Watch January, Brandon, their kids, and grandparents hunt down Birth Without Fear: The Judgement-Free Guide to Pregnancy, Birth, and Postpartum at the book store!
January and Brandon are back from hiatus to discuss none other than THE BIRTH WITHOUT FEAR BOOK!!!
They discuss the entire process, from the initial email January received from a book agent, to the 41 page book proposal, to their trek across New York City with their book agent to meet with six editors, to the actual writing and editing of the book!
It’s a story January and Brandon have been itching to share for a year and a half, and it’s finally here! It’s so exciting that Brandon even busts out his Moviefone voice!
Pre-order your copy of Birth Without Fear: The Judgement-Free Guide to Taking Charge of Your Pregnancy, Birth, and Postpartum today! If we want to see real change in our society where pregnancy and birth are concerned, let’s use our collective voice to change the narrative by getting a copy of this book into every birthing person’s hand! Pre-order a copy for yourself, or pre-order a few copies to hand out to friends and/or family!
In her first book, Birth Without Fear: The Judgement-Free Guide to Taking Charge of Your Pregnancy, Birth, and Postpartum (Hachette Books; March 5 2019), January Harshe, mom of six and founder of the Birth Without Fear website, delivers an inclusive, non-judgmental, and empowering guide to pregnancy, birth, and postpartum life.
Each chapter provides you with the all the necessary information, options, and tools to help you take charge of the experience of welcoming your child into the world.
Unlike other pregnancy, birth, and postpartum books, Birth Without Fear will also help partners understand what mothers are going through, as well as discuss the challenges that they, too, will face—and how they can navigate them.
Shattering long-held myths and beliefs surrounding pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum experience, Birth Without Fear is an accessible, reassuring, and ultimately inspiring guide to taking charge of your pregnancy, birth, and beyond.
The Birth Without Fear movement began as a voice for change in the standard of care in today’s birthing world, and Birth Without Fear will empower YOU to be a voice for change in your own pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. Options, support, and respect should be the norm for every pregnant and birthing woman, and it can be if YOU, the Birth Without Fear community, vote for that change by pre-ordering your copy of Birth Without Fear today!
January Harshe knows firsthand how widely birth experiences can range. She has run the gamut from an affirming and joyful planned cesarean to a traumatic emergency cesarean, as well as a VBA2C (vaginal birth after two cesareans) in the hospital, and two home births. One of these home births was such a dramatic departure from the confusion, uncertainty, and fear of her other births that a beautiful idea was born — she would make it her life’s mission to promote a revolutionary birth and parenting message: you can have a birth without fear, no matter how you birth.
January is the founder of the Birth Without Fear community, as well as Take Back Postpartum, Don’t Forget Dads, and Mothering Without Fear under the Birth Without Fear tent—all of which today collectively represent a social media following of over 1 million and counting.
Within each chapter of Birth Without Fear is a Partner Point of View written by Brandon Harshe. Having been by January’s side for six pregnancies, births, and postpartum experiences, Brandon has learned a lot about what it takes to support the woman he loves through the biggest changes and experiences of her life. In Birth Without Fear, he’s shared some of that knowledge to help husbands and partners be the steadfast support person that all birthing people need and deserve!
Members of the Birth Without Fear community on social media are familiar with the conversation shifting regularly to postpartum, and Birth Without Fear is no different. The focus of so many pregnancy and birth books is on, well, pregnancy and birth. But what about after the birth? You have the entire rest of your life to live, only now with a new baby!
This is where Birth Without Fear comes in. With chapters on breastfeeding, self love, self care, mental health, and sex and intimacy, no stone is left unturned for those of you wondering “what next?” after the baby has arrived.
When January Harshe created the Birth Without Fear community in 2010, she wanted options, support, and respect to be the standard of care for every pregnancy, every birth, and every postpartum experience. Individually, we all have a voice. As a united community, we can affect real change in the conversation about pregnancy, birth, and postpartum in our culture. Pre-ordering Birth Without Fear is a vote for real change. Order your copy today!
Yes, you read that right, we’re going to talk AGAIN about circumcision, but this post is a little different. I’m not writing this to try to tell you what to do. In fact, this post is actually going to start off with a confession; the day after my first baby was born I had him circumcised.
Whew. Okay. We got that part out of the way!
When I was pregnant with my oldest child, I must have read everything that I could get my hands on. I was very strict with myself and did everything that I could to maintain my weight, to avoid every item on that list of no-no foods (deli meats, sushi), and struggled through headaches and pains to avoid using medications like Tylenol even though my OB said it was fine. I started a pregnancy journal and had the baby’s full name picked out by 14 weeks along.
When I got to the chapter in my pregnancy how-to book about circumcision, we had just found out that the baby was going to be a boy and I remember reading about the detailed procedure and cringing, picturing them doing this to my tiny, new baby. I had never really read anything about circumcision before, and not only that, but I literally knew NOTHING about foreskin. Like many new moms-to-be, I decided to leave that decision up to his father, figuring, “Well, Dad’s got a penis and I don’t, so he will know the correct decision to make here.”
Well, it turns out that my husband was reading FAR less about this baby than I was and without researching any part of it, or even reading the chapters I had so nicely bookmarked for him, he told me that we would have it done because “that’s just what you do” and “we don’t want him to look different.” Even though the description had made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, I didn’t argue with him.
I ended up being (unnecessarily) induced and after 12 hours of Pitocin, our perfectly healthy baby boy came torpedoing into this world. The circumcision was performed the following day and we listened closely as all of the aftercare instructions were explained to us. They even sent us home with a whole packet of information about how to care for it and danger signs to look out for in case he got an infection. (Whoa, wait… an infection?? Isn’t that what we were trying to avoid? We’ll get back to that.)
Have you ever seen a freshly circumcised penis? It’s basically an open, raw wound that you smother with Vaseline and hope that it keeps it moist enough to not stick to the diaper. Have you ever skinned your knee open? Imagine the feeling of peeling a gauze bandage off of it when it gets stuck. Now imagine someone pouring warm, acidic liquid all over it; because that’s what’s happening to this brand new, little person every time they urinate. Then that wetness gets to just sit there. You ever wear a moist Band-Aid over a cut?
Every time our new baby wet his diaper we immediately had to change him because it hurt him so badly. And when he would poop, well, that was a whole different ball of wax! Cleaning poop off of a penis and a set of testicles (especially when it’s a learning experience with a less than one week old) is one thing, but having to do it while your child is screaming bloody murder in your face because he has feces covering his raw, sensitive glans is quite another.
Fast forward a few years and now he is almost five. We are constantly reminding him to clean himself and have had to teach him to be sure to tug on his “foreskin” (basically just the remaining bit of skin that was leftover) and pull it away from the glans because it is constantly trying to reattach itself. As our son has gotten older, we have had issues with the “foreskin” trying to reconnect and also teaching him how to keep himself clean.
So when we got pregnant with our second child, I was in a different spot with the medical side of birth. I had not had a good experience with my first delivery and therefore spent a lot of time reading more than just baby books and fear-mongering websites. I started to look into the facts about birth, the facts about induction, and even the facts about circumcision. We found out that we were having another boy and the decision of circumcision came up after a prompting from our care provider.
Like I have already stated, my husband was not into researching everything pregnancy like I was and so it wasn’t something that he was concerned with. He had automatically assumed that because we had circumcised the first boy that of course we would be doing the same with the second. All those complications involved with the first baby? Yeah, those weren’t necessarily complications at all! They were just snags that happened when you leave the glans open and raw like that. Those issues we had with our first baby in the first several weeks we were all learning how to be a family were totally “normal” and were all listed in our handy little info packet that was sent home with us.
In reading up about circumcision I was very surprised to learn that, with the exception of Israel, the United States has the highest rate of circumcision. Most countries don’t practice it, in fact many have had the procedure banned. In some cases, circumcisions are botched, leaving men with noticeable scarring or sexual dysfunctions – and that is in mild cases: baby boys sometimes die from the complications of circumcision.
I also took the time to learn about the many functions of the foreskin and how having one intact would benefit my child. It might be tough to think of it like this, but the foreskin can easily be likened to an eyelid or a pair of lips. One of its main functions is to protect the sensitive skin underneath and to keep that area clean and moist.
Along with keeping the area underneath clean and moist, the foreskin is actually adhered to the glans and won’t even start to detach until around age three! So all that stuff we had heard before about it being “cleaner” to cut that part off was total BS! It’s attached! That means when your baby has one of those really big poo-splosions and craps up the back of his onesie, you won’t have to also deal with carefully and calmly wiping poop off of a swollen and painful wound. With a baby who is NOT circumcised the foreskin does a fantastic job of keeping everything covered, so you don’t have to worry about it getting inside at all! You just clean it off like a finger (likely how you’ll clean up your own finger after checking for poop) and go about trying to remove said onesie without resorting to scissors.
Then there came the whole deal with him not only looking different from his Daddy, but also looking different from his older brother. Well, when you really get down to it, they’re already going to look different in so many more obvious ways, does it really matter? For instance, our oldest boy has green eyes and his younger brother ended up with blue ones. His older brother has light brown hair while his head is covered in pale, blonde locks. They are different heights, different weights, and have vastly different personalities, so why in the world would anyone be worried about their penises looking the same, which they probably wouldn’t anyway.
I was asked about what we would do when he was teased about his foreskin in the locker room at school and I honestly had to laugh at that one. First of all, adolescent boys are going to tease one another about SOMETHING, so for me to be worried about that NOW seems a bit pointless. Secondly, the circumcision rate in America is going down every year, so chances are he will not be the only boy with foreskin. And lastly, because I will explain to him why we left him intact when he is old enough to understand, he will be able to educate his friends and tell them how when he’s older, having a foreskin will make sex feel better for both himself and his partner, allow him to masturbate without needing lotion, and add girth to his penis. What adolescent boy wouldn’t want that?
And while we’re on the topic of sex we may as well just get it all out there right now: “Anteater”, “turtleneck”, “Water Snake”; the list of horrible, sex-shaming nicknames goes on. It’s a disgrace that we would alter a baby’s body so drastically just to make it more aesthetically pleasing for ourselves. Yet if someone wanted to start trimming the labia from the genitals of baby girls I am positive that people would be totally up in arms. Has it ever occurred to anyone that the basic function should override the supposed aesthetics?
I have also been asked about what I will say to my oldest son if he should ever ask me why I decided to have his foreskin removed and not his brother. Well, I plan on telling him the truth. I thought that I had read all of the right information and, at the time, I thought I was doing what was in his best interest. However, if I am truly honest with myself, reading about the procedure made my stomach turn. That feeling was human instinct and I plum ignored it. I thought I knew what I was doing and I was wrong. I felt in my heart that going through with the procedure was a bad idea but did not feel like it was truly up to me to make that decision.
And truth be told, it wasn’t. It wasn’t up to me and it shouldn’t be up to the Daddy either “just because he has a penis”.
So, okay, they say that circumcision is “cleaner” and “healthier” and will keep your child from “being made fun of.” Well let’s just say you believe all of that (which is fine, and it might be what your care provider has told you); where does it say that this procedure HAS to be done within the first week of your child’s new life outside of the womb? Isn’t there already enough going on? Chances are you’ve got a birth you’re healing from, other children to care for, breastfeeding (which can be quite stressful for some) to learn, and you’re probably hungry and sleep deprived. WHY in the WORLD would you want to add in “caring for an open wound”?
Where does it say that the offer to be circumcised will expire after the first two days? Why can’t it just be left up to the person whose penis status is being questioned to decide? A lot of people will get a child’s foreskin removed because of the possible risk of infection. But what about tonsils? Appendix? TOENAILS? All of these things can become infected yet we make no mention about having them removed at birth. Many people will research more about their newest cell phone upgrade than they will about their own pregnancy and labor, and even fewer will research about circumcision.
If I were to wish one thing for you, it would be for you to read, read, read about circumcision. Don’t just read about it in the US, check out what they say about circumcision in other countries, where it is seen as a barbaric practice. Or do your baby a solid and watch the procedure being done on YouTube. Arm yourself with knowledge and if anything, wait until the child is old enough to be given proper pain management for such a painful procedure. Even better, leave them intact and allow them to decide it for themselves.
It makes me sad when I think about what I have taken from my oldest son by having him circumcised, but I feel like I have all the opportunity in the world to help make it better by passing on what I have learned to others. Hopefully, with the correct information, they will make better choices than I did. I have looked into the information on foreskin restoration so that I may pass it on to my son should he be interested in it one day.
Having circumcised one child does not mean that you have to circumcise them all. Even if you have FIVE boys that were circumcised you can TOTALLY leave the next intact! None of our children will be exactly like the next. Even if their genitals don’t match Daddy’s or each other’s they will always be brothers and that is what’s important. I leave you with a quote that has always resonated with me about our decisions regarding circumcision:
“Forgive yourself for not knowing what you didn’t know before you learned it.” – Anonymous
Photography Credit: http://earthmamaphotography.com
Around my daughter’s first birthday in December, it was placed heavily my heart to have another child. I had just graduated college, and the timing seemed perfect. My husband agreed and we found out we were expecting in January with an estimated due date of around September 17! I immediately started researching home birth midwifery options. I had an all natural, un-medicated hospital birth attended by a midwife with my daughter. I was at the hospital less than an hour before she was born, because I knew I needed to wait as long as possible before going in to be able to stick to the birth plan. It felt weird to not have a care provider with me while I was laboring. The post partum care was disappointing with my hospital midwives. So I knew I wanted to give myself something more with this baby. We deserved the best care possible. I found a homebirth Certified Nurse Midwife in my state, and she took me on as a client.
I was incredibly blessed with an easy pregnancy. I didn’t have HG this time; in fact, I never even threw up once. I was able to work out until the middle of the third trimester as well. This was such a difference than my pregnancy with my daughter, which was great because having a 1 year old and being pregnant at the same time is quite challenging! We had an anatomy scan with the maternal fetal medicine doctor that does the ultrasounds at the birth center and found out we were having a healthy son. I still tear up thinking about that day. I knew God had a plan for us to have a son, and to keep him whole and intact. He was created perfectly, and I would not change that by circumcising him! I felt instantly connected to him the moment I saw him on the screen. I knew at that moment I would do anything to protect him!
Having my midwife come to my house for all my appointments was so nice. I never had to make childcare arrangements for our daughter, and it was simply convenient! I also had regular chiropractic care during this pregnancy, which alleviated a lot of aches and pains. Also, I treated myself to pedicures with my girlfriends which was fun!
Once September came I had some episodes of prodromal labor. I knew my baby was getting ready to enter the world, but each time the prodromal labor would end without me actually going into labor, it was disappointing. He had been posterior most of the pregnancy, so I figured it was him trying to get into the best position.
The early morning hours of my due date, I started having contractions that I knew weren’t Braxton hicks. I knew Berkley was coming to meet us. I was timing them and getting so excited. I cleaned and lit candles, prayed and told my husband. He needed some convincing that it was time, but once he realized it was, he started blowing up the birth pool. It was around 3:30AM at this point. We called our midwife and told her we believed I was in labor. We also sent text messages to the doula and photographer. We were so excited!
My midwife called around 6:00AM to let us know she was on her way. She told me my labor may stall a bit once my toddler woke up, and recommended sending her to Grandma and Grandpa’s so I could get on with my labor. In her experience, mothers of small toddlers can get out of the labor when they mother their toddler. And I was so ready, so off she went to Grandma and Grandpa’s. I remember sitting with her on the rocking chair, where I nursed her for her first year of life, telling her mommy loves her so much, and she will always be my baby girl. It was such an intense moment knowing when she would arrive back home she would be a big sister.
My midwife was right. My labor slowed way down once Faith woke up. I went almost 2 hours with no contractions. My midwife still set up all her equipment though. She suggested I take a walk, use the breast pump, take a shower, all to get things moving again. I asked for a cervical check and I was 4 centimeters dilated and 80% effaced and baby was at minus 2 station.
Hours passed with pretty minimal contractions. My midwife went to go eat some lunch around 11:00AM to give us some space. It was so weird having such irregular contractions, yet they were so intense. I was pretty confused about the situation. When my midwife arrived back, I told her I would like an intervention of some sort to get labor moving. Once my doula arrived, I consented to a stripping of the membranes. Literally, once that happened, things picked up so fast. The contractions were coming so quickly. I could barely breathe and talk through them. I noticed all my hypnobirthing techniques weren’t helping to cope. I told my husband to call the photographer, I knew it would be soon that we would be meeting our baby boy!
My midwife didn’t want me getting into the birth pool prematurely. So when I asked her if I could get in and she said yes, I knew it would be close. This was around 2:45PM. I already felt so tired from being up all night with contractions. The pool was very relaxing, I am so glad I got that thing! It was nice being able to stretch out in it. The contractions were coming so quickly. I didn’t know how much more I could handle. I felt like I was loosing it. We put on my hypnobirthing tracks which helped a little. I even said I wanted to transfer to the hospital. Looking back, I know this is a “sign post” that means that the baby is coming soon, but I couldn’t think at that point. I just didn’t know how I could handle any more labor. The photographer walked in and I couldn’t even say hi. I felt so rude! I was sobbing. I was a mess. I felt like I was failing at my peaceful birth.
I felt nauseated (which again, usually means baby is coming SOON) so my doula did some aromatherapy which did help. I asked to get out of the pool. I went into my room and was crying some more. My midwife came and gave me a big hug and told me I just needed a little more courage and the baby would be here. I told her she was right, that I was scared. Looking back at my photos of that moment, I realize I definitely picked the right care provider. She hugged me and told me everything I needed to hear.
Right at that moment, my water broke. My midwife called her assistant in to chart the time. It was clear fluid. I felt so much better once my water broke, but then the contractions kept coming even more frequently. I started having bright red blood drip down my leg. My midwife immediately (yet calmly) figured out I was involuntarily pushing against a cervical lip. I asked if it were too late to get back in the pool. Of course not! So I ran back into the pool. The bleeding stopped just as soon as it started. Everyone was right there with me. I told my midwife I felt like I had to have a bowel movement. Again, a sign the baby is right there. She just told me “poop the baby out”, “it’s okay!”, “you can do this”.
The pushing was an experience I had not really had before. With my daughter, she came very quickly with no pushing stage, and I had 3 first degree tears. I wanted to be in the water to minimalize tearing. It is amazing how natural it is to push. I didn’t need any directed coaching about how long to push or how to push. If given the opportunity, it comes naturally!
Within just a few minutes, he was born! I did it! I leaned against the back of the birth pool and he was right on my chest. He had vernix! He was so cute and tiny! It’s amazing how quickly you forget how tiny they are! He got a 9 and a 10 on his APGARs. He was so beautiful and calm. My photographer said when he was born, I was saying “We wanted you so much, We wanted you!”.
I felt like I didn’t have a lot of traction sitting in the birth pool with him, so I asked to move to my bed. We went to the bed and just cuddled, hugged, breastfed, everything that should be done in that golden hour. When we were ready, my midwife checked me and I didn’t tear! She weighed our boy and he was 7 pounds 12.5 ounces and 20.5 inches long. There were no hands on him other than mine and my husbands until we consented to his exam. She didn’t even have to draw blood to test his blood type, she collected a sample from his umbilical cord! It was such a private birth, this was the experience I wanted, the experience we deserved. I know God designed me to be able to give birth, and having a midwife with so much experience and evidence-based practices made the home birth decision even more excellent. I know my fast recovery and lack of PPD can be attributed to such a peaceful birth and loving care from my midwife and family.
Maternity Photo by Brink Street Photography
Birth Photography by Aperture Grrl
I can not thank Lauren, with The Whole Network, enough for doing this very informative and respectful post on circumcision for our BWF readers. It truly is a phenomenal article on such a heated topic. ~Mrs. BWF
During my first pregnancy, I was overwhelmed with joy when I found out that there was a little boy in my belly. Like many ‘mamas-to-be’, I instantly fell in love and spent my days (and nights) dreaming about him. As the months passed by, I began to plan for his arrival: washing and hanging all of his tiny clothes, picking out the softest blankets I could find, figuring out what breast pump would be best. I wanted to be prepared for every little detail. When I began to make plans for the birth itself, I thought about what would happen on the day of his birth, and circumcision crossed my mind.
At the time, I did not think there was even a choice about circumcision. Every male I knew- my husband, dad, brothers, friends – were all circumcised. The thought of a penis with a foreskin wasn’t appealing to me (even though I never saw one in real life), and I had always heard of women saying it was “dirty” or “gross”. I also advocated the benefits of circumcision (even though I never truly looked at the research articles.)
My heart sank in my chest, because I didn’t want to put my new found love through any pain whatsoever. However, after talking to various family members and my OB/GYN, it seemed that circumcision was the best option for my son and his future. “It’s cleaner” and “he’ll have fewer problems” were the most common responses. I had yet to hear a single response that was in favor of not circumcising.
I didn’t think about it much after that, until about 2 months before his due date. By that time, my love for him had grown immensely, and the thought of any painful procedure made my head spin. So one day, I decided to sit down and search on Google to see what came up about circumcision. I was very surprised when the vast majority of the information was against it! My curiosity was perked, and I found myself on YouTube, watching a video of the procedure. After all, my baby boy would have to go through it- so I should see it, right?
My jaw dropped to the floor when I saw the video. I couldn’t stop crying.
From that day forward, I poured everything I could into researching this topic. I wanted to know the truth. Using various sites and forums, I started to network with as many people as I could. To my surprise, I found that there were thousands of parents who had healthy boys who were not circumcised. This intrigued me, because I had always been told that foreskins would cause many problems in boys/men. I needed to know more.
As I dug further into the topic, I found out that the majority of the males in the world are not circumcised. In fact, the United States is the only country to perform this procedure routinely for non-religious purposes. Another interesting fact is there is not a single medical organization in the world who recommends circumcision- not even the American Academy of Pediatrics!
So why was I under the impression that circumcision was best? Why do parents continue to choose it? Why do some doctors advise us to do so? I decided to create a list of the apparent benefits and researched them one by one. I had heard various reasons, such as better hygiene, less chance for UTIs, less chance for HIV/STDs, needing to look like father/brother(s), less chance of penile cancer/HPV, better to be done as an infant and needing to fit in with his peers. Here’s what I found.
It’s been said that much more care is needed when boys have a foreskin. That more cleaning time is required, because it is dirty and the foreskin needs to be retracted and cleaned from an early age. However, there is nothing unclean about a foreskin, especially in infancy. In fact, both boys and girls have foreskins, which serve the same purposes. The male foreskin is actually fused to the head (glans) of the penis in infancy and through much of childhood (much like a fingernail is fused to a finger.) This is the body’s way of protecting the genitals against urine and feces. Because it is fused shut, bacteria and other foreign particles cannot invade. There’s no need to retract the foreskin to clean under it. You simply wipe the outside only, like cleaning a finger- it’s easy!
The foreskin will naturally start to separate at an average of age 10. Once he can retract it on his own, he can just simply rinse with warm water in the shower. It’s just as easy as teaching a girl how to bathe and there’s nothing difficult about it.
Information over the internet can only go so far, so I wanted to personally network with people that had intact sons (or were intact themselves). I asked all about hygiene and care, and I never ran into a person or parent that had any issues with it. The parents all agreed that it was easy to care for an intact boy and all of the intact men said it was just a simple rinse in the shower- no extra time or effort. There’s even a video on YouTube that shows how simple it is! You can also listen to a pediatrician on intact care vs. circumcision care.
Less Chance of UTIs
Urinary tract infections are very rare in boys. But the prevalence of UTI in girls up to 2 years is more than twice the prevalence in boys of the same age. The rate in girls up to one year of age is 6.5%, while it is 3.3% in boys. From age one to two, it is 8.1% in girls and only 1.9% in boys. This being said, we can easily treat urinary tract infections in girls with a simple antibiotic, without the need to perform any surgery. In the rare case that a boy might get a UTI, an antibiotic would solve the problem.
There have been some claims of an increased risk of UTI during the first year of life for boys who are not circumcised. According to Psychology Today, “This claim is based on one study that looked at charts of babies born in one hospital (Wiswell 1985). The study had many problems, including that it didn’t accurately count whether or not the babies were circumcised, whether they were premature and thus more susceptible to infection in general, whether they were breastfed (breastfeeding protects against UTI), and if their foreskins had been forcibly retracted (which can introduce harmful bacteria and cause UTI) (Pisacane 1990). There have been many studies since which show either no decrease in UTI with circumcision, or else an increase in UTI from circumcision. Thus circumcision is not recommended to prevent UTI (Thompson 1990).”
Less Chance of HIV/STDs
A few select studies show a prevalence of HIV transmission in uncircumcised men, but real world empirical data shows that circumcision hasn’t stopped HIV in countries where there is already a prevalence of the practice of circumcision. Take the United States for example: we are a country with a very high rate of circumcision (70% of the current male population, compared to 10-15% worldwide), yet we have one of the highest rates of children/adults living with HIV & AIDS out of the post-industrial nations.
Greg Millett of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention even said the following: “overall, we found no association between circumcision status and HIV infection status” when he presented his findings to the CDC’s National HIV Prevention Conference.
While circumcision is very common in the United States, it is uncommon in Europe. This would lead one to assume that HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases would be much higher in Europe, where circumcision is rare. However, this publication clearly shows that HIV and sexually transmitted diseases are much higher in the United States:
“The percentage of the United States’ adult population that has been diagnosed with HIV or AIDS is six times greater than in Germany, three times greater than in the Netherlands, and one-and-a-half times greater than in France.(Fig. 5)”
“…data from the Netherlands found that rates of reported incidence [of sexually transmitted diseases] are considerably higher in the United States.[6,7] Further, comparisons of prevalence (the proportion of a given population which is infected) find that the Chlamydia prevalence among young adults in the United States is twice that among young adults in the Netherlands.[8,9]*”
Less Chance of Penile Cancer/HPV
Penile cancer is among the diseases circumcision claims to prevent. However, it is important to remember that penile cancer is incredibly rare. Did you know that more men are diagnosed and more deaths occur from male breast cancer than penile cancer? The chance of dying from penile cancer is so low that it is not even presented separately by http://www.cancer.gov/ – it is lumped in with all male genital cancers (including testicular cancer and the much more common prostate cancer) at a total of 310 estimated deaths in 2010. Compare this to the annual circumcision death rate of approximately 117 neonates (first month of life). That’s more than SIDS (115 annually) and more than suffocation (44) and auto accidents (8) combined. (via Saving Babies)
The Journal of Infectious Diseases from the Oxford Journals did a study on the baseline prevalence of penile, scrotal, and perineal/perianal human papillomavirus (HPV) in heterosexual men on 5 continents. They found that “Neither condom usage nor circumcision was associated with HPV DNA prevalence.”
One of the most compelling items I found on the subject of penile and cervical cancer was a letter written from the American Cancer Society to the American Academy of Pediatrics:
“As representatives of the American Cancer Society, we would like to
discourage the American Academy of Pediatrics from promoting routine
circumcision as preventative measure for penile or cervical cancer.
The American Cancer Society does not consider routine circumcision
to be a valid or effective measure to prevent such cancers.
Research suggesting a pattern in the circumcision status of partners
of women with cervical cancer is methodologically flawed, outdated and
has not been taken seriously in the medical community for decades.
Likewise, research claiming a relationship between circumcision and
penile cancer is inconclusive. Penile cancer is an extremely rare
condition, effecting one in 200,000 men in the United States. Penile
cancer rates in countries which do not practice circumcision are lower
than those found in the United States. Fatalities caused by
circumcision accidents may approximate the mortality rate from penile
Portraying routine circumcision as an effective means of prevention
distracts the public from the task of avoiding the behaviors proven to
contribute to penile and cervical cancer: especially cigarette smoking
and unprotected sexual relations with multiple partners. Perpetuating
the mistaken belief that circumcision prevents cancer is inappropriate.”
Better to be Done as an Infant
It has often been said that circumcision is better to be performed on an infant for various reasons, but it is important to look at the subject logically. If a man is left intact, he can always choose to be circumcised later. However, once a circumcision is performed, it cannot be undone. There are many cases of men who are unhappy with their circumcision, and wish that they had the choice.
Even if he opted for circumcision later, not only would he have the choice, but he would also get adequate pain medication for the surgery and understand what is happening to his body. A large majority of routine infant circumcisions are not performed with any anesthetic. In fact, up to 96 percent of the babies in the United States and Canada receive no anesthesia when they are circumcised, according to a report from the University of Alberta in Edmonton.
This has many parents (and medical professionals) concerned about the pain associated with circumcision, but is a local anesthetic even enough?
In this research study, 11 male newborns were circumcised with a local dorsal penile nerve block, and 13 controls were circumcised without anesthetic. When the adrenal cortisol levels were compared, response to surgery was not significantly reduced by the administration of lidocaine. Some doctors use EMLA cream as an anesthetic. Not only is EMLA cream less effective than a lidocaine injection, but the manufacturer’s insert warns against its use on infants and on the genitals of children.
The truth of the matter is, infants cannot get the adequate pain treatment, including post-op pain medication, like an adult would. They don’t understand what is happening to their bodies, and most of all, they don’t have a choice.
Needing to Look Like Father/Brothers
This was a very important issue for me. My husband is circumcised, and so is his oldest son. I was worried that there would be issues with the new baby being different than his dad and brother. I didn’t want him to feel different or alone.
I found out that a distant family member was kept intact, even though his older brother and dad were circumcised. Although it seemed like it would be an awkward conversation, I just had to have my husband ask him about it. So he did. It turned out that he really didn’t care and it was never a big deal.
I connected with other men who grew up intact with circumcised dads, and they laughed saying, “I don’t even remember what my dad’s penis looked like…. and quite frankly, I wouldn’t want to remember!”
It all made sense even though I never thought of it that way. To my surprise, it just wasn’t an issue for these men. There were even online groups dedicated to keeping future sons intact, and I spoke with hundreds of parents who had made this same decision. Many of them now had grown children, and were happy to share their experience with me. I asked many questions, and it came down to this: as parents, we can only do what we think is best for our children. But, we also need to be able to grow and learn, so we can always make the best decisions possible. Sometimes, we learn that a past decision wasn’t necessarily the best, and that is OK. We adapt and move on, and our children will understand that. “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” – Maya Angelou
Needing to Fit in with His Peers
“Getting made fun of in the locker room” was a very common response for potential issues for boys who were not circumcised. This was also an important issue for me, much like the issue for my son to look like his father and brother. While this may have been an issue for men in previous generations, it is just not the same for boys growing up today.
In 2010, a slide presented by a CDC researcher at the International Aids Conference in Vienna claimed that circumcision rates in the US had dropped to 32.5% in 2009. While this number was not actually endorsed by the CDC, their 2010 reports still show circumcision rates have dropped over the years (54.7% in 2010). No matter which number you choose to use, the results are the same: circumcision rates are falling in the United States, and continue to do so. With at least half of American parents saying no to circumcision, intact boys will no longer be in the minority. Boys growing up in today’s generation will have the same amount of peers who are intact vs. circumcised.
Some regions in the US have a higher percentage of intact males, while other regions have a lower percentage, so it will vary depending on your location. However, it is important to remember that no matter what, children are going to be different than each other in a variety of ways. Some will be considered too smart, not smart enough, too fat, too thin, too tall, too short… the list goes on and on. The main thing is to be sure to teach our children to understand that they are unique and that they should love themselves for who they are. After all, they are special in their own ways, and that will never change.
Fast forward to now, and my son is happy, healthy and has never had a single problem whatsoever with being intact. As I’ve continued to research the subject, I’ve learned so much more than I could have imagined, such as the many important functions of the foreskin and how specialized it is. It is truly so much more than a “flap of skin”.
I’ve been so moved by the plethora of information I have discovered, that I even founded a grassroots non-profit organization called The WHOLE Network. I wanted to be able to reach other parents who were in the same shoes as I, and make sure they had a place for accurate information and support. As more and more parents seek out information, we continue to grow and help others. We have locations in each US state, as well as various countries worldwide. If anyone ever has any questions or needs information, we would love to help them and get them the accurate information they need.
We know that parents want what is best for their children. We understand that many moms and dads are simply trusting in the advice of their doctors or family. We aren’t here to condemn parents, or to make them feel guilty for past decisions. We are here to empower parents with information, and help inform them so that they can make educated decisions for the ones that they love most.