Saturday, February 6, 2010

To Do No Harm

For the second day in row I have laid down to take a nap while my 3 precious babies sleep. I have been nursing a growing boy every hour at night for the last few nights and have been crashing come afternoon. Only as hard as I try to allow sleep to overtake me it's never before I think about one precious baby boy born a few days ago who might go under the knife next week. He had a beautiful, peaceful birth and is right now trusting of his world and environment...maybe snuggled with his mama nursing and warm, percieving the world through the love, safety, and comfort that is surrounding him. However, if I can't get the good research to his parents quick enough...they might hand that precious baby over to a doctor to have his arms and legs strapped to a board...surrounded by doctors and nurses strangers to this tiny baby..who will then proceed to clamp..pull..stretch..tear apart and cut up his penis...HIS PENIS the most sensitive thing on his whole little body...while his helpless, terrified screams fill the room. I just can't fathom stomach begings to ache, i tear up, and my pulse quickens and find that I just can't sleep. So today in order to relieve a little of the anxiety I am posting about it. Occassionaly when the nauseau and sadness about circumcision overwhelms me, which is often, I hold my son close and am slightly satiated in knowing that I was able to spare this one, MY precious son. But my heart still breaks in two for all the my work as a doula I always ask if they know what they are having and when the answer is a boy, in a very non biased and casual way place a reasearch packet w/ dvd's (from peaceful parenting) on the table and encourage them to read through that first before making a decision. That as a doula it's part of my role to give informational support and with that conclude the visit. Each time I've done this even fathers who were dead set on cutting their sons before the research practically wept in relief that they didn't go forward with cutting their sons after becoming educated about it. One even struggles now with anger towards his own parents for allowing it to happen to him.
Every doula has a line when working with families..where they set a boundary and can not work with a family. You spend time on it in doula training to find out if you have that line and what it might be..for some doulas it's smoking..they won't work with a mom who won't quit smoking. I have had a smoking mama...I was stll able to give her great care and support her through her labor. For other's it's epidurals they won't work with a mamaa who is scheduling an epidural. I've worked with several and have been able to help those mom's avoid other interventions including csection because of their having a doula...I was able to add a lot of value in that way and I am proud to have helped them. But THIS..this one is my line..if I have a family that plnas to cut their son and AFTER reading the research STILL wants to move forward to cut their sweet baby..I will refer that family to another doula. It's my line..hard, fast and inflexible. To help a baby have a peaceful, natural birth only to have his parents hand him over a few days after life to a doctor to have the above described so contradictive to what I do.
I have long felt that circumcision was mutiltaion of a baby...but since birthing my first son my heart is softened in a new way about it. Now I weep...WEEP..for babies that get cut and look at my son and can't imagine doing it. And I know that MOST mom's do not want to do this to their babies but feel it's is 'dads decision' b/c ...well i don't know why. It's still YOUR baby that you grew inside your body and whom YOU pushed out and who you nurture at your breast...who you are hardwired on very primal levels to protect at all cannot come naturally to hand your son over.
Jakob was hospitalized at two months old for a UTI...and b/c his little veins were so small and delicate they had to send us down to Children's hospital to place a PICC line in his arm. (after 12 failed attempts to stab him and many, MANY blown veins later). After a lengthy conversation with the anestheseologist (sp?) where Josh and I asked many questions about the procedure and about the things that were 'necessary' etc. I had to hand my brand new baby to this stranger. I'll never forget it and weep even as I write this, all wrapped up and sweetly sleeping in a blanket I gave over my son and the doctor looked in my eyes and said very compassionately, "Sweet baby, yes?" And I nodded and dropped down into the chair and wept openly as I watched her disapear around a corner with my baby. And this for a procedure that would not harm my son or alter him for life or cause post traumatic stress and a bevy of other horrible side effects. And after I had composed myself enough to walk to the waiting room my husband attempted to make me laugh. He suceeded and then feeling I was ok he stepped outside to make some phone calls. However, I sat 25 feet away from the door the doctor disapeared through with my son..this door opened up to a short corridor with 3 other doors..Jakob was inside one of those rooms. As it turned out many staff used this door to come and go..and while Josh was outside the door swung open and I could hear my son screaming. I began to cry so hard..2 more times the door openend and I heard Jakob cry. I had never experienced as a mother such a visceral and primal reaction to my newborn's crying. I had never had a baby in trauma a girls cried b/c they were hungry or tired but this was different. Now granted he was probably crying b/c they were putting cold iodine on the place where the line would go..or perhaps from the quick sting of the shot with the numbing medicine or b/c they had to strap down one of his arms...but his cries were terrified and I was unable to go to him and comfort him. I remember kicking the ground and yelling out loud, COME ON!! in anger. Earlier in Bellingham during the 7 hour ordeal to try to find a vein and including one spinal tap (AWFUL) I had been able to be with lean over him and nurse him while they poked him over and provide him with myself. But now he was where I could not get to him and it was the most maddening of helplessness a mother could ever experience. Now, all of this was out of my control in the sense that he had an infection that was ravaging his body and left unchecked would cause him to turn septic and die. This was necessary. Circumcision is NOT necessary.
Josh returned to find me a sobbing mess in my chair so he quickly grabbed my arm and made me walk go upstairs and walk. I knew it was necessary and that Jakob would be ok and we waited for our pager to go off. Once they paged us it was still an agonizing amount of time before they brought me my baby. I was pacing in and out of the waiting room like a tiger and making the nurse nervous. I was a mama bear now not to be messed with, I wanted my baby. Micheal Odent talks about the oxytocin release between mother and baby that is remarkable...and when I saw the nurses aid FIANLLY come around the corner with my son wrapped in a heated blanket...every fiber of my being, my heart, my soul, my SKIN cried out for that baby. And the relief that flooded my body was intense as I clutched him tightly to my chest and buried my face in his neck. Upon smelling me my son who had been sleeping began to cry loudly as if needing to tell me all about it. Without hesitation I bared my breast and put him to it right there in the hallway and my tears of release splashed onto his little head as he hungrily nursed. It had been over five hours since he had last been nursed due to having to go under anesthesia...I walked all the many hallways and elevators back to our room with him breastfeeding all the while. A nurse asked me if I wanted a blanket to cover up and I said, NOPE. It was over..finally...the line was placed and then we just waited to hear which antibiotics he would recieve (this would take two more days in the hospital) but the trauma of poking my son and handing him off to strangers was over. Once back in our room and night had fallen I remember holding him and crying and apologizing for all that had happened to him and telling him it was all over. I had such anxiety for having this amazingly peaceful home birth with him with a purpose of protecting him from unnecssary trauma and then two weeks later he had just undergone more trauma and more needle pokes than a whole years worth of vaccinations (which we aren't planning on doing). I just felt so bad about it for him..and felt that for a short time it changed his peaceful disposition...maybe it was discomfort from the line but I am mostly sure it was him working through what he had just far outside his previous frame for relating to the world.

And it is that ordeal that I think about and remember the way him and I both felt and again, cannot imagine handing him to someone to do purposeful harm to him when I had a choice to leave him pefect, whole just as he was at birth. Mind boggling. But I digress...I just know that for every baby born male to people I know (for now that is what I have the time and energy to dedicate having 3 small kiddos of my own) I will fight to educate their parents..I will advocate for those babies right to their WHOLE bodies.

From The Star Thrower by anthropologist and writer, Loren Eiseley (1907-1977)

Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.

One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.

He came closer still and called out, "Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?"

The young man paused, looked up, and replied, "Throwing starfish into the ocean."

"I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?" asked the somewhat startled wise man.

To this, the young man replied, "The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them in, they will die."

Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, "But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can't possibly make a difference!"

At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, "It made a difference for that one."