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Thursday, October 7, 2010

The fine line between advocate and arrogance

A baby died this week. It's been blogged about, Twittered about, FaceBooked about. Apparently, the baby had pre-existing heart problems that some say made him a poor candidate for circumcision, but for whatever reason, he was circumcised anyway. Some are suggesting that his tragic death was directly resulting from his circumcision. His doctors feel that it wasn't.

That's not really what this post is about. I tend to avoid the topic of circumcision because I feel it is a personal choice the parents make, much like deciding to get an epidural while in labor, or perhaps the decision to go straight to a c-section as a way to avoid labor. Whatever the reasons, people have them, feel passionately about them, and decide to go ahead with it. Does it matter if I disagree? Not one bit.

The real issue that has me fuming, frustrated and just plain disgusted are some of the comments people have been leaving on blog posts about this topic. I can't even access The Navelgazing Midwife's post about telling anti-circ people to "STFU" already because my internet filter won't allow me to. The Spirited Doula also talked about it, and was equally shocked and horrified by the comments.

Anytime a baby dies, for any reason, it's a tragedy. But to blame the parents, say they're "stupid," and especially to say you're not sorry for them and that "they got what they deserved" literally makes me want to smack someone in the head. Hiding behind the anonymity of the internet, people are free to make remarks, some of which are absolutely the cruelest things I've ever heard. Ever.

Other commenters were blasting the mother for her remarks on the situation being 'in God's hands,' and used that opportunity to lambast her on her assumed religious beliefs as well. This segues into another slam on the spiritual beliefs of parents who circumcise.

It almost makes me want to delete my blog and give up on childbirth and parenting issues forever, I am so disgusted.

It does remind me of one blogger (I am trying desperately to find a link; maybe someone can help me - here is the link , in case someone is interested) who was very passionate about birthing issues and homebirth. Then she had a difficult home birth herself, only to decide to give it all up after being disillusioned with the astounding hubris some hardcore advocates had over the subject. When I read this, I was saddened by her decision and it was hard to comprehend. Now I understand.

I've had frustrating conversations on my blog and fan page about people I know - even people I don't know - having unnecessary inductions or c-sections for no reason, and all manner of other things in pregnancy and birth. The best you can do, we concluded, is to offer the information, and if they decide not to take it, walk away. Because, really, it's not our business. How is the topic of circumcision not the same?

That same "gentle" approach to birth and parenting could apply to advocacy, too. In-your-face activism, whether it be about breast vs. formula feeding, vaccinations, or co-sleeping is not going to get anyone anywhere. If you want to be an advocate, do so in a respectful, productive manner. Ultimately it's not your business what parents decide to do, or not do, with their son's penises. You can respectfully educate or inform, but if they still want to go ahead and do it, that's their decision. There are plenty of ways to constructively direct that passion: but doing so as a hateful bigot - cloaked under the guise of advocacy - isn't one of them.

I am pretty active on birth boards that represent a cross-section of women, some who are informed, some who aren't. One thing I try not to do, ever, is come across as superior or fear-mongering. It's a very fine line, and ultimately if they want to follow my advice, heed my suggestions or click on my links, that's their decision.

This whole situation makes me wonder, sometimes, if perhaps we aren't jumping to conclusions about situations and letting our egos get in the way. Were we there when a home birth went wrong? No. Were we capable of making a sound medical diagnosis at the time? No. We need to be very careful before we demonize all doctors, all mothers, even, who make decisions that we ourselves would not have. This puffed up and inflated opinion just comes across badly, and I can see sometimes where Dr. Amy's criticisms of birth and parenting advocates come from.

Another commenter argued, rightly, that by spewing attacks and vile comments that it was only giving people like Dr. Amy and her group ammunition. And I totally agree. I would love to see some of these "advocates" step up to the plate and admit they were being harsh and insensitive. Regardless of their opinions, they were not there, and to the best of my knowledge, are likely not doctors. Even if they are, until you can provide your own professional, first-hand diagnosis, perhaps you'd be wise in following The Navelgazing Midwife's recommendation to "shut the ---- up."

9 comments:

MamaOnABudget said...

Hi - I read often, but don't think I've ever commented. But I had to on this one.

One thing I'd really like to urge people in this situation - and the rest of life - is to make sure you understand what someone is saying before you crucify them. Just like when a formula feeding mom gets upset when breastfeeding advocates, well, advocate breastfeeding... saying that they hate formula feeders and are saying their babies would be better of starving than getting formula... crazy and over-reacting much?

I had this happen to me today about this poor family. My heart is breaking for them - especially this little guy's mama. But I'm PISSED OFF at his doctors!

I know you said that you're trying to stay out of the circ debate, so I won't bring the specific info in here. But the fact of the matter is a 100% healthy newborn baby can die of cardiac arrest if he loses 2.3 ounces of blood. This poor little guy bled for at least 4 hours after his surgery - yet his doctors are saying his death couldn't possibly have been caused (or even influenced) by this surgery and his complications with it. It doesn't matter if the surgery was for circumcision or open heart or umbilical hernia or whatever - any baby that bleeds that long is in BIG trouble! You simply cannot dismiss that and say it was just his heart.

There are so many things that this mom had written herself in her blog that shows where the nurses and doctors were, at best, not thinking clearly about the situation. NOTHING will bring this poor baby back, but it seems like these doctors are doing everything they can to make sure no one thinks they had anything to do with his extremely sudden death (because he had to be stable in order for a circumcision to be done - they wouldn't have done it if he was teetering on the edge of life and death).

I guess, in the too long, didn't read summary - I just wish that someone would be honest with her instead of worrying about whether they'll turn around and sue.

The Deranged Housewife said...

I do understand that perhaps the doctors were really at fault for even doing this in the first place. That's another matter entirely. But many of these hateful comments were directed at her, and that is definitely not appropriate. Time will tell whether they will sue, or what more we will hear about it. In the meantime, there is nothing anyone can do except offer their support.

Anonymous said...

http://journeytohomebirth-hbac.blogspot.com/
Her blog title is Birth after Ceserean.
I think this is the one you were talking about

K said...

don't stop blogging! you have the blog I wish I could/have he courage to have.
i didn't know about this situation until Barb blogged about it.
It disgusts me that anyone would take the death of a child, especially one who hasn't even been buried yet, to advance their agenda.
Some folks are passionate about circumcision. Fine. I am passionate about VBAC. Under no circumstance would I take the death of an individual child or mother during a C-section as a vehicle to prove my point.
It is abhorrent and mean and anyone who has lambasted this poor mother should be ashamed of themselves. What is the point? She isn't miserable enough? Her child suffered and died in her arms and a bunch of inactivist *itches think she deserves more pain and punishment?

The Deranged Housewife said...

Thanks K ... perhaps I was being a little melodramatic. But for a few minutes there I really started to feel sick when I read those comments, like I was literally going to puke. I'm sure it's every mom's worst nightmare that something will happen to her child, and if it's perceived that it's our fault that just makes it even more unbearable.

Anonymous, thank you for providing the link - I think that's what I was looking for. It's nice to know I am not losing my mind after all. :)

Molly said...

Amen! Before I actually started working as a doula, I had a lot of big ideas about birth. But being "on the ground in the trenches" gives you a wildly different view. I.E. when I have kids I plan on a homebirth. But I'd NEVER tell a client that that is the ONLY way ANYONE should give birth. It's just not realistic. It's birth and it very rarely goes the way we think it will.
I think it's the same way with these horrible people. They have their opinions but need to learn when is the right time to voice them.
Keep blogging, lady! Just remember you're fighting the good fight!

19lt70 said...

I agree "Deranged Housewife" (you hardly sound deranged, but I appreciate the humor). In our passionate opinions, and how we got them, we in the vocal birth community can lose perspective on the humanity inherent in every mother, father, baby, family, midwife, doctor, nurse, etc. People screw up. Bad things happen. Most people don't take adequate responsibility for their mistakes and it really, really hurts. Most people don't mean harm. But in the end, we grieve our losses, be a sympathetic ear for others who hurt like we've been hurt, refrain from judgements based on ignorance, and respect others' choices in the most HUMBLE, gracious, kind way possible. Wouldn't we want to be treated the same in a similar situation?

The Deranged Housewife said...

This blogger http://www.parenting.com/new/blogs/project-pregnancy/jenny-feldon/boy-parts-and-what-do-them-0 brought up the question of whether she should circumcise her unborn son or not. Being Jewish, she considers it something that is important to her.

One commenter said she decided to circumcise her son after a talk she had with her father, who was uncircumcised and wish he had been. Her comment got several more thumbs down than thumbs up ... it seems like few people want to hear when an uncut male wishes he was, but immediately jump on it when a cut male wishes he wasn't.

The Deranged Housewife said...

Sorry, you'll have to cut and paste the link.