When I was pregnant with my first son it was just assumed that we would circumcise. I was fairly uneducated about all things birth and basically just went along with the mainstream public. I did take a natural childbirth class towards the end of my pregnancy and decided that I wanted to have a natural birth. My teacher did talk about circumcision, but now looking back, I can see that she didn’t want to make any waves with the couples. I now know that she was a member of NOCIRC at the time. Oh how I wish she would have been more outspoken about this procedure! It may have saved my son from an unecessary surgery.
I was able to give birth naturally but with lots of fights since we were with Obstetricians in the hospital. When they came to take our son for his circumcision on the second day of his life, I felt a strong sense of dread. I now know this was my motherly instincts kicking in and I wanted to protect him but I felt torn. This was what I was supposed to do after all right? It was what everyone was telling me to do. When they took him, I ran into the bathroom, covered my ears (not like I was going to hear him) and cried. I cried for the pain I knew he was about to experience. When they brought him back to me 30 minutes later he was doing that quick, deep breathing that babies do after they have been crying hard for a long period of time. It was horrible. He then went on to have problems with his penis. The resident who performed the surgery (this is who most often does them in the hospital) did not take off enough skin and it adhered to the head of his penis. We were told numerous times by our pediatrician that we need to retract this skin after each bath to tear it away from the head of the penis. This was very traumatic and painful for him and us and yet we continued to do it for the first 2 years of his life out of fear of him having a deformed penis. We also had an experience that could have been prevented by leaving him intact. When he was 4, he was jumping with his brother on a bunch of pillows and the head of his penis scraped against one of the zippers. He was in excruciating pain for hours and we finally took him to the pediatricians where they said they see a lot of this and told us it would go away soon. The sensative glans of his penis would have surely been protected by his foreskin if he had been left intact.
With my next baby we went to a free-standing birth center with certified nurse midwives. I spent a lot of that pregnancy hoping I was not having a boy since I did not want to put a child through that trauma again. At one point, my midwife attempted to talk me out of doing it again if it was a boy. She was not pushy, but looking back, she was doing all she could to gently change our minds. Why didn’t we listen to her? When my son was born peacefully into this world, my first thought was, “Oh no, now we have a very hard decision to make.” In the end, we couldn’t fathom having one son circumcised and the other intact so we decided to have a moyl come to our house on the 7th day for the circumcision (we are not Jewish). We reasoned that at least we would be with him for the procedure and it had to be more gentle than having it done in the hospital. His one week birthday rolled around and both my husband and myself were sick to our stomachs at what we were about to do again. I have to say that watching this being done to our 1 week old son was excruciating and afterwords, we both turned to each other and said that we would never again subject a child of ours to this trauma.
With our third baby, we chose to have a homebirth and it was such a relief to know that there was no decision to be made regarding circumcision–we would NOT do it no matter what. This decision was cemented by the comments made by our first born son while I was pregnant with our third baby. One day after bathing with an intact friend, he inquired about his penis. Try explaining to your child why you cut off a healthy, functioning part of his body! It brought tears to my eyes as I did my best to explain what circumcision was to him and why we did it to both him and his brother. He had a look on his face the whole time that seemed to be saying, “What kind of nonsense are you talking about?” I then told him that if this baby I was carrying was a boy we were not going to have him circumcised, to which he replied, “Oh…that’s good!” Out of the mouths of babes right?
When Landon came into the world into a pool of warm water, I not only knew his birth would be peaceful, but also his first few weeks of life and beyond. There would be no agonizing pain, no shock, and no painful urinations. His trust in me would not be broken as I’m sure it was with my first two sons. How could they trust me after I handed them over to have that done to them?
I know that a lot of people cringe at the thought of the actual procedure being performed. They should–it is horribly cruel. I think I cringe more at the fact that I have altered my sons’ bodies for the rest of their life, for no good reason, and most importantly, without their permission. They will never know sex with an intact penis and their partners will also suffer for this choice that *I* made for them. Here is what amazes me–If anyone were to ever strap a helpless child down and cut off a part of their body such as a finger, an ear or a toe, they surely would be arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent. So why is it accepted for us to do this to a helpless newborn?
I am now a natural childbirth educator and one of my goals is to save other baby boys from this traumatic and life-altering experience. If I can save one little boy’s foreskin, then it has all been worth it to me! The ironic thing is that I homeschool our boys and am a part of a wonderful group of other homeschooling families. We get together a few times a week to socialize and play. My two oldest sons are the ONLY circumcised boys in the entire group. When we made the decision to circumcise them, we did so thinking it would help them be accepted by their peers. Now I am left to think how all of that rationalization was faulty. Luckily I know that the other boys in our homeschooling group are too kind to ever tease or taunt, but I still feel sad knowing that Keaton and Griffin will feel different than the other boys because a useful part of their body was removed. You never know what the furture will hold. I would have never thought that I would be friends with other women who all chose to leave their sons intact. I think about my decision to circumcise my two boys almost every day. It is the one and only decision that I have made as a parent that I regret horribly. How awful it would have been to know it was wrong and yet continue doing it so that everyone could suffer equally. I have never once regretted leaving my third son intact! He is perfect just the way he is.
Nicole T. – mom to Keaton 7, Griffin 5, and Landon 2 (and beautifully intact)
Bradley Method Certified Childbirth Educator and Certified Doula(DONA)
Nicole, BCCE, CD(DONA) mom to Keaton, Griffin, and Landon