An Earthy Mother sharing her experiences in today's world....

Friday, July 16, 2010

Spending the day next to a victim of circumcision

Yesterday we spent the day at hospital as my son had to have a suspicious lump removed from his shin. We're awaiting the results and he's a tough little person who is coping well- he barely seems to notice the fact that he even had surgery. He is almost 4 years old and is way too active to let something like 15 stitches slow him down!

We arrived at the hospital at 7am. Just waiting for his surgery was traumatic enough to have to deal with, but our day got worse when I casually asked the parents in the bed next to us what their son was here for.
Dad: "Oh, it's a circumcision thing."
Myself: "Pardon?"
Dad: "He's having surgery on his circumcision."
Myself: "Sorry? He's being circumcised?"
Dad: "Oh, no, they are fixing the first one."
Myself: "Done recently?"
Dad: "No, he had it done as a newborn."
Myself: "Oh, that's horrific...."

I had to grit my teeth and turn my head and try not to say something which would only inflame what was already a bad situation with a room full of starving children who weren't even allowed water as they were all awaiting surgery.

Not only had this poor little boy already been mutilated, but they had mutilated him so that he needed surgery to correct the first mutilation. Two unnecessary surgeries and the poor little boy was 18 months old.

Although I was anxious about my own son's necessary surgery, I found it hard not to think about the poor little boy in the bed next to us. How did he feel when he was first done? How much pain had he been in since then because of the first unnecessary surgery? How much pain would he be in after this one?

The thought of them cutting into my son's flesh made me feel so awful, but the thought of insisting it is done to your newborn son's genitals makes me feel absolutely revolted.

He was the child to go in before my son, and as I watched them carry him into surgery I couldn't help but be angry. I would have done anything to not be in a hospital with my son, and the thought of this little boy being there because his parents chose to remove healthy tissue from his genitals when he was days old made me feel quite ill.

While their son was in recovery, my son was wheeled into theatre and I held his hand and stroked him while they anaesthetized him. I went back into the ward and waited for my son's surgery to be finished.

Both of the little boy's parents were waiting there as I waited for my son's surgery to be over. We exchanged polite smiles and leafed through newspapers. I watched the clock and hoped my son's surgery would be over soon. They came to tell me my son was in recovery but wouldn't be awake for a while as he was drowsy from morphine (which I never imagined they would give to a child, actually!). I jiggled my feet and waited for when my son was awake enough so I could go and be with him.

Then they wheeled the little boy in. He was screaming and sobbing, clawing his way out of the metal crib to cling to his parents. They held him and rocked him and he screamed. They sang him songs and walked him around and he screamed. Nurses came in and pulled the curtain around the bed, talking to the parents and checking his nappy for blood. The little boy continued to scream. They gave him morphine and he went from screaming to sobbing, curled into a little ball as his parents rocked him, shushed him, patted him, rubbed him. For half an hour I sat next to the curtain pulled around his crib and I had to try not to cry for this poor little boy. His heart started to beat too fast and more morphine was administered. They laid him on the crib and he whimpered in his sleep, his body curled into the foetal position.

My son was rousing so I went to recovery and sat with him for 20 minutes while he drifted in and out of consciousness. The mass in his shin wasn't what they expected and they had to remove much more than they thought. I thought he'd have 6 stitches, he has around 15. When he was ready to be moved back to the ward as we got back I could hear the little boy still whimpering, his mother out in the hall having some space while his father tried to soothe him.

We had to wait 3 more hours before we could take our son home. The entire time we were there post-surgery, the little boy next to us whimpered and cried in his sleep, his heart rate checked constantly. He would rouse and flail about, crying and raggedly choking on his own sobs. He pulled out the canula in his arm, spilling blood on the floor between our beds. I felt incredibly sick and incredibly sorry for this small person who had to be there because of a mistake.

When we left, they were still there, waiting for their son to be well enough to take home. Children who had been operated after my son was being discharged and this tiny little boy was still whimpering in his sleep, full of painkillers to numb a pain he never had to experience.

I've been an intactivist for years. When I discovered my son's sex I researched circumcision and realised just how barbaric it is. What I saw yesterday horrified me, and I was watching a toddler experience it. I can't imagine how awful it must be to see a newborn after male genital mutilation. This small boy was given a pre-operative sedative, general anaesthetic, morphine, codeine, paracetamol and more morphine- and he still whimpered in his sleep. I fail to see how anyone could say that a baby barely notices being circumcised- and with no anaesthetic and paracetamol for pain relief.

I'd give anything to keep my son away from a surgeon and away from pain.

I can't begin to grasp why anyone would willingly hand their perfectly whole, well child to a surgeon- and ask them to cut off healthy tissue for aesthetic or religious purposes.


  1. Amen - I am so with you on this one. Foreskins are there for so many functional reasons. Why on earth would someone do that to their child! It makes me annoyed that people feel like they can make this choice for their child. For so long I didn't realise the full and lasting effects of circumcision; and it was not until I met my fiance that I really realised. I can't believe when I hear shallow comments from women "ewwwww foreskins and gross/unclean/look bad". I personally think they are amazing, protective and important.

  2. How awful. I can imagine the sorrow of that room, my son has had 2 operations since birth, a ingroinial hernia corrected at 5dys old and a bowel biopsy at 10mths old, both times I was physically sick with dealing with the painful cries coming from my son, and the other babies around him.
    Circumsision was never a topic that came up for discussion when we had our son 2yrs ago. I didn't even realise it happened in Australian families, outside of migrated culture.
    My heart hurts to think of what these boys are put through, especially as babies who can't voice their pain. Their parents should not kid themselves, it would hurt a baby as much as a young boy/teenager/adult, except they don't have to hear their baby boy tell them of the hurt :*(
    It angers me too that there is medical untruths being spread around the community....such as a tight foreskin needing circ. What?? My son, according to our peadiatrician, has a tight most certainly does NOT equal needing to be cut >:-( He simply told me that we should not "pull it back" to clean and that if it did become an issue he can gently manually stretch invasive loss of organ needed!!

  3. As a mother who has had to hand her son over three times in his short life for open heart surgery, it has never made sense to me that people choose pain for their kids. NEVER.

  4. This article I saw posted on Facebook, may help to explain why he experienced such terrible pain undergoing a second genital operation ....It seems scientists have shown that newborns are uniquely sensitive to pain and hurting them means they feel pain more acutely in that area for the rest of their lives...

  5. This story is just awful, especially as this boy's pain and suffering and lifelong harm was entirely avoidable. Even after I learned what circumcision was as a young boy, I hoped and imagined that I was just born this way. It was inconceivable to me that MY parents would allow anyone to cut part of MY penis off.

  6. How digusting! As soon as I found out that I was having a boy during my first pregnancy, I knew there would be absolutely no circumcision. Why did I know? Because my parents decided not to mutilate my brother because they felt it was barbaric! I still thank them to this day for showing me the right way. The sad thing is that I was still charged for a circumcision that my son never had. They just assumed he had because he was a boy. Pathetic.

  7. This story breaks my heart. I've only recently started looking into intactivism and it's stories like this that make me wonder why or how I could ever have been for circumcision. I am incredibly thankful that I have daughters.

  8. It's frustrating that so many parents use the excuse "to avoid the possibility of needing surgery when he might remember it" to circumcise their infants... totally ignoring the fact that more circumcised children will have surgery to fix problems with the circumcision than intact children will ever need surgery to fix a problem with their foreskin. You simply can't avoid surgery by electing surgery.

  9. God love him... I would have been in tears, too! Thank you for sharing this story- I really don't think parents who consider circumcision really understand the risks involved. How people can voluntarily put their children through that kind of pain just... I don't even know. It makes my heart hurt. That kid will never get over this, even if he manages to consciously repress the memory.

    Glad to hear your son's not letting something like surgery slow him down!

  10. I can't even imagine how that must have been. I thought circumcision rarely happened in Australia, but was shocked when we saw acquaintances of my husband take their boys (not babies at all)to get circumcised.

  11. Thank you for sharing this . . . It brought tears to my eyes.

  12. This is why they say to do it when they are newborns and "don't remember" when in fact, this experience you described is what every circ'd man (and woman -- there are a lot of US women too) has STUFFED in his body, mind, and soul. Babies are 150x more SENSORY than adults .. the newborn has the ability to "check out" and disassociate. The 18 month can't ... but it's all in there .. in every man who experienced this. It's almost unbearable to imagine. Don't know how you got through the day without going rabid on someone.

  13. OMG. This is so horrifying. I have two intact boys, pregnant with a third (gender unknown) child, and I can't stop crying. My heart is bleeding for that poor child.

    My step-sister's son went through this THREE times, because she thought it was "icky" to have to properly care for a newly circumcized penis. Easier to care for my arse. I've never had to do anything with my sons' intact penises, just wash with warm water.

  14. I cried while reading your post. (I found it via the Peaceful Parenting link on Facebook.)

    When my wife and I were expecting I explictly mentioned not wanting to "correct" an intergendered child if the baby was born with extraordinary genitals. I'd heard that some doctors take unnecessary "corrective action" before consulting the parents. Our OB looked rightfully apalled that such a thing would happen without the parent's consent.

    Our daughter was born 14 weeks early. My daughter (like most premies) had so much blood drawn from her for tests that she had to have transfusions. She had laser-eye surgery to keep from going blind. (Also common for premies -- it is why Stevie Wonder was blind.) She was lucky or blessed or both.

    We were in the hospital for 12 weeks. 12 weeks of meeting other parents and talking with them. I met parents of a child with a heart so unique the condition needed to be named. I met the parents of a child that was perfectly healthy, except he had no anus. I met a father whose son's chest was laid open for weeks as the doctors needed to do multiple surgeries to try to make right what nature had made wrong.

    There is so much heartache, so many babies whose only nursery is the neonatal unit. It astounded me that folks would opt for one more surgery before they got to take their babies home... but it happened.

  15. As a parent of two now grown children and having experienced the pain of watching things that can happen to children I have to say that pain and parenthood go hand in hand.
    I am appalled at the judgmental comments that I see on a number of websites about circumcision. Parents choose or make decisions about a whole range of things that will affect their children for the rest of their lives and whether removal of the foreskin is religious, medical or for other reasons, its not up to us to judge.
    I have a Jewish friend who tells me that women from races that circumcise suffer far less rates of reproductive cancers - I have no idea if a study has been done or not, but it raises an interesting possibility doesn't it. As women, mothers, sisters, daughters how do we measure our long term health against his right to retain his foreskin? Is there any correlation at all or only some?
    In some countries, I would imagine that removal is in fact a health issue - imagine the pain if sand got under it and water for hygiene and cleaning wasn't as available as it is in our nice tidy western environments.
    Having watched doctors do all sorts of things to a child, including inserting a "cut-down" intravenous drip into a leg vein without an anesthetic of a 7.5 month old baby I realised that the world we live in is pretty cruel. We can do so much to change that - I screamed blue murder for the entire year that my daughter had appendicitis, the doctors left my son with a broken ankle for 9 months before I could get them to even xray. Lets agitate to make sure that ALL the children get access to better health care. Lets make sure that no more children are deliberately hurt, that families are safe, warm, educated and fed. Let us nurture, not nag......

  16. People smoke with their kids in the car, they beat their kids, they feed them McDonalds...let's just stay off the judgmental bandwagons.

  17. What's even worse is there is a distinct possibility the second surgery wasn't necessary but was caused by
    1) The parents being upset that not enough foreskin was removed, most surgeons remove less than they used to to prevent some of the adverse outcomes (like hairy shaft, painful erections, etc) but often the parents get upset because their son doesn't "look circumcised"
    2) Adhesions caused by not caring for a circumcised penis properly. Care for the intact penis is easy, care for the circumcised penis can be tricky. Once its healed any remaining foreskin should be retracted at least once a day as long as the baby is in diapers. This can be impossible if the penis comes buried as a consequence of circumcision. If there glans becomes irritated barrier cream should be applied to prevent adhesions. And if an adhesion forms it should be treated quickly, and as gently as possible.

    And of course 10% of circ'd babies get meatal stenosis, and the corrective surgery for that will give you chills, and its sometimes done "in office" so with local anesthetic (which hurts bad enough in a finger) or cream.

    That poor kid. You know once he's out of hospital he's not getting anything stronger than tylenol/advil and probably not even prescription strength of those.

  18. My heart aches for the poor little baby boy. He will be in my prayers.

  19. How awful. If I had been there, I wouldn't have been able to hold back my tears. I almost cry just thinking about almost doing that to my son, and am SO thankful I had the sense to do research on circumcision. I pity the people who still do this to their sons.

  20. Oh, and I just LOVE (sarcasm intended) the previous poster that compares circumcision to feeding your kids McDonalds! LMAO! You are an idiot!

  21. My husband & I chose not to circumcise our son. Why? Because we did not, and do not, believe we have the right to make such an alteration to his body. That is something for him to decide for himself, if he would even want to in the first place, when he is older. We are merely the custodians of our son's body, not its owner.

    Parents need to put themselves in their children's place and imagine what it would be like to be tied down against your will, and have your genitals cut at with inadequate, or no, anesthesia at all. How can people subject a newborn infant to such a painful, inhumane practice and defend it? Especially when it would be assault if it was done, without their consent, to an adult.

    I think about circumcision this way... If I wouldn't want some one to mutilate and permanently damage my genitals, then why would my son want that done to him?

    Just because it seems "everyone" is circumcising their sons doesn't make it the right thing to do!!! I believe that the nontherapeutic use of circumcision on male minors should be against the law. Just as it is against the law to circumcise female minors. Circumcision is not a parental right.

    I feel a deep sorrow for any parent that has found out too late the truth about circumcision and the harm it causes, but I feel the most for the child that has no real choice but to submit to & survive through an experience I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.

    10 out of 10 babies oppose circumcision. Shouldn't you?

    For more info about circumcision go to:

  22. I understand every parent has the right to parent their way...that not everyone thinks this is wrong...but...sitting there witnessing this child's pain....

    I really wish you had hurt the parents. I know...not right...petty and low...but as mom 'was getting space' how I wish you or I could have stopped in front of her and said...this could all have been prevented if you had never cut him. Dad could have had a few swift kicks to the groin with some golf shoes.

    Aye...I'm not civilized with adults who harm children. Do you know about Woman uncensored? GREAT blog....I think you'd love it if you're not already a reader.


  23. people need to get over the stigma of nakedness,and teach their children how to clean their intact penis'...I have a husband that is circumcised- my two sons are not and will never be. I will teach them how to clean their penis' in order to prevent any odor etc. All you have to do is wash. My decision was made after showing an article I got from 'The Complete Mother' called '100 uses of the male foreskin'.

    When my husband said, "I don't want him to see my penis and think that he's different", I said "he's not different, you are". My husband changed his view right there. If my sons grows up and decides to do that themselves, fine. I don't want them to grow up and wonder what it would be like to have an intact penis. I love them too much to be resented for mutilating them as an infant.

    ...and besides, when will people that do this look at how disgusted they are when they hear about female genital mutilation in other countries and realize that this is what they are doing to their sons? We don't trim a little girls labia at birth do we now?

  24. Reading this story makes me cry.
    When my son who is now seven, was born we knew for certain that we would not circumcise him. Throughout his first two years he suffered many bladder infections due to a valve issue in his bladder. We were being seen at a very reputable childrens hospital during this time. When he turned three they decided to operate to fix this valve. They informed me that they needed to circumcise him in order to help prevent infections. During his three years he did not suffer penis infections, just bladder infections. This was due to the valve not functioning properly causing urine to back up to his kidneys. I questioned the doctors on this and they were adament that they needed to do this as well. They said they do not recommened this for healthy boys but that my son needed this. We decided to follow doctors orders and to this day I fully regret doing so.
    The surgery itself went well it was the recovery that was horrific. He screamed in pain constantly. He was unable to walk for one week. We kept him sitting up right in his booster seat lined with towels, that was the only way that he was some what comfortable. We would sit him in the bath to try to make him pee as he would hold it in because it hurt so much, when he would finally go he would scream. At the end of the week when he took his first steps his legs didn't function properly due to inactivity. He would look at his penis and cry and ask us to make it look normal again. To top it all off, the surgery didn't take, he has since had the valve proceedure a second time and once again is suffering with valve problems. So in the end I feel that it was done for certain without necessity.
    To this day he remembers the pain and what they did to him. He worries that it does not look normal. He is frightened when we go to the hospital and I have to constantly reiterate that they can never do that to him again.
    Although my son was older than the norm to have this surgery done I am in awe that parents willfully do this all the time to healthy baby boys.
    We have since had another baby boy and of course he in intact. I was fully prepared to do battle with the doctors if it was ever mentioned that he needed to have this surgery as well.
    I realize that I was only going on doctors orders, however, I regularly read articles on the subject and I feel guilty for what my son went through and will always have to deal with.

  25. Granny Kit, you were spot on about "races" that circumcise having less cervical cancer. It's genetic, circumcision has nothing to do with it. When they compared gentile wives of circumcised husbands with gentile wives of intact husbands, that correlation vanished, and in fact they have now found the place on the genome that causes it.

    The sand story is a myth.

    mschatelaine, is the work of an Australian professor of molecular biology (not a doctor) who never saw a reason for circumcising he didn't like (including "to prevent bathroom splatter" and "to prevent zipper injuries") and spins the statistics like a dentist's drill. Try the Intactivism Pages instead.

  26. I am circumcised and I wish I wasn't... I'm now 22 and I have been meaning to ask my parents, mostly my dad why? I can only assume that he is circumcised as well. If I ever have a child who is a male, he will be keeping his foreskin! We are born with it so why not leave it? Thats how I see it anyways.

  27. heidillydoo-
    I deleted your post as it as another ignorant rave about the 'benefits' of circumcision, none of which are informed, relevant, or medically proven.

    I was very kind to the parents and I certainly didn't make them feel judged; I reserved these feelings as I was well aware they may have been experiencing acute pain and regret at having to correct what was a mistake.

    I do not leave misinformed, biased information in my comments out of concern for the people reading these comments who may consider there is a grain of truth in them.

    Just as I deleted a previous post which contained a link to a circumcision fetish site, I won't leave up information which seeks to misinform others.

    There are thousands of people spouting misinformation on MGM on the net. I keep my blog free of that- it's not censorship, it's a conscious choice to offer an informed view.

  28. Circumcising Your Son,
    Understanding the Risks and Benefits of Circumcision

    Controversy exists over whether circumcision carries any health benefit for the male infant or whether it is simply a parent's choice.

    If you are expecting a boy, likely you are trying to decide whether or not circumcision is right for you and your baby. In some cases, circumcision may not be a procedure that both parents may initially agree on. And likely you both have many questions about the pros and cons of this delicate procedure. Here are answers to many of the basic questions parents may ask about circumcision including the risks, benefits and what the experts say with regard to circumcision.
    Are there any health benefits to circumcision?

    Some evidence has shown that circumcision does reduce the incidence of penile infection and may lower the risk of penile cancer in adult men, however the overall risk of penile cancer in adult males is also extremely rare.

    There is limited evidence that circumcision may reduce the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases; however the adult male's sexual practices have a greater effect on the spread of STDs versus whether or not he is circumcised.
    Are there risks to circumcision?

    The most common problems associated with circumcision are bleeding during the procedure and infection. Sometimes the exposed skin around the baby's penis can also become irritated from the pressure of the diaper. Most of these problems are rare but treatable.

    Parents are often concerned about their son's level of pain during a circumcision. It is quite apparent that the newborn does experience pain and that the pain from this procedure is notable. For that reason alone, some parents may feel that circumcision is not what they want their newborn son to be exposed to within the first week of life.
    How often is circumcision performed?

    The incidence of circumcision varies widely by the country. For example, in 2005, the rate of circumcision in Canada was about 9%, in Australia 12%, the UK 15-20% and in the United States 56%. Over the last 50 years, fewer parents seem to be opting to have this procedure done since the circumcision rate in the early 1950's among caucasian parents was 80%.

    Do the medical experts recommend circumcision?

    The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a policy statement in 1999 which states that:

    "Existing scientific evidence demonstrates potential medical benefits of newborn male circumcision; however, these data are not sufficient to recommend routine neonatal circumcision. In circumstances in which there are potential benefits and risks, yet the procedure is not essential to the child's current well-being, parents should determine what is in the best interest of the child. To make an informed choice, parents of all male infants should be given accurate and unbiased information and be provided the opportunity to discuss this decision. If a decision for circumcision is made, procedural analgesia should be provided."

    Read more at Suite101: Circumcising Your Son: Understanding the Risks and Benefits of Circumcision

    Please do not delete this post as it is neither for, or against it, just an interesting article. I am currently trying to decide on whether or not to have this done to my son, and I want UNBIASED information, and I believe this article shows that :)

  29. What gets me, is that circumcision is cosmetic surgery on a minor who cannot provide consent. Would I be reported to the authorities for getting my toddler a tattoo? Probably. What if I brought my two year old in to a plastic surgeon to get his perfect nose altered so it looked different? Again, I think I'd have authorities at my door questioning my ability to parent.

    But unnecessary surgery on my son's's a "choice." Sure, it's a choice. HIS choice, not mine or my husband's.

  30. This is a bit harsh to read for me. I was young and completly clueless when I had our first child. I was actually born and raised in Europe, where the general trend is NOT to circumsize but I did, because I thought that is what I was suppose to do...I cried when they took him away but didn't know that not doing it was really an option. I wish I had done the research but honestly what can I do now? Cry myself to sleep everyday?
    My son was actually "recircumsized" because the first one was botched (shot me now!) But honestly, it was not as traumatic as the experience you wrote about. My son recovered in no time.
    Now, do I wish he had never gone through that at all? Absolutely!
    But like I said, I can't live my life feeling sorry for myself or my son, because I made the only decision that seemed right to me with the information I had.

  31. wow- heartbreaking! so happy we left my son intact

  32. When I was four my brother was born. I remember my mom saying she didn't want his to be circumcised but my dad insisted and did it behind her back. Then both my parents were angry because the doctor who did it cut too much. My brother has a jagged scar on his penis now. I decided then that I didn't agree with it. If a four year old can see that this procedure caused pain and decide not to ever do that to child of hers, why can't parents realize it too?