Culture Corner plus BONUS STUFF!!

I thought that for sure that as soon as my semester ended, and I was able to let out the breath that I had been holding in since finals week started, that I’d be able to simply sit down and write. Foolish, I know. Plans usually have a way of staying just that-plans. Reality tends to sneak up on plans and knock them upside the head.

Intensity coupled with an overwhelming need to be perfect dominated my last two weeks of school. (I can hear all my psychologist friends, and my family therapist friends scrambling about for their notebooks, and a pen they can click incessantly as they ask things like, “Tell me about your childhood?” or “Why do you feel you have to be perfect?”) The truth is, I stress out really easily. The second I feel as if that rug is being pulled out from under my feet, I panic. I like knowing what to expect, so I can anticipate my next move. Things like not knowing what’s going to be on a test, or not understanding every aspect of a concept is enough to make me implode. I got through that difficult season, seven pounds lighter, with all A’s, and with a wee bit more confidence in myself.

Shortly after the chaos of a semester ending, we jumped right into the Christmas season.

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We did all the normal holiday stuff: We made cookies.

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We did arts and crafts.

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We participated in a Christmas Cantata again, where I was dubbed the “audio engineer” for being the AV nerd. (My dad had to complete how many years at MIT to be an engineer again….?)

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We performed the cantata at the nursing home my grandmother passed away at too. I literally cried on one of the resident’s (the lady in the front middle wearing blue) shoulders as we talked about my grammy. She was just so…wonderful.

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We chased cows out of the road.

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Rowan cut his foot and had to be bandaged up for a while.

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We played games, we shoveled snow, we built with Legos, and we shaved.

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A couple of days ago I went and picked up my niece so she could spend Christmas with us, something I’ve been doing for years now. In an effort to save time, here’s a photo recap of our visit so far…my children are delightfully crazy!

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Also, there’s this guy ❤ <3:

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November 15th, 2013

In the grand scheme of things learning to ride a two-wheeler isn’t that big of a deal.  There’s learning to drive, graduating from high school, getting married, or having your first baby.  Twenty years from now Rowan is barely going to remember this day, or the moments littered throughout it.  He won’t remember that for two hours he struggled up and down the hill in the parking lot, dirt and tears of frustration streaming down his face, but never once quitting.  He’s not going to remember how he felt when he screamed, “LET GO!” only to realize that I already had, and he had soared down that hill on his own.  He’s not going to remember how he fell, and scraped his knee.  He won’t recall how he sulked off to the side of the road, stomped his foot in indignation-sure that it was his bike that was at fault.  He won’t recall how his mom stifled a laugh when he beamed, “I did it!  I perseveranced and I did it!!  He won’t understand how his mom’s chest nearly burst with the amount of pride she felt at literally letting her son go and watching him hold himself up, all by himself.  He won’t know how tiny and how big she thought he looked at the same time.   He probably won’t remember any of these things…but I will.

I took the whole baby home

Let me just start this off by saying this post is not a form of judgement on any parent or person that has different opinions than me.  It’s your child, your family, and your life.  Circumcising your son does NOT make you a bad parent or person.  I have lots of parent friends that have circumcised, and I love them, and look up to them, and value them.  These are my opinions, and just like you’re allowed to have yours, I’m allowed to have mine.  I just want to make that clear.

Also, I should point out that I use a lot of technical terms here.  There is some talk about sex as well.  I don’t believe in saying, “pee-pee” or “wee-wee” or anything of that sort.  My son has a penis and he has foreskin.  You don’t like it, don’t read it.

Until I found out that Rowan was a boy, I was CONVINCED that I was having a girl, so I didn’t really think about circumcision.  After learning that I was in fact having a boy, I still didn’t think about it.  I picked out a name, and a crib, and clothes, and carseat, and chose the diapers I would use, and got all the breastfeeding supplies I would need.  Then somewhere about 2/3 of the way through my pregnancy I was asked the million dollar question: “Are you going to circumcise your son?”  I didn’t have an answer, so I sort of stumbled through a lame explanation of, “I haven’t really decided, no, I don’t know.”

I talked it over with my partner at the time(who is a doctor) and I heard fact after fact on the subject.  I got a first hand recount of the actual physical process of cutting off the foreskin, and the pros and cons.  (Honestly, I don’t think there are many pros, if any.)   I did a little reading on it, but it didn’t take me long to decide that in no way did I want my child to have to go through unnecessary pain for a medical procedure the is not recommended by any medical organization in the world!  It also came down to the fact that it’s not my penis.  If my son decides to have himself circumcised as an adult, I will fully support that.

Here is a clip of an actual circumcision.  WARNING it is VERY graphic and difficult to watch!!!

When word of my choice got out, I had some defending of my decision to do.  I grew up in a Christian home, surrounded by Christian friends and family, so they wanted to know why I chose not to do something that was always done.  Yes, in the Old Testament, it does call for all Jewish boys that are eight days old to have their foreskin removed.

When God established mandatory circumcision to the Jews, the meaning was to show first-obedience, second-the blood was a sign of the covenant made between God and His people. It is the same reason why people would sacrifice animals. The blood was a sign of that alliance.

When all that blood was being shed and people still wouldn’t repent and change, God sent His Son to die on the cross and in so making the ultimate sacrifice. No more blood was necessary because by the blood of Jesus we all can be saved.

So in order to be saved today, God doesn’t want your blood, all you have to do is accept the blood of Christ as a price for your sins.

Romans 2:25-29 says:

For indeed circumcision is of value if you practice the Law; but if you are a transgressor of the Law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision.  So if the uncircumcised man keeps the requirements of the Law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision?   And he who is physically uncircumcised, if he keeps the Law, will he not judge you who though having the letter of the Law and circumcision are a transgressor of the Law?   For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh .   But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men , but from God .

Okay, pick your jaws up off the floor, I read the Bible, get over it.

Oh, one more verse:

1 Corinthians 12:18

“But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. ”

So, see?  We aren’t called to circumcise.  My son is not going to be rejected from heaven because of his foreskin.   That issue is solved.

Then there are the physical issues surrounding circumcision.  Cleanliness is a big one.  The excuse that “A circumcised penis is easier to clean than an uncircumcised one” is really quite funny to me.  Well, yeah, I guess teaching my child to pull back a fold of skin and rinse under it every time he showers IS slightly harder than saying, “wash your penis” every time he bathes.  Really, it’s no different from washing any other body part.  You have to pull your ears forward to wash behind them.  Should we cute those off too?  Some claim there will be an odor if a penis isn’t cut.  Um, yeah.  There’s an odor with a cut penis as well.  Washing daily will eliminate this problem.  Study results are mixed over whether circumcising will reduce the risk of disease or infection.  In the case that it WOULD lessen the risk, the disease itself was so rare, that circumcising 10,000 babies to MAYBE lessen the risk of cancer in one man doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense.

Another issue is the cosmetic one.  My mom was concerned that by preschool my son would notice that he looks different from all the other boys.  For one, the circumcision rate is declining every year.  More boys are staying in tact than aren’t, so really by the time Rowan goes to school (IF he goes to school-I’m leaning towards homeschooling, but that’s a whole different post.), he’ll be in the majority, not the minority.  For another thing, he’s going to look different anyway.  He’ll be teased for something at one point in his life or another.  In the grand scheme of things, this will probably be a very minor difference.

Let’s not forget that the foreskin is there for a reason.  Several reasons, actually!

The foreskin has numerous protective, sensory, and sexual functions.

  • Protection: Just as the eyelids protect the eyes, the foreskin protects the glans and keeps its surface soft, moist, and sensitive. It also maintains optimal warmth, pH balance, and cleanliness. The glans itself contains no sebaceous glands-glands that produce the sebum, or oil, that moisturizes our skin.1 The foreskin produces the sebum that maintains proper health of the surface of the glans.
  • Immunological Defense: The mucous membranes that line all body orifices are the body’s first line of immunological defense. Glands in the foreskin produce antibacterial and antiviral proteins such as lysozyme.2 Lysozyme is also found in tears and mother’s milk. Specialized epithelial Langerhans cells, an immune system component, abound in the foreskin’s outer surface.3 Plasma cells in the foreskin’s mucosal lining secrete immunoglobulins, antibodies that defend against infection.4
  • Erogenous Sensitivity: The foreskin is as sensitive as the fingertips or the lips of the mouth. It contains a richer variety and greater concentration of specialized nerve receptors than any other part of the penis.5 These specialized nerve endings can discern motion, subtle changes in temperature, and fine gradations of texture.5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13
  • Coverage During Erection: As it becomes erect, the penile shaft becomes thicker and longer. The double-layered foreskin provides the skin necessary to accommodate the expanded organ and to allow the penile skin to glide freely, smoothly, and pleasurably over the shaft and glans.
  • Self-Stimulating Sexual Functions: The foreskin’s double-layered sheath enables the penile shaft skin to glide back and forth over the penile shaft. The foreskin can normally be slipped all the way, or almost all the way, back to the base of the penis, and also slipped forward beyond the glans. This wide range of motion is the mechanism by which the penis and the orgasmic triggers in the foreskin, frenulum, and glans are stimulated.
  • Sexual Functions in Intercourse: One of the foreskin’s functions is to facilitate smooth, gentle movement between the mucosal surfaces of the two partners during intercourse. The foreskin enables the penis to slip in and out of the vagina nonabrasively inside its own slick sheath of self-lubricating, movable skin. The female is thus stimulated by moving pressure rather than by friction only, as when the male’s foreskin is missing.{www.noharmm.org}

After my son was born, people continued to ask me about my decision to not circumcise.  I half- joked that I “wanted to take the WHOLE baby home.”  At the time there was an ad campaign going on in Albuquerque(where my son was born) that stated just that.  Now there is a web site too.  I could go on for forever on this topic, instead I’ll point you to the site that states it so much more eloquently than I ever could. It’s also under “Sites I love” in the sidebar of my home page.

http://www.wholebabyrevolution.com/default.html

When a friend heard I was going to approach this topic on my blog, he said something to the tune of: It’s ridiculous for you to write about foreskin, it’s like me writing about a clitoris.

Now, I like this person, and think he’s a good guy, but I was totally taken aback by that.  What a naive thing to say.  If circumcising girls was a culturally accepted practice, and it was something that he would seriously have to consider and think about, then he would make it his business to learn the facts behind his daughter’s clitoris.  This whole topic has NOTHING to do with me having a penis or not.  That fact is irrelevant.  I write about this because it’s important to me.  Call me an activist, extremist, whatever you want.  As a parent of a little boy, this is stuff I have to think about, deal with, and speak out on.  If I don’t advocate for my son while he’s too young to do it for himself, no one will.   I also write this in hopes that maybe someone who is struggling with the choice to circumcise or not, will read this and think twice.

I look at it this way.  Circumcising your son is body modification.  It’s not a medically necessary procedure.   You wouldn’t give your newborn a tattoo, would you?  It would be painful, dangerous, and serve no real purpose, other than to change the way his body looked.

I’m sure this is going to anger some people, some people will be able to relate, and some will try to contradict everything here.  That’s okay by me.  I stand firmly for what I believe to be right.

References:

1. A. B. Hyman and M. H. Brownstein, “Tyson’s ‘Glands’: Ectopic Sebaceous Glands and Papillomatosis Penis,” Archives of Dermatology 99 (1969): 31-37.

2. A. Ahmed and A. W. Jones, “Apocrine Cystadenoma: A Report of Two Cases Occurring on the Prepuce,” British Journal of Dermatology 81 (1969): 899-901.

3. G. N. Weiss et al., “The Distribution and Density of Langerhans Cells in the Human Prepuce: Site of a Diminished Immune Response?” Israel Journal of Medical Sciences 29 (1993): 42-43.

4. P. J. Flower et al., “An Immunopathologic Study of the Bovine Prepuce,” Veterinary Pathology 20 (1983):189-202.

5. Z. Halata and B. L. Munger, “The Neuroanatomical Basis for the Protopathic Sensibility of the Human Glans Penis,” Brain Research 371 (1986): 205-230

6. Blue_ArrowD096.gif (140 bytes)J. R. Taylor et al., “The Prepuce: Specialized Mucosa of the Penis and Its Loss to Circumcision. British Journal of Urology 77 (1996): 291-295.

7. Blue_ArrowD096.gif (140 bytes)H. C. Bazett et al., “Depth, Distribution and Probable Identification in the Prepuce of Sensory End-Organs Concerned in Sensations of Temperature and Touch; Thermometric Conductivity,” Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry 27 (1932): 489-517.

8. D. Ohmori, “Über die Entwicklung der Innervation der Genitalapparate als Peripheren Aufnahmeapparat der Genitalen Reflexe,” Zeitschrift für Anatomie und Entwicklungsgeschichte 70 (1924): 347-410.

9. A. De Girolamo and A. Cecio, “Contributo alla Conoscenza dell’innervazione Sensitiva del Prepuzio Nell’uomo,” Bollettino della Societa Italiana de Biologia Sperimentale 44 (1968): 1521-1522.

10. A. S. Dogiel, “Die Nervenendigungen in der Haut der äusseren Genitalorgane des Menschen,” Archiv für Mikroskopische Anatomie 41 (1893): 585-612.

11. A. Bourlond and R. K. Winkelmann, “L’innervation du Prépuce chez le Nouveau-né,” Archives Belges de Dermatologie et de Syphiligraphie 21 (1965): 139-153.

12. Blue_ArrowD096.gif (140 bytes)R. K. Winkelmann, “The Erogenous Zones: Their Nerve Supply and Its Significance,” Proceedings of the Staff Meetings of the Mayo Clinic 34 (1959): 39-47.

13. Blue_ArrowD096.gif (140 bytes)R. K. Winkelmann, “The Cutaneous Innervation of Human Newborn Prepuce,” Journal of Investigative Dermatology 26 (1956): 53-67

2010

I wrote this entry several times, but the amount of frustration I felt at my lack of ability to summarize this year accurately led me to make this video.

I will always look back on this year with fondness.  So much laughter.  So many smiles.  Some tears, but definitely more smiles.  I can’t wait to see what life has reserved for me in 2011!

The best is yet to come….