Monday, May 24, 2010

A hard post on a touchy subject

I keep putting off writing this blog post. I have put it off for months, but I just need to get it over with. It is just too hard to think about, let alone write about, and I know in a few moments I will be overcome by tears.

The date was November 2nd, 2009. That was the day circumcision very nearly cost my son his life. If we had waited a few more hours, I truly don't know if he would have made it.

My husband and I had come to the decision that we would circumcise Hunter, after many discussions and countless tears on my part. I had a very restless spirit about the whole situation, but knew that this was not my hill to die on and it was not worth my marriage to argue my point. I will readily admit that it took a LONG time to get over my anger at both God and my husband for what happened next. Part of my comfort is in knowing that part of God's plan was for this to happen to us, and I am doing my best to speak out and use this experience for good instead of focusing on the negatives.

We had finally agreed that even though we would circumcise him, it would not be immediately, we would establish our relationship with Hunter first, allow him to build up his own natural store of Vitamin K (along with the shot they give), and let him grow a little. He was 6 weeks old when the surgery date came along. I will state that, for the record, an intact penis is extremely easy to care for and keep clean.

I barely slept the night before, I could not bear the thought of what was about to happen to my precious baby boy. I fed him for the last time I was allowed to before it happened, and we headed to the hospital early. The urologist checked everything out, weighed him, and got him ready. I think the procedure itself started at 11 am. I walked him back to the room, saw the contraption they use to tie him down, and kept reminding myself to breathe. Amazing how difficult that was considering the circumstances. I wasn't allowed to stay during the procedure, after it was done Hunter was hungry and a little grouchy, but seemed otherwise ok. The doctor who did the procedure is a highly recommended pediatric urologist, and said everything had gone well, no complications.

This is where things started to get bad. I need to stop and compose myself for a moment before I continue.

I took him home and changed his diaper, taking off the disposable they had him in and replacing it with one of my cloth diapers. I cried a little looking at how swollen it was, with the little plastic ring around it. It looked like it hurt. There was a little blood in his diaper, so I looked at the sheet they had given me on after care. It said that was normal, and should stop soon. Ok, they know what they're talking about, he'll be fine.

A couple hours go by, during which my Mother in Law dropped by (and if I remember correctly she fed us lunch :) ). Another diaper change, this one is worse, looks a little scary. The diaper has blood, but there does not appear to be anything wrong. Mother in Law asks if this is still normal, I say yes but I'm starting to wonder myself. By this time I am exhausted, so Hunter and I take a nap, he sleeps a little longer than normal if I remember correctly.

This is the part where it gets really bad. If you can't handle stories with blood, you may want to skip the next couple paragraphs.

I changed another diaper, it was around 7pm. I will never forget the feeling of my heart skipping a full beat, and my stomach falling to my knees, as I entered a state of complete and utter panic. The diaper was literally saturated with blood. There was not a spot anywhere that wasn't soaked. I nearly passed out, saw spots in front of my eyes and had to put my head between my knees. I quickly grabbed the care sheet, and started to apply pressure to attempt to stop the bleeding, all while willing myself to not pass out or vomit.

Taking another pause to compose myself. The tears that did not happen in the moment are flowing quite freely now.

I waited the full 10 minutes the care sheet recommended while applying heavy pressure to my precious baby's bleeding wound. It continued to ooze, so I put on another cloth diaper, this time one that I was not worried about getting stained, called the doctor, and headed back to the hospital. This entire time I was repeating a silent prayer, please God let my baby be ok.

I honestly don't know how I kept it together to drive, but I did, I was at home alone while my husband was working. I called several people on the way, trying to keep myself calm and not break down. My husband first, he thought I might be overreacting but said he would be there as soon as he was off work. Then my Mom, and my Mother in Law, then my best friend Whitney. She told me later that she could hear the fear in my voice, and when she told her husband his first thought was "Jessica is not one of those people who freaks out, if she is freaking out we need to go up there because this is really bad". It meant so much to me that she met me at the hospital, I was in bad shape by then emotionally.

They admitted me to the back almost immediately, and when the triage nurse saw that Hunter had bled all the way through the prefold diaper, she got things moving quickly and got us back to a room. Whitney arrived shortly after we went back. We saw a few doctors and nurses, this part is a bit blurry to me but Whitney may be able to fill in some details. I think I was probably in shock, I don't know how else I could have made it through this. They started applying pressure as well, and looking for some sort of gel foam that stops bleeding temporarily, then they took some blood.

This is when I knew things were really bad. Hunter was looking a little pale, and he didn't even make a peep as they stuck him with the needle. I started to be truly afraid that I was going to lose him at this point. Someone came in with his blood results and said he needed a transfusion and surgery to stop the bleeding as soon as possible, they had the on call urologist on his way. I was absolutely numb, I don't think I could comprehend what was going on. I offered to donate my own blood, but they have policies against that. Something about the blood of a stranger being pumped into my brand new little person just seemed so wrong to me, but I knew it was completely necessary at this point.

Around this time my husband arrived, I was so thankful to see him. I think it was around 10:30 pm when Hunter finally went back for his second circumcision surgery, this time under the full general anesthesia and in a very different set of circumstances. They removed the plastibell and completed the surgery with stitches. In the waiting room during the surgery, surrounded by my husband, his parents, and my parents, I finally broke down and cried. I just kept praying that my sweet baby boy, who was healthy and perfect 12 hours earlier, would be ok and survive this ordeal.

They brought him back after about 45 minutes, and set us up in a room for the night. They showed us that the bleeding had stopped, and I exclaimed that everything looked much better than it had earlier. My husband made a comment moments later about how it didn't look good at all, if he had seen it a few hours before he would've known what I meant.

Another sleepless night. He was hungry once he woke up and stopped being groggy, so I nursed him to sleep in the rocking chair in his room. He had to be on the monitors for a little while, but once he was off them I did not put him down.

I couldn't put him down. It hurt my heart too much to try.

So I didn't sleep, I sat in the rocking chair and held my poor injured baby the entire night. I think at some point I put on the wrap so I could keep him close to me and rest my arms. He had been through so much, he needed the comfort of knowing his Mommy wasn't going to let him go. I needed the comfort of knowing he was ok.

The days following were a struggle, both emotionally and physically as I made sure the healing process went smoothly and tried to catch up on sleep.

I am thankful for a few things: First, a God who holds us in His hands and sees us through even the darkest of circumstances. Second, friends and family who come together during hard times. Third, cloth diapers. Yes, that one may sound weird, but I read a story that was eerily similar to Hunter's, with the exception of the diapers. The baby in that story died because the parents could not accurately tell how much blood their baby had lost in the disposable diaper.

Even now, months later, the healing process is not complete. He has checked out as completely healthy, no one can tell me the reason this happened. No underlying bleeding disorders, no physical abnormalities. I am able to talk about it now without feeling quite as much guilt or fear, but they are not totally gone. Hunter's physical healing did not go completely as hoped either, he developed a couple complications (adhesions and a buried penis) that are fairly common after circumcision but could require surgery later if they cannot be corrected by gentle methods.

This is why I post circumcision education literature on my facebook and twitter accounts. I can not and do not judge anyone for deciding to circumcise their sons, that would make me a hypocrite and I know everyone makes the decision they think is best. What I can do is share the information I wish I'd had before the operation: it is SURGERY, and as such can cause major, even deadly, complications. If it were necessary for a child's health or well being to be without a foreskin, God would not have created them with one. It is not cleaner or easier to be circumcised, for Hunter it may be something he has to deal with for the rest of his life or at least for the next few years. As for the circumcision as HIV/AIDS prevention argument, as someone raising my son in a Christian home that is something I hope he will avoid by simply having good values and morals, not to mention common sense.

Please research your options if you are preparing for the birth of a son. If you are undecided, there is an easy out: let the one who will be living with the foreskin for the rest of his life make the decision. Yes, that will mean that if he decides he wants to be circumcised, it will be when he is old enough to remember, but it also dramatically cuts down the risk of bleeding.

I hope now that I have this off my chest I will blog a lot more often, emotional baggage was giving me a severe case of writer's block.