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."
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.