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Thursday, June 17, 2010

The First Cut IS the Deepest

Before I even knew that I was having a boy, I thought about the possibility of Circumcision. It was on my, "Checklist" of things to do for the new baby I was bringing into this world, like buying diapers and getting furniture for the nursery. When my feelings that I was having a boy were confirmed at our twenty week sonogram, my mind was pretty far from Circumcision, being full of the sights and sounds of my unborn Son but, it wasn't long after that I had a discussion with my Husband about circumcising our Son.

At the time I was pregnant, I began to hear stirrings of the anti-circumcision movement. It seemed that the controversy had exploded into my world, but I paid little heed to comments by Men who had felt violated because their penis had been circumcised without their consent. I passively reflected that our time is a time of awareness, and some causes are ones that people have to reach really far for, such as circumcision. What could the harm be? Why was there such an outcry against a harmless procedure that had been done for many, many years?

In my mind, I ticked off the, "benefits" of circumcision. Surprisingly, having my Son look like his Father was not one of them, but I did think of his future, and the sex life he was going to have. I didn't want my Son to be laughed at or, see revulsion on the faces of his possible sexual partners and feel the subsequent shame and rejection. I had heard that, aside from the cosmetic, "benefits" circumcision also prevented bladder infections and made the penis easier to clean.

Me and my Husband have such easy going attitudes, circumcision just didn't seem like that much of a bother. Circumcision seemed socially acceptable and beneficial. I considered the pain but, didn't dwell too much on it, not out of total insensitivity, but as a necessity. I didn't consider that there would be videos online that would show the procedure, and perhaps that was because I felt I had made my decision and didn't feel the need to see the procedure. Coupled with the fact that I had a sense of disconnect from this, "surprise" baby and had other demands on my attention like buying a house, my job and sheer exhaustion, I really didn't think twice about my decision. I only voiced my concerns over a plastibell circumcision, feeling that prolonged the agony before I gave my OB practice the $250 refundable co-pay, (after recovering from the surprise that it was an OB that performed the procedure and not a Pediatrician). Ididn't think twice about my decision, until the day Colin was born.

After two days of sporadic contractions, (proceeded by pressure to induce, the frustration of my Husband and Mother and my own fears) and nine hours of active labor, I brought my Son into this world, crying and laughing as his lungs filled with air and bellowed out with a cry that was unmistakably full of life. When Colin was placed on my chest, still covered in birth matter, I hesitantly touched him with my finger tips, shocked that the life I had nurtured within me was finally, undeniably before me in the flesh.

It wasn't until after he'd been cleaned up, swaddled and placed back into my arms for our first nursing session that the shock had worn off and the love seeped in. As I gazed at my little boy, puffy eyed and fighting sleep as he nursed, I glowed with satisfaction, pride and love. When we finally settled into our recovery room as a family, we focused on sleep, Mark and I taking turns holding Colin while the other slept. As the sun rose on our first day as a family, we discovered each other by snuggling, changing diapers and nursing. When the Nurse came in to take Colin for his circumcision, my heart fluttered with doubt and a bit of panic. Before, when Colin was this alien life form growing within me, (as I sometimes thought of him) I gave no thought to the most tender part of his body, a body that was sensitive and overwhelmed with sensations now that he was outside the safety of my womb, being cut and snipped. In the short hours, which seemed so long, that we'd come to know each other I wanted no harm to come to this beautiful, perfect being that my life was blessed with. I wanted to hold my Son close to me and protect him, with a ferociousness that I didn't know I possesed, from everyone but my Husband.

I debated going with Colin with my Husband, but he talked me out of it, telling me I didn't need to see that. I was told by the Nurse that he would be fine, that they would strap him down and it was really quick and they'd bring him right back to me. I was far enough away from the room where they circumcise that I didn't hear any sounds. I put it out of my mind, but not out of my heart. I watched the clock, waiting for my little boy to come back to me. I focused on nourishing myself and getting some much needed rest.

Two hours later, they brought my circumcised Son back to me. As they wheeled him in to the room, in his clear plastic hospital bassinet, I sat tense in my hospital bed, my eyes focused on his little bundled form, eagerly awaiting the first sight of his face to make sure he was okay. At first glimpse, my little boy's eyes were open and searching, he knew I was near. We reached out for each other, through our hearts and, as I gathered him into my aching arms, my eyes started catching up with my other, "Mommy Alert" senses.

As my eyes scanned my little boy's face, I noticed that his eyes were watery, puffy and red rimmed. Colin seemed much more clingy, (if that was possible since he was really attached from the get go) and he rooted around furiously for my breast. Even though I was having some difficulty getting Colin latched properly, I didn't hesitate to offer him my breasts for comfort and nourishment. Colin squirmed in his swaddle, and I gently tugged at his blanket, releasing him from the confines of the receiving blanket to allow him closer access to me. Colin's hand reached out and rested on the swell of my breast, as if trying to reconnect himself through his soul to mine.

Mark and I cooed and fussed over our baby, treating him even more tenderly than before, and taking great pains to be careful with diaper changes and caring for his circumcision. Our tenderness and attentiveness continued after we brought him home, taking pains to inspect his penis in the wee hours of the night during diaper changes, making our ministrations fast, easy and as gentle as possible. We felt our boy was a fast healer, seeing improvement in his incision within a week of life. I breathed a silent prayer of thanks that his incision didn't get infected and seemed to look, "normal". The OB who delivered me, and circumcised Colin, was delighted to be able to inspect her handiwork when we brought him with us for my six week checkup. There seemed to be a bit of a bunch of skin on one side of his penis, as opposed to the other, but after speaking with Colin's pediatrician and Colin's Daddy, I was assured this was nothing to worry over. Life continued on, joyfully and lovingly with our new baby for months. I joined a Parenting group that believes in natural parenting, and started to hear bits of opposition regarding circumcision. On facebook, I subscribed to natural parenting fan pages, and began to hear more opposition regarding circumcision, but still chalked it up to personal choice and relatively harmless, until a week ago.

Intrigued by one of my natural parenting fan pages, Peaceful Parenting, I started reading more about circumcision. I heard the voices of parents and men who decided to and were circumcised, and those voices were full of pain, heartbreak and anger. The opposition being voiced so passionately caught my attention. Just what was this opposition toward such a, "normal" procedure. Well, it turns out that there is a lot, and it has a considerable amount of scientific merit.

I clicked on a link that led me to an online video of a Plastibell Circumcision, as the seconds and procedure wore on, I felt a mounting sense of regret, heartbreak and shame. As I watched a helpless boy infant squirm under restraint, heard his heart wrenching, pain and fear filled cries, tears streamed down my eyes.

THIS HAPPENED TO MY SON. This PAIN, this FEAR. I allowed my vulnerable Son, just hours into life, to be taken away from my comfort and security to PAIN and FEAR. The worst of it is that I did it so he wouldn't feel rejection from future sexual partners. I allowed the most sensitive, vulnerable part of my Son's body to be cut, pried, pulled and taken for a COSMETIC reason.

My Son didn't need a circumcision to save his life. My Son didn't need a circumcision to live his life. There are babies who are born with cleft palates, injured hearts, bowels outside of their bodies that NEED surgery. Baby girls grow up to be women with breasts that are often scrutinized and ridiculed and, regardless of the size and shape, made to feel self conscious and ashamed of their bodies. When these girls grow up, they have the choice to either cope with the hand that life dealt them or, they can opt for enhancement. Men are born with penises and, sometimes they wish they were bigger, shorter, wider, thinner. They may not have as many surgeries to compensate as there are for women, but they do. People say, "well, it's better to have a circumcision done for a baby, than it is for a man. There would be so much more pain involved for a grown man.

"A grown man would have the memory of the pain, a baby would not". Well, here's a newsflash for you, babies may not remember the procedure and pain and connection like an adult would, but they do! Even worse, there is no solid, medical reason for a male to be circumcised. What is even worse than the fact that circumcision is NOT medically necessary, (women get as many urinary tract infections or, UTI's, as Men do and we seem to cope just fine) it even detracts from the sexual experience. YES, a circumcised male does not enjoy the same sensitivity during sexual interactions as intact males do!

Bringing it back to an infant, they do feel and register pain. They're a lot more sensitive than we give them credit for. Perhaps a newborn has difficulty processing the overwhelming sensory overload, but they DO process, and maybe they have no words to speak or to form complex memories, but that kind of pain and terror DO linger. Wouldn't it for you?

I deeply regret my decision to expose my perfect, beautiful son to such terror and pain. My Husband feels the same way, after I showed him pictures of a circumcision. We both feel that it was a bad decision to put our precious child through something so painful and terrible for something as asinine as a cosmetic reason.

Mark doesn't care if Colin's penis looks the same as his. What kind of dumb reason is that? What kind of man cares about what another person's penis looks like, (other than reasons that I don't want to get into in this blog)? There are plenty of other, more valuable and enriching things to share with a Son than slicing into his sensitive, reproductive organ that his Father will hardly see after he's potty trained. How about passing down hysterical family stories, teaching how to build a fire, sharing knowledge of world history, love of reading, fishing, etc. There are SO MANY other, more valuable and far reaching things that a man can pass down to his child, than circumcision.

I'd rather pass down a sense of confidence in who my Son is, a love for self as his being exists, than to have given him this torture and pain for such bland reasons.

I beg of you, inform yourself regarding circumcision before you hand your sweet baby boy off for this procedure. Steel yourself, and watch the procedure. Read blogs and articles regarding circumcision. There are many resources out there that are partial as there are passionate. All of them are informative.

This site will lead you to many other links that will show you videos and photo's of circumcisions and a whole bevy of articles and blogs that can help you make your choice.

Saving Penises on Facebook has a mission to inform expecting parents regarding circumcision, and offer a packet of reading materials that will not only inform you but, help you inform your close family and friends who may offer oppositional comments and doubts that may sway you in your choice. As a former expecting Mother, I know the power and frustration that close family and friends can present with their own opinions on pregnancy, childbirth and child rearing. Knowledge truly is power, just like ignorance is bliss. You make the choice, just remember that your choices are now going to greatly impact a innocent, shapeable new life. You want the best for them, you're going to do it your way, just be informed.

Love to you and your Sons


  1. More and more parents are choosing genital integrity for their sons. U.S. Government statistics show that about 45 percent of infant boys left the hospital with intact genitals. This is the highest rate of intactness in about 80 years.

    This is due to parents like you who have seen the light and are telling other parents.

  2. Thank you for sharing your story. I have three circumcised sons and didn't learn until the youngest was 10 exactly what circumcision is. There was little information available then. Like you, I was shocked and horrified to learn the truth. Now, as you know, there is lots of information. And now, I have four intact grandsons because we brought an end to circumcision in our family. I know that you'll do the same in yours, and I thank you for that! When we know better, we do better. Keep talking, it does make a difference. And, by the way, I've apologized to my sons and they have forgiven me. Your son will, too!

  3. Oh, this is lovely. So sorry you've experienced regret and shame, but I love that you're sharing your story. Your little boy is so lucky to have such a sensitive attentive mama. So lovely!