Whole or Circumcised; Does It Really Matter?


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I was 18 when I discovered I was pregnant with twins in 2002. I had only been sexually active for 6 weeks. 6 weeks!!! I was in shock, I was terrified, and not once did the question of whether or not I would circumcise (if I was blessed with one – or two - boys) enter my thoughts. For me, this was a given. In the complete and total haze that surrounded me during those months of trying to wrap my brain around the fact that I would soon be a mother to not just one, but two little babies, whether or not to circumcise did not cross my mind. It was not confusing. It was not difficult. It did not weigh on me. I did not feel heavy in my chest when I thought about it. In fact, I did not think about it before the arrival of The Twins much at all. Like I said, it was a given. Of course I would circumcise any son of mine. Why wouldn’t I?

My husband has told me that just before the birth of the twins, we briefly discussed whether or not to circumcise our son. We were also expecting a daughter. He says I became angry when he broached the subject and that I couldn’t understand why he would even question the decision. He recalls it was a big enough reaction for him to let it go. I do not recall this exchange, but remembering the person I was back then, I certainly can’t say it isn’t true.

Oh, how I wish it weren’t true.

The Twins were born just 1 week, 1 day shy of 40 weeks. I developed pre-eclampsia and was induced. It took me a couple of days to fall in love with my babies, but once I did I was hit hard with a fierce love like I’d never known before. They were instantly my reason for existing and I immediately knew my life would never be the same.

When we took them for their 1 week check up, I knew it was also circumcision time. We were informed at the appointment that my state insurance would not cover circumcision since it is cosmetic and that I would need to pay out of pocket if I still wanted my son to have the surgery. I hesitated, but only because I did not have 100 dollars to spend on something like circumcision. My step-mom offered to pay for the procedure, as long as we paid her back. I agreed and she paid the woman behind the counter.

I sat nervously in the waiting room, but the nerves were more about the car ride home since we lived almost an hour away from the doctor’s office and The Twins did not like riding in the car. I had no idea what was about to happen to my little boy, despite knowing that circumcision involved cutting off some skin from the head of the penis. I knew they would cut him, I knew it could hurt, but I also thought I knew that it was numbed, that he wouldn’t feel much, if any pain, that it was easier on him now than when he was an adult, that this was in his best interest for a healthy future, and that he would definitely be made fun of if we did not do this for him.

A medical assistant came out to get us and we were guided through the halls to a room. The twins were undressed and weighed, measured from head to toe and the pediatrician looked each of them over. They fussed a little bit, but nothing traumatic. Both were gaining weight well and seemed happy. I was allowed to dress my daughter, but they took my little boy to get him ready for his surgery. I blurted out a question about anesthesia, and they assured me they would numb him first. I began to feel a huge pit in my stomach. I started seeing silver utensils and blue sheets and suddenly I needed to leave the room. I said I couldn’t stay, but did not want to leave him. My step-mom stepped up again, offering to stay with him. I was unsure, but took her offer since I needed to feed my little girl.

I am going to stop right here and say, you should all know as I write this I keep having to pause and breathe and try to take in the experience all over again without completely falling apart. I hate remembering. My palms are sweaty, my heart is racing, and I am hot all over. I am back in that waiting room. I am sitting there, knowing they are about to hurt my little boy and feeling like I really need to go get him, but also trapped in this sort of …power struggle within myself. Do I go and get him and let him keep that “disgusting flap of skin” or do I let them hurt him, knowing I am making a “painful, but necessary” decision? I decide to feed my daughter.

I am looking into my little girls eyes and a lump in my throat starts to rise. The tears are coming, but I am fighting them back. Suddenly I hear a scream of alarming proportions rush down the hall right to me. It is my little boy. It is my new baby. He is screaming in pain, screaming for help, and now my tears fall. They fall hard. Again I am overcome with the strong desire to go save him, go help him, go stop them, but I cannot will myself to do it.

“It’s already happening,” I think. “If I go back there now, I’ll just make it worse. Surely it’s almost over.”

His screams roar on for what feels like an eternity. I feel like I am trapped in a soundproofed room and only I can hear him. Everyone around me moves normally, like nothing is going on, like this is completely and totally okay. Like this happens every day. Like it isn’t new, it isn’t alarming, it’s .. no big deal.

Finally. Finally my little boy is brought out to me. He is wrapped up and covered and he looks like a peaceful, sleeping baby. He looks nothing like the little boy I just heard screaming across the office. And for a second, I question whether it was him at all. But deep within I know it was. I know it was. I’m sick, but looking at his peaceful face it’s hard to believe it was anything but easy.

The days following are difficult. I am instructed to put silver nitrate on his penis and globs of Vaseline to help his penis keep from sticking to anything it touches. Diaper changes are nightmares. He screams just like he did when I wasn’t there to comfort him. No matter what I put on his penis, it still sticks to the diaper. He cries ferociously every time he urinates and I find myself changing him much more frequently, worried some feces or urine will cause an infection. He sleeps a lot, which is not normal for him, and he eats minimally. Within 10 days, it is healed completely and it’s like it never happened.

Fast forward 4 years and I am pregnant again. We are expecting another little boy, The Monkey, and 20 weeks into this pregnancy the topic of circumcision pops up on my pregnancy board. Lots of people are doing it, some are not, some think that’s weird, others don’t know what to think and suddenly it hits me that I am going to have to make this decision again. I am going to have to go through that again. I am going to have to put my baby through it again.

Oh God. What now??

This is where it all changes. I hear what a couple of mothers I trust have to say about it and suddenly, circumcision doesn’t feel so cut and dry. It feels like I have a choice, like I am not doomed to feel pushed into that same corner and unable to protect my child. This time, it feels like maybe I don’t have to hurt my baby at all.

I ask my husband what he thinks about not circumcising our son, and this time he is the one who gets defensive. I explain to him where I’m coming from – that a foreskin is much more than a flap of skin, that it really, really hurts the baby and I know because I lived through it the first time (he was away at military training) and so did our first born son. I explain that it was traumatizing for us both and if we can avoid it, and it seems like several moms are starting to, maybe we should. I feel confused and start to question keeping our little guy whole. What about our firstborn son? Will he feel weird because he is circumcised and our second son isn’t? How is that “fair?” Within days I realize that way of thinking is completely ridiculous. I cannot allow the guilt I feel over circumcising my first son, C, push me into circumcising our second son to prevent questions and having to be honest about what I chose for him. We decide not to circumcise.

When The Monkey is born and they ask if we want him circumcised for the 3rd time, we keep saying no. I hesitate once because I am a worrier and I worry about things I have not lived through, but in the end we leave the hospital with our son intact. I, nor any of my future sons, will ever have to encounter the anguish and upset C and I were faced with previously. A huge weight feels lifted and I am so happy with our decision.

When we got pregnant with Doodle, it was a no brainer. Obviously, he would remain whole as well. Isn’t it amazing the complete 180 we did from just 7 years previously when we had The Twins? Doodle and The Monkey are whole and our eldest son, C, is not. I regret it every day.

I recently discussed the choice I made for C with him. He is 10 and the conversation was inadvertently brought up. I couldn’t lie.. so I had to tell him the truth. It was a pretty brief discussion because within a few minutes C looked horrified and asked me to stop talking. It was heartbreaking. I had thought about how we’d discuss it a million times. How maybe he’d forgive me, maybe he’d realize I didn’t know what I was taking from him. Maybe he would be okay and it wouldn’t be that big of a deal, like so many men claim it’s not. I had no idea it would go the way it went and I was not at all prepared for his reaction.

The reality of what circumcision is, is scary. It is heartbreaking. It is unnecessary and should not be a decision made lightly by people who it will not affect in the future. It should be thoroughly thought through before the choice is made for someone else and you should consider how your child will react 10, 15, or 20 years from now when you have to explain why you did what you did.

This is the age of the internet, of information at your fingertips in less than 2 seconds, and everyone – everyone - has the ability to fully research these choices we are making for our children. Especially one as prominent as circumcision. I don’t care where you live, you have to be aware now that circumcision is controversial and there are tons of studies and theories and ideas out there. This decision is not an easy one to make unless you let yourself be guided by someone else. Do the research. Read. Talk to people. Talk to mothers, talk to men, talk to anyone who is willing to chat. Circumcision may not have seemed like a big deal 10 years ago, but today it has become a very big issue – and with good reason! So don’t do something you may regret without being sure you can and will take responsibility for whatever outcome.

We research car seats, cribs, blankets, diapers, hospitals, doctors, formula, all in the name of keeping our babies as safe as possible, but when it comes to a procedure that can kill our children, and does kill at least 100 babies every year, we don’t give it a second thought. It is social conditioning and we have become numb to the horror of circumcision.

Maybe you totally disagree with me. Maybe you prefer cut men. Maybe you yourself prefer your cut penis. Maybe you are worried your child will be made fun of, should look like Daddy, could get penile cancer, be more likely to get STDs, HIV, etc all from not getting circumcised so you still think circumcision is best. And you know what? That’s not my business. All I am asking of you, to try and help you avoid the pain my son and I have been through, is look into it. Wouldn’t it be nice to not feel offended by my stance on this topic because you feel confident in yours? The only way to get that is to become educated on the subject and then make a decision.

You can start here:

Whole or circumcised, does it really matter? I think it does. Do you?

20 Responses to “Whole or Circumcised; Does It Really Matter?”

  1. well i started getting teary eyed readingur emotions while waiting and im sooo glad i didnt circumsize.

  2. I truly do. The way you describe hearing him scream and fighting yourself… It hurt my heart for you both

  3. This tugs at my heart in a million different ways. Thank you so much for sharing your story openly and honestly so that others expecting might first find the resources they need before their son’s birth.

  4. Even if circumcision was painless, which it isn’t, we still don’t have the right to make that decision about another person’s body. Your son will be the one to live with the decision his parent’s made. He will live with that decision every day of his life, whenever he pees, has an erection, masturbates,or has a sexual encounter! That alone should make you pause, do you want to make a decision that will alter that man’s personal, professional and sexual life forever because you did not give him the choice about his own body?

  5. I wish I was left intact, being born to a jewish family, I had no chance of being left whole. I learned the truth of circumcision later in life, I blindly believed all the BS about it. I am restoring, and will be an intactivist for life. If it saves ONE baby boy then I must save another…. To get back what was stolen, and to keep me sane, I will eventually be physically restored, and to fix the psychological aspect, is being a loud mouthed intactivist…

  6. I found myself taken back to the heartbreaking circumcision experiences with my own first 3 sons. Now that they are ages 40, 38 & 36 I have moved far enough away in time that the pain has faded some, since I also wrote a book, a whole bunch of articles, helped give birth to the movement, and had a fourth son who was left intact, but not even all of this can ever make my older sons whole again. I’m sharing the link to my website in hopes that some or all of this may eventually help others (which also has links to many other valuable resources.) http://peacefulbeginningsrosemary.wordpress.com/ Keep up the good work!

  7. This post is great. Would you mind if I linked to it from my blog? I’m trying to compile some good information for new/expecting parents about circumcision, and I think that this would be really powerful.

  8. Gut-wrenchingly painful to read but, thank you.

  9. Many people have told me that it was done as a baby and you cant remember it all the normal bla they say to try an belittle the pain. I can state truthfully that the circ has screwed up, my life physically and mentally…. physically with the painful errections that Ive had since puberty, of course back then I was beliving the bs i was told, so i didnt dare speak about the pain. And the mental, After learning the entire truth about circs on my own and all their bs reasons, I had a few flash backs of me growing up hearing all the BS, like my father bragging to his friends how his kids are cut because they are no heathens….. I got them cut so their future wives will …. etc, this is the emotional pain, that will never go away…

    For every reason I was cut, not one applies to me: Family Religion: Jewish, cut for this but I am NOT jewish… Locker rooms: in this state no student is uncovered even in the showers. No locker room jokes ever. It should be the wifes choice: I will NEVER have a wife…. and the other Cut him so his wife will—–bla… Again NO wife… Look like dad… damn u caught me on one… He was cut as well.. but he didnt give me his tattoo, so we would look the same, so why cut me up ?

    Funny part with the family, they had the money to cut up my penis, which obviously didnt need it But never got me the braces I did and still do need… They didnt have the money to fix my nose when it was broken either. But damn sure had the money to brand me with their religion….

    I have one family member that is stubborn as hell, when i told her of the restoration, and the intactivist trying to outlaw circumcision until the person being cut makes the choice. Her replies: It was done as a baby and couldnt consent that is why your parents consented for you and the typical, you dont remember it so who cares…. No, no male should have the right to sue the doctors for cutting you it was a silly little snip your parents wanted for you. I told her about them wanting to cut girls here in the USA in the 50′s i think it was and, she freaked out. (I am against both MGM and FGM) I gave her a taste of her own medicine, about since it was done, when she was a baby and she wouldnt remember it etc, it was no big deal, she yelled how it would be a big deal since there is nothing “extra” on a girl to be cut off…. And she said if she had been one of those girls she would have sued the doctor and the hospital. I reminded her, she just said boys shouldnt be able to sue, she said again girls dont NEED to be cut, so its okay if she wants to sue……. total double standards….

  10. My story is very similar…my 7 1/2 year old is circumsized, my 2 1/2 year old is not – not *one* person shared anything about leaving boys intact when I was researching for my older son – even *that* short a time ago – it was my first *hard* lesson as a parent – that when you’re not comfortable about something in your gut, you never, ever act on it – you will almost certainly regret it. I remember feeling sick about it – saying that I had to be present or I wouldn’t consent – Dad was circ’d and we knew no one intact or leaving babies intact – it just felt “wrong” to me, but more like I must be crazy – and even in hospital they were touting health benefits – makes me *so angry*. If *ONE* person had said it wasn’t necessary, I would have RUN with it…that is why I will share this. I’m sorry that we carry the same burden.

    • I became very emotional reading your comment because we share the same pain and I understand your words so well. I’m so sorry we share this burden, too. We may not be able to change what’s been done to our first sons, but there’s plenty we can do now like helping to spread the information and sharing our personal stories. It does have an impact. Hugs! <3

  11. Loved this honest and eloquent post. I think so many mothers go through emotions similar to what you experienced at the pediatrician’s office with your first son yet not all are brave enough to do that research and make a different choice the next time. Too many parents perpetuate the myths about circumcision because they are afraid to face the horror of what they themselves signed off on. Thank you very much for sharing this here and on my blog.

  12. My son is circumcised and I do not regret it at all. He did not scream in pain like you explained, and unlike you I was present for the procedure. Maybe you should speak with your doctors. Also the nightmare of changing his diapers is silly, maybe that was because he was your first child. All that was different was being a little more delicate and adding Vaseline afterwards so the diaper didn’t rub. The doctor suggested with no pressure at all that when it comes to circumcising you should consider if the father is or not. So that the child is not confused or does not feel “different”. Once again I do not regret my decision and I’m a little offended at how geared your post is. “if you want to cut your child”, that is a little dramatic. You also will “cut” your child when their wisdom teeth grow in crooked. Are you stabbing your child when they need shots as well?

    • Holly, you have every right to have your own opinion of this procedure and I will not try to change your mind. Clearly, it’s been made up. Did you even watch the video though? For someone appearing to know everything, you certainly seem to miss the mark. You can’t make up your own facts. Your doctor saying your son should look like his father was HIS opinion and you took it – hook, line, and sinker. Did you ever think that maybe that ISN’T a huge deal? Did you and your mother EVER compare your genitals? Why not? Obviously if boys do this, girls should too, no?

      My son did scream horrifically during his circumcision. He did have trouble with every diaper change thereafter while it healed. I did put Vaseline on my little guy’s penis at every diaper change. It didn’t seem to matter. It still stuck to every diaper when taking it off and it still hurt him every time. That may seem silly to you since you didn’t experience it, but maybe if you had your view would be different. I find it quite heartless to make such a ridiculous comment about my personal experience and what my little boy endured.

      Writing this post has been cathartic for me, but it’s also brought up a lot of negative feelings that I do not enjoy facing. I was hopeful that by posting this, other parents could hear about a real experience, get real facts, and make a decision based off of those instead of what most make their decision off of – false info and friends/doctors/families opinions.

      It isn’t dramatic to call a spade a spade. You are in fact cutting your son’s penis. That is what happens. The skin is forcibly removed from the head of the penis (because up until much later in life, the foreskin is fused to the head like your fingernail is to your finger) and then they slice it off. You want nicer words? Find a nicer procedure. I will not sugarcoat something so traumatic so you can feel better about yourself or your choice.

      Circumcision has NO legitimate benefits which is why it is considered a cosmetic procedure.

      I remember what it’s like to be you and have your opinion. I had a lot of trouble owning up to mistakes I made, even if I didn’t know at the time it was a mistake. But eventually we grow up and we accept responsibility for things. It’s not your fault for circumcising your son and believing it was a good thing. It becomes your fault when you are faced with facts (like the video) and continue to believe falsities to save yourself the feeling of remorse that comes with recognizing our faults.

      I wish you nothing but good luck in this life, Holly. You are not my enemy and I don’t dislike or hate anyone for choosing differently than me, but I don’t take too well to someone offending me without provocation. I didn’t ask you to come here or comment. You could have just moved along if you didn’t agree. You didn’t need to tear down my experience to feel better about yours.

  13. Being from northern Europe, this is SO foreign to me. Did no realize it was so common in the USA. Here no one curcumcise besides perhaps some jewish people for religious reason. But I doubt even that is very common since I never even heard of any one circumcising their baby, and I do know some people of jewish faith. Read up mamas and don’t hurt your babies! Trust your instincts! Keep them safe and keep them intact.

  14. As a “Fortunate Son,” left intact in 1948, I was so relieved when you let your heart win. There is no reason for minimizing the sensual pleasure of a baby boy, the self-soothing warmth and future sexual pleasure. Even at 65, I can still feel the soothing effect without even touching it. Your insight in telling your story will help others to know they are doing the best they can for their child.

  15. Unfortunately, I watched this video after I circumcised my son. He had some complication that the doctor said he was able to “fix” at the office and I watched as my son screamed even months after the procedure had been done. I would never do it again. And it brings me to tears to know that I cannot take it back.

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