My friend Sean and his wife Jaimee took their six month old son Levi in to see a pediatric urologist last year. She’s a highly respected, well-known doctor on the San Franscisco Peninsula. Let’s call her Ursala.
“Your baby has this urinary tract infection because you didn’t have him circumcised,” Ursala authoritatively pronounced, as she looked at Levi’s chart on her computer screen. Sean and Jaimee just listened politely and didn’t defend or justify their circumcision decision. They suspected that his urinary infection was instead connected to a very difficult birth that went four weeks past term and included two stays in the NICU in rapid succession within the first month of life. “You’re also going to spoil him by constantly fussing over him the way you do.” This was Ursala’s next pronouncement. Again, Sean and Jaimee just listened politely. When it came time to actually examine Levi, Ursala’s next comment was surprisingly contradictory: “Hmm. He seems remarkably trusting and good-natured. He’s doing well, when you consider all he’s been through. You’re very lucky.” Nevertheless, Ursala continued to lobby hard for kidney surgery, another traumatically invasive procedure.
L. U. C. K.
Levi had indeed been through a lot. But in Sean and Jaimee’s mind, the only thing that luck had to do with it was the fact that they were Laboring Under Correct Knowledge. As parents they have worked hard to become their own pediatric authorities. The first bit of knowledge they have acquired is that baby’s brains are sufficiently developed before birth such that they can unquestionably feel pain and experience trauma. Thus – and this becomes suspiciously apparent to any parent who has attended a circumcision and didn’t dissociate during it – intentionally inflicting a large, painful laceration on a very sensitive area of a baby’s body represents a massive betrayal of trust. With circumcision, the Big Brain Question has NOT been answered “Yes.” The people whom a baby most needs to protect them and keep them safe and secure, have essentially failed in that responsibility.
The Unkindest Cut
Bob Scaer, a retired neurologist and long-time medical director of a health center in Colorado, claims that the trauma of circumcision has lifelong ramifications, none of them neurologically positive. In his outstanding book (the rewritten, second edition), The Body Bears the Burden, he makes a very strong, medically-based argument that the trauma of circumcision may lie at the root of such things as ADHD and excessive male aggression. Sean and Jaimee have thus made what they consider a very informed decision intended to optimize Levi’s brain development.
To the Spoils Go the Victory
On the audio program, The Neurobiology of Healing, contrary to Ursala’s negative judgment, Scaer also claims that it is simply impossible to spoil a child under three years old. I agree. The brain of a child under three is simply insufficiently developed and requires all the care and attentive nurturing parents are able to offer. This is yet more of the information and knowledge that are making Sean and Jaimee pediatric authorities.
Worldwide Knowledge Explosion
We’re in the midst of a worldwide research, knowledge and information explosion right now. This development is working to make any of us authorities on virtually any subject of deep interest to us. In a lecture at the Carnegie Foundation for Education last year, I heard John Seeley Brown, former director of Xerox PARC, announce that in five years, all the knowledge currently known in the world will be available online for free! The last estimate I heard is that 35000 new studies in neuroscience alone are published every year! No single person can be expected to keep current. That includes our professional healthcare providers. By the same token, it allows us to become our very own authority in any area where we have the desire and motivation to do research and make in-depth inquiry. And as parents, teachers and counselors, we can certainly seek and find information and knowledge that is particularly pertinent to us, our students, clients and the members of our family.
Caring for Natural Resources
The acquisition of knowledge about things child and parent-related has long been a prime parental responsibility, one that goes beyond simply saying “This is how my parents did it, and I turned out all right.” When I hear that rationale, my question in response is often: “Compared to what?” How might you have turned out if your parents had known more than they did? Had addressed and healed more of their own wounding? How much pain and suffering might you have avoided had your parents had more information available to them, especially during the first three years of your life, which we’ve now discovered has lifelong impact on things like immune function and protein expression in genes. Nevertheless, we now have the tools, and we owe it to our children to make the time to do the work of becoming our own authorities in the areas that have the greatest heart and meaning for us in order to consciously care for our most precious natural resource.