NPN Volunteers Share Their Stories about Genital Integrity

Written by NPN_Admin on August 27th, 2012

Edited by Amy at Anktangle

Activism, Circumcision, Holistic Health, Intactivism, Preparing for Parenting
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The American Academy of Pediatrics revealed its updated position statement on circumcision today, and some of the volunteers of NPN came together to share our individual perspectives and stories about circumcision.

The AAP had previously stopped recommending routine male infant circumcision in 1999 but has flipped its views with this newest statement, saying it “found the health benefits of newborn male circumcision outweigh the risks, but the benefits are not great enough to recommend universal newborn circumcision. …[T]he final decision should still be left to parents to make in the context of their religious, ethical and cultural beliefs.”1

Those of us who support genital integrity are dismayed by the AAP’s waffling on this issue, and their lack of clarity in making a reasoned recommendation beyond leaving it up to parents and individual doctors’ opinions.2 Intact America calls the AAP’s ethics into question, and The WHOLE Network presents the evidence concerning circumcision’s benefits and risks in a more accurate light.

In response to this development, the NPN volunteers have chosen to talk about their personal experiences with the topic.


Mandy O’Brien of Living Peacefully with Children:

Our children were born whole, intact. We didn’t choose to keep them that way. It wasn’t our choice to make. Their bodies are not our own.Their bodies are theirs. When they are older, if they choose some type of body modification – piercings, amputations, tattoos – that will be their choice. They will be able to make that choice because we, their parents, charged with protecting them when they are young, did not take that choice away. Our children, both male and female, are all intact. Medical studies do not support routine genital cutting of minors (male or female), and we do not support violence against children.


Charise Rohm Nulsen of I Thought I Knew Mama:

I have chosen to keep my son intact because I believe that it’s always best to keep things as close to natural as possible. I also could not imagine putting my brand new baby boy through a surgical procedure that was not medically necessary. I wholeheartedly felt that my son was born perfect in every way, and I didn’t want one of the first major decisions I made for him to send the message that I believed he was anything other than exactly what I wanted. I hope my children will always be proud of who they are, and I never want them to feel as if they have to alter who they are to fit some kind of norm. I’d like to think that keeping our son intact was one way to establish those family values early on.


Zhandra:

If I am ever blessed with a son, he will keep every body part he is born with. Why? It isn’t my decision to make. Circumcision is a risky cosmetic procedure, and I have no more right to cosmetically alter my child’s genitals than I do to subject him to rhinoplasty or tattoos. Permanent body modifications are a very serious, personal decision. His decision, not mine. Circumcision of the penis removes the entire prepuce (foreskin) organ, with all its 20,000+ nerve endings and mucous membranes. In doing this, you take the immediate risk of hemorrhage, infection and even death; as well as the long-term risks of meatal stenosis, erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation- to name a few. When my daughter was born, I never for a second considered modifying her body. Any sons who grow in my womb will be given the same respect.


Lyndsay Kirkham of Our Feminist{play}school:

As his parents, keeping our son intact wasn’t even a choice, it was an instinct. We believe deeply in body autonomy and personal choice, there was no possible way that we could make such a life-altering decision for our child. The thought of removing another person’s body parts was, and is, unfathomable for us; this feeling was only heightened by our knowledge that this painful surgery serves no purpose.

In addition, Aodhan unknowingly is one of many in a line of uncircumcised male children on his father’s side of the family. Circumcision occurs much less often in Europe, and it wasn’t even an offered procedure in the city he was born in (Brussels, Belgium).


Kelly of Becoming Crunchy:

I used to feel indifferent about the idea of circumcision until I really began looking into it during my pregnancy with my daughter. I realized that in many ways it is one of those cultural practices that go unquestioned – but the reality is there are no proven medical benefits. I also initially compared male circumcision to female circumcision, with the assumption that the one wasn’t nearly as bad as the other. But you can simply scratch the surface of the research to see that there are so many risks and drawbacks in either case. Ultimately it comes down to the fact that you are making an extremely important, essentially unalterable decision about another person’s genitals – and I don’t believe we have the right to make that decision for someone else. Don’t feel you have to take our word on it either – but please – do the research. We all owe that to our children. As for us – my husband and I agree – if we ever have a son he will be left intact, with the freedom to make his own choices about his own body.


Amy of Anktangle:

My first exposures to the circumcision debate were through several negative experiences I had while I was in nursing school. After witnessing four circumcisions performed in tandem by a crass and unprofessional pediatrician, I vowed to never watch (or participate in) one again. When I was pregnant with my son Daniel (before we knew he would have a penis), my partner Jaymz and I had a very brief discussion about the option of circumcising. Almost immediately, we agreed that we would not circumcise our future child; it just didn’t seem right.

From everything I know about circumcision, I know that it’s not a necessary surgery and it comes with a lot of risk. Circumcision removes thousands of sensitive nerves along with several perfectly functional parts of the male genitalia. I’d rather my son be able to choose whether or not he’d like to have part of his penis surgically excised when he’s old enough to weigh the risks and benefits for himself (and I highly suspect that he will choose to leave his penis whole). Until then, I’ll teach him proper hygiene and encourage him to use safer sex practices including condoms to protect himself from STIs when he becomes sexually active.


Kat of MomeeeZen:

We chose to keep our son intact for one very simple reason: it is his body, his penis and we have absolutely no right to cut part of it off! We researched this very closely and were happy to find that our decision was backed by up-to-date research showing there are no real benefits anyway.


Julia Mangan of A Little Bit of All of It:

I chose to keep my son intact for a lot of reasons. The main one, though, is it is a completely cosmetic procedure and is painful. I could not knowingly put my son through a painful procedure that was completely unnecessary. That fact alone was enough for me, but researching the function of the foreskin also caused me to want my son to remain whole. It was also important to me to leave such a decision to the owner of the foreskin, my son.


Adrienne Anderson of Mommying My Way:

There are many reasons why we chose to keep our son intact. Above all, I trust God made my son they way He intended him to be–without leaving anything there for me to “fix” or “correct”. And I trust I can raise my son to be strong and stand up against bullying, knowing that man is made in God’s image. And, I had to follow my instincts and take care of my son the best way I know how.

While researching this topic, I was struck mainly by the pain of the surgery on the infant boy. In other places, I saw horrible images of babies strapped down and restrained, which brought me to tears. My newborn belonged nowhere other than in the arms of his mama or some other loving family member, not strapped to a piece of plastic having pain inflicted upon him. I learned there is no medical need to circumcise a healthy baby boy and my favorite phrase that stuck out to me in my research was something like this: “Saying a circumcised penis is cleaner than an uncircumcised one is like saying an eyeball is cleaner without an eyelid.” Ahh. So, the foreskin actually functions to protect the penis. Go figure!


Sarah of Firmly Planted:

When pregnant with our first child, I was certain we would circumcise. I had read things about it being cleaner and easier to care for, so why wouldn’t we? My husband, however, was certain we would not. Though he is circumcised, he was completely against it, calling it unnecessary mutilation. I am so thankful that that baby was born a girl and that we didn’t have to have the fight. A few daughters later (and research!), I’ve realized my husband was right! Especially thinking of the reasons I was sure we’d circumcise! An intact penis is way easier to care for than a circumcised one. I remember my friend caring for her son’s circumcision wound and thinking, ‘That doesn’t look easy, it looks painful!’ Circumcision is completely barbaric, definitely not something we will ever do to our son (should we have one!).


Luschka of Diary of a First Child:

I was momentarily disappointed and relieved when my baby turned out to be a girl. I had my whole ‘don’t you dare touch my son with a sharp object’ speech ready. Fortunately I never needed to give that particular monologue. I wouldn’t even entertain the thought of having my newborn baby girl’s sensitive clitoris fiddled with or cut, for any reason, by any one. Why on earth would I find it acceptable for them to do so to my son?


Jorje of Momma Jorje:

I chose to leave my son intact because I believe a human body is born exactly as nature intended. I also researched circumcision and could not find one single reason to outweigh not only the health risks, but the pain involved. I was not willing to risk my nursing relationship. And, perhaps above all, as a mother my job is to protect my son. How could I willingly allow him to be harmed?


Kimberly L Graves of Our Crazy Corner of the World:

When my son (now 3) was born, my husband and I choose to have him circumcised. Neither one of us knew much about the procedure, but it made me very uncomfortable. I could never figure out why exactly, but during the procedure, after it was over, and for several months following, the thought of it made me nauseated and very anxious. It took several months to shake that feeling and I finally began to research it to help me understand why my mommy instinct was going crazy over something I assumed was “normal.” The research scared me, but it scared me even more that I had instinctively known I shouldn’t circumcise my son and I had ignored that instinct.

I’m currently pregnant with our second child, gender unknown. But what is known is that if we have a son, he will be left intact. I won’t ignore the research, and I definitely will not ignore my mothering instinct again.


Shannon of Pineapples & Artichokes:

[We chose not to circumcise] because we believe it should be up to our children which body modifications are done to them. We didn’t pierce our daughter’s ears as a baby, we didn’t circumcise our son, if we had had an intersexed child, we would have waited for them to decide which gender they wanted to present as.


Jennifer Wenzel of True Confessions of a Real Mommy:

Look, here is the deal, and I am going to be totally straight out with it. Circumcision is painful, unnecessary for 99% of cases, and a forced mutilation of your boy. The case for it for medical purposes is faulty: boys have a risk of the same infections girls do and we aren’t circumcising them anymore (they used to, really). Please, if there is anything I can convince you of, it is this. Don’t do it. Just don’t. Only 33% of boys were circumcised last year. It is not an issue of being made fun of anymore. Daddy’s junk does not need to match baby’s junk. The risk of serious complications from the procedure is higher than the risk of the cancer it is said to help avoid. The argument of the relation to tongue tie clip is moot: a tongue tie is an abnormality; a foreskin is not. If he decides later it is easier for him to get circumcised than to wash his penis, then he can choose to do that. Don’t force it on your perfect baby. If he wants to honor a religious belief, he can do so when he is old enough to do it. I am not against circumcision for those that choose it just like I am not against boob jobs, tummy tucks, or other cosmetic surgery. I am just against making a decision that will permanently alter the perfection of their body.

I regret choosing circumcision for L1 every time I think about it. I wish someone had told me beforehand, so that is why I tell you. I don’t care if you never baby wear, cloth diaper, co-sleep, or any number of other things, but this is a personal choice he needs to make on his own when he is old enough. You just need to leave it be, clean it like a finger (don’t retract; that is like peeling back your fingernails to wash your hands), and teach him to do the same. When he is older and it can retract on his own, you teach him to wash it like the rest of his body. And when he is old enough to have sex, you tell him to wear a condom. Those simple steps are all you need to do and your baby never has to go through a painful removal of one of the most sensitive parts of his body without proper pain medications.


Lauren of Hobo Mama: I’m so tired of fighting for what seems like just plain common sense to me. There’s no other body part we routinely remove from our babies’ bodies. It just doesn’t make sense. If a man decides he wants a circumcision later based on informed consent about his individual health risks (or by his own choice as body modification), he can have one; that’s no reason to force it on our infants. Some women at high familial risk for breast cancer decide, based on informed consent, that they choose a preemptive mastectomy — but we don’t cut the breasts off such girls at birth.

I am regularly thankful that my husband is intact and was able to teach me about the intact penis: the foreskin’s function and how a normal penis looks. When we ended up having two sons, it was then a simple decision to leave them as they were. I don’t know if I would have come to that same decision if my husband had been circumcised as the boys in my family of origin were. Before I met Sam, I just assumed I would circumcise any future baby boy because I thought that’s just how it was done. Now I know better, and I am grateful. Sam was able to reassure me about how easy it is to care for an intact penis (first and only rule: leave it to the boy to care for), and he’s provided experiential insight into what to expect from the development of an intact foreskin as to when it will retract on its own. It really couldn’t be simpler as these boys’ parents when they’re young. When they’re older, we’ll inform them about safe sex and condom use, as we would regardless of what genitalia they had.

As I said, I’m tired of fighting this fight against circumcision — but I’ll keep on doing so, as long as this nonsense about routinely cutting off our baby boys’ body parts persists.


Dionna & Tom of Code Name: Mama:

Tom: It’s amazing and sad that in our age of information, discussion, and research, that a group of doctors would condone elective surgery for a days-old child. It makes me shudder to think that I, too, once believed that I would subject my own child to this medically unnecessary procedure.

When Dionna was pregnant with our first child, I remember her asking me about circumcision. I replied with a, “Yeah, I guess?” Because I hadn’t even considered an alternative; I certainly hadn’t done any research about the topic.

Dionna: I did not want circumcision to be a source of contention between us, so I shared some research with Tom, and when he still seemed unconvinced, I brought it up during one of our midwife appointments. I remember the midwife said, “You’re doing all you can to bring your child into this world peacefully. It is important to you that you breastfeed, that you not harm your baby with any unnecessary vaccinations or newborn procedures, yet you’d consider removing a healthy, functioning piece of your baby’s body for cosmetic reasons?”

Tom: When the midwife put it in those terms, all I could say was, “Yeah, that’s true.” The more I learned about circumcision, the better I felt about our choice to leave our son intact.

The process of circumcision and the “good reasons” offered for circumcision are barbaric, outdated, and unnecessary, and they are NOT followed by the world at large.

The foreskin is a biologically necessary part of the penis. It acts as a barrier to infection; in fact, circumcised penises are more prone to infection. An intact penis requires no special care. And especially important for adults, the foreskin contains a richer variety and greater concentration of specialized nerve receptors than any other part of the penis.

We decided that our son should have the option of having his penis healthy and whole. If he decides that he would like to be circumcised, he will always have that option — but he could never decide to undo a surgery that we’d elected for him.


Melissa of Vibrant Wanderings:

I find it silly that those of us who make the choice to keep our sons intact are asked to answer for our decision. Circumcision is a painful, elective procedure that cannot be reversed. It is done with no medical indication. For me, the question is not why shouldn’t I have it done, but rather why would I?

Perhaps the biggest issue for me is that of respect for my son’s bodily autonomy. His foreskin is a part of his body. I do not have rights to it. To circumcise him would be to take something that is not mine, and that can never be returned. He can always make the decision to be circumcised in the future, and I will respect that decision, but he could never be un-circumcised.

  1. Newborn Male Circumcision“; American Academy of Pediatrics; August 27, 2012
  2. Where We Stand: Circumcision“; American Academy of Pediatrics

3 Responses to NPN Volunteers Share Their Stories about Genital Integrity

  1. Melissa P  

    Thank you so much for this! Human rights for all!:)

  2. Rebekah  

    Great commentary. Wish I could’ve contributed my story. I just haven’t had the heart to write lately with all of the punches being thrown my way.

  3. Kelly  

    Honoured to be part of this post and see the amazing advocacy from fellow parents – it is because of people like you that I became educated on the topic of circumcision in the first place and I will be ever grateful for it!

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