Posted with Permission from Author
When I found out my second child was a boy, I started immediately thinking of the differences I would find in parenting and care-taking between him and my first born daughter. As I sat at lunch one day with my sister and mother, my sister asked me if I planned on circumcision. We sat there talking and she informed me if she could go back, she wouldn’t do it to my nephew. My mother agreed, stating that if she had had the choice all those years ago, she doesn’t think she would have done it to my three brothers. I was unsure, however; I don’t have a penis, never had to care for one, never knew anything different than circumcision. But I was young. The world was changing. So I did what any reasonable young mother would do. I researched.
I googled everything I could think of, day and night. I watched videos, read articles, looked up scientific facts on pros and cons. I blogged and tweeted my concerns, asking for help making this decision from friends, family, and even strangers. In my heart I knew it was wrong, I couldn’t find any reason to justify it, but I also struggled finding a reason to justify not doing it to my husband. He was convinced it had to be done, that it was cleaner, that it was easier to care for, that it was the natural thing to do. My son would look different than his peers, he would look different than his father, and women wouldn’t be attracted to it. I tried to show him the research, I tried to discuss it, I tried to show him the videos, but to no avail. I couldn’t convince him and I was tired of fighting. Finally, someone gave me this advice, “If you’re still unsure and it’s that important to your husband, just let him decide, even if you don’t agree on it.” So I did. I relented and said, “Fine, dear, have it your way.”
The days and weeks leading up to the birth of our son, I still tried, without luck, to make my husband reconsider. Not even reconsider really, but to just consider another option. He wouldn't watch the videos and stated plainly that I had no idea what owning and cleaning a penis entailed; it would be much more difficult if he was left intact. Did I really want that?
My son was born early on a July morning, and by the afternoon the nurse came around to ask if we were choosing circumcision. I was alone in the hospital room at this point and nearly told her no, to leave him alone, but instead I choked out a yes and was told that he would be picked up tomorrow morning for his “procedure.”
The next day, I sat; silently praying they wouldn’t show up, that they would forget about us, about him, about his penis. They allowed me to finish nursing while they described the way it would happen, what they would do to soothe him and had me sign the forms with a shaky signature. They promised it wouldn’t be more than an hour- two tops. He would come back, right as rain.
I sobbed as they wheeled his little bed away from me.
Five hours later, I awoke from a nap to my husband standing in the room, questioning where he was. I didn’t know, they took him away this morning and I hadn’t seen him since. He walked to the nursery to question the nurses where they explained that he had bled “just a little more” than they were comfortable with, so they kept him a little longer just to make sure.
“You’re lucky!” The nurse laughed at my husband. “Most babies are way too small and the doctors have a lot of trouble getting the whole thing off. You have a big boy!”
For days, my son slept. Not the sweet, peaceful sleep of a newborn, but a fitful, obviously painful sleep. When he awoke, he screamed in pain, unable to be soothed, unwilling to nurse or cuddled closely. He screamed when he urinated or defecated; he was only happy when his diaper was off, but so long as his penis went untouched. I lived in fear of diaper changes. I wanted nothing more than to just leave him be; no diaper, no pulling his penis to ensure the foreskin wouldn’t grow back, no Vaseline on the base. Just freedom from pain is all I wanted for him. We both sobbed during those moments, his diapers always speckled with blood and his face always tear stained.
The healing process never seemed to end. As he got older, the bleeding stopped, but the wound never healed. At first, his pediatrician told us to continue to just put the Vaseline on it, continuing to treat it like we always had. It wasn’t until six months of questioning did she inspect a little better and found that, while the doctors considered him a “big” boy and claimed to have no trouble with his circumcision, they actually snipped too much off. Now, he will have a permanent scar about a half of an inch long at the tip of his penis. When it will become a scar, I have no idea (as of right now, it’s still an open wound, 14 months later.) We’re still required to keep Vaseline on it several times a week. We find blood occasionally on diapers and hear him screaming at the first sign of a dirty diaper. He runs away after his diaper comes off and holds himself sobbing. During those nights when his cut reopens, he and I both lay awake at night crying, wishing for an end.
We should have allowed him that choice, we should have waited. If we had, he wouldn’t be in pain several times a month... he would be whole with no pain, as he should be. I don’t know if this has changed my husband’s view on circumcision, and I don’t blame him for this. I blame myself for saying yes; I blame myself for signing those forms; I blame myself completely, and I will fight for tomorrow’s sons- whether they are my own, my nephews, or a stranger's. No boy should have to go through this pain, not for his parents peace of mind.