The Compleat Mother Email Newsletter October 18, 2002
//-- Mother to Mother by Catherine Young (reprint) --//
//-- An Open Letter To Parents: Circumcision --// (reprint)
//-- Antenatal Testing: The Truth be Told --//
//-- (Project in development) YOU DON'T LOOK OLD ENOUGH TO BE A MOTHER --//
//-- Our Generous Sponsor --//
//-- Litters --//
//-- Special Dolls --//
We all need each other…
The world is a vast and complex place. Be kind to your neighbors around the world. Life is too short to harbor anger and retaliations. You are responsible for your own soul.
First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. ~Mahatma Ghandi, In Philosophy
In this issue there is an article reprinted from a past edition on the controversial subject of circumcision. Simply put, Compleat Mother’s opinion about circumcision is that this is a completely unnecessary and possibly dangerous surgical operation. However, Compleat Mother always respects your viewpoint on any matter, including circumcision.
//-- Mother to Mother by Catherine Young (reprint Fall 1994) --//
Mother to Mother by Catherine Young
Ah, transition. Always the challenging part.
I remember once Sheila Kitzinger and Doris Haire, the much-published birth activists were guest speakers at a function I attended with my suckling 18-month old.
I asked Sheila, at lunch, how long a baby should suck. “Tw years, two and half, three?”
“I haven’t a clue, darling. Mine were all weaned by eight months so I could write ‘The Experience of Breastfeeding’ “she said in her beautiful British accent.
I THANKED Sheila and Doris at the end for working to make our birth and breastfeeding attempts more successful, long past their own personal days of procreation. There was a snicker, then a room full of nervous laughter from the audience of obstetric nurses and prenatal teachers who all missed my grateful point.
That suckling toddler weaned around her third birthday and enters high school in September. She wants me to dye my graying hair to pre-parenthood brown.
It won’t happen. I earned my shade of silver when the in-laws asked me to “leave the room if you’re going to do that, that, breastfeeding business,” and we were in my home at the time. I earned more as the twenty-third doctor said, “it’s against hospital policy, maybe next year” when I asked if my husband could catch the baby. A bunch grew in pure white when that baby catcher told me if I really trusted him I would co-sign a $50,000 loan for computers which I repaid after the divorce.
Transition is difficult, but eventually we’ll all get used to a breastfeeding culture, fathers catching offspring in birth centres and at home, and gray hair in valuable, helpful women well past their best-before dates.
In the meantime, when the Ontario Ministry of Health says we have midwifery in Ontario what they mean is we are in transition of birth from the hands and forceps of 20,000 doctors being passed to, well, 60 certified midwives. Bonnie Heath, Ministry mouthpiece says we’ll have 200 by the year 2,000.
Head the words of Sheila, Doris, Catherine and the rest of your ancient sisters. Breastfeed forever, everywhere and squirt the in-laws in their myopic eyes. Squat and push that baby into your husband’s well-scrubbed hands and if the Ministry of Health sends out one of the rationed midwives, have her make a pot of raspberry leaf tea for everyone. And don’t borrow a cent unless it’s for cotton diapers at a yard sale.
//-- An Open Letter To Parents: Circumcision --// (reprint Summer 1993)
An Open Letter To Parents: Circumcision
When I was younger I thought boys had to be circumcised. No one ever discussed it with me. I just though, well, I’m Christian and that’s what you do if you’re Christian. I even had the most ridiculous thought that boys might somehow die if it wasn’t done. I didn’t know how it was done. Just that it was done.
When I was in labor (in 1985) with my first child (my labor was difficult, all back labor) I was presented with the circumcision form by the nurse. She wanted me to sign a blank form between contractions. I read the consent form: I had been advised as th the nature of the procedure and the risks involved. “What risks?” I asked. I gave the form to my husband. He read it and said, “I don’t think it is really necessary that we sign this right now. We don’t even know if the baby is a boy or girl yet.”
He tried to get me to sign it the next day. But I told my husband that since it was a boy he should decide.
My husband again asked the nurse about the risks involved. She told him the form is just a formality. There are virtually no risks involved. That is all we were told, so he signed it.
Three years later, I had another son. This time they gave me the consent form after my son was born. I never questioned it, just signed the blank consent form. It was filled out later by the staff. I still never discussed it with my doctor. We didn’t know there were different procedures. We weren’t given a choice.
Early the next morning, I heard a baby screaming and wailing down the hall. For some reason I became anxious and could feel my breasts drip milk.
When the nurse came into my room I asked, “Why is that baby crying so much?” The nurse answered, “Oh, that baby is being circumcised.” I said, “Boy, it must really hurt.” The nurse said, “Oh, it doesn’t really hurt that much. The baby is probably just cold.”
About a half hour later, my son was brought to me to breastfeed. The nurse said, “He is really hungry. Babies are usually hungry after being circed.” At that time I was the only mother in the hospital with a baby boy.
Three and a half years later a new doctor asked me, during a prenatal visit, if I wanted to circumcise the baby if it was a boy. I told the doctor, “I’m not sure. I read in a magazine there are some risks involved. Can you explain them to me?” The doctor asked hesitantly, “Well, are your other boys circumcised?” I said, “Yes, but no one has ever told me about the risks involved.” His response, totally avoiding my question, was “Well, you had better circumcise this one or your other boys will make fun of him.”
I was so taken aback by his answer I never asked any more questions.
When I was in labor at the hospital, the nurses brought “the form” in. Again, it was blank. I told my husband, “Here. If you want this done, you sign it. I won’t sign it.” My husband signed it at 3:30pm; our third son was born four hours later.
This time I insisted on being present during the circumcision. The doctor tried to talk me out of it saying mothers don’t really want to watch. It makes them upset to see the baby cry. I said, “I don’t care. I am staying. I never even got a chance to see my other sons before they were circumcised and I did not like that. This time I am going to watch. He is my baby.”
Even though I had insisted, I heard the nurse tell the doctor outside my hospital room door, “She’s probably still sleeping. Let’s just get it over with.” The doctor stuck his head into my room and was surprised to see me awake. He told me he was going to do the circumcision now.
I went down to the nursery. The nurse was already holding my naked son. Right before the doctor came in, the nurse whispered to me, “It takes him a damn half hour to do a circ. It takes every other doctor five minutes max. He doesn’t know what he is doing.” I never said anything.
The doctor put my son on a blue molded plastic board and placed a blue cloth over the lower half of his body. The cloth had a hole in it for the penis.
The doctor looked at me and said, “Usually we don’t let the parents watch this.” I asked, “Why not? He is my son. A parent should be able to watch if they want to.”
The doctor separated the foreskin from the end of the penis and cut a slit. Then he clamped it and cut around the clamp with a blade.
While the doctor was doing this, I saw my son quivering uncontrollably and watched his eyes roll back in his head. I asked the doctor, “Why is my baby shaking so much?” The doctor answered, “Oh, he’s probably cold.”
I remember thinking, “How can he be cold? It’s hot outside, your air conditioner isn’t working. We’re on the fourth floor and everybody knows heat rises.” But being the obedient and cooperative patient, I said, “Oh.”
Then the doctor threw the foreskin in the garbage like he couldn’t wait to get it off his fingers. I was surprised he just threw it in the garbage. I wondered if that was the proper procedure to dispose of human flesh. Somehow it didn’t seem right.
When the doctor finished, he said, “Gee, I guess I should have asked you which procedure you wanted.” I didn’t know there were different procedures. This is how I found out that my first son was circumcised differently from my other two sons.
I told the doctor, ”That’s OK. I guess it really doesn’t matter.” But in my mind I was angry. I though, “A little late to ask me after you’ve already done it.”
The doctor left and the nurse said, “My, your baby took the twenty-five minute procedure remarkably well.” I felt sad and tired.
Two months later, I discovered you don’t have to circumcise your boys. I read a section of the sixth edition of Dr. Spock’s Baby Book that I found in K-Mart, of all places. I found the information I had asked the doctor for at my prenatal visit and he couldn’t or wouldn’t tell me.
I decided to do more checking. I read where serious mistakes have been made. Yes, I realize it is rare. But if it happens to your son, it’s not rare. Obviously, my doctor was inexperienced. A twenty-five minute procedure? My poor son. I thank God the doctor didn’t slip. I suppose everyone needs experience. Anybody want to volunteer their son for practice?
Then I found out males lose some of the sexual pleasure because it has been cut off. It’s like cutting the clitoris on the female.
I showed my husband all of this and asked him why we did this to our sons. My husband said the only thing he had considered was that they should look like him.
We talked to our parents. My husband’s father, upon hearing my husband’s reason, laughed and said, “That’s ridiculous. I’m not circumcised and you and your three brothers never even noticed.” My husband’s father is seventy-three years old and has never had a problem being uncircumcised. My mother told me my father wasn’t circumcised and never had any problems either.
We asked our parents why they were not circumcised, and ththought is was probably because they were all born at home. Then we asked, “Why did you circumcise your sons?” and our parents told us, “We never had a choice back them. The hospital just did it.”
After learning all this after the fact, my husband and I are very angry because if we had been informed, we would never have circumcised our sons. And you can be sure that if we have another son, he will not be circumcised.
We just hope our sons will forgive us.
Kathy and Paul Burkle Jamestown, North Dakota
//-- Antenatal Testing: The Truth be Told --//
“We would like to schedule you for the CVS procedure, as you are over age 35. Statistically you are at increased risk of having a baby with genetic defects.”
Hmmm. Worry quickly shoots through the mother’s heart. “OK, yes Doctor”, she rapidly replies, “schedule it whenever you would like.” “Whatever you feel is best.”
If you are over age 35 and seeing a “mainstream” allopathic caregiver during your pregnancy, typically an MD doctor, chances are high that you will be counseled regarding “the need” for antenatal testing procedures. This same most likely holds true also if you are seeing a Certified Nurse Midwife even though they may in fact be practicing “as a midwife”; legally they must work in conjunction with an MD and will most likely be required to follow “protocols” as established by the doctor, and not necessarily by them self.
Underlying the reasoning for the testing, however, the bottom line is, and remains, that your agreement to undergo this test will protect the doctor during your care and the birth of your baby.
Protect the doctor? Yes.
The testing is not for the increased safety of your baby, or for your safety during pregnancy.
No? It’s not? Really?
Tuck this truth away, as you may need it later.
Yes, the testing is for the doctor who may then be alerted to any possible situation that could possibly cause problems while you are under his care, problems which might possibly create a lawsuit against them at a later date. This will allow them to be on the red flag alert while they care for you during your pregnancy, for their protection. I am not implying that doctors are cold and calloused, although I do believe some are, as in any profession.
I am telling you the truth about why they are ordering the antenatal testing for you while you are under their care. Am I threading a sarcastic undercurrent here against doctors? Not at all. I am studying to become a doctor myself.
But am I telling you the truth? Yes.
I am also at mother who had my second and third children between the “high risk” ages 33 and 37 without so much as a poke in the belly by a doctor, let alone any ultrasounds, blood work, or other marvels of technology, “just to check” for “diagnosing any abnormalities”. Furthermore, I am a college graduate educated in the nursing and the medical sciences. I understand the medical “reasoning” which subjects pregnant women to various tests. I chose to skip the tests. So, what about you?
Do you really need to have the testing done?
Are you concerned that somehow you will be neglecting your unborn baby’s needs if you do not have the testing done - that somehow you will be responsible for any condition your baby may have if you decide against having the tests or procedures done?
Sister, worry not. Ponder these thoughts, and, I would add, coupled with prayer you will have a soothing blanket for your soul.
Your baby is already created. It is already formed. The majority of the substance (the best word I can find) that “becomes” a baby is already in-the-works, so to speak, growing inside of you.
By the time you have decided to visit your healthcare provider during your pregnancy, chances are that you are already at least eight weeks along, if not more. In those first 8-12 weeks, the baby already “is”, that is, wired and mapped for all that it is to be, practically speaking. The baby is already “mapped out” physiologically, neurologically, and anatomically and is now just “growing in to” what is already genetically determined.
Doctors know there is little parents can do about the status of their baby’s health in the womb, even if testing indicates a possible negative or undesired result. Knowledge of a condition cannot change Down Syndrome, dwarfism, cystic fibrosis, asthma, or many others. I urge you to consider these simple truths for which you need no formal medical knowledge at all.
Additionally, even when certain conditions can be helped medically, it is important for you to know that often the procedures are significantly (and surgically) invasive and carry, in most cases, serious risks for both the mother and the baby. Clearly, the results of prenatal testing are also prone to serious error and misinterpretation.
Do I place value in medical testing and technology? Yes, I really and sincerely do. Technology saves lives every day and is amazing. I am educated and experienced in the health care field, but would I undergo antenatal testing and procedures and trust results given to me by a healthcare professional?
Absolutely not. And I here is why.
You may have a very competent, wonderful healthcare provider, kind and gentle. But, these attributes are not reason enough for me trust their interpretations, or from secondary sources. Most likely, the test results come from yet another healthcare provider, a pathologist, radiologist, or geneticist.
Do you see how this leaves room for error? Common sense carries wisdom. Common sense can corner the medical market any day. Wisdom, we are told, will be given by God “freely to all those who ask” James 1:5
Is your healthcare provider absolutely certain of the results? How are they absolutely certain? Has all room for error been eliminated? Of course not. Have they overseen each step of the testing personally? No, that would be nearly impossible. Thus, they cannot assure you at all that any mistakes were not made. Are they certain they have the results for you, and not another patient? I’m sure you are getting the point. There are no guarantees. It is that simple. Even in the best of intentions, your test results will be interpreted by someone just as prone to error as you are, and as I am, as we all are.
Make no mistake about this. In no way does higher education prevent them from error in decision and interpretation. This is a very important concept for you to grasp. Would they give this same advice to their daughter or niece? Hmmm, now it is getting personal.
Do you know that most doctors obtain second and even third opinions for their own medical conditions from their colleagues?
So, I urge you to also ask yourself two or three times, similar to physicians checking with their colleagues, before consenting to any procedure. It is imperative that you learn all that you can about the procedure by doing your own reading and research. You do not need a medical background for this, believe me.
Do not rely only on brochures or handouts the doctor or staff may give you concerning procedures. That type of literature will not give you the info you are seeking. Go to a library, or the internet, and do your own research. You are fully capable of making an informed decision as a parent.
Furthermore, do not be intimidated by your lack of medical knowledge as compared to that of a healthcare professional if you refuse treatment after your research. Trust yourself. You are capable of making a competent healthcare decision for yourself. Remember this!
//-- (Project in development) YOU DON'T LOOK OLD ENOUGH TO BE A MOTHER: YOU DON'T LOOK OLD ENOUGH TO BE A MOTHER: TEEN MOMS ON LOVE, LEARNING, AND SUCCESS --//
I'm a children's author and part time labor support doula putting together an anthology of writings by teen mothers. The book will be pubished in 2004 by Penguin Putnam Inc. This project grew out of my own experiences of working somewhat insensitively with a teen mother many years ago and then, in more recent years, learning to respect and appreciate young mothers in my role as a writing teacher and doula to teen mothers. The anthology, titled YOU DON'T LOOK OLD ENOUGH TO BE A MOTHER: TEEN MOMS ON LOVE, LEARNING, AND SUCCESS, will be the first collection of stories by empowered women who gave birth in their teen years. They address the question, "How has becoming a mother in your teen years impacted your life in a positive way?" Contributors may be any age, as long as they first gave birth as teens. I welcome essays from new and even hesitant writers as long as they have a willingness to rewrite. I work closely with contributors throughout the revision process. I love this project. I'm delighted to be creating a forum for these previously unpublished voices. And it has been an honor to work with so many mothers who are not only talented writers but also inspiring individuals. YOU DON'T LOOK OLD ENOUGH TO BE A MOTHER is, ultimately, a celebration of growth, motherhood, and healing, and for that reason I wanted your readership to know about the project and to invite eligible readers to submit their stories. The deadline for submissions is February 1, 2003. You can see (and print out) the Call for Submissions, Writers' Guidelines, publishing updates, and other information at www.teenmombook.com, or you can contact me at the addresses below. Thank you!
//-- Our Generous Sponsor --//
PLEASE visit Jenny Hatch’s website:
Jenny responded to my request to sponsor this newsletter which costs a bundle to produce. She is one terrific lady. I would sincerely appreciate it if you would pay a visit to her website. ~Greg Cryns
Mission Statement - "Healthy Families Make A Healthy World!" Web site address - www.naturalfamilyco.com Business owner - Jenny Hatch Conference info - Sponsor and Organizer of The 2nd International Husband/Wife Homebirth Conference - Theme - "When Faith Endures" - Keynote Speaker - Laura Kaplan Shanley - This Unassisted Childbirth conference was held in Boulder Colorado in July of 2001 and is available exclusively from the Natural Family Website. Cost - $39.95 For Compleat Mother readers - mention this ad through email when purchasing the conference e-video and receive a $5.00 rebate upon purchase through pay pal. Offer good until 6-03-03.
//-- Litters --//
I'm 73 years old have been a widow for 20 years. The most beautiful memories of my marriage with Samuel H Coxe are the eight years of nursing our two sons. Send me another subscription and a gift subscription for Maria who is a new mother.
Ruth B. Coxe, Old Lyme, Connecticut I NEED to subscribe This morning I stood at the check-out counter at my local food co-op unable to put your magazine down. The next day I sat on a bench outside the large city hospital where I work as a lactation consultant and devoured the birth and breastfeeding stories. I NEED to subscribe. My babies were born at home, nursed for years and were slinged constantly. Working in a hospital environment where babies are left to cry alone, mothers are discouraged from sleeping with their babies and breastfed babies are given formula "just in case", where the hospital boasts a 95% epidural rate and vacuum extraction is common, I feel very lonely and sad. Thanks for reminding me that I am not crazy to believe that birth and breastfeeding are normal life processes that work extremely well until we get in the way. Nan Kyer, Scotland, Connecticut Young Mother-to-be Hello my name is Judi I am 19 yrs. old and a single mother-to-be from California. I just found out today that I am pregnant. The hard part about finding out, is that, it was not planned, the father-to-be is no longer around because he was abusive towards me. I have no job and no financial means. I have mental support from two friends, not family. I love kids, and I have lived a life a 19 yr. old should not. I am about 4-6wks pregnant now. I will find a way to provide for this/ my child and myself, I will take my responsibilities during pregnancy and after. I was raised with no mom and dad, a broken family. It will not be that way for my child, if I have to I will be mommy and daddy and be the best at it. I am not ready have no one by my side but am willing and strong, I will love this unborn child, no matter the circumstance, and will find a way to provide and give this unborn baby (mine) everything it needs. <<<>>> //-- Special Dolls --// Christmas is coming soon! Do we need to be reminded? Here’s an idea. Give one of our Midwife Mary dolls or our Doula Doll to your favorite midwife and/or doula. You can choose the hair color for you doll. And they even come with a miniature edition of Compleat Mother Magazine!
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