Tuesday, April 14, 2009

My Fight for the Foreskin

When writing a blog about any controversial topic, in this case circumcision, here are the steps:
  1. Write a well thought-out, intelligent argument.
  2. Post blog.
  3. Open can of worms.
  4. Dump on your head.

There was a joke when I was pregnant that I loved talking about baby boy penises (penii?). Namely, my unborn son's penis.
This was the biggest [rational] argument that Mark and I ever had: to snip or not to snip?

On each side, we had our reasons. Even good ones, at that. Mark started finding reasons to circumcise online, but I found many, many studies refuting those reasons.
  • Penile cancer is rare, and mostly only found in the elderly. Rarer than breast cancer in men, actually.
  • Urinary tract infections, while slightly more common in intact boys, is not common overall for males. It's much more common in girls, and we Westerners certainly don't krunk up infant girls' bodies over it.
  • Phimosis, or a foreskin that doesn't retract, is also quite rare and can be treated with a topical steroid cream. Or by the boy "massaging" the area as he grows up. What boy doesn't do that?!
  • The STD studies go back and forth on this. Though I will say that most of them in the past have been done in Africa, where HIV is more prevalent than the U.S., and some studies compare circumcised men (generally practicing Muslims) with intact men (the non-religious). I'd say religion might play a part in those men's behavior, wouldn't you? A recent study suggests that it's the number of prostitutes in a population that better determines the rate of HIV.
In most cases, the "problem" with leaving intact is so rare that it simply does not warrant genital mutilation at birth. Or as one anti-circ Web site calls it,
Circumcision is a solution in search of a problem.

But circumcision can be a touchy subject for men, and Mark was no exception. When upset about it, he even wondered,
What, you don't like the way I look?!

Ahh. To question the benefits of cutting off part of an infant boy's body is a reflection of how I feel about your virility. Got it. Plus Mark? You're mom is certifiably crazy. I won't base any choices for my boys on what she chose for her sons.

Needless to say, the "discussion" was quite heated and went on for weeks.

While I was despairing that this still wouldn't be settled by the time Elijah was born, friends offered advice.
One told me to look into the plastic, non-surgical method of circumcision. Apparently there's a device that looks like one of those dog funnels, and you put it around the penis head (so it doesn't lick itself?!) and eventually the foreskin falls off. I'm not even sure if that's true. Too freakin' weird, and that doesn't solve me wanting my son to keep his foreskin.
Another had this creative advice, which worked on her husband:
Tell him that he can do it two weeks after the baby is born. That you don't want it done after going through the feat of childbirth, but if it's that important to him, he finds the doctors, he pays for it out of pocket, and he takes care of it after the surgery. That's how my son is still intact!

Mark didn't fall for it: "If I'm responsible for everything, of course it's not gonna happen. I'm not stupid, Cate." Oh well. Nice try. Damn! And to think I loved you for your intelligence.

I wish I could tell you that my counterarguments and clear, rational points were how Elijah is still intact today. Not so.

A couple things happened.

First, Mark found out that his best friend since age 8 is intact. I gave the ol', "Seems you don't all stand around, checking each other out, eh?"
The other was that he found out that someone close to him has a son with a botched circ: there's still a bit of the foreskin left on there, and Mark's friend is not sure that if he had the chance to do it all over again for his son, that he'd choose circumcision.

Mark was bending, but still not on board. The doctors didn't help. All the idiots--er, doctors--at the OB office (bitter much, Cate?) were hands-off. Blah, blah, blah, "It's your own decision. Yes we perform it. No we can't medically recommend it." Our ultrasound doc, who we'd been seeing for weeks for non-penis-related issues, was someone Mark trusted. "He'll trump Cate's arguments," he thought. Sorry, bud. That doctor was anti-circ. Very clearly, he gave a firm, "No!" as to whether we should snip the boy. He even chuckled when I joked about chopping off the baby toe or giving the baby an appendectomy, as those body parts are also "not needed" and "possibly problematic."

Finally, I needed to break my stubborn man. I couldn't chance an argument while pushing Elijah out. I did what any rational, reasonable woman would do: I pulled crazy mama bear on him.
If you insist on mutilating our son right when he is born, I cannot have you present at the birth. I will not be able to labor properly if I worry the whole time about his well-being right after he is born.

Yikes. I know...pretty crazy! But it worked. Mark grudgingly gave in. While he doesn't regret not circumcising, it is still a touchy subject between us.

I bring all of this up because in February, I wrote 3 blogs for Eco Child's Play on circumcision. One was "recycled" and edited: "Put Down the Knife! 11 Reasons Not to Circumcise." (That post has since been re-posted in two other venues. Yay!) The second was, "Caring for the Intact Penis," because of the argument that "boys don't bath, and you must keep the foreskin clean." The third was where I rounded out the series with some humor and posted a video I'd previously blogged about on Nature's Child: Penn & Teller's take on circumcision from their "Bullshit!" show. It debunks a bunch of circumcision myths, yes, but with gratuitous phallic images and penis jokes. Hilarious.

But the pro-circ people still weren't biting. This is what I've realized from the discussions in the blogs' comments sections: If you are not complacent about circumcision, you are passionate about it one way or the other. There's little room to argue. Though the commentators certainly did!
And I thought, foolishly perhaps, that my "11 Reasons" might help some people look further into the matter and make a better choice for their sons. (Yeah, Cate. You couldn't even convince Mark without making crazy threat, and you think you'll convince complete strangers?!)
I kept it pretty simple, pretty basic, and was called "ignorant" by one poster for even arguing against the certain silly reasons people give for it, like "I want him to look like me," or "He'll be a freak in the locker room." Are those credible reasons for what could be considered a form of genital mutilation? No! Are they some of the most common layman's reasoning you'll hear? Hell, yeah.

Luckily, there are Intactivists. I think it is pretty creatively hilarious that these men (usually) call themselves this. And boy, if anyone can argue the point, it's them. I had approximately 4 or 5 come down hard on all the ignorant posters. They moved between the 3 blog comments' sections debunking every myth and sorry study that got in their way. They were articulate, educated, and most importantly, civil.
So I write this blog to officially thank them. Thanks, guys, for stepping in and educating the masses where I failed to do so. I can't speak personally about foreskin removal or regeneration, so thanks for sharing your experiences and knowledge.

My knights in shining armor. That is, flesh-colored armor.

Images: The first is via Jen from Cake Wrecks, who e-mailed me this cake after I linked to her blog in one of my circumcision blogs. And who said that cakes and circumcision don't go together?
The second is what Lucian recently drew on his wall. Those boys...they love their fire hoses!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Poetry Pick of the Day: Objets D'Art

April is National Poetry Month, so I'll be posting some of my favorite poems over the next few weeks. I used to send this poem to my chick friends, especially after a breakup.
This one has a dual purpose. I actually wanted to link to it from the Nature's Child blog, but I couldn't find it online. I found others by the author online, but it's puzzling: this one was nowhere to be found.

Objets D'Art by Cynthia Macdonald

When I was seventeen, a man in the Dakar Station
Men's Room (I couldn't read the signs) said to me:
You're a real ball cutter. I thought about that
For months and finally decided
He was right. Once I knew that was my thing,
Or whatever we would have said in those days,
I began to perfect my methods. Until then
I had never thought of trophies. Preservation
Was at first a problem: pickling worked
But was a lot of trouble. Freezing
Proved to be the answer. I had to buy
A second freezer just last year; the first
Was filled with rows and rows of
Pink and purple lumps encased in Saran wrap.

I have more business than I can handle,
But only volunteers. It is an art like hypnosis
Which cannot be imposed on the unwilling victim.
If you desire further information about the process and
The benefits, please drop in any night from nine to twelve.
My place is east of Third on Fifty-sixth.
You'll know it by the three gold ones over the door.

Wait a second. I guess it's not so puzzling I couldn't easily find that. But shouldn't it be on the NOW site page or something? The Ani Difranco Web site? The badass sassy feminist page? Oh, wait...now it is.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Customer Service in a Web World

Recently I bought a few pendants from an Etsy seller. I loved them. One was a barn owl, another some purty wildflowers, and the third was a vintage encyclopedia-looking octopus.
But the octopus was too dark in color for the recipient. Then my beloved barn owl broke because I made the mistake of wearing it in the shower.

I sent a very sweet (yep, from me) e-mail to the seller:

Hi there,
I purchased 3 lovely pendants from you about 2 months ago. One has broken (because I wore it in the shower, thinking I was wearing a diff necklace). I understand if you're not willing to replace it b/c of my mistake. I just recently gave the octopus as a gift, and the recipient thought it was too dark in color. I was wondering if I might replace that one? I of course would love to replace both that and the broken one, butI understand if that is not possible.
Cate Nelson

To which I received this puzzling reply:

Dear Catherine,
If you had received the wrong pendant or the pendant was broken when it arrived to you I would have replaced your pendants - but due to the pendant being worn into the water - and it is stated in my shop they are not waterproof - and because your friend does not care for something you give as a gift - I am unable to replace pendants.

Wait, what? When I received the package in the first place, this seller asked that I contact her directly with any problems before leaving seller feedback. That's what I did, right? I followed directions and used kind words! Why wasn't I getting my way?! (I'm sure Lucian would be just as puzzled as I was.)

I wasn't looking for a freebie, just an exchange for the octopus. I would even ship it back with my own money; no prob, Bob.
Next step? I left seller feedback. Nothing nasty, though I have a special "flair" for words when I'm upset. (Ask Mark.) I simply checked the "Negative" box and said, "Seller would not allow me to exchange this after recipient said it was too dark."

You'd think in this day and age, people--especially those who provide a service--would be wary of pissing customers off. All it takes, then, is a blog or a Tweet or a FB status change, and bad publicity spreads by word of type.
And when companies mess with me, I fear they should watch out. Last time HughesNet screwed up my service, I joined a class action lawsuit against them in a few clicks of the mouse. It's a different world than it used to be, folks.

Almost immediately, the seller received my less-than-stellar review and shot me this e-mail after having refunded my entire purchase through PayPal:

Dear Cate,
I have sent you a full refund in the amount of $18.25 Please email me with the name of the pendant that needs to be replaced and which pendant do you want for a replacement of "vintage octopus"? You do not need to return any of the pendants but I would really appreciate it if you would please click on the links I sent to you via Etsy called 'kiss & makeup" which allows you to have a change of heart and change your feedback from what you left for me to positive. I hope you will find it in your heart to do so.

Well! Certainly wasn't expecting a bunch of freebies! And wouldn't want it; this is a crafter who makes her own wares.
We did kiss and make up. But it was the initial slobbering that left me wondering about the entire experience.

I heart Etsy. It's a great way for those with WAY more talent than I to hock their wares and make some cash. Heck, if my wonderful sister Amy will hop on and post new pics, I'm sure she'll rock that site out.

But whether it's handmade or mass produced, don't service providers know this is the brave new world of social networking?

Image: dramafreezone on Flickr.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

My Murderous Cat and My Curious Kid

Today, we took advantage of the break in the rain and took a walk. Luc wanted to go on an adventure, where we tear through the brambles in an old cow pasture, over streams and tripping over quartz boulders. But we had our gigantic puppy Bear with us, so we settled for meandering down our country road. As always, the ol' rottie Shindu and one of the cats, Fish, tagged along.

There we were: baby Elijah in the BabyHawk, Bear on the leash, Shindu and Lucian leading the way, Fish trailing behind meowing. The ragtag mess of us.

We went for a detour in an empty field along the way. Short grass, path along the forest. Seemed safe enough.
And it was. As long as you weren't a bird.

Suddenly, the chubby little knocked-up cat shot past us and into the bordering field. Amazing she could get past the barbed wire without even slowing. Or without going into early labor. (Please don't lecture me on getting her fixed. I know, I know! We've lamented our idiocy with many a great big "D'Oh!"s. "She's too young" my foot!)

So the pleased pregnant kitty caught a bird. A young blue jay, from the looks of it. Hard to say since most of what I saw was belly feathers and twitching legs.

And then? Then Lucian and I looked on in a weird combination of horror and silent interest as she...ate it? Nope. She knocked the thing around a few more times, then left it to saunter back to us and the dogs.

Thanks, cat, for giving me such a lovely, special moment.
Mama? Why Fish killed that bird? Why Fish didn't eat it? Why did its legs shake like that?

Yeah. The leg twitching thing was that disturbing.
I tried to explain that cats eat birds and mice. And that we're happy when we find little rodent corpses scattered across our front sidewalk. That we don't want mice in our house or moles in our yard.
But that killing thing? Without eating the prize? Yep, I let the cat annoy me. I didn't want to have existential discussions with my 3-year-old today. Like: is it right to kill for sport? But such is life.

It made me step back and make a decision. That's where I returned to that vegetarian girl from years past.
Bean soup it is!

4 Hours of Play in 2:39 Minutes. V. Cool.

Need a baby smile to lift you out of the rainy-day doldrums?

As someone else pointed out, notice how rolly-polly this "crawler" is? Love that.
And yes, sometimes my little Elijah moves at this rate in real time. Def. Daddy's boy.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Wordy Wednesday

In the spirit of many bloggers who go for the "Wordless Wednesday" theme, I'm going Wordy. I know, I know: isn't that always true of your dear ol' Cate?! I mean, if not, how could I use that tagline?

Well, I'm sharing Lucian's wordiness. Elijah is working on his own style of sassy stubbornness, but isn't too mouthy just yet.

I'm tucking Lucian in to bed, and I turn to leave. In retrospect, I'm sure this comment came about because it was all that was at his eye level.
Mama, when I grow up, I'm going to knock you down with my big pompa.

Yes. If you know me at all, you'd understand that my son couldn't help but notice and comment on my ample backside.
oy vey.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Breastfeeding Freaks...The REAL problem with breastfeeding in public!

If you've followed my other blogs, you may have noticed that I've focused on breastfeeding lately. Or more specifically, breastfeeding in public.

Rhode Island just changed its breastfeeding law. Previously, women were spared from being charged with public indecency. Now they have the legal right to BF in public and the right to sue an establishment if it infringes on those rights. Righteous.

Then a woman turned the BFing in public thing on its head by breastfeeding while driving. Nope, not kidding. And the frustrating thing? I mean, beside putting her child's life at risk? The lil girl was an extended breastfeeder. No prob with that, but what I'm saying is that the mom could have handed her a piece of fruit if she was hungry, not put her life in danger. She's a regular walking, talking tot.

My biggest irritation with this story, though, came after I wrote it.

In these BFing blogs, I mentioned a couple of recent incidents where women were asked to leave restaurants (if you can call either Denny's or McDonald's "food") for breastfeeding their children. The fact that these were in Southern states made me muse: Should the North carpetbag good breastfeeding manners?

Apparently it can't. And leave it to good ol' Facebook to remind me.

There I was, screwing around instead of working, and some guy instant messages me. Let me tell you about this "gentleman". We're from the same small town in the 'burbs of Chicago, which for FB translates to "friends." I can't remember talking to him, like, ever. He was kind of a dork, and not in the cool, "I listen to too much NPR" kind of way (yeah...keep telling yourself that you're cool, Cate).
Hmm. Seems more pathological than dorky after this "conversation." I put in bold some of the nastiest stuff.

Our IM correspondence:
So do you breast feed in public?
yeah. Pretty much anywhere. But I have shirts and tanks to hide most of me.
Good story!
the chick who did it while driving?
So you just don't get naked and feed your baby while driving??
That was crazy! How do you do that and drive and talk on the phone?
not so much. He always tries to take the wheel, and then we fight over it, and then my 3yo tries to get into the fun (a poor attempt at a joke, I know)
I know! Plus, the girl is between 1 and 2 years old, so she could have simply been handed a snack, or the cell phone to play with!
LOL, the 3 yr old tries to drive or suck on the other boob?
neither. I lock em both up tight. The furthest they've gone w/o buckling is up the driveway
I guess there is a better time and place to feed your baby! Like pull over and feed it.
That's what I said!
And if you have another adult in the car and it's a desperate situation, climb over the seat and put yourself in danger, not the kid!
Thats good, child safety should come first
It seriously makes breastfeeders look like fanatics
Yes, it does
Plus, she has other kids, so it's not like it's the 1st time, I'm sure
Just like the ones that whip it out when out to dinner and feed the baby
Some people never learn what they do makes others look bad
A child has to eat though. I'd breastfeed at a pizza place or something, but generally no one knows. Like I said, I've got clothes that hide it.
I don't like the idea of "going in the bathroom" because I don't even like to USE a public bathroom, much less feed my baby there
And that was mostly when he was a little guy. Now he's old enough to eat his own food
But do you whip out your big DD boobs for everyone to see and then say your going to feed the baby?
No ones knows, like I said. Most women I know don't take the whole breast out!
Maybe at home?
Or would you have you two or three year old hang off your boob while everyone watched?
No, but most of the people I know who do extended BF, they only do it at night.
If you leave them hang out there it is like a dog feeding your puppies!
My son is almost one, and we'll probably stop in a few months.
I just don't know anyone who does leave them out. Really, they just feed their baby and tuck em back, even in the company of friends.
When he gets older he will go back to breast feeding again!
Thats the right way to do it, I think feed and put them away or less you have a few to feed like that lady who just had eight kids!
YOu have cute kids by the way!

Repeat after me: breast milk is food. Breasts bring that food to babies (whether they're DDs or not!). Babies need to eat. And sometimes, they need to eat in public. And that's okay. They should be allowed to.
Because I'll be damned if I have to hide out in a stinky bathroom to feed my child. I'll be in there when people with poor table manners eat in the bathroom. Because I find that offensive.

You know, just when I think that BFing is pretty widely accepted and BFing in public isn't too big a deal, I get this weirdo.

Yeah, the guy left me speechless. Yeah, the guy offended even me. Yeah, the guy made me wonder if creepy men are trying to get a peek when I feed Elijah in public.
Yeah, I'm deleting him from my FB friends. Right after I post this so he knows what the sane, normal world thinks of his vulgarity.

And yeah, ladies, I checked. He's married. Sorry to break your hearts!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Friday's Parting Thoughts

I thought I'd end the week with a thought, or in this case, the lack thereof.

Looks like these two were a couple of those who got "left behind." If there are arrows painted, maybe they'll find directions to someplace that can help.

That's it. I'm opting for private school.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Big Butts for Good Health, say experts

Stop laughing at me, ladies. I love my big butt. I'm sorry, but it's true.
And new research shows now, my big butt loves me, too.
Harvard researchers say that having some curves could be good for health. Said one, Dr. Ronald Kahn,
I think it's an important result because not only does it say that not all fat is bad, but I think it points to a special aspect of fat where we need to do more research.

They played with mice fat to see the results on diseases. Not all fat has negative effects, they said. They found that butt fat releases hormones that may protect against Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
People with the apple shape, where fat is stored around the tummy, can be more prone to type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Those with pear-shaped bodies, where fat is collected in the buttocks, are less likely to have these disorders.
So what's that following me around? Good health.