Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Durban Doula's Pregnancy Diary - Third Trimester! Week 28

Yeehah! The third trimester is here! Duhm duhm duuuhm...

Downhill from here!
It's crazy how this whole thing feels so fast and so slow at the same time. I'm trying to enjoy every bit of it, although the heat wave we had over Christmas was quite something! With my first I was 38 weeks pregnant at this point, and I don't remember feeling like I wanted to crawl out of my skin from the heat...

I've finally made a plan to get together with a personal trainer friend of mine to help me get some exercise - so relieved! I can feel how much of a difference it makes, but  I also think I'll need to pop in for a visit to the chiropractor soon. My pelvis is starting to feel a bit wobbly again and I'm getting a bit of sciatica. Oh the joys!

This was my belly at this time of year in 2009!
38 weeks pregnant with my first...
So as we reach the third trimester we are having to make some decisions the we didn't have to make before, and one of those is deciding whether or not to circumcise our little boy.

Living in South Africa, where circumcision is still commonplace even among those who aren't of Jewish or Muslim descent, for many parents it isn't even something they think about - it's just the done thing. Of the men I've spoken to of my generation, most of them are circumcised, and a number of them can't recall ever seeing an uncircumcised or intact male their own age. Being who I am, I've come to question this practice and came up with some reasons why we won't be circumcising our son.

I know it is a pretty contentious issue - many Facebook mommy groups have banned it as a topic of discussion because things get too heated - but I'm trusting I can express my position in a reasonably civil manner, and I'd request that if you do comment on the post, you do the same.

My main reason is that I believe that people should have choices about what happens to their bodies, and I also believe that no person's body is owned by any other person. 'It's my child, I can do what I want,' doesn't cut it with me - my son's body belongs to him and him alone, just as my body belongs to me, and I believe I should have primary authority over what is done to it and I share it with people I choose to share it with.

Bodily autonomy is something I value, so it seems natural to value my son's bodily autonomy too - he is the owner of the penis after all, so I feel he has the largest vested interest in the matter, and so I will wait until he is able to make the decision for himself. It can't be undone.

The be honest, that was enough reason for me to let my son choose for himself, but I have a few others as well. I'm going to try and keep it brief.

Religion: Because of my faith in a wise creator, I can't accept that every single baby boy would be born with a birth defect that requires potentially risky amputation of a very sensitive part of his body. I know circumcision was part of God's covenant with the Hebrews, as described in the Bible, but what was considered circumcision then - a snip off the tip or just a tiny slit cut into the foreskin - and circumcision today, the full amputation of the entire foreskin still fused to the glans of the penis the same way your fingernail is fused to your nail bed - are, as you can see, very different.
Having said that, even in religions where circumcision is required, such as in Islam or Judaism, many individuals are choosing not to circumcise. (For more info on this check: Biblical Circumcision Information.)

Pain: For a long time, and until fairly recently, many practitioners didn't use any anaesthetic for circumcisions as it was believed that babies didn't experience pain the same way adults do. Even now, it is too risky to use general anaesthetic for a newborn, so babies have to make do with a local anaesthetic which cannot numb all the pain experienced. Furthermore, because they are so little, the pain relief available to them after the procedure is not as effective as the relief available to an adult, and they have the added discomfort of chafing from nappies, and the risk of the wound coming into contact with urine and faeces. This degree of pain can affect the brain quite negatively at a very vulnerable time, and hence interfere with bonding and breastfeeding, with a high risk of long term consequences. Some say circumcision should be done early as it is more painful later on - but I would be keen to know if it is just that babies are not as able to express their discomfort as adult men are. (For more information see: The Effectiveness of Anesthesia for Circumcision Pain.)

Sexual Sensitivity: The foreskin is not just an extra flap of skin, it has over 10 000 nerve endings. It definitely does affect sexual function. In fact, circumcision in Western society was popularised precisely because it was thought to decrease masturbation because circumcision was known to decrease sensitivity i.e. no foreskin = less pleasure = less masturbation. Furthermore, intact (uncircumcised) penises require less lubrication during intercourse, and can provide a smoother experience for the partner too. Many men who have been circumcised as adults have reported decreased sensitivity. (See: Intact or Circumcised: A Significant Difference in the Adult Penis - Yes, there are photos - view at own discretion)

Aesthetics: Many say they think it just looks better circumcised. But to me that is purely a cultural prejudice, we generally find the familiar more attractive than the unfamiliar. And honestly, circumcising a baby because you think it looks better brings us back in to the realm of cosmetic surgery without consent. In the same way that I wouldn't tattoo my baby because I think it looks better, I wouldn't perform any other kind of cosmetic surgery on my baby either. And beyond that, I'm not the one who's going to be looking at my adult child's penis - if his partner thinks it looks better circumcised, they can deal with it then.

Functions: The foreskin doesn't only affect sexual function, but also protects the glans of the penis against chafing, and has important immune benefits - apparently latest research is showing that  the foreskin can actually protect against HIV infection, and besides that, it prevents contaminants entering the urethra.

Equality: I wouldn't alter my baby girl's genitals in any way, so why do it to my baby boy? In places where female genital cutting is still practiced, the same reasons are used as are currently used for male genital cutting - it looks better, it is healthier, because her mother had it done...

Risks: No surgery is without risk. In the US, more newborn baby boys die from circumcision than from car accidents. The penis and foreskin is obviously highly vascular and haemorrhaging is a risk, as is the possibility of removing too much skin, as well as other injuries and complications including impotence, urinary retention and necrosis among others.
(See here:  Death from Circumcision Higher Than Suffocation and Auto Accidents and here: Death from Circumcision)

Hygiene: An intact penis is actually easy to clean - the guideline is to treat it like the tip of a finger. No one except the child himself should be tugging on it or retracting as this can actually cause adhesions and scar tissue leading to a tight foreskin later on. Boys can be taught to wash their own penises the same way girls are taught to wipe from front to back. To think that boys are incapable of such simple self care is actually a little insulting. Actually, I would think an intact penis is easier to keep clean initially too - no open wound to deal with!
(See: Basic care of the Intact Child)

Health: Each decade has seen it's own list of diseases and conditions that circumcision is claimed to cure. In the nineties it was said to prevent cervical cancer in women, now it's said to reduce female to male HIV transmission. Many of these studies have been shown to report inflated claims, or they have been very flawed in their design. Also, they only talk about reducing male to female transmission. Um, yeah. Nothing about male to female transmission. I'm sure there are less invasive and more effective ways to decrease HIV transmission. Furthermore, even if there was a slight decrease in rates of urinary tract infections among circumcised infants, girls get urinary tract infections far more often than boys and we wouldn't dream of circumcising all infant girls to reduce urinary tract infections - we just treat them as they happen. No surgery required.
See: HIV, AIDS & Circumcision Resources, Where Circumcision does NOT Prevent HIV, Circumcision and Cervical Cancer Resources, Cervical Cancer: A Reason for Circumcision?)

Family Likeness: For a number of families I've spoken to this has been one of their primary reasons. I heard a story that cleared this one up for me: Circ'ed dad is showering with intact son. Son asks, "Dad, why does your penis look like that?" Dad, who has been dreading this conversation, wisely asks, "What do you mean?" Boy answers, "It's so hairy."

I wouldn't dye my child's hair to match mine, or surgically alter his nose to match his dad's or give them matching tattoos before he's a year old - so I'm not sure I could use this reason for cosmetic surgery on my newborn child.

My last reason would be that it is irreversible. There are methods by which men are gaining some restoration of their foreskins, but this is a difficult process. I would rather let my son choose for himself.

I was going to mention some stuff about why I'm enjoying the colouring and why birth affirmations make a difference, and further plans for our home birth, and great second hand deals and other bits and bobs, but I'll leave those for next time!

Two videos you might appreciate - one funny and one more serious:

Adam Ruins Everything - The Real Reason You're Circumcised:

Elephant in the Hospital - Child Circumcision

I understand that some people reading this post may be feeling regret for having had their son/s circumcised. It is difficult to feel you made a wrong decision when it comes to your children, but there are many who have walked this road before who can help you deal with those feelings of regret - please see these links for some excellent resources:
I Circumcised My Son: Healing From Regret
Circumcision Regret: Working Through and Rising Above Mistakes Made

Sorry it's been such a long post! I really tried to keep it as brief as I could without being blunt! If you have any thoughts or questions, please feel free to share them below, but please be civil! I know these things can get heated...

Friday, 1 January 2016

Durban Doula's Pregnancy Diary - Week 26

Our baby boy has a name...

Even though I'm planning my third natural birth,
I do still have moments of disbelief:
'This baby is coming out where?'
Get it on Etsy


No, that's not the name we'll be putting on his birth certificate, but that was the name my mom-in-law wrote on little one's Christmas gifts this year, so we're sticking with it for now. In case you're unfamiliar with the Afrikaans language and feeling a little lost, pikkewyn means 'penguin', hence the 'Happy Feet' references, quite fitting considering how active this little sproglet is! My attempt at phonetic pronounciation: Pikke - vein

As for his real name, we have some ideas, but we're not sharing them until he's born, just because we've had experiences in the past where we share our ideas and people make disparaging comments about our choices... You know who you are! So like we did with number 2, we'll wait until this one is born to announce a name.

Choosing names is such a funny thing. Personally I  don't like popular names - I remember an instance at school where there were 3 Michelles in our netball team, and Grants and Ryans and Marks were also everywhere. (Apologies to anyone with those names, they were just the first ones I could think of.) So we're trying to avoid that for our children, but it is a bit of a challenge!

When I chose Amelia for our eldest nearly 7 years ago, it was very unusual, like 350th in the list of girls' names or something like that, but has been steadily climbing the popularity charts since. As my husband is Afrikaans and I'm English, we need names that work in both languages, and of course there is always the matter of initials. With a surname like Jansen, we're staying away from names starting with B...

In progress... But one I needed this week!
Get it on Etsy
So I like older names, ones that are not common but also not too obscure, names with reasonably traditional spellings and positive meanings. So yes, finding a name we both like that meets all these requirements is a feat in itself!

I saw our midwife again this last week - all is well as expected. We had a good chat about plans leading up to the birth, including my questions on what the earliest possible date for a home birth is, and when I need to collect the birth pool I'm hiring from her, and checking on when to call in the troops come B-Day. In that discussion, I came to the realization that the possibility of going into premature labour or having premature rupture of membranes (i.e. waters breaking early) has been a bit of a preoccupation for me, even though I have none of the risk factors. 

Baby #1 - 27 weeks pregnant
I'm taking magnesium which has been known to help prevent premature labour, and I'm thinking of supplementing my vitamin C intake, something which has been shown to prevent premature rupture of membranes but I hadn't realised it was such a preoccupation until Arlen pointed it out, and I'm grateful she did. I've made the adjustment to remember that my body is wonderfully purpose-built for this task, and has proven itself trustworthy before, and I am an otherwise healthy and reasonably fit woman. I choose to trust my body, and I choose to nurture my body at the same time.

Belly Pics 27 Weeks - Good Posture
Baby #2
28 weeks pregnant
Speaking of nurturing my body, I need exercise! I've mentioned before that I'm feeling much creakier this time around, and I know it's due to lack of exercise, coupled with a general decrease in fitness levels over the last few years. It's usually my hips that feel unstable, and my core is generally weak as I'm feeling out of breath because I'm slouching too much. So in the new year I'll be taking the plunge and signing up for some antenatal exercise classes. I've been doing aqua exercising in the pool when I get a chance, but I need something a bit more structured. When I suggested it to hubby, he was immediately on board, especially considering it is an extra monthly expense. But I think he knows I'll be much more comfortable, and hence easier to live with, if I'm not feeling so creaky.

Ok, maybe I
am imagining it...
My feet look
swollen in this pic,
Time for another
lie-down methinks!
Just so you can see I'm not imagining that I'm carrying bigger this time around, I found a picture from my first pregnancy, taken at around 27 weeks, where you can see how tiny my bump was, and one from my second pregnancy as well. Despite bump size, apparently Pikkewyn is now just over 35cm long, about the length of an English cucumber from crown to heel, and weighs around 750g.

I'm really enjoying being on leave and we had a good time visiting with Hubby's family over Christmas. I got some crochet done, to the extent that I've depleted my stocks of t-shirt yarn that I was using to make a pouf for the lounge. (Any donations of holey t-shirts are welcome!) And I also got some time to colour in some of my new colouring book. The non-conformist in me detests fads, but when I saw this birth affirmation colouring book I knew I just had to get one! You can order them on Etsy via the link under the images if you'd like one yourself, but be warned, postage can take over 3 weeks so order sooner rather than later!

The cover pre-colouring.
Soften, Open, Release by Amber delaine
It's been lovely over the last few weeks to have friends and family be able to feel baby kicking. I love seeing their faces when he gives them a good strong jab! It seems his most active time is in the evenings after supper. Like clockwork he starts kicking in the same spot, and keeps wriggling about for a while, within about 15 minutes of me finishing my dinner. I'm not sure if it's the  noise of digestion, or the blood sugar boost, but it does give a great opportunity for me to prove I'm not just hiding a soccer ball under my shirt!

The girls are fascinated with my belly button - my innie has become an outie! They think it's great fun to try push it in. It is so sweet how they spontaneously come and give the baby hugs and cuddles, I think they are going to have great fun being big sisters! As I've mentioned before we've been laying some groundwork for them to understand that little babies have big needs, and we're all a team helping everyone to get their needs met, and how giving time and attention doesn't equal giving more love, and giving them ways to express when their love tanks are feeling empty. I'm finding it amazing how perceptive and understanding they can be! I suppose we'll see how effective this has all been when the baby is actually here.
Hiding My Outie... No more toes peeping out!

So that's about all we have this week, no big mommy confessions this time... 

Find my moments of mourning last week here, otherwise follow me on Twitter - @DurbanDoula, or subscribe to the blog so you don't miss next week's update...

And, as before, if you have any questions or comments please submit them below! I love hearing from you!