20 October 2011

Why I choose to be an intactivist

My oldest son was born and to me there was no option but circumcision.  My parents even felt so strongly that he should be that they paid for it, because my insurance did not.  I took him in, and they held him down and I watched the procedure and the nurse yelled at me because he wouldn't take the bottle.  He wouldn't take the bottle of sugar water because he was breastfed and had never had a bottle, he was only a week old.  Plus, it probably had something to do with the fact that the doctor was cutting pieces of his skin away.  It horrified me, and I apologized to him over and over again after it was done.  After they handed him back to me, I went to my car and cried holding him and nursing him and I apologized over and over again for having put him through the procedure.

That was when I had decided that I wasn't entirely comfortable with circumcision. I figured I'd have Michael take care of the decision and the actual procedure if we had another son.

We had a girl next, but then we got pregnant with our third child, another son.

My husband and I lived separately at the time, because of an impending deployment.  We had discussed and decided on circumcision again, even though I wasn't entirely comfortable with the idea.  However, he did not have enough penile skin when he was born to do the circumcision, so the doctor suggested I hold off and we'd review the subject again when he was six months old.  I held off and at 6 1/2 months old he was approved for circumcision and two weeks later I was at the pediatric urologist and Steven was circumcised.  My father in law went in with him because I refused and I didn't want him to be alone, and I didn't want to be either.

I took Steven home, and he seemed fine.  He was crawling around, he didn't seem in pain or anything and I was glad.  Until I changed his first diaper.  It was about an hour after the procedure and his diaper was completely filled with blood.  I had my parents watch my two older kids and I called my in laws and my mother in law agreed to meet me at the ER.  I didn't stay in the waiting room too long, but when the doctor saw him he informed me that he had to call the urologist before he tried anything.  He also informed me, that even though my young, 7 month old son was bleeding, and it wasn't stopping that he'd seen much worse.  Which of course did not make me feel any better.

They left us in the room, for a total of six hours, without stopping the bleeding on my son, who was filling his diaper completely with blood about every hour and a half.  I kept thinking that if I had only held my ground my son would have never been cut and I wouldn't be in this position.  Eventually the ER doctor came back in, informed me that he had finally gotten a hold of the urologist and he suggested he stop the bleeding.  Genius.

He then proceeded to slather liquid adhesive all over my son's swollen penis and told me it was fine.  Allowing that to happen was mistake number 2.

I brought him home, bleeding stopped and thought to myself, now everything will be alright.  I was completely wrong.  I don't know what exactly the urologist did wrong, but I do know what the ER doctor did.

A week later I noticed that the swollen skin had started adhering to itself and was starting to grow up and covering the head of the penis.  I was concerned by it and so I brought him to his pediatrician.  He referred me back to the urologist and I went back to him and he informed me he'd never seen anything like that and he didn't know what to do and then left me in the room, officially dismissing me, and my son.

Three days after that I noticed that the skin was growing even more over the head of the penis, and that urine was starting to get caught underneath.  I tried to pull the skin back some and it hurt my son a lot and so I stopped, called my pediatrician and asked for a referral to a new urologist.  I got that one and was given steroid cream to use and to wait a week and see what happened.  I tried the cream for a little over a week and when it didn't work I went back in.  That urologist told me that surgery was the next step but that he refused to touch a child under the age of one.  I had to call my pediatrician and get a referral to yet another urologist.  This time I had to drive to Orlando and talked to a urologist who would do surgery to fix the problem on my son.  It was scheduled for a month later, when my son would be 8 1/2 months old.

Things began to go downhill, just a few days later Steven wouldn't stop screaming.  I tried everything I could to calm him down, and when I tried to nurse him I realized he screamed in pain every time I held him against me, so I checked his diaper and his penis was swollen up about twice its normal size.  The urine couldn't get out of the tiny hold that was slowly closing in over his penis.  The urine had made the skin swell and he was in a lot of pain.  I took him to the ER and they were able to get a catheter in and drain the urine.  Over the week I took him in the ER for them to cath him over 10 times.

I called his urologist, and talked to the surgery nurse who told me they just couldn't get him in earlier, and that I should just keep taking him into the ER.  I finally got an ER doctor who called the urologist and informed him that he couldn't even get a newborn catheter in to drain the urine.  I had already been in the ER twice earlier that day and that Steven needed surgery NOW.

They got an OR two days later for him.  I went to Arnold Palmer hospital at 6am and his surgery ended up being at 12:00 pm.  He couldn't nurse after midnight, and so I pumped twice once before he went in, and once during.

I was a nervous wreck during the surgery, not that I didn't think he wouldn't make it through, but that I knew that the reason he was put under, the reason he was having surgery to begin with was because I didn't go with my gut, I allowed something to happen to him that I didn't feel was necessary to begin with.  I know that if I had told my husband that I felt strongly that I didn't want him circumcised that he would have stayed whole, but I went along with it.  For over a week I watched my son scream in pain every time he attempted to urinate, leading up to a surgery.

When the doctor came out to tell me what he had seen during the surgery he informed me that it was good we had done it then rather than wait the full month because as it was the skin was completely infected, and that he had to literally cut all the skin away from the head of the penis.  The swollen skin had completely adhered to his glans.  He has a lot of scars all over his penis now, and he had to remove the infected skin, and so he has a slight chunk of skin missing, it's not as noticeable now as it was when he was younger, but it's still there.  He'll always have those scars.

I promised then that I would share my story with everyone I could, in order to educate, in order to teach.  I never even dreamed that anything like this could ever happen.  I was never told it was a possibility, not when he had the circumcision or when the ER doctor slathered the liquid adhesive on him.

I have two circumcised boys, and I am an intactivist.  My husband and I have no plans to have any more children, but if we do, and if we have a boy, we are both in agreement that he will remain intact, just like our other two boys should have been.

There will be a day in the future that I will sit my boys down and I will apologize to them both for not allowing the decision to be theirs, and I can only hope that when I do they will feel compelled to forgive me.