Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Sleep Training: Higher Stress, Lower Serotonin May Increase SIDS

By Liz DeMar author of the Hybrid Life

I happened to catch the NBC Nightly News this evening where I heard about the latest development in SIDS research. (1, 2) My interest was piqued even before I heard the full story: How would this compare to research done by Dr. James McKenna? What does it mean for those who share sleep (co-sleepers)? What would be the mainstream media response? According to the study:
“Lower levels of the hormone serotonin may help explain why some infants succumb to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).”
I have a bit of experience with wonky levels of serotonin. In my experience with generalized anxiety disorder, my serotonin levels were negatively impacted following a period of extreme stress. Extreme stress. You know -- like the stress that a baby would feel if his parents laid him in the crib and walked out the door. Like the anxiety that would flood his little body as he wailed and waited for them to come back to him. Like the despair he would feel when they did not.

Could this new research possibly support the theory of a link between "sleep training" and SIDS?

This latest study could be an affirmation of McKenna’s position that babies are safest when they sleep within an arm's reach of their mothers, and breastfeed on cue. Serotonin is a hormone that exists primarily in the gut of a human being. It regulates intestinal movement and operates optimally when 'fed' and cared for. (A hungry baby, for example, will have serotonin levels that are off kilter). Serotonin is also highly responsible for other central nervous system functions - the regulation of mood, sleep, muscle movement, appetite, learning and memory. Serotonin works as a calming hormone in the body, while cortisol (a stress hormone) spikes when distressed.

A co-sleeping baby never experiences this rise of stress hormones (such as cortisol) from being left alone to cry-it-out. Rather, a baby sleeping near his mother feels the security of her body, her warmth, her regulatory breath, right beside him. A co-sleeping baby is happy. Research demonstrates that a co-sleeping baby has natural, normal, regulated levels of serotonin. (3, 4)

Unfortunately, that’s not the way that the mainstream media may present the results. Already we see reactions like this from the medical community:
“I think the message is there is something inherently wrong in some of these babies.”
Really? Is there “something inherently wrong” with these babies? Or perhaps something inherently wrong with the way we are being taught to parent...


Turn your crib into a co-sleeper and benefit from sharing sleep!


1) Hannah C. Kinney, MD, professor of pathology, Harvard Medical School; neuropathologist, Children's Hospital Boston.

2) J. Duncan, et. al. "Brainstem Serotonergic Deficiency in Sudden Infant Death Syndrome."
JAMA. 2010;303(5):430-437.

3) Gerhardt, S. (2004).
Why Love Matters: How Affection Shapes a Baby's Brain. Brunner-Routledge: New York.

4) Sunderland, M. (2006).
The Science of Parenting: How today's brain research can help you raise healthy, happy, emotionally balanced children. DK Publishing: New York.


Monday, January 24, 2011

A doula might do ya good

Ancient tradition improving birthing experiences for area women

Giving birth to babies.

It is undeniably painful. A raw and gritty exploit.

It is a rite of passage for pregnant first-time moms to endure birthing tales of humiliation, blood and agony from women who have gone before them.

Birthing mothers have been portrayed in film as women gone berserk — screaming, out-of-control creatures who are not above inflicting verbal and physical injury to nearby loved ones.

But a growing number of women in and around Washington County are envisioning and seeing through a kinder, gentler, more-controlled birthing experience.

Their calm in the chaos is the doula.

Translated from Greek as "a woman who serves," doulas are trained professionals who provide physical and emotional support to mothers before, during and just after birth. According to the website of doula organization DONA International, research shows that when doulas attend births, labors are shorter with fewer complications, and babies are born healthier and breastfeed more easily. The number of DONA certified birth doulas worldwide has risen from 31 in 1994 to 2,636 in 2009.

Amy Miller, 33, of Funkstown is working toward doula certification through DONA. She has completed her studies, and is required to provide doula services at three births before being certified. Miller, who operates Red House Childbirth Services, said she hopes to change women's negative notions of giving birth.

"I love giving birth. I've done it five times and I'd do it a hundred more," she said. "I want to empower women by helping them understand how their bodies work so they are working with their bodies and not against them. That's an important thing."

Doulas meet with their clients at least two times during pregnancy.

"I'll discuss with the mom what her hopes are for the birth, do a little bit of education, go over some comfort techniques," Miller said.

They typically are on call 24 hours a day from two or three weeks before a mother's due date until the delivery. Doulas stay by the mother's side through labor until several hours after the birth, helping with breastfeeding, newborn care and other needs, then provide at least one post-partum visit at home.

Services are provided for a flat fee, ranging from $400 to $600 in more rural areas to $1,200 and more in cities.

Miller is serving as doula to Christi Vaughan, 33, of Funkstown who is due with her seventh child in July. She recalls her first four labor and deliveries at a hospital in Montgomery County, Md., as negative, nearly devastating, experiences. Vaughan said overworked hospital staff gave her an unnecessarily large dose of epidural anesthesia, causing her baby's heart rate to drop to "near death." During another of Vaughan's pregnancies, she went into labor near a holiday. A doctor told her if she wasn't dilated in four hours, she would perform a technique to physically manipulate dilation, then proceeded to so do.

"I was screaming, hysterical. When (my daughter) came out, I was in so much pain I couldn't even bond. I was like, 'What just happened?'" Vaughan said.

Vaughan never returned to that hospital, and her next two birthing experiences were satisfying. Having recently moved to Funkstown, she said she plans to deliver her seventh child at Meritus Medical Center, with Miller assisting. She believes having a doula present gives women more confidence to be involved in choices. She observed a birth during which her friend used a doula, and said the doula was soothing and in tune, performed massages and helped keep her friend focused.

"It gave my friend control over the process," she said. "I was very impressed."

The role of doula

Christie Cooper, 40, of Hagerstown, operates Mommacoop's Doula Services. A certified doula since 1998, Cooper said it is important for clients to understand the role and limitations of the doula.

"I am there as an assistant for you and your family. I am not there to control the birth; I am not there to tell you how to have your baby. I am only there to help you find your own individual way to give birth," she said. "We do nothing medical or clinical."

Cooper said most area nurses and obstetricians seem "very open" to doula assistance. Birthing units regulations usually allow two or three people to accompany the mother, and a doula is considered among them.

"On a busy day at the hospital, most nurses seem very appreciative to have someone to be with the patient while they are with another," she said. "And it reassures the mom, too, because a doula is there by their side with 100 percent attention, no shift change."

Cooper served as doula to Vikki Shank, 37, of Hagerstown, during the birth of all three of Shank's children.

"(Cooper) gave me insight as to what would be happening next, like following contractions on the monitor. She'd tell me, 'This one is gonna be a big one' or 'This will be coming down soon,'" Shank said. "She had knowledge and expertise that my husband and mother didn't have."

Doula B.J. Kettermen, 36, of Martinsburg, W.Va., said fathers often are as relieved to have a doula present as mothers are.

"It gives them a sense of relief from some of the pressure of not knowing what to do or what to say at what time. The doula usually knows what's coming next and can pass that on. Dads seem to like that," Kettermen said.

A growing trend

Though she has only been a doula for about one year, Kettermen said she has provided services for a range of women from married mothers with multiple children to a teen mom. She has assisted with natural birth as well as births involving induction, epidurals and the Hypnobabies technique — a relaxation method for birthing mothers. She looks forward to assisting with a Caesarean birth.

People have used doulas in various cultures for centuries, Kettermen said. It's a basic idea of an experienced woman assisting another. But Kettermen said the doula concept just recently seems to be gaining momentum in the local area.

"Some of my clients have interviewed other doulas," she said. "Women are hiring doulas and having a great experience and telling friends, so it's growing in popularity. It's picking up on the national level, and it's up and coming here, too."


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Doula Website!

My Official Doula Website. Created by Cory Behrend.

If you are interested in having a website made for your business and would like to contact Cory, his email is cbehrend17@gmail.com.


Microscopic View of Human Milk, Cow's Milk and Formula

The following images were taken under a microscope magnified to 400x. Imagine what we might see if we magnified even further...

Formula (the pointer is pointing to an air bubble; formula is a "dead" product)

Human Milk (Alive with white blood cells, glyconutrients, and immunobodies)

Cow's Milk (more similar to human milk than formula, but with great compositional and structural differences - for example, human babies cannot digest cow's milk proteins, and baby cows would not be able to survive on human milk. For more on this subject see, The Baby Bond)


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

News Story: Non-Surgical Foreskin Restoration

Science Saved My Soul

A Day In The Life Of Dr. Justin Case

Written by Birth Sense,

Dr. Justin Case 
Meet Dr. Justin Case.  Handsome, personable, and a recent graduate of one of the top OB residency programs in the country.  He immediately developed a huge following of patients who loved his friendly banter in the exam room.  Women appreciated the fact that he promised them a family-centered birth, and his support of patient rights.

When it came down to delivery day, however, it seemed that all of his promises evaporated.  Rhonda had been thrilled to find a provider who was willing to accept her birth plan.  Things didn’t start off the way she’d planned. 
Rhonda woke up early in the morning to her water breaking.  The fluid was clear, she didn’t have group B strep, and she knew her baby had dropped into the pelvis, head first, a week ago.  She wasn’t having contractions, and so she wanted to stay home until contractions began.  She called Dr. Case.  and told him what her plan was.

“Well, Rhonda,” Dr. Case began.  “I’d like you to come on in to the hospital just in case you might develop an infection.”  Rhonda, trusting her doctor’s opinion, came in to the hospital.  There, the nurse started an IV, even though it was not on her birth plan.  “It’s just in case you should bleed too much after delivery; then we can give you medication immediately.  It’s what Dr. Case wants”. 

Next, it was the continual fetal monitor.  Rhonda wanted to walk around, trying to stimulate contractions.  Dr. Case had different ideas.  “I want you to be on the monitor, just in case there’s a problem with the umbilical cord proplapsing, since your water’s broken.”

Dr. Case also wanted to do a vaginal exam to check Rhonda’s dilation.  Rhonda knew that this would increase her risk of infection and asked him to wait, but Dr. Case told her that it was important to do this exam just in case the baby might have turned breech since her last exam.

Next, Dr. Case wanted to give Rhonda a pill called Cytotec, which was supposed to help “ripen” the cervix.  Rhonda reminded him that she wanted to wait and let contractions begin on their own, but Dr. Case told her that it was really important to get labor going just in case an infection might develop. 

The nurse was having a hard time monitoring Rhonda’s contractions after she got the Cytotec, so Dr. Case put in an intrauterine pressure catheter, to measure the intensity of contractions, just in case they got too frequent or strong, she could be given medication to stop them.

A short while after getting the medication, the baby’s heart rate had a decrease in variability.  Rhonda knew that this could be a normal sleep cycle of the baby, but Dr. Case decided it was important to put in an internal fetal monitor, just in case the decrease in variability indicated fetal distress. 

Now Rhonda’s contractions were becoming painful.  She wanted to get into the jacuzzi and let the warm water jets pound on her back, but Dr. Case said it was better to stay in bed so that she could be monitored, just in case there was any problem.  Rhonda found the bed to be the most painful place to endure contractions, and soon requested something for pain.  She got an epidural and was comfortable within a short time. 

A couple of hours after the epidural, Rhonda developed a fever.  She had no signs of a uterine infection, but Dr. Case ordered an antibiotics just in case she had an infection.  Dr. Case didn’t think her contractions were as strong as they should be.  Rhonda knew that first babies often take longer than the average labor is thought to last, and asked for more time to dilate.  But Dr. Case thought it prudent to give her pitocin just in case there was a problem with the labor, so that it wouldn’t go on too long.

Soon after receiving the pitocin, the baby had some deep drops in the heart rate.  Rhonda was moved from side to side, a difficult undertaking considering that her legs were dead weight and she had a half dozen wires coming out of her and connected to her.  The position changes did no good, and Dr. Case came in to talk to her about a c-section.  By this time, the baby’s heart rate had recovered, and Rhonda begged to turn the pitocin off and try laboring a little longer on her own.  Dr. Case demurred, stating that he felt safer doing the c-section just in case there was a cord wrapped around the baby’s neck.  He didn’t want Rhonda’s baby to have to ride the little school bus someday!

Rhonda reluctantly signed the papers consenting for the c-section.  During the surgery, she begged to be allowed to hold her baby, but was told it was not permitted, just in case she might accidentally touch the sterile surgical drapes.  Rhonda’s baby weighed 8 1/2 pounds, and was given a bottle against her wishes, just in case the baby might have low blood sugar.  Formula was recommended for supplementation, just in case of jaundice developing, and vitamin K just in case the baby might develop a bleeding problem.  Eye drops were given just in case Rhonda’s husband had been fooling around behind her back and given her a sexually transmitted disease.  Pitocin was run through her IV for four hours after delivery, just in case she might bleed too much, and the nurses rubbed her uterus painfully every fifteen minutes just in case it might not be as contracted as they liked. 

Rhonda’s baby was taken to the nursery because his lungs sounded a little wet, and the nurse wanted to keep an eye on him just in case he developed breathing problems.  Rhonda lay in her bed, her arms aching to hold her baby.

And at the end of the day, Dr. Justin Case went home, sat in his recliner, and smiled with satisfaction at the thought of another healthy baby brought safely into the world.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Doctors: Daytime Talk Show Disaster

It makes me furious that un-educated, bias "medical professionals" in the media are able to have such a strong influence over the public. They are obviously completely unaware of the functions and anatomy of the foreskin. So how are they able to give advice about it? This is an excellent critique of the falsehoods spread by "The Doctors" show regarding MGM. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

Jewish Mother on Circumcision

Jewish Father's Letter to His Son

To my dear son Elijah,

I write this letter to explain to you and my family & community why I choose not to perform a circumcision upon you. On your 8th day of life, I choose to have a Brit Shalom ceremony instead of a Brit Milah. The Brit Shalom ceremony is a ceremony acknowledging one's covenant with God without performing the ritual circumcision.

As a Jewish boy I was circumcised according to tradition when I was 8 days old, but not by my choice. I am choosing not to circumcise you my son because after studying this important issue, I can find no compelling reason to do it, and in my heart I will not do it simply because tradition dictates it.

The essence of the bris ceremony to me is that I want to make a covenant with God and you in my heart. The covenant I make with God is to commit myself to a spiritual life, to develop myself as a spiritual being, and that I will walk on this planet with a good heart. I am a Jew and I am proud of who I am. My son, I commit to raising you up as a spiritual being, and as a Jew. I will guide you to develop values of loving kindness. I will encourage you to develop as a spiritual being, and I will teach you about the importance of being considerate and respectful of all living beings. I will also encourage you to be self-reflective, and to explore the deeper meanings and mysteries of life, the hidden truths behind the veil. I believe you have come to this earth with a big mission for healing and touching others through your service.

To fulfill this covenant, I do not need to perform a circumcision and mark you as a sign of this covenant. The covenant stands with or without the sign that by tradition mandates it. The sign is a sign and not the covenant itself.

I intend to give you the opportunity to bar mitzvah when you are 13, and we will celebrate and honor the Shabbat, as well as other sacred Jewish rituals in our lives. We will learn about the power of restriction and extending help to others. We will learn about being a mench.

Let me tell you my reasoning behind making this choice. There are many practices of olden days that were sanctioned by the torah that are no longer permitted today because we are more enlightened, such as: human sacrifice, animal sacrifice, and slavery. Other acts that were punishable by death include fornicating if you are female (yes only the females), homosexuality, and insulting one's parents. These traditions no longer exist.

I suspect something has been misunderstood in the transmission of the circumcision ritual through the ages. I have read that in earlier times, only a sliver of the foreskin was removed. It was not completely cut as common practice until the second century CE. I do not know this for sure, but nothing is known for sure about this. Apparently the earliest versions of the Jewish bible tell the entire story of Abraham except the part about the covenant being sealed with circumcision. That comes later. There is mention that it was done for health reasons. I have heard that when the Jewish people lived in the desert long ago there was not much water, and that created a danger with regards to cleanliness. In this day and age that is not a compelling reason to circumcise you. I have also read that the circumcision is a mark upon us that marks us as different. Today in the United States, circumcision is the norm for all males, Jews and gentiles alike. Today, it is not a mark as a Jew.

I believe that the act of circumcision would be a traumatic event for you my child. I believe that it would form an early record in your body of the trauma and would color and distort your perceptions throughout your life. I have heard it said that the pain is brief and easily recovered from. I don't believe this. I believe the circumcision will be a deep trauma for you, as you are such a highly sensitive being. I believe that you would begin experiencing life through the eyes of the trauma, feeling defended and contracted, moving with fear and distrust. I do believe that experiencing trauma is a part of life, and healing through trauma is a part of how we evolve as a species. I am choosing not to voluntarily offer this trauma to you when you are so young, so vulnerable and so trusting as you form the matrix of your life. I want you to experience life in these early days as trusting and feeling protected and safe. Traumas will come to you later and beyond my control, but I intend this to be after you have already experienced that you can trust your parents not to hurt you on purpose.
I have come into this life charged to question the deeper purpose behind what I do. I will not circumcise you my son only because it is tradition. The reasons that I have been given supporting circumcision do not move me, they do not compel me to perform this ritual. Rather my concern for your well being is much greater.

Modern medical science says that a circumcised male is more healthy than a male with an intact foreskin. Modern medical science also told us the tonsils were not important and took mine out. Now I understand the tonsils to be a very important part of my immune system, that I no longer have. The appendix is still considered a useless organ. I don't believe the creator gave us an appendix without reason. My understanding of today is that the appendix aids in finer digestion of our food. As regards to the foreskin, we have been told that it has no purpose. As I have read about the anatomy and physiology of the foreskin, actually it has many important functions. The foreskin is the most sensitive area of the penis, akin to the clitoris of a woman, and it also functions as a protective lubricating sheath for the penis.

When I examined my own penis once I began studying this issue, I found that the area where I have a scar where the foreskin was, is still the most sensitive area of my penis, yet I know that scar tissue does not have the same sensation capacity as original tissue, nor the elasticity of the original. I have wondered what I would have been like without a circumcision, and I think I would have been better off without it. I want to give you the gift of choice.

Many Jewish people today make choices about which Jewish laws and rituals they will follow or not follow. There is much discussion about these choices that we make- whether we will eat pork or not, will we keep separate dishes for dairy and meat dishes as we should not mix meat and dairy. Shall we keep kosher? Do we observe Shabbat? How closely do we follow the customs of observing all the restriction on certain holidays such as Yom Kippur. Of the many customs that are not adhered to in our times, the one that seems to be sacrosanct and unquestioned is the circumcision. Why is this ritual so primary to the Jewish identity?

I forgo pork, I do not mix meat and cheese, I celebrate and honor Shabbat as a very special holiday each week where we light the candles each week and acknowledge our connection with spirit as a family. I especially revel in the New Year of Rosh Hashanah as a time of inner reflection, and I embrace the restrictions on Yom Kippur and the insights I gain through this process of fasting, forgiving and letting go of the past. At the time of Passover, I am fascinated by the meaning and relevancy of the story as it applies to my life today. I celebrate my spirituality in these ways and share them with my family. I declare that I identify myself proudly as a Jew and yet I am choosing to not circumcise you, my son. I will look into my heart and follow my gut.

A passage I read by Ronald Goldman resonated with me, "A central purpose of Judaism is tikkun olam: repairing the world. Much of the pain in the world is a result of repeating old harmful patterns of behaviors. By breaking a chain of pain, forgoing circumcision contributes to our healing. As we heal from this pain, we will be better able to heal others and reach our ethical and spiritual potential."

So my son, you can choose for yourself to be circumcised when you come of age if it is important to you. I believe the psychological damage and painful trauma done to you at 8 days old would be much worse than anything endured at 13, when it may be done on your own accord, if you so choose.

With love,

your father, Gabriel


Confessions of a Circumcised Man

A textbook image that compares a wounded penis to a whole one.http://www.shands.org/

“This is winter wheat we’re sowing, and other hands will harvest.” Elizabeth Cady Stanton, American Universal Suffrage Leader.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved sunsets and impressionist oil paintings. The subtle interplay of color and light has always struck me as beautiful, even sublime. I couldn’t imagine anything being more lovely.

So much so, that I was dumbstruck to learn at the age of 18 that I was color blind. “It can’t be”, I insisted to the eye doctor. He matter-of-factly explained that I had failed the full Ishihara color-vision test. Out of a series of 38 polka-dotted circles, I could only see the embedded numbers in four of them. There was no doubt. I was color-blind.

My denial was complete. I didn’t believe him. “I can see colors”, I insisted. “My jeans are blue. My shirt is light blue. Your slacks are dark grey”. He tonelessly explained that yes, I could see some colors. But what I saw was not nearly as vivid or as complete as seen by people with “normal color vision.” My color vision was radically muted.

I still didn’t believe him. I showed the test to my sisters. They both passed, easily. 

It took me a while to process this discovery and accept that I was one among the 20% of men who are color-blind because of a genetic defect. It was nobody’s fault. Nothing to be embarrassed about. Just bad luck.

But this discovery and my experience with overcoming denial enabled me to finally confront something else. I was able to confront another area where my perception of the world is significantly diminished. This area is diminished in a way that I never imagined possible. It is another place where my perception of the world is not nearly as vivid or as complete as “normal people.” 

The area I’m talking about is my sexual perception – my physical appreciation of normal sexual contact. My sexual perception is radically muted, too. But this time, it is not a blameless, unlucky genetic defect. This was done to me by other people. My sexual perception was taken from me. 

It was taken intentionally. It was taken by doctors. It was taken without my knowledge or consent. It was taken when I was a defenseless baby. And, perhaps most shockingly, it was taken with my parents’ approval.

This time the denial was harder to overcome. This time the denial didn’t just protect my self-image of being fully “normal.” This time the denial protected me from knowing that the people who I have trusted the most, who I loved the most – had betrayed me. The denial guarded me from fully knowing and feeling the painful discovery that I had been hurt badly, and forever, in the most intimate and personal part of my life. I was permanently sexually maimed. Intentionally. By the people who claim to love me the most – my parents.

This has been a very hard path of self-discovery to follow.

But, in confronting all of the feelings that were waiting for me behind my curtain of denial, I found more than just pain and anger and depression. They were there, certainly, in large amounts. But, I also found understanding and personal growth and some hope.

I understand now why I sometimes have difficulty maintaining an erection or achieving orgasm. This isn’t a shameful failure of my masculinity. This isn’t evidence of my physical and emotional disinterest in a sexual partner. This isn’t proof of my shortcomings as a man. I’ve learned that this is proof of the operation’s success. Erectile dysfunction and diminished sexual pleasure are THE desired surgical outcomes of circumcision. My operation was a success!

Many people believe that sex is wrong. They believe masturbation and recreational sex are immoral. Sometimes these beliefs are religiously motivated, sometimes not. Genital cutting is the intervention that directly addresses the evil of human sexuality. Medical textbooks used to be very specific about the effectiveness of male and female circumcision in preventing masturbation. That is what genital cutting is designed to achieve – undermining human sexuality by dramatically reducing sexual pleasure. I understand that now. I also understand that this intention was never explained to my parents.

I understand now that my radically muted sexual sensations aren’t the result of a botched, or extraordinarily aggressive, circumcision. They are greatly dulled because my circumcision went the way it was supposed to. I am more numb than a normal man, an intact man. The most sensitive parts of my penis are gone. The “lips” of my prepuce were taken. My Ridged Band was taken. My Frenulum was taken. My Outer Foreskin was taken. And lastly, my Glans and Inner Foreskin are desensitized from constant chaffing from contact with the outside world. I also understand that these exquisitely sensitive parts of my anatomy and their functions were never explained to my parents.

Effectively, the “eyes and ears” of my system of sexual perception are gone. I can still have sex and I can still conceive a child, but most of the fun and much of the frequency are gone. I know about the reduced frequency from my experience with failed efforts – and fear of failed efforts. The loss of pleasure, the fun, is something I can only try to understand about by reading. 

But, I know about numbness and loss. The memories of being unable to maintain an erection with women who I loved, who I was deeply attracted to both physically and emotionally, are still very sharp. So too, are the memories of my feelings of inadequacy and their feelings of being undesirable to me. As are the memories of those relationships drifting apart and inexplicably ending. Now, I understand why. I also understand that these predictable results of my circumcision were never explained to my parents.

I know about numbness and disease. I was taught about safe sex and I understand how important it is. But I also know that when I’ve tried to use condoms, I become totally numb. For me, condoms equal abstinence. With a condom, I am rarely able to maintain an erection and I’m never able to achieve orgasm. I understand why that is now. But faced with the choice of unsafe intercourse or no intercourse, I chose to be unsafe. And I paid the price. Circumcision isn’t the only thing that lasts forever. Some diseases last forever. So too, do the memories and anguish of an unwanted pregnancy. I’ll carry both of these for the rest of my life. Now I understand why. I also understand that my parents never knew that circumcision would put me in a situation where I’d need to take those risks in order to share intimacy with a loved one.

I’ve undergone a lot of personal growth throughout this process of dealing with my circumcision. I’ve researched about my body – what I was born with and how it functions. I’ve researched about how the medical community has deceived generations of parents about the practice of circumcision. I’ve researched about the difficulty of overcoming denial and breaking the cycle of ritual abuse that can exist within families. And I’ve researched the changing trends in choices that families are making for their sons – and this gives me hope.

Hope isn’t a word that easily comes into my heart and mind when I think about genital cutting. I am a survivor of an abusive sexual assault that I don’t remember…but can never forget. I will never know what sex is supposed to be like for a man. I will never look in the mirror and see a complete male form. But, I have learned that I can forgive my parents for letting strangers hurt me so badly. I have learned that I can love them still, in spite of my pain and anger. And that gives me hope.I have hope because I know that I can love and forgive. I can love and forgive because my parents were misled and they didn’t know any better. They had no easy access to research through the internet. They heard no voices of child advocacy pleading on my behalf. They had no reassurance from a large and growing group of parents who were challenging and rejecting the horrifying violation of routine infant genital mutilation. 

My parents weren’t unwilling to learn – unwilling to protect me. They were deceived. And I forgive them.

I have hope because I can channel my negative feelings of betrayal, anger, pain and depression into something positive. I can advocate protecting the newborns of today who will become a generation of men tomorrow. I can help in a small way to educate today’s parents and be the voice for them that I wish was available to my parents. I can help break the cycle of violence against baby boys in the same way that it has been broken for baby girls.

Hope won’t return to me what was taken so long ago. But if I can help even a few parents choose to courageously challenge their doctors and their families in defense of their sons, it will be worth enduring all of the pain that I found hiding behind my own curtain of denial.

A million baby boys a year are crying out for someone to help them. I cannot remain silent. I cannot collude through inaction. I must try to do my part to help them however I can. Please join me in this effort. Our generation can protect the next generation.

“This is winter wheat we’re sowing, other hands will harvest.” ~ ECS

In deep and sincere solidarity with my newborn brothers,