Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The C Word

Here I am, still obsessed with circumcision. For me, it's really become a moral decision. I'm feeling a little philosophical about it tonight so I thought I'd use my blog to try to sort out my thoughts. For those of you who disagree with me, I'm willing to entertain your comments. For those who have made decisions to circumcise, please don't feel judged by my opinions.

I want to start by acknowledging that a large portion of the circumcised world made the choice for religious reasons. There is a part of me that envies you, and I don't mean that to be condescending. Sometimes I think it would be nice to have some other force or authority to guide my decisions. But I am not Jewish or Muslim, which leaves me to figure it out for myself.

When I ask for opinions, it seems like the spit is probably 2/3 for circumcision and the remaining 1/3 against. Of those who are for, the reasons seem to fit into two categories: Social or Health. (I suppose there is also a third category of people who didn't really think about it, they just did it because it is the norm.)

Social/Fitting In

Many people think that the baby should be circumcised so that he looks like daddy, or so that he doesn't feel out of place in the locker room. I understand that men of all ages seem to have an obsession with the penis, but I'm not sure that these are the right reasons to make a decision. It is the nature of adolescence to compare yourself to others, and I'm sure that if his penis is the same as the other boys, he'll find something else to judge and compare himself by (like the size of it). Further, with the increasing cultural diversity in our country, who is to say that having a circumcised penis will still be the norm in 15 years? The US is one of the only countries that circumcises boys for reasons other than religion.

As for looking like daddy, I wonder when this conversation occurs. Will potty training be hindered by different looking genitals? I'm inclined to think not. Single mothers are able to potty train their sons, despite not having a penis. And many boys are trained by adopted or step fathers, who might have different shaped or even different colored genitals. And how hard is it to say, "mine looks like mine, yours looks like yours, everyone has different pee-pees"?

I realize that women's genitalia play a different role in potty training and growing up, but I have to say that not once have I felt compelled to compare my labia to my mothers.


One of the most common "modern" health reasons cited for circumcision is a decreased risk of getting an STD. There is a study out, conducted in men in a high HIV risk part of the world, where they found that men with circumcised penises were less likely to contract an STD. The reason for this being that there was less risk for tearing or bleeding during intercourse. At first glance, this is compelling evidence. However, the fact of the matter remains that there is only 1 way to get an STD, and that is by having sex with someone else who has an STD. So the moral of the story on this one is: circumcised or not, stick a condom on it.

Then there is the argument that an intact penis is more difficult to clean and thus leads to increased risk of urinary tract infections. I think that it is very important to be critical of this information. Any statistic coming from a doctor or hospital is going to be weighted, because they don't see all of the little boys who
don't get an infection. I wish this was a topic that were not so personal, because I'd love to take a survey of the men I know and find out which intact ones have had infection problems. I think when you boil it down, this is all about hygiene, which is something that must be taught at a young age. So just as my son will need to learn to wipe his ass, he will also need to learn to clean his penis.

For me, the infection argument draws to mind the following analogy: If doctor's found that removing my labia would decrease the risk of yeast infections, would I do it? The labia, just like the foreskin, are nothing more than protective extra tissue. They don't seem to have any specific purpose. They get dirty and must be cleaned. Natural juices and oils produced by my body stick to them. Seems like a good analogy to me. And I have to say that I'd take a yeast infection any day over having my genitals modified.

Oh wait, there are parts of the world that practice this female modification...we call it
genital mutilation and we think it's bad and wrong.

It Will Be OK

So now that I've addressed the reasons why people think you should get your baby circumcised, lets look at the things that they tell you to make you feel better about having done so.

The procedure is so fast, and the baby is so young, that it's over before you know it and they don't remember a thing. That's what everyone says. Of those people, I like to follow up by asking if they were present for the procedure...most were not. For those of you who missed it, here's a video:

Now don't be a it with volume. It's only a 5 minute procedure, after all. (I should note that this video was flagged by YouTube for being inappropriate, and I had to confirm that I was an adult before I could watch it).

Here is where the debate gets philosophical a bit. Just because you have no memory of the pain, does that make it less harmful? Because the baby does not have language to articulate what they went through, does that mean that they were not traumatized? Erik spoke to an adult man today who was kind enough to share his personal circumcision story. He had his circumcision done at age 5, and to this day does not forgive his mother. The question is, is he mad at his mother for not having it done at birth, or is he mad at his mother for having it done at all?

Reasons For Leaving it "Intact"

I've used the term "intact" a few times in this post. This is actually the commonly accepted name for an un-circumcised penis. So are there any benefits for leaving male genitalia intact? Lets take a look.

Sensitivity. Research has shown that
intact men enjoy four times more penile sensitivity than circumcised men. I ask most men: if you could go back and make your own decision regarding whether or not to be left intact, what would your decision be knowing this fact?

Pediatricians do not recommend. In 1999, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a statement revising their position on circumcision, stating that
"the benefits are not significant enough for the AAP to recommend circumcision as a routine procedure."

Full penis length and circumference.
The "prepuce" (foreskin) constitutes 50% or more of the skin system of the penis [1]. If unfolded and spread flat, the average adult foreskin measures 60-90 square centimeters (10-14 square inches) [2], or about the size of an index card. The foreskin creates a visibly longer penis, especially when the foreskin extends beyond the head of the penis. Also, the double-layered tissue of the foreskin engorges with blood during erection and creates a visibly and sensually thicker shaft and glans.When the engorged foreskin retracts behind the coronal ridge of the glans, it often creates a wider and more pronounced "ridge" that many partners find especially stimulating during penetrative intercourse. The circumcised penis appears truncated and thinner than a full-sized intact penis.

Protection. The sleeve of tissue known as the foreskin normally covers the glans and protects it from abrasion, drying, callusing (keratinization), and environmental contaminants. The glans is intended by nature to be a protected internal organ, like the female clitoris. The effect of an exposed glans and resulting keratinization on human sexual response has never been studied. Increasing reports by circumcised men indicate that keratinization causes a loss of sexual sensation, pleasure and fulfillment.

Ridged bands. The inner foreskin contains bands of densely innervated, sexually responsive tissue. They constitute a primary erogenous zone of the human penis and are important for realizing the fullness and intensity of sexual response.

Gliding action. The foreskin is the only moving part of the penis. During any sexual activity, the foreskin and glans work in unison; their mutual interaction creates a complete sexual response. In heterosexual intercourse, the non-abrasive gliding of the penis in and out of itself within the vagina facilitates smooth and pleasurable intercourse for both partners. Without this gliding action, the corona of the circumcised penis can function as a one-way valve, dragging vaginal lubricants out into the drying air and making artificial lubricants essential for non-painful intercourse.

Specialized sensory tissue. In addition to the "ridged bands" mentioned above, thousands of coiled fine-touch receptors (Meissner’s corpuscles) constitute the most important sensory component of the penis. The foreskin contains branches of the dorsal nerve and between 10,000 and 20,000 specialized erotogenic nerve endings of several types, which are capable of sensing slight motion and stretch, subtle changes in temperature, and fine gradations in texture.

The frenulum. This is a highly nerve-laden web of tissue that tethers the inner foreskin to the underside of the glans. It is similar to the frenula found under the tongue, the upper lip and the clitoral hood (female foreskin). For many intact men, the penile frenulum is a male "G-spot" that is highly pleasurable when repeatedly stretched and relaxed during sexual activity. Depending on the surgical method used, the frenulum is partially to completely destroyed by circumcision.

(many of these facts taken from this site which has excellent sources)

Ok, now I realize that it is a little weird to be thinking about my baby's sex life before he's even out, but don't I have an obligation to take into consideration his entire life when I make a decision on his behalf? Maybe he'll thank me some day--although I don't imagine that's a conversation I will be comfortable having!


So, after reading all of the facts, watching the videos, talking to friends, and spending way too much time thinking about this, your probably thinking I've made a decision. My dilemma is, before I started this research endeavor, I told my husband it was his decision to make because I don't have a penis. My advice to other moms...stay involved!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Jungle Baby

Speck's nursery is making good progress and I'm really excited to start decorating it now. This week I got a great deal on my nursery set (all 15 pieces for $100), and today my mural kit arrived.

I've decided to do the nursery in a jungle theme, with lots of monkeys. I chose the NoJo Day at The Zoo pattern for the bedding, which features a monkey, elephant, lion and panda bear.

I found someone selling the whole set on ebay. It is actually a used set, so I might not use the sheet , but I'm pretty happy with the find and have no objection to the other pieces being second hand. For a while there I thought I was going to get away with just $45, but there was literally a last minute bidding war.

I'm going to paint the walls with a mural. I wanted to do something fun and creative, but creative really isn't my thing so I set out on a mission to find something that would make me look creative without all the stress, and I'm really excited about what I found.

Elephants on The Wall sells paint by number murals. They send you the pattern, printed on a really big piece of paper, and some carbon paper to go under the pattern. You then trace the pattern onto the wall and paint it using their number guide.

I bought two jungle patterns. One of them is a tall, narrow tree with monkeys climbing it. I'm going to reverse it to go on both sides of the closet. The other one is a full wall pattern with an elephant, some monkeys, and other critters having a hula party. I might even get really ambitious and try to recreate some elements of the big mural in another corner as well, to make the full room be a mural (like maybe the section in the right corner with the tiger in the bushes). I'm also thinking about leaving out the leis on the elephant and giraffe because they are a little bit girly.

First we need to paint the room with a nice light base color. With any luck, I can convince Erik to take this project on this weekend because I'm really excited to get going on the mural. I think I'm going to use a super light, orange-yellow color.

Monday, January 12, 2009

A Little Humor On A Serious Subject

It's one of those things I never realized I would ever have to make a decision about: circumcision. The information out there in internet is abundant, opinionated, and you can spend hours reading on the topic. And when you talk to your friends, you get just as many opinions. Overall, it's an overwhelming subject.

I decided to delegate this decision to the person in my home who has a penis. A decision I now regret, because I've become one of those people with a lot of opinions... Today I was looking for materials that might help persuade my decision maker to go with my beleifs, and I came across this video from some of my favorite comedians.

Warning: this video may offend many and contains adult content (but it sure did make me laugh!).

Click here for the continuation to Part 3 (I can't find Part 2 just yet but will update when I do).

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Baby Inventory

This is a note to Grandparents & family...

I've started keeping a list of what everyone has bought us so far. I thought I'd link it to the blog along with the registry links, so that anyone wanting to help us get ready can know what we have and what we still need.

You can click here to go directly to my spreadsheet, or I've also embedded a link in the right hand column for future reference.

Baby Networking

One of my goals for this year is to develop a network of friends with babies, baby resources, and nearby baby community.

Of all the things to be nervous about around being a first time parent, I think my biggest fear is the lack of resources that I feel like we have available to help. As Americans, we seem to have this notion that you should do things on your own. Many of us do not live near family and enjoy that autonomy. Other cultures do not share this "value".

I think that raising a child should be a multi generational experience. But unfortunately, we do not have family nearby and though we have tried very hard, I think that the prospects of having family living close to us for the first year of Speck's life are pretty slim. So I've given up my attachment to that idea and set off to develop my network in their place.

Most of this week's internet time has been devoted to searching for groups and other resources for baby knowledge. I've joined a few groups on Meetup, found the local La Leche League group, and even found a Stroller Fit group in my neighborhood. Hopefully over the next couple of weeks I can begin to meet some new friends to share our experience with. I've got us signed up for a Denver Pregnancy Brunch group tomorrow--which Erik is not super thrilled to be attending but I'm taking him anyway.

Probably the most enjoyable part of baby networking so far has been the online community. It seems like every day I stumble across a new baby blog. I've been trying to list them on the right, and I reccomend you check them out. It is so much fun to read about everyone else's experiences, concerns, and journeys.

This is the end of our 26th week. April 13th is only 3 more months away!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Week 26 - Belly Thoughts

Now that my pregnancy is so obvious to the world (and to me), I've been spending a lot of time thinking about my belly. Here are a few randomly assorted belly thoughts:

- Why is it suddenly OK for random strangers to touch my belly? I've been keeping track of belly touches when we go to social events, keeping a tally of how many touches there are and how many of those ask for permission first. If I was not pregnant, it would NOT be OK to rub my belly if you don't know me, but somehow it is now?

- All of a sudden my belly is something to be stared at. I think now maybe I have some insight into what it must be like to have big boobs or to be overweight, and to have a group of people across the room stare at you and discuss your body as if you are totally unaware of the fact that they are doing so. Or to have someone walk into an elevator and look first at my body and THEN say hello.

- Almost as unusual as people touching my belly is people wanting to talk about it. Several times now people I've never met have struck up a conversation that began with "Wow you look fantastic". I don't mind this comment of course, but it's definitely not an every day conversation starter.

- I am obsessed with watching my belly squirm. Now that the baby is big enough that his movements can be seen from the outside, I sit and stare at my belly all day waiting for the next one. What I would give for a peek inside to see just what he is up to! The movements feel so spastic, I can't imagine what he can be doing in there. Maybe he's inherited daddy's restless legs!

- Despite my rants above about people touching my belly, I secretly WANT them to share in how cool it is. I think that the thing that irks me the most is that it is ONLY the strangers who want to touch my belly. I actually spent an entire week last week with family and not one of them asked to feel the belly, which seemed a little weird to me considering the number of people I don't know who can't seem to resist.

- Dempsey, my 14 pound orange tabby cat, is having a really difficult time figuring out how to snuggle now. He used to stand on my stomach and nuzzle his nose up under my chin, but now my stomach and boobs are all so tender that I cry out when he steps in the wrong spot and now he's scared to step on me at all.

- Still no stretch marks!!

- Last week my midwife measured my bump and I found out it is exactly the size it should be. I learned that before ultrasounds, the only way they had of measuring the baby's growth was to measure your stomach. The idea is that once you are past 20 weeks the measurement from your pelvic bones to the top of your uterus should equal the number of weeks you are at. For example, I was 25 weeks at my appointment and it was exactly 25 centimeters from the top to bottom of my belly. How crazy is that? Even crazier is that this means I can expect to grow another 15!!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Happy New Year!

New years is a time for reflection about the past year and creation of a new one. Looking back to a year ago, I don't think I had any idea of all the excitement 2008 would see. I think I fully planned to still be working at FWI, for Erik to have a new but still high paying job, I definitely did not expect to be pregnant, and I had no idea that we'd spend a big chunk of the year job hunting!

Looking forward a year, I imagine that little Speck will be smiling, laughing, learning about solid foods, and toddling around the house. YIKES! We will probably spend the next year dealing with day care, diapers, doctors visits, child proofing, new sleep schedules, and many other things that I don't even know that I don't know about.

Hopefully 2009 will be a year filled with celebration and family. Only 3.5 more months to go till Speck arrives! Better hurry up and think of a real name soon :)