Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Piercing Story

This is a sad story, so if you're particularly vulnerable to children's pain, please stop reading here :(


OK, I warned you.

When a baby girl is born in the hospital here in Buenos Aires, they offer a complimentary head shaving and/or ear piercing. You read that right -- they shave girl and boy babies' heads at birth, if the parents so desire (we, of course, never had her head shaved in Ariz. or here). They think it looks better and makes the hair grow back evenly and thicker.

As far as the ear piercing for girls, they think that a baby is not really a girl unless she has her ears pierced. We felt that social pressure these past 6 1/2 mos., especially as people found novelty in the little flower headbands we put on Nile, popular in Ariz. but not at all here, as girls are usually easily identified by their gold ball, tiny pearl or tiny diamond earrings.

We were told they do the piercing in any pharmacy, but that you have to purchase the earrings in a jewelry store. I went to a local jeweler and bought Nile some lovely pearl earrings on gold studs, more expensive than any pair of earrings I own (OK, that's not hard to do, all of my earrings are Claire's equivalents). The earrings are the special piercing kind for babies, and have flat, snap-on safety backs.

When we finally got around to finding a pharmacy, we spent a Saturday afternoon going to three pharmacies and one hospital, and we were denied at every stop.

It turns out it is now against the law for pharmacies to perform piercings. One place gave me a business card for a house-call nurse company, whose nurses can do such procedures as piercings in the home. Another pharmacy suggested I go to a tattoo and piercing parlor ... The hospital receptionist was quite rude and said that they only do piercings for newborns, and as Nile was neither a newborn nor born in their hospital, they could not offer the service.

The next Monday I asked the nurse from the health unit in our office if she could call the hospital to make an appointment, but she had no luck either.

Our portero (i.e. porter -- doorman?) to the rescue! He always has the best advice. He knows a lady who works at the hospital who had her neo-natal nurse colleague call us to set up an appt. to do the piercing in our house.

The day (last Tuesday, Oct. 12) came, and I picked the nurse up at the hospital, conveniently located a few blocks from my office, after her shift ended at 2:00 p.m. Meanwhile at home, Neil had put some numbing gel from the pharmacy on Nile's ears, but I don't know if it really worked. I took the nurse to our house, where Nile was all smiles and cuteness toward the nurse, unaware of the horror to come.

Maybe I'm being dramatic, but it was really sad!

Basically, I sat down in a chair, with Nile on my lap facing me, her little legs out to either side of my waist and her little head turned to one side on my chest. I am shuddering remembering! Neil was at my side and helped, but I had to hold Nile's head down firmly to my chest and hold her body as still as possible while the lady looked for the right spot on her right ear and then pushed the pointy end of the earring through her ear.

It made a >POP!< sound as it went through her little earlobe. I can't describe the screaming and squirming and red face and wide-open, gaping little mouth with tears coming down all around it. Soooo sad. I have never seen her so upset or in so much pain.

Then we had to turn her head the other way to do the left side. It was really horrible, I don't recommend it. She was making awful sounds and trying to get away, and I was holding her head so firmly to my chest that I think she couldn't breathe very well.

When the earring went through her ear this time, her screams reached a peak and she became sort of limp for a split second; I thought she was going to faint, but then vomit just cascaded out of her mouth, between her body and mine and all over the right side of my body. Then she cried some more, and there was a flurry of activity to try to sop up the mess, but I just stood up and thanked the nurse and told Neil how much she had quoted, asking him to pay her and took baby Nile to the refuge of her room.

It was so sad!!!!

I started to strip off her clothes, but I was now in a vomit-covered suit, feeling like a ridiculous impostor of a mother, so I just sat down with her in her chair to nurse her. She calmed down quickly, and Dad came in to soothe her, too, and help clean the mess off of my suit.

When we took her to the kitchen (where Nanny had stayed during the ordeal) to show Nanny her new look -- which Nanny loves by the way -- Nile had a sort of nervous smile and only let Nanny -- who she loves -- hold her for a few seconds before she reached for me. I did feel needed!

I had to go back to work, so I showered and changed into a new outfit and gave Neil instructions to keep Nile with him the rest of the afternoon so she would feel secure.

It is weird that the process is a medical one here, and I am not sure if the little gun they use at Claire's is more humane or not -- I don't know that they recommend numbing gel there, but it doesn't seem to make a difference anyway.

She seems to be totally over it now, but it was so sad as a mother to put her through the ordeal -- all for vanity! :(



stephanie joy said...

Just so you know I stopped reading at the top as you said, but I wanted to say CUTE PICTURES I LOVE HER anyway.

Z. Marie said...

Poor baby. I don't have pierced ears, and although it's not a pain issue, I think I'll remember poor Nile's ordeal if I ever consider it.

Daniela Swider said...

OMG, I am so sorry the piercing was so painful but she seems to have forgotten about it and looks absolutely adorable with the new earrings.

Lincoln and Alisia said...

I will be honest, I totally love how they put earings on the little babies down there. I think it is so cute and I am super tempted to do it to my future children...

amyswor said...

Was searching for another GF's blog and came across your interesting one. Read about the silent pressure of others expectations for your dd to have pierced ears and their seeming disdain for her with headbands. Interestingly, there is a fundamental, underlying expection why all little girls have their ears pierced, often at birth as you noted.

In Hispanic cultures, earrings in little girls signify they are loved by their family and not just gender identification. Just wanted to reassure you that your decision to have her ears pierced as an infant was a good one despite the seeming discomfort and anxiety it created with nurse piercing her ears in the privacy of your home.

My abuela told me when I was little that it is considered a sign of love and devotion to a baby girl to have her ears pierced as a newborn. Often little gold balls or red stones are inserted
soon after the piercing to show the baby girl is loved in a male dominated culture. These often
come from godparents or friends, taken to the hospital where the nurses insert them in similar fashion to your dd's ear piercing, but often while asleep to minimize any movement or discomfort.

I think you were a smart mommy for having her ears pierced. As you can see, they clearly signal her femaleness and femininity. To others, everyone knows how much you and dh love her. A tangible sign has now been given, so please don't be so hard on yourself or feel guilty about doing it now.

Although our ped doesn't pierce ears in her office because she says she can't do enough to be good at it, she gave me some suggestions for moms having their dd's ears pierced and "Care of Newly Pierced Ears" tips. If anyone would like them, write me an e-mail.

I think it is a nice tradition to have newborns/infants ears pierced to show they are loved by all, don't you. Both my girls had their ears pierced like your dd did at 3 days old after birth like mine were done.


modestmuse said...

Thanks ladies, I think the earrings are adorable, too and that I made the right choice. Although it was unpleasant, don't let it daunt you if you ever decide to do it, Zoe!

mj said...

She does look good, I must admit. I had no idea how much culture played into this but the only little baby girl I know around here with pierced ears has a mom from Argentina, so now I get it. Since there is no real cultural significance in the US I'm just going to wait for Adele to be old enough to care and decide for herself.