(Posted with author's permission)
If I could just go back and change just one thing as a mother, I would leave my first son intact. My biggest mama regret is allowing him to be circumcised. I am not writing with the intent of making any parent feel bad about their decision to circumcise a son, what's done is done. I'm sharing with compassion and hope for future baby boys, that maybe by sharing my story, I can spare just one baby boy the unnecessary pain of this cosmetic procedure. I know this is a controversial, sensitive, and taboo subject but I feel that the more a person knows about circumcision, the more they're against it and I will always wish someone I knew had informed me...
In 2004 I was pregnant, we found out he was a BOY! The decision to circumcise or not came up. I did all the research and came to the conclusion that I did not want to circumcise our baby boy. I think I probably found out more than the average parent finds out. I learned that it is painful, harmful, and medically unnecessary. I learned that no medical organization in the world recommends routine infant circumcision. I read what the procedure entails and I watched a video and had to mute the sound, no way did I want my baby to go through that. I shared what i had learned with my husband hoping he would agree.
Unfortunately, he did not. It wasn't even a decision for him, it was going to be done. We argued, I shared the information with him, I showed him the video, but his mind was already made up. It was closed actually. For him, it was a simple procedure that newborn boys went through, much like cutting the umbilical cord. Until then, he had never really thought about the fact that he was circumcised as a baby, but felt that he was just fine the way he was, so his son would be too. In the end, I foolishly gave in. I didn't protect my boy. I let my husband decide because he has a circumcised penis and I don't.
However, I had to justify this decision in some way, I couldn't just let it happen knowing what I knew. I didn't care about percentages, I've never really been one to do what everybody else was doing. I didn't care about "looks", I mean come on, it's a penis, it looks funny no matter what, right?! My husband actually is Jewish because his mother is, but I am definitely not. So I grabbed on to the studies that showed circumcised penises have a slightly lower chance of urinary tract infections. My husband has a kidney disease that has a 50% chance of being passed down. Bingo. We circumcised our baby because IF he has this kidney disease then we should do whatever we can to reduce the chance of a urinary tract infection which could potentially harm the kidneys. That was my reason, my excuse. Never mind the fact that the chance of an intact baby getting a urinary tract infection is only 1% higher than a circumcised baby. Ugh. Anyway, I insisted that if we were going to circumcise, my husband had to go with him, I didn't want him to go through it alone. Secretly I was hoping that this would change his mind, but nope, just a simple procedure in his eyes.
Our perfect little baby boy was born into this world April 21. For some reason, the pediatrician we had chosen wasn't called while I was in labor, so she didn't show up at the hospital until the next day as we were checking out. "What about the circumcision?", my husband asked. Oh we'll do it in the office next week, call and make an appointment. I said I was worried about the procedure and she pretty much said it's no big deal, don't worry about it. Scheduled the appointment for April 30th. Even though I wish so many times that during that week I had changed my mind, put my foot down, and protected his little perfect body, I didn't, the decision had been made.
So we took him in, my husband went with him, It seemed to take forever, a nurse came out at one point and I remember her sort of laughing it off and saying I looked "terrified" ... umm yeah, I WAS terrified. You people are back there "separating and removing" (those are my nice words) my baby's foreskin and it's taking forever! They finally brought him out and the doctor said he needed a couple stitches, no big deal. I wanted to throw up. My tiny little baby, his perfect body formed as the result of 100,000 years of evolution had stitches in the most sacred body part. How could I have let this happen and for what?! I really don't think I will ever forgive myself.
I got pregnant again, we didn't find out the gender this time. We planned on birthing at a birthing center with midwives instead of the hospital. My husband again was adamant that if baby #2 was a boy, he would be circumcised. They have to match, they have to be the same. I prayed to the universe for a girl, even though I "knew" it was a boy. This time though, I wasn't going to give in. Two wrongs do not make a right. When you know better, you do better (Maya Angelou) and even though I knew better the first time, I wasn't going to make the same mistake twice. I wasn't going to let another baby of mine get stitches in his penis for no reason. I told my husband that if he really wanted it done, he would need to call the doctor, make the appointment, and take him in to have it done. Knowing his inability to do these sorts of things (ha!), I felt relieved inside.
Thankfully, throughout the pregnancy, as he slowly processed the circumcision he witnessed, he began to "see the light". Believe it or not, what really sealed the deal for him was watching Penn and Teller's Bullshit! episode on circumcision (it's showtime folks, adult content warning). Eye-opening with crude and vulgar humor, on a very sensitive subject, check it out. What really stood out for him was the reason why Americans started non-religious circumcision just over 100 years ago, if you don't know, you should definitely find out before making this decision!
Baby BOY #2 was born peacefully, naturally at home in the tub. No appointment was made and he was left intact just as nature intended. I currently have 8+ years of mothering 2 intact (baby #3, another boy!) penises and zero urinary tract infections. Actually, one time, boy #2 was playing outside naked and got poked by a really nasty weed in the yard. His foreskin protected the very sensitive glans (head of the penis), if it wasn't for the protective foreskin, the glans probably would have swelled up and prevented him from peeing normally! Yay evolution!!!
So there's my story. I've experienced both sides of this parenting coin. I am a passionate intactivist - I believe ALL human beings, girls AND boys, have a right to intact genitals. Should an adult, man or woman, choose circumcision for themselves, as an informed, consenting patient, fine with me. But routine infant circumcision is just not a compassionate thing to do to a little newborn baby - it hurts, it harms, and there's really no good excuse to do it. The foreskin is a very valuable sex organ! It's his body, it should be his choice. Be the change, break this painful cycle. Just leave your baby intact.