Thought that might get your attention.
I wasn’t sure I was going to blog about this, but the more I thought about it, the more I felt it needed to be shared.
Last week I took Julian to the doctor for his 12 month check-up. Other than the cold he seems to have caught from his big sister and daddy, he did very well. He measured 32 1/2 inches tall (95th percentile) and weighed 24 lbs. 8 oz. (50th percentile). The exam was going smoothly until the part where the doctor opened up his diaper.
Some history here, for those unfamiliar with the state of my son’s penis (uh, that was odd to type), Julian is intact, as in not circumcised. If you’d like to read about how Jody and I came to that decision, see the infamous “The Circumcision Post.”
Anyway, upon opening up Julian’s diaper, the doctor proceeded to retract Julian’s foreskin a bit so that the head was exposed. She had never done this before and I had no reason to suspect she was going to so I didn’t launch into the whole “He’s not circumcised. Please don’t mess with his penis” diatribe. I just stood there, rather in shock at what had just happened.
Julian began crying shortly thereafter, though I don’t believe it was because of what she did with his penis. He was tired and probably just sick of being examined. So I picked him up and comforted him all the while wondering what the hell just happened, but I didn’t say anything. I didn’t ask why she retracted his foreskin. I was like a deer caught in the headlights. And I left the doctor’s office feeling like I had allowed my son to be violated and that I’d failed him.
A few days later, I posted a message to one of my Yahoo Groups – a group of friends I have known for the past three-plus years, explaining what had occurred and asking them what the doctor may have been doing and also confessing my guilt of feeling like I’d failed to protect my son.
A bit of trivia for those of you unfamiliar with uncircumcised penises – the foreskin should never be forced to retract before it is ready. Any retraction of the foreskin before natural separation has occurred, as early as age three, but as late as early adulthood, can cause irreparable damage through bleeding and the formation of adhesions.
One of my friends, who is a former physician’s assistant, pointed out that the doctor may have retracted the foreskin slightly just to see if it was clear of irritation, and to see that the urethral opening was centered.
Another mentioned that before her child’s doctor examines her son’s penis (which included gently retracting it as far as it will naturally retract), she first lets her know what she is going to do.
Another retold the story about when her son’s doctor forcibly retracted his foreskin (and he had been circumcised) to the point that it bled and caused him great pain. She has since changed doctors and reminds the doctor before each visit that he is not to touch the child’s foreskin.
Still another mentioned that her doctor gently slightly retracts both of her sons’ foreskin to look at the boys’ urethra. However, she also brought to my attention a document called the “Intact Care Agreement” that states that even gentle stretching of the foreskin is too much and there is no reason to touch a boy’s penis during an exam.
Each also mentioned that I shouldn’t be too hard on myself for what happened. We can’t protect our children all the time, but when something does hurt them, we can prevent it from happening again. It was that bit of advice that made me decide I should blog about it in hopes that I might help someone else.
While I’m left slightly confused as to what truly is the proper care for an intact penis, I think it is probably safe to say that in the vast majority of situations, there is no need for a doctor to try to retract the foreskin at all. I don’t feel that what Julian’s doctor did hurt him, but I don’t know that it was really necessary either. I do intend to talk to her about it since I’m going in for my yearly exam (also with her – she’s a family practioner) at the end of the month. I may or may not ask her to sign the Intact Care Agreement, but I am going to mention at every doctor’s visit that the doctor MUST ask me before touching my son’s penis. I think if she would’ve told me what she was going to do and explained why, I would’ve taken the whole situation much better. But because it was such a surprise to me, and because I remember reading time and time again that no one should retract a child’s foreskin except for the child himself, it took me very off-guard and left me feeling like I was to blame.
I guess the moral is live and learn and then spread the word so that others may benefit from the knowledge as well.