"In The Land of Yu-Phonia"
by Rosemary Romberg (Wiener)

I once went to visit a far off land. As soon as I arrived there I
noticed that the people all looked just like us except for one thing.
Hardly any of them had ears. On the sides of almost all of the
people's heads were small holes surrounded by small scars where ears
should be. I imagined that this was probably an unusual breed of
people who were born that way.

I had been visiting for a few days when I came upon a group of
children. All of them were earless, just like nearly all the
inhabitants of Yu-Phonia. Some of these children stared at me with
fascinated curiosity. I soon realized why. I have ears. Soon a woman
came along and scolded the children. "It's not nice to stare at
people! Now, go away and leave her alone!"

I asked the lady why hardly any of the Yu-Phonians had ears. She
looked at me oddly and said, "We just don't, We all do it. Everyone
knows it isn't clean otherwise."

Over the next few days I tried several times to ask people about their
earless state.  Some of the people would just shake their heads and
walk away, apparently shocked by my question. Others gave me vague
answers. "It isn't clean." "Everyone does it." "You can get diseases."
No one seemed to know why it was done or want to say very much about
it. That was just the way, to them, that people's heads were supposed
to look - in the earless state. I realized by now that something was
being done to these people, to make them earless.

I was starting to feel self-conscious about my own, previously taken
for granted ears. I started to carefully brush my hair down so that my
ears wouldn't show. But I felt extremely reluctant to have them cut
off so that I would look the same as all my new friends. I mentioned
this to a man who said, "That's why it's done to babies. They don't
feel any pain. But I once knew a man who came here to visit. He still
had his ears because he had been born in the U. S. where they don't
cut off ears. His ears were really dirty with a lot of earwax and he
had a crusty sore on one of them. So his doctor told him he'd have to
have his ears cut off. He was feeling really odd about them anyway. He
wanted to look like the rest of us. So he had it done. Boy, he went
through a lot of pain when they cut them off! They had to put him to
sleep for the operation. They had to take several stitches. He had big
bandages on the sides of his head. He was really sore for several
weeks!! But he was a lot happier afterwards not to have those big,
funny looking things in the way!! With a little baby it's all over in
just a few minutes and they forget all about it. It saves so many
problems."

I told him, "I'm a foreigner and I just don't understand your custom.
But I'm curious about it. Most people don't seem to know very much
about this and don't want to talk about it. Where can I find out more
about ear amputation?" He told me about a young doctor who performs
them regularly at the local hospital who would probably be willing to
give me some information. I made an appointment with that doctor and
went to his office to ask him some questions.

"Well, most doctors will admit that ear amputation is not really
necessary," the doctor began.  "Five years ago the Yu-Phonian Academy
of Pediatrics spent several months doing an intensive study on the
subject. Their specially appointed task force on ear amputation,
following several months of research, officially came out with the
statement that 'There is no absolute medical necessity for routine ear
amputation during the newborn period. It is not an essential component
of total health care.'

"I always try to make a point of telling parents that ear amputation
is not necessary, but they almost always agree to it anyway. I think
they believe that it looks better, or that it is unclean to have ears.
They don't want their kids looking different from other people's kids.
Besides almost all young parents today had their own ears amputated
themselves when they were babies and they usually want their children
to match them. Sometimes they will say, 'Well, it was done to me when
I was a baby and I don't remember anything, and I'm perfectly okay. I
don't feel like I'm missing anything.' I think they imagine that ear
amputation is not painful for the baby, I continue to do them because
I believe that the parents wishes must be respected. Also, I believe
that I do a much more skillful job than most doctors. Many people
think it's a simple operation, but there can be some pretty serious
complications. I've seen some that have bled pretty badly. I've seen
one or two cases where babies have had to have blood transfusions
after their ears were cut off. Occasionally the ear amputation wound
gets infected and has to be treated. Once in a while a baby has to
stay in the hospital for quite a while for treatment of the ear
amputation wound. But most of them heal up within a few days without
any problems. The complications can be serious, but statistically, ear
amputation is a safe, simple operation.

"Now, of course the baby feels pain. Usually the baby cries when his
or her ears are sliced off. But I've seen several instances where the
baby does not even cry. Some doctors do use a local anesthesia
injected into the side of the ear before it is cut off. I don't know
if that makes that much difference, but it might help the baby's
initial pain. There's a special restraining board called an
"Ear-Amp-Straint" that the baby is strapped down to before the
operation is done. Then there's a special clamp that goes down over
the ear and smashes off all the blood vessels before the doctor slices
it off. There's also one company that has come out with a plastic
device. It's placed inside the ear and then a string is tied tightly
around the outside of the ear and most of the ear is trimmed away.
Then the rest of it stays in place for about a week until the
remaining ear tissue shrivels up and the whole thing falls off with
the plastic.

"The parents almost always sign the permission slip for it, but they
rarely see the operation and usually know nothing about it. The
operation is usually done one or two days after birth, although in
some hospitals they cut off the baby's ears right in the delivery
room. It's better if the parents don't see their baby's ears before
they are cut off. They might wonder what they are and why their babies
look so strange. Then we have to remind the parents that they all look
that way when they are born, but they will look normal once their ears
are cut off. And we also have to instruct the parents to care for the
ear amputation wound until it heals up.

"Now there is a small but growing movement in our land of people who
object to routine ear amputations of newborns. Some people think it is
really horrible and painful for the baby. We had a nurse working here
for a while that really hated ear amputations. Her own kids had been
done as babies, but when she started working here she kept going
around saying, 'I had no idea that this was what was done!! Why did I
ever let them do that to my babies!!' Then one day she came in with a
movie camera and filmed the operation of one baby having his ears cut
off. Shortly after that she started showing it in the childbirth
classes that are given here at the hospital. We soon put a stop to
that! That type of thing is just too upsetting for parents to see!
People like that are just trouble makers! We soon had parents coming
in to have their babies and they were all upset, not knowing whether
to agree to it or not. Some of the parents were taking their babies
home without their ears being cut off, and you could tell that they
were terribly worried about whether or not they made the right
decision. You know, they can sometimes have real problems with those
ears! And they are terribly difficult to wash! I haven't seen that
nurse around for a while now. I think she got transferred to another
department or left or something.

"Of course I'm open minded about whatever parents want. Once in a
while you do see parents with very strong convictions that they do not
want their baby's ears cut off. I believe that that must be respected.
I'm always very careful to instruct those parents that if ear
amputation is not to be done, their children must carefully follow a
program of lifelong aural hygiene to insure proper cleanliness. Cancer
of the outer ear is a definite risk of having ears, but careful,
diligent cleanliness almost entirely removes that risk."

I asked him, "What about one's ability to hear? In my country where
they don't cut off ears, it is generally believed that the outer ear
enhances one's hearing ability. Of course you can still hear without
the outer ears, but I'm sure there's some loss of subtleties and
variations in hearing without them. "

"Huh?" the doctor went on, "Well, that's all entirely speculative. I
don't know if there's any truth to that or not. In fact, I've never
even heard of any such thing. I doubt if any scientific medical study
could ever conclusively prove or disprove anything about the presence
or absence of the outer ear having any effect on one's hearing ability
one way or the other. I'm sure very few people would ever believe it,
if what you say is true. Our people can still hear perfectly well."

I then said, "You know, this is kind of a sensitive subject, but
you're a doctor and I guess I can mention this. But in our country
many people find the outer ear quite erotic. It's very sensitive to
the touch. Some people consider the ear an erogenous zone. People
sometimes like to nuzzle up to their lover's ear when they are
snuggling or making love."

"Well, humphhh!!!", the doctor responded quickly, "I doubt that
there's any truth to that!!" He looked quite embarrassed, so I
quickly changed the subject.

"In my country most people think ears look attractive. They complete
the face. Most Americans, upon seeing Yu-Phonians for the first time,
are startled. To us a person's head without any ears looks strange."

"Well, I think that's all entirely a subjective opinion," the doctor
responded. "Most Yu-Phonians think ears are funny looking. Some are
not even sure what they are. I've traveled in other countries and I've
seen some pretty strange looking ears, I've got to admit. Sometimes
they can be too big, or stick out from the head, or have very long
earlobes. I've seen adults and older children come in to get their
ears cut off because they got in the way of everything or were such a
nuisance to keep clean or gave them problems. If parents want to leave
their babies' ears on they really should think the decision over very
carefully and be sure they are doing the right thing. It's a big
responsibility, not only with attending to and teaching them proper
hygiene, but to make sure that they understand and accept that they
are different. That's why most parents decide that It's much less
trouble just to have them cut off right away at birth.

"But," the doctor continued, "attitudes are changing and today people
do seem to be a little more open minded and accepting of people with
unamputated ears than they were a few years back. People are starting
to realize that it's a matter of parental choice about whether or not
their children will have ears, and not a matter of absolute medical
necessity."

"When did this practice start?" I asked him.

"Well, one of our religious groups has been doing it for thousands of
years. But as a medical routine it started only about a hundred years
ago. It became very popular and was done to about 99% of all infants
born in Yu-Phonia about 40 years ago. Shortly before that our country
fought in the big war and a lot of our soldiers had to have their ears
amputated when they were out in the hot jungles and couldn't keep them
clean and had all sorts of problems. You have to live where you have
running water and regular bathing facilities in order to properly take
care of ears, you know. So most of these men wanted it done to their
own kids later when they got married and their wives had babies. Back
then there was more emphasis on ear amputation being healthier and
medically necessary.

"Some of our elderly people still have their ears because back when
they were born ear amputation was not being done nearly to the extent
that it was later. Some of them have ear amputations later in life
because their ears give them problems or because they'd rather not
have them. I've seen some old people that get quite senile and cannot
properly take care of their ears.

"There's one old geezer out on a farm south of here. He's in his 60s
and he still has his ears. He writes a lot of stuff and calls himself
the 'Keep Your Ears On Society'. If you give him the time he'll tell
you all about his ears and how horrible everybody else is for cutting
their babies' ears off. Most people think he's crazy. Most people find
him quite embarrassing.

"There's one lady," the doctor went on, "that might be able to give
you even more information. She does a lot of writing and I understand
that she has even written a book about ear amputation. Her work is
quite biased though. You'll just have to accept that. She is very much
against ear amputation. She's practically an evangelist against it.
She has several children and I think the story is that she had the
first two done after they were born in the hospital and like almost
all parents she didn't think much about it. Then she had the third one
at home. Now I don't approve of home birth, but there's a few crazies
out there that do it. People respect her anyway. After having her
third one at home, a whole week went by before they took the baby to a
doctor to have his ears cut off - so he would look like all the rest
of them, you know. This was the first time she ever had had a chance
to get any kind of a close up look at ears. She really thought her
baby was fine the way he was and didn't want to have it done. But she
didn't know anything about ears or ear amputations, so she figured it
was for the best. And from her perspective, her baby's ear amputation
was terribly upsetting for her as a mother. Ever since then she
has been on an active campaign to talk other parents out of ear
amputations and put an end to the practice. I think some mothers get a
little neurotic and over emotional about these things. But her writing
is good and she has researched the subject very thoroughly. She lives
in a small town out west of here. You might want to contact her."

The doctor gave me the lady's address and phone number. I first phoned
her to arrange a visit. I wasn't sure how to pronounce her name.
"Hello, Mrs. Ju---."

"Jugandels," she replied over the phone.

"You're the lady who's doing all the research about ear amputations?"

"Yes."

"How do you pronounce your name?"

She giggled nervously, "It's pronounced just like 'jughandles' - I
know it's a funny name for ears. It's just an incredible, ironic
coincidence - I think some people don't quite take me seriously
because of it. That's why I'm starting to publish some of my material
under a different name."

Mrs. Jugandels invited me to her home so we could discuss the matter
in greater depth. I drove up to a modest suburban house nestled in the
trees. We spoke for some time on the subject. Then she showed me her
small office in the basement. There was a desk with a typewriter and
mountains of unanswered letters and unfinished business. Several
shelves along the opposite wall were filled with stacks of several
different printed sheets. She gave me copies of several of these
articles. A number of them she had written herself. Some of these
factually spelled out the common arguments for and against ear
amputation. The factual arguments all stacked up strongly against the
routine operation. Other articles were instruction sheets about
correct information on the proper care of an infant's or young child's
ears.

"Most people mess with them too much," she said. "You just need to
leave the baby's ears alone until he is old enough to clean them
himself. Most supposed problems with the ears come about from parents
or doctors overvigorously cleaning the baby's ears."

"That's different from what the doctor told me," I replied, "He really
emphasized the importance of proper ear hygiene. He insisted that it
was okay to have ears, but he made it sound as if caring for the ears
was terribly complicated!"

"Most doctors are oriented towards believing in ear amputations," she
went on to explain. "Therefore they have been led to believe that care
of the ear, if left in place, is extremely complicated. Paradoxically,
this overly aggressive, constant cleaning of the ear is what causes
most problems that young children have with irritations of the outer
ear. Sometimes parents are told that they need to clean their babies'
ears several times a day. It's no wonder that so many parents are led
to believe that it's much simpler just to cut them off at birth."

"Well, I still have my ears," I volunteered, "and I'm sure you're
right. I've never had to do anything in particular to take care of
my ears. You just wash them whenever you take a bath. It's no more
difficult than washing your face, or your toes, or genitals, or any
other part of the body."

"Doctors just don't realize that," she continued. "People are just so
biased in their thinking about ears. They've been conditioned to
believe that they're dirty. It will take a lot of educating to make
the public think otherwise." Then she looked at me enviously and said,
"Gosh, what's it like to have ears? I guess I can never know. I can
only imagine. Once they are gone, they're gone."

Some of her other information sheets were filled with personal
stories, mostly by parents who now questioned why they had had ear
amputation done to their children. She also showed me a set of slides
that were taken from the advertising material put out by the medical
supplies companies that manufacture and sell the devices for ear
amputations. Some of them showed actual pictures of babies' ears being
cut off. The pictures made me cringe. "These make people think," she
explained.

Her mail arrived while I was there. I watched her pore through a stack
of envelopes. "I sell these materials," she explained, "mostly to
childbirth educators and midwives, but some to doctors and to parents
who want to know more about non-ear amputation and correct care of the
outer ear. It takes a lot of time away from my family, but it's an
important mission that I'm doing. More and more babies are now being
allowed to grow up with their ears because of my efforts.

"I've strongly emphasized the pain inflicted on the infant during the
operation," she went on. "That was the only thing that was important
to me when I first set out to do this. I really thought that people
were better off without ears. It was a big dilemma. But now I know
that the primary issue is really choice. A baby does not have a choice
about whether or not he will keep his or her ears. If someone has
their ears and later wants them cut off they can always have it done.
There are some valid medical reasons for having ones ears amputated,
but never during infancy. It has been a 'just in case' type of
reasoning. But if someone has had their ears cut off and later grows
up and wishes that they had ears, there's no way of ever putting them
back. I even know of a few people who have experimented with a new
'ear restoration' operation. Some skin and cartilage can be grafted
from other parts of the body to make a replacement ear. But it's not a
true ear and never will be.  Most people look at me strange when I try
to tell them about this. They just cannot comprehend why anyone would
possibly want to have ears. Most people insist that it makes no
difference either way, but I wonder, and I'll always wonder what my
children and I are missing."

Just then I heard a baby cry. Mrs Jugandels went into the other room
to get her baby. She brought out a little baby girl who, instead of
having holes and small scars on the sides of her head, had perfectly
formed little round ears. "This is my latest achievement,"
Mrs Jugandels announced proudly. "Even with all the work and research
I have done, it took a lot of courage and resolve to leave her ears in
place. My husband would have rather had it done so she would look like
the rest of the family. But he told me that if it upset me that much
it didn't have to be done. My in-laws are terribly worried about her.
They are so afraid that she is going to feel so bad about herself when
she grows up because she has these 'funny-looking' ears and is
different from her family and most of her friends. But I'm going to
spend a lot of time teaching her that her ears are something to be
proud of and that she has something special that not everyone else has.

"I know lots of other people around here that have kids with
unamputated ears," she went on. "So I think when she grows up, she is
bound to know other people who also have their ears. I keep thinking
positively that there is going to be a turn around in all this. The
rates of ear amputation are declining in our country, in part due to
my constant efforts to educate the public. It's a lot of work for one
person and I wish more people cared. But who knows? Maybe some day the
kids without their ears may be the ones who will feel 'different' and
the kids with their ears will feel normal. I strongly believe that the
body is designed the way it's supposed to be. I've lost some friends
because of that. Around some people I've had to be quiet. But I truly
believe that someday people will accept ears as a normal, natural part
of the body and will look back on this practice in horror. Perhaps I
will even be remembered for being right."

By Rosemary Romberg (Wiener)

Written to inspire others to think about foreskins and our country's
practice of foreskin amputation (commonly known as circumcision!)

Copyright Peaceful Beginnings (Incorporating INTACT Educational
Foundation/Prepared Natural Childbirth)

September 1985

ISBN # 0-916457-10-9