When the Time Comes: The Circumcision Talk

Written by NPN Guest on December 16th, 2010

Activism, Circumcision, Holistic Health, Intactivism

My son is circumcised. Not for a religious reason. Not as the result of an educated decision. My son is circumcised because this is exactly how much thought I gave it:

Scene – Triage room in L&D, 35 weeks pregnant, checking for preterm labor
Nurse: Let’s do your preadmission
Me: Ok…….(skip ahead)
Nurse: Do you know the sex?
Me: It’s a boy.
Nurse: Will you circumcise?
Me: (looks to my husband)
Husband: Yes

Three weeks later when I finally gave birth, the on-call doctor told me she didn’t do circumcisions, but Dr. K loved to do them and would perform it later. They informed me that despite my objection to pacifiers as a nursing mom, they recommended one with a little sugar water to help calm the baby. At the time I was so caught up in the recovery from my c-section and difficulty nursing that I simply agreed. Looking back I wonder, what I was thinking?! Why would a doctor not do it? Why did they need to pacify my son? Because I was agreeing to mutilate him. There’s really no way around it. My son was born beautiful and perfect, and I allowed them to perform unnecessary surgery on him.

Like so many mothers I fell victim to the idea that I wasn’t the best person to make the decision since I didn’t have a penis. I was fine with it because I had no experience with intact penises. I can recall every single couple, there were 6, in my childbirth class, all of whom were expecting boys, discussing that circ’ing was the norm. The only thing I read about circumcision, from a baby book I greatly revere from Dr. Sears, advised that if you thought the baby would ever want to be circumcised, it was best to do it at birth than later in life when the procedure was more difficult and painful (recent research undermines this theory, suggesting newborns are much more sensitive to pain).

I do remember thinking that it was better to do this now than wait. He’ll want to look like Daddy. I know somewhere in my subconscious I thought it would be easier if he couldn’t remember. How unfeeling of me! He still experienced the pain and fear. And like most mothers, I did not attend my son’s circumcision. Having seen photos now of the procedure and having read more about it, I can only imagine how my maternal instinct would have overcome me. I suppose if they let moms attend it, they wouldn’t perform many circumcisions once mom saw this:

When we were expecting my daughter, I tentatively brought up circumcision to my husband. I knew I would not allow another boy to be circumcised and was concerned that he might be upset. After all, I had left the initial decision up to him. Instead he agreed. He’d read about circumcision in a book and was horrified that he’d agreed to let our son be circumcised.

And all of this leads up to what I mean when I say someday we will have the circumcision talk. I have no idea how it will come up. But someday I will apologize to my son for circumcising him, and I will explain to him that he was born perfectly healthy and I made a decision that was not my place to make. There are those that would laugh at this I’m sure, but my motivation is not to alleviate my guilt or traumatize my son, it’s to stress the importance of leaving his own sons intact. I imagine the conversation may occur if we are blessed with another son in the future. I have no qualms about leaving that son intact. I’m not hung-up on a future son looking like his brother or father. Instead it will be a chance for me to admit my own mistake and stress to my children the importance of making educated decisions about parenting and birth. If I had been informed, I never would have agreed to circumcision.

Now I could list all the medical reasons why circumcision is not only unnecessary but dangerous. I could share with you the horrible statistics of infant boys who die, are seriously injured, or become ill from an unnecessary procedure. But I won’t. If you need to read statistics or hear more stories, Peaceful Parenting has put together a tremendous resource list of books, articles, and websites with accurate information for parents. You can view it here.

In the end it all comes down to one thing – leaving your son intact is a matter of ethical integrity. Americans are horrified by the practice of female genital mutilation in other cultures. Amnesty International has spoken out against it. Yet, circumcision is an accepted medical practice in the U.S. If we can be honest with ourselves, it is no different than female genital mutilation. Regardless of whether you circumcised your son, like I did, or left them intact, it’s time to accept that reality and demand an end to a procedure that is dangerous, medically unnecessary, and psychologically traumatic. We cannot hide behind the guise of tradition. And if that’s not enough to convince you, imagine being strapped down, days old, and having the most sensitive area of your body partially removed by a knife. Could you do that to your child?

Photo Credit: peaceful parenting


Jennifer Albin is a write-at-home mom to a precocious three year-old and a bubbly seven month old. She holds advanced degrees in Literature and Women’s Studies and spends most of her time advocating for natural parenting and cesarean awareness. She is the founder and editor of Connected Mom.

This post has been edited from a previous version published at The Connected Mom.

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