Parents who have circumcised their children and come to regret making that decision often feel a sense of purpose by sharing their story. Men who have chosen to be circumcised have also regretted their choice. These stories reveal a side to circumcision that new and old parents alike may never have considered. Circumcision pain reaches far beyond the physical into the mental, emotional and spiritual, too.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Letter of Regret (S.R.)

Unfortunately our experience with circumcision is not an uncommon one. We did what we thought was best for our child at the time. Looking back and thinking about the knot in my stomach as they wheeled my beautiful son, not even 24 hours old, to the nursery to cut him makes me want to throw up. It's such a raw emotion that comes up. I KNEW something wasn't right about it; “Why does this need to happen” was running through my head. I knew I had made the wrong choice, but it was too late. When my precious baby came back to me about 45 minutes later, it was confirmed. His eyes were glossy, he was sleepy (what I later found out to be possible shock) and he refused to nurse. We never got our nursing relationship back either, little did I know, this is common among babies that have been cut.

Luckily our son was left with quite a bit of foreskin, so most of the head of his penis is covered. That still doesn't change the fact that I consented to have something done to him that was purely cosmetic. It doesn't change the fact that when I change his diaper, I think about how he looked when he was wheeled back and how I was told, “he was a champ”. Most importantly, it doesn't change the fact that I consented to something that I shouldn't have had any say in. It was NOT my penis; it should NOT have been my choice.

There is still a bright side to all of this. Andrew has saved any future siblings of his from being circumcised. He has turned his Mommy in to someone who is now armed with information and willing to share. He has made his extended family aware of the dangers and aware that no health organization in the world recommends routine infant circumcision.

In the future, if he asks why we made the choice for him I am going to tell him the truth. I am going to tell him that we made the best decision with the information we had available to us; that we were uneducated on the topic, that we are so sorry for taking something away that could affect his life in many areas, be it sexual or just his daily living.

While I will always regret signing that piece of paper to have my son cut, I am working hard to forgive myself. I keep reminding myself that "You do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better you do better" (Maya Angelou.)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Not Normal (by J.M.)

I never questioned it. 
Well, I *did* bring it up before you were born, "Are we going to circumcise?" It really was a rhetorical question. 
Duh, of course we are. 
So you "look like Daddy", so you're "normal" in the locker room, and because we're not hippies.
Fast forward to 2 days after you were born. You are perfect. We drive to the pediatrician's office. I get a feeling in the pit of my stomach, an uncomfortable feeling. You *are* perfect and I don't want to hurt you, but I do it anyways. It's the right, normal thing to do. *I* am normal, all the doctors are waiting, Daddy is waiting, other patients are waiting, it's not a big deal, therefore this must be right.
They won't let me come with you and I cry while I'm waiting for you to come back. (Clearly, an emotional post-partum mother)
"I hate this. Why are we doing this?"
You're back. I am nursing you the best I can to comfort you. You're so tiny, only 2 days old. Suddenly, there's blood oozing out of your tiny diaper. Apparently, I ruptured the clot while holding you. 
"Oh, god, I'm so sorry!" 
The doctor just warns us to be careful. This must be normal.
Fast forward a couple weeks. I am bringing you back to the doctor's because I "know" something's not right. You cry so much when I have to push back the foreskin and, though I'm not an expert on penises, I think the ridge of the head of your penis should be more pronounced.
Doctor says, naturally, "It's reattaching. Sometimes it tries to heal itself." 
(This is normal?)
The doctor then tells me to hold you down while he grips your penis and pushes back on the foreskin. Hard. You scream, I cry, you bleed. This is abhorrent.
(Yes, this is normal.)
Fast forward 2 weeks later. Your penis is trying to adhere again. This time I know. 
I also know you need anesthetic.
Why didn't they give it to you the last time? 
So I ask, and he seems surprised, but he gives me a tube and sends us home, only to come back the next day after I've kept the numbing cream on you for a couple hours. (The doctor would have actually cut into you again without anesthetic?!)
This is not right. This is *not normal*!
Back again. The doctor uses an instrument similar to a scalpel to cut your adhering foreskin. You cry, it still hurts you, and you bleed.
I am crushed, I am defeated.
I made the wrong choice.
I never meant to hurt you, over and over. I am the one who is supposed to protect you. I am the one supposed to make the right choices for you. I am your Mother. I am so sorry, my beautiful, perfect angel. I didn't know. 
I was ignorant. 
I am sickened.
This marked the beginnings of changes in my many parenting perceptions and beliefs I had before you were born. I needed to write this in hopes of being able to forgive myself. You may not remember your circumcision, but I cannot forget it.
I love you so much.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

My Most Precious and Beloved Son (by N.E.)

My most precious and beloved Son,

 I am writing you this letter because it has been on my heart to do so since having the realization that I failed to protect you when you were a baby. I’m talking about consenting for you to be circumcised. This letter is difficult to write because it kills me to know the pain and suffering you went through with my permission. It makes me sick knowing things could have been different if only I had educated myself.  You see, all babies are born with a foreskin. It is a normal part of genitalia and in baby boys and it is routinely removed after birth where we live. The doctors did not tell me about the risks of circumcision or the benefits of being left intact. It is left up to the parents to find out about these things with very little guidance from the medical community. I didn’t even know I needed to research it.

Son, your father and I decided to have you circumcised because we thought it was good for you. We had believed it to be more hygienic than leaving you intact and that it was just something you had to do for a boy. I had no idea that it was dangerous, is painful as it is, or that your foreskin was an important part of your penis that had an important role in your emotional, physical and sexual life. I did not research anything aside from recalling discussions I had with a man I knew who had a circumcision later in life and how he wished his Mother would have had it done when he was a baby. Everyone says it’s better to do as a baby because you don’t remember it happening.  There are a lot of things that people say because they have heard others say it and eventually, they come to believe these things. I encourage you to be a free thinker my love. Read, think analytically, and pray when you encounter these sorts of people and thinking.

After we brought you home, a good friend of mine started sharing information about circumcision.  My heart sank when I realized the kind of risks I took with your life and how much damage circumcision caused boys. You had some complications from your circumcision as well.  On the day you had the surgery performed, you came back to me mostly quiet and still. Your Daddy assured me you did “good” and that the procedure was quick. I quickly picked you up and loved on you and offered you my breast but you were not interested for long. Shortly after that you began to cry an inconsolable cry and panic rose up in me. I was so worried about you and it was awful to not be able to calm you. I worried I wasn’t breastfeeding you right and there was something wrong with my ability to produce milk for you. I prayed over you and held you close until you finally closed your eyes and slept. Several months passed and one day I opened your diaper you had a giant blister where your foreskin once was and no one could tell me what had caused this blister. You also suffered from adhesions where your skin tried re-attaching to the glans of your penis. No one warned me of the risks of circumcision and even though I wish someone would have; ultimately it was my responsibility to educate myself and I did not. I failed you and I am devastated by this reality.  I can only hope that you can find it in your heart to forgive me. If I had the chance to take it back, I would.

This has been a transformative experience for me and while I have agonized over this event in your life; I have tried to redeem the experience by becoming part of the intactivist movement. My goal is to make a little intactivist out of you as well. It has always been important to me for you to learn empathy and respect for human rights.  The man I pray you become will be passionate about caring for others, have integrity and speak the truth regardless of the consequence. I can only lead by example. You already join me as I advocate for those baby boys whose parents do not know the truth. Moms and Dads who think they have to do this for their sons when in fact, they do not. You show me the babies on the cards and carry them around with you.  I take this responsibility very seriously and I am passionate about telling people the truth even if it means people don’t like what they hear.  I believe in supporting the human rights of all people, no matter what their age, sex, color, religion, or sexual orientation. These are the types of things we must not be silent about. Every time I share, I think about you. I love you so much and am so blessed to have you as my son. I am always here for you and pray that this can be a healing experience for you.

Love Always,

Monday, August 6, 2012

A Letter to My Son (from S.S.)

To My Son,

I have wanted to write this to you for over a year now. I guess I should start by telling you how much I love you. You are my firstborn, you are my wonderful, amazing, child. You have taught me so much about being a parent and being a better person. From the minute I found out I was pregnant I was ready to meet you. I knew you would be amazing. 

When we found out you were a boy, we were over the moon! A boy! We picked out your name that very night. I brought up circumcision with your daddy and he said "yeah of course we will circumcise" How was I suppose to know anything different? I didn't even fully understand what a foreskin was or how it worked. No one brought it up during my prenatal care to discuss the options... I guess it was just assumed that we knew what we were deciding.

The day you were born, I fell in love. You were absolutely perfect just the way you were. You had a beautiful round head and long eyelashes. I kissed every one of your long, perfect toes. We stayed in the hospital for two days just learning to be parents and you and I worked together to succeed in our breastfeeding relationship. The day we were supposed to be discharged, the nurse came in with a consent form for your circumcision. I don't think I even read it over. I have a copy of it now and the risks are severely understated and the benefits are spoken of highly. Reading it now, none of it sounds familiar as if I had read it before when I signed it. Because I did sign it. As much as it shames me to admit, I signed my name to have them take my beautiful, perfect son and put you through tremendous pain just to remove your foreskin. 

I didn't know any better but I don't excuse what I did to you. I regret it every day. I do wish someone had spoken to me about the subject, anything to get me to stand up for you and say no. But the fault lies on my shoulders. I didn't know then about the use of the foreskin and the benefits to keeping it. I didn't question that it was not my body part I was having amputated so maybe I shouldn't do it. I took away your bodily right to keep your whole body. I didn't know. And I failed you. Words can't explain how sorry I am and I just hope that when you are older, you can understand and forgive me.