I am a member of the Naturally Down To Earth Community. I am one of those people who normally just reads the posts, “likes” it, and moves on. Just the other day, however, I made note of a post that truly hit home – the circumcision decision.
My family and I, (myself – Karen, husband – Shawn, and our four children), live in Ontario, Canada, where circumcision is still practiced and considered normal.
I grew up with my mom, dad, and younger brother, none of the boys being circumcised, and never thought anything about it.
My husband however, grew up with his mom, dad, and two brothers, all of the males being circumcised. I never really considered the difference between the two until my own son was born.
The birth and first mention of circumcision
Alexander, our second child and only boy, was birthed at home, naturally, under the care of our awesome midwives, on August 9th, 2006.
He was healthy, strong, had a great vocal cry, and was beautiful!
We were blessed again with a wonderful baby!!! Since we refused to discover the sex of the child before birth, we never really bothered to discuss circumcision – until then.
Our midwives asked us what our decision would be and were kind enough to provide us with information – both supporting and opposing the practice.
Although they declared their options to us (very politely I must add – they were in opposition btw!) they made sure to mention that they would honour and respect our decision and support us in every way regardless.
The following few days were spent caring for our two children, and regularly discussing the impending decision.
His family and he supported the practice – siting that it would be cleaner and healthier, easier to maintain, stating how important that our son be similar to his father and his schoolmates (we were considering the change room at school for this one!). His family even went so far as to get the grandfather included – stating that he started out not circumcised but chose to do it after suffering an infection caused by trapped grains of sand. Religion was not an issue in our case.
My family and I, however, opposed the practice, stating that he was born intact and beautiful, that if he wasn’t meant to have that part of his body, why would it be given to him?
We stated that he was healthy and functional and didn’t require adjustments, and with proper teaching, he could keep clean and infection free!
My father even insisted that sex was better with the foreskin . . . but I truthfully cannot contribute to that argument either way!
The debate got almost nasty near the end – which is saying a lot considering the families got along great . . .
I remember researching circumcision in an attempt to convince myself that it was ok, but it only made it worse.
I discussed my discoveries with my husband, who brushed each of my concerns off.
I debated with my husband’s mother, challenging her points of view with mine and my information. I will admit – she is a very good debater – it is tough to get a point in that fight!
I even asked her if she ever attended a circumcision – did she KNOW what they do and what goes on?????
Apparently she attended all 3 of her son’s and didn’t see anything wrong with it.
You have GOT to be kidding me!!! I questioned her about the pain – she INSISTED that the baby would not remember the pain, and would NOT NEED anesthetic!!!
Her theory – “they never used them for my boys and they turned out fine” – “they don’t remember a thing”. REALLY?????
You can’t seriously tell me on some level they have no recollection – that is hasn’t traumatized them in some way!!!
Anyway, neither side was giving in so I adopted my mother’s approach. Inform the man, and let him decide – after all, he is the one in possession of the penis! It seemed fair . . . well . . . Shawn decided to circumcise.
Although I didn’t agree, I accepted and honoured his decision.
I turned my focus instead to finding a good and competent doctor to ensure that my son would have the safest and kindest treatment for this sensitive operation.
I finally found someone who seemed ideal.
We arrived for our appointment, entered the waiting room, and received the necessary paperwork stating the risks and costs of the operation.
The urologist’s waiting room was filled with people of varying ages and genders, and quite a few baby boys.
My husband filled out the paperwork while I nursed my son and watched our two year old daughter play with the waiting room toys.
Soon enough, it was our turn, and we were escorted to the surgical room.
It was small, had a chair for an attendant / guest if you will, and the lined and padded operating / examining table.
Four Velcro straps were attached to this table. I inwardly cringed.
We seated / stood in accordance to what the space would allow, and the operating doctor and attending nurse entered soon after.
They reviewed our paperwork with us, and discussed the details of the operation. I noticed, during this part, my husband seemed quite uncomfortable.
I must admit, I was glad; perhaps he would change his mind??? Nope. No luck.
I stayed in that room, with my son.
The doctor then asked if we would like to stay or depart for the moment of surgery – it was our choice – although most parents waited in the waiting room.
All I could think was “REALLY????? It is NORMAL to abandon your child here, leave them alone to handle this operation without the parent’s love and support?????
You have GOT to be kidding me!”
My husband, the very one who SUPPORTED this surgery, immediately excused himself – and I really do mean IMMEADIATELY!
I, however, chose to stay. The way I felt, if I was authorizing and allowing this operation to be done to my son, I should, at the very least, be there to support, love, supervise, and protect him.
The painful procedure. For mom and babe.
The operation began immediately after my husband and daughter left. First they stripped him from his clothing from his waist down, and then used the four straps on the table to secure his wrists and legs – spread eagle.
The pain killer was applied locally, and a mandatory 5 minute waiting period ensued – to allow it to set in. The details of the surgery are vivid in my memory but extraordinarily painful to recite – I will do the best that I can – I encourage you to read as much as you can, please.
They took a tool that looked a lot like one of those metal sticks you use to close up a turkey at the neck or groin after you put the stuffing in, but blunt.
They placed that between his foreskin and the head of penis, and slid it around the entire head to loosen the foreskin.
They cut from the end of the foreskin to the base if the head of the penis, and pulled in downwards. A small plastic cap with a tiny hole (for urination) was placed on top of the head of his penis, and a string tied around it to hold in place.
The doctor explained that this would “fall off” as the wound healed, and would not require adjustment or removal otherwise. The doctor then took a scalpel and cut the foreskin off from the remainder of the base of the head of the penis.
The cry of terror, fear, pain…the cry for help
During this operation, Alexander cried . . . and NOT just the normal baby cry of “I want my mom”, “I am hungry”, “I am alone”, or “I am scared” . . . but this absolutely horrible and heart-wrenching cry of absolute terror, fear, pain, confusion, rejection, and hurt!
I questioned the doctor and nurse about this, telling them that he seemed far too upset to not be in pain, that perhaps the local didn’t take or needed longer, that perhaps he needed more, but was informed that he was not feeling any pain at all, that he was just reacting to the cold and manipulation of his genitals. I blindly accepted this explanation, although my instincts told me otherwise. I talked to him, sang to him, touched his head, provided my fingers for him to suck on, kissed him, soothed him the best that I could . . .
I tried everything I could at that moment in time to comfort and reassure him, to make everything alright . . . but I KNEW it was not. He struggled against the binds the doctor and nurse had enforced on him, his little face screwed up in pain, and turned red from the effort he was putting into his tears and screams.
All I could think was “How could I do this???” “How could I let this happen to my precious, perfect little baby boy???” “I am such a terrible mother to allow this to happen!” “What kind of mother are you to allow this butchery??? To leave your child to suffer this kind of pain???” To say I felt like trash would be a grave understatement.
A baby is clearly affected emotionally
In total the surgery lasted ten minutes . . . it was the worst ten minutes of both of our lives. As the nurse was redressing my two week old boy, the doctor recapped about proper cleaning and hygiene over the next few weeks, alerting me again to signs of excessive bleeding.
He kindly suggested that I breast feed him before we leave the room, to help him to comfort himself and settle down. The two of them left the room, and I settled down in the “guest” chair to breastfeed . . . but he rejected me . . . he pushed me away vehemently, red-faced and screaming, tears bursting from his blue eyes. I picked him upright, held him against my shoulder, patted him on the back and spoke calmly to him . . . I rocked him . . . I kissed him . . . I reassured him he would be fine . . . told him that I still loved him and always would . . . I apologized profusely stating that I was so, so, so sorry that I allowed this to happen. I cried. A lot.
I am crying now too. ;( I tried again to breastfeed, but to no luck, he refused. He was hurt and angry. I switched sides to feed him . . . no luck. I flipped back . . . still no luck. Both of us crying and hurting beyond imagination, I carried him up in one arm, and grabbed the car-seat carrier with the other, and took out of there like a shot. We passed Shawn and my daughter in the waiting room . . . my husband was paying the bill . . . and I quickly stated we would be waiting out at the car . . . and was gone.
I got out to the car and attempted to open the door . . . it was locked . . . I was in tears . . . Alexander was crying horribly still. My husband and daughter arrived only seconds later (he had the key – in my haste to get the heck out of that building I forgot to get it from him) and popped open the door. I practically threw the carrier into the car, and jumped into my seat to feed my baby.
It took another HOUR to actually get him to calm down enough to attempt to feed . . . on, off, scream, on, off, scream, on, off, scream . . . I seriously thought that he may never breastfeed again!
I was devastated, felt rejected, and horribly WRONG for submitting him to this!
My husband took my daughter for a walk in the nearby grocery store . . . he couldn’t handle the screams – I point blank told him that I couldn’t blame the baby for being this upset . . . if only he had SEEN, had HEARD . . . . . . . . . . . . Alexander fell asleep finally, and I very, very, VERY carefully seated and buckled him into his car seat (and cringed while doing so!).
A mother’s job is never over. Neither is her guilt…
For the next few weeks, I diligently took care of the area, cleaned and cared for it accordingly and, thankfully, we suffered no infections, excessive bleeding, or other adverse effects. The cap fell off as the doctor said it would, and Alexander healed up nicely. My husband avoided the whole diaper changing task as much as possible during those weeks of recovery – and I can’t blame him.
My boy’s genitals looked very angry, hurt, and frightening, and at every diaper changing I couldn’t help but to think of what I had allowed to be done.
I had taken a perfectly good, healthy, sweet, innocent, beautiful baby boy and butchered him . . . and for what??? Vanity? Insanity? Good intentions? Pressure from family? Ignorance? Stupidity? Perhaps a little of each in hindsight.
As my boy healed, I noticed (and continue to notice) that his circumcision was DIFFERENT than his father’s! Alexander was circumcised via the cap method, whereas my husband was done freehand – so this makes the point of “being the same” or “similar” superfluous.
At this time, Alexander has not yet identified a difference between his and his father’s penises, but I have no doubt that he eventually will. My son has also suffered from one very painful penile infection when he was 3 years old – so I can attest from experience that circumcision does NOT prevent all infections!
Alexander is now 6 years old and is a happy and healthy boy and has no conscious recollection of the circumcision. I, however, will never, EVER, forget that day . . . I will never forget his cries, his hurt, his fear, and his pain.
Hold no regrets of the past….But do better in the future
Do I regret getting him circumcised? No – but only because I have made the conscious decision not hold regrets.
Would I have done it differently if given a second chance? Absolutely.
I would have expressed my concerns more forcefully, and fought against the decision to circumcise more vehemently. I would have refused to bring him to the clinic, and I would have walked him right out of that office that day when I first saw those binding straps. My opinion from before the circumcision remains the same – I am against it – even though I am the one who allowed this horrific operation to occur.
Thanks for taking the time to read my dissertation. It is my hope that, if you are considering circumcision for your boy, that you take my story to heart, and truly consider not only the physical aspects and promised results of the operation, but also the emotional effects that this can have on both the parent and child. Please keep in mind as well, that there are no second chances, and no undoing of this operation. Well wishes to all!