Sunday, November 15, 2009


Here's what was said on MSNBC TV about circumcision.

You wonder and worry about giving your baby pain. Baby's pain is your pain, times a hundred, a thousand!

My baby had a huggy, blue and white polka-dot puppet. I'd make "Floppo" wriggle and jump, wave his floppy hands, kick his floppy long polka dot legs when I talked with my son, while he was under the sunlamp that we used to help heal his diaper rash.

What did I know about circumcision?

When my baby was born, he spent the first week of his life in St Vincent's Hospital in New York City, where Sister Margaretta was my life-line that connected me (at another hospital), to a name, a person I didn't know, called Tony Shaw. I knew he was the surgeon who saved my baby's life -- Sister Margaretta told me Tony breathed for him, sat next to his crib/bed, for twelve hours after the operation Tony had performed, when our newborn son's lungs collapsed.

I was at Columbus Hospital on 20th street. Our baby -- I saw him for a moment when he was born -- he was beautiful; he had a classic profile, I thought "he looks like John Gielgud," and then things blurred. I woke in a dark place -- nobody was there -- then someone said "Your baby's sick. He's at St. Vincent's Hospital on 12th street. Your husband said he'd see you after his show."

Five weeks later, when our son was living in our home, Tony asked us -- do you want your son circumcised? We shook our heads, not "yes," not "no." Unsure, I mumbled something about "no more pain."

Tony said something about babies recovering quickly, not feeling pain -- not the way adults do. Tony suggested that medically it wasn't necessary to subject the baby to any more surgery -- the pros and cons about circumcision were equal.

I grabbed onto that. I grabbed onto the idea that babies recover quickly, "not feeling pain."
By then, I had been told that our son was going to need more surgery after he weighed twenty pounds -- which he'd probably weigh when he was nine-months-old.

I learned what I had to learn, and surrounded that knowledge with iron walls.

That morning, with Floppo in my hands, I was just outside the doors of the room where they'd taken my nine-month-old baby, to do that surgery. I could hear our son's cries. It was unendurable.

The sliding doors to the operating room opened. A uniformed person (in a surgical cap and surgical slippers) said, "Doctor wants you inside. We need the baby to be still."

Inside on a table, hands and feet held by two uniformed nurses, he was yodeling, screaming, wriggling. The moment Mommy talked and Floppo danced, he was soothed, calm enough for the procedure to proceed -- and whatever needed to be fixed, after about fifteen minutes, was fixed.

Do babies feel pain?. Based on what I know, what I saw, what I experienced -- sure they do, but they can be distracted.

(Yes, and much later on, after I was injured and in pain, I learned how to distract myself as well.)

So, what do I think about circumcision? Not "yes," not "no "-- you learn what you can from sources that you trust -- you keep your eyes open, listening and learning.

Then, you go with your instinct. You have to go with your instinct.
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