, but he said, “It’s great that babies can be born the primal way…it’s just these kinds of cases that cause issues, but that’s what medicine is for!” I thought in my head, “I could hug you!” LOL And guess what, after I was stabilized, he did give me a hug and tell me congratulations on the birth and that he’s sorry I had to come in to the hospital.

The nurses were kind as well. The first nurse wanted to dote on me and talk about the baby, and her babies. She said things were really boring due to Superbowl Sunday. So I guess I gave them something to do. The second nurse was even more fun to hang out with; she had 4 babies naturally in the hospital and was considering homeschooling.

Breastfeeding bonding at the hospital while I'm waiting for my blood panel 

After all that blood loss, my levels came back just under a 10. I know that won’t show the complete bottom line, but I was happy to see that high of a number at all and will be working on my supply with Floradix, Chlorophyll and BS molasses.

Zon and Ian are both in love with their new brother and have each taken turns tandem nursing with him. I definitely think the commitment to triandem nurse is a huge help. Besides the tear-jerking sibling bonding I’ve witnessed since he was born, it’s just plain convenient to be able to nurse toddlers to sleep, then roll over to spend time with my newborn.

So that is his birth story in a nutshell. He was born on 2-5-12 at 2:20pm, measuring 23 inches long, with a 15 1/8 inch head. He has strawberry blonde, possibly curly hair and little toes like my brother. You can hear his name pronounced here:

I once again have so much to be grateful for and so many people to thank. Michelle lent out her birth pool again. Jennifer threw me a Blessingway and both she and Michelle A gave me birthing beads. My mom and siblings were super helpful afterwards, cleaning and babysitting the kiddos.

A supportive community is one of the biggest blessings a pregnant woman can have and I do not take it for granted after my initial experience when announcing his pregnancy. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your positive thoughts, prayers and actions.

Proud Daddy holding his two intact sons (and the birth pool they both arrived in is in the background).

I was completely surprised that he weighed over 11lbs. I told my brother to reweigh him! LOL

First carseat ride!

*Some additional notes, especially for birth junkies*

I want to point out that my tearing is not necessarily something you can attribute to size. I have a small and scarred perineum from a poor suture job; when I was a teen I was mountain biking and bashed my poor bottom along the bike seat. :O I have torn with all 3 of my births, and all 3 were different positions, head sizes and departures. I know many women who have birthed big babies without tearing. So don't give up hope or expect the worst. Fortunately for me, it's an issue that doesn't give me anxiety and I heal quickly.

I also wanted to mention that the decision on after care is up to have as many options as you research, desire and prepare for in your individual birth experience. You could for example, research midwives in your area who can suture at home. You can even look into natural healing remedies such as honey, herbs and seaweed instead of suturing. You could opt for a midwife who carries pitocin and methergine so she can administer it if you begin to bleed. My decision to go to the hospital appealed to me alone based on what I did and did not want to do after the baby was born. I don't want anyone to feel that it's the only option available!