Dot writes: it’s one of my less admirable qualities as a mother, but I can’t help finding my sons’ penises amusing. There is something touching and also comical in meeting the most symbolically overloaded part of the male body in such a small form. Apparently Shiva once turned his phallus into an infinite pillar of light and challenged Brahma and Vishnu to find the ends of it. That’s one end of the scale, at the other end of which is Frank giving his winkle a little poke in the bath and saying “Oooh! Wee!” Probably women like me and our tender, ill-concealed amusement lie behind centuries of misogyny. (“I’ll teach you to laugh at my infant penis, woman!”) In my case, however, it’s sheer self-defence against a house otherwise packed to the brim with concentrated essence of boy (and I include my husband in that). It’s my last feeble attempt to maintain an independent perspective; farts are extremely amusing, did you know?
I don’t really want anyone to laugh at my boys’ penises, of course; not proper laughing, not cruelly. Regular readers will remember that Frank was born with a minor congenital genital defect: he has a mild case of hypospadias, a condition in which the opening of the urethra is not quite in the normal place. In serious cases the hole can be well down the shaft of the penis or even in the scrotal or perineal area; in girls (girls get it too) the urethra sometimes opens into the vagina. Frank just wees in slightly the wrong direction, the hole being on the underside of the glans maybe three millimetres away from where it should be. Ken and I have looked up the procedures used to correct this with the help of Dr Google and have wondered whether it would be better to leave it be: it basically works fine, and it’s such a delicate body part to start fiddling with. However, some months ago (about eight months ago, come to think of it) the public health nurse arranged a referral to the National Children’s Hospital in Crumlin and today we took Frank for a consultation at the surgical clinic.
We were late. This made us rather stressed (lots of swearing at traffic lights on the way there) but no-one at the hospital seemed to notice. Frank behaved charmingly: he trotted around the waiting room being interested in things, smiled happily at the doctor, pointed to me and said “Mummy” and to Ken and said “Daddy”, just to avoid any social awkwardness, and was amazingly good about having his bits examined. The doctor pointed out that not only does Frank have the little hole in the wrong place but he also has a little hole, or at least a little dimple, in the right place, and probably all they need to do is to close one hole and make sure the tube gets through to the other. The doctor seemed to feel both that it was an uncomplicated procedure and that it was normal to operate in cases like Frank’s, and indeed in milder cases. It is important to boys, she said, to be able to pee standing up. I think Frank might be able to pee standing up anyway, if he’s careful, but one certainly wants to be sure. So we were largely persuaded it was best to go ahead and get the operation done. The plan is that we will be sent an appointment, probably for some time in the autumn, for a day-case procedure; when Frank is under anaesthetic they will use a probe (poor lamb) to check that the tubes join up; if they don’t and it looks as though he would need to be catheterized they’ll wake him up and plan an in-patient operation for another day; but if the omens are good they will perform a “meatoplasty”. The name of the procedure is comic – sounds like cosmetic surgery for sausages – but the idea of my tiny Frank going under general anaesthetic and the knife is not. Still less funny, however, would be Frank enduring years of self-consciousness and maybe even bullying for his slightly non-standard knob. Especially with a big brother as fond of running around with no pants on as Hugh…
P.S. I shudder to think what would happen if I put tags on this post:-)