The headline has probably already confused more than a few people who debated whether or not to pass it by. Circumcision is one hot topic in parenting groups and on the playground these days. No one likes to talk about it. Many feel they made the wrong choice the first time around and are left feeling regretful and ashamed that they let someone forcibly remove part of their child’s sex organ. It’s a big deal. This is why.
In 2006, 56 percent of male infants were circumcised; only 32.5 percent of baby boys were in 2009, just three years later. This figure has been dropping continually year after year. The procedure is outdated enough that the American Academy of Pediatrics released a statement in 2012 noting the benefits of circumcision were no longer considered to be good enough to recommend it for all babies routinely.
Even Medicaid has dropped coverage of the procedure, along with many other insurance companies who now consider it to be cosmetic, not medical.
Originally recommended as a means of controlling male masturbation — yes, that’s why the trend started — circumcision has never been routinely practiced anywhere but America. Other nations equate what Americans do to their sons to the same level of abuse and horror that we do to females in third world countries who have their labia forcibly removed upon the insistence that it keeps them cleaner.
Circumcision is generally touted as effective at reducing infection, but the risk of this is so minimal that is hardly matters. On the flipside, no one on the pro-circumcision side seems to want to take into account how often complications, like hemorrhaging and death, occur from circumcision. To make an informed decision, all sides of an issue must be known.
18The Regretful Momma
This regret momma’s story came to fruition on day two of her first son’s life. It marked the start of a nursing strike that caused her to need to use a nipple shield to nurse her child afterward for three months. Sadly, this is a common side effect of the trauma infant boys endure during circumcision.
With her second son, she still felt uneducated on the matter, but decided to wait until day 8 of his life when he would have his own fully established supply of vitamin K to have the circumcision performed. There are Biblical reasons for this, too.
She had several friends try to inform her of the reasons not to do it, but felt torn because her husband wanted the circumcision done so that this baby wouldn’t feel he looked different from his brother and father. This is a very common concern among fathers. They worry that an intact boy will be made fun of in locker rooms by peers, too.
The truth is circumcision is on the decline so much that by the time most of today’s infants are in locker rooms, most of their peers will also be intact. The same rule applies to future sexual partners.
Even though the day 8 procedure had a better outcome than her first son’s, this momma lives with the memory of what she refers to as blood curdling screams from her baby as she sat outside the exam room that day. Until that moment, she hadn’t realized just how wrong her choice was. What she worries about most now is how to tell them why she made that choice for them. If she has another son, he will be kept intact.
When her first son was born, Shannon didn’t have the Internet and circumcision wasn’t something anyone she knew was talking about. Of all the people to bring it to her attention, an episode of Penn and Teller would do it. Until that moment, she didn’t know she had a choice.
Unfortunately, she couldn’t convince her husband and her family supported his point of view. She remembers bawling and clutching onto him as they took her son away to remove his foreskin.
The procedure may be quick, but it steals the innocence of these babies in those few minutes. He was returned to her wounded. He cried all night and was projectile vomiting. She grieved and cried with him. Unlike many other cases, her son didn’t present with problems until eight year later when he was diagnosed with bridging and adhesions.
The doctor noted his body was trying to repair itself — a word used to describe the body’s natural response to trauma.
Instead, the doctors ripped the skin apart again. Her son’s screams changed her life. She watched videos of the procedure and threw up from the sight of it. She didn’t know that the doctors lied about the pain and shock the babies endure, and she will never forgive herself for not knowing. Today, her 12-year old son is an intactivist himself.
Once, she overheard him bathing his baby brother and telling him “you’re lucky buddy; you will never feel the pain I have to feel.” Mothers who don’t consent to circumcision will never have to feel the way his mother does.
Sydney’s POV is not just of a Mom, but a Registered Nurse. She felt well-prepared with knowledge from professional experience about the alleged medical reasons males should be circumcised. Despite that, she left the decision up to her husband given she didn’t have a penis. Looking back, she feels she was just trying to relieve herself of the decision and the difficult time she felt she would have if she went against what he and her family wanted.
She recalls feeling sick and not being able to stay in the room during the procedure. While the aftercare instructions seemed nonchalant like she had nothing to worry about, worry she would when she woke up later to feed the baby and found his diaper full of blood.
She held pressure on him for nearly two hours, as directed by the doctor, and when she woke a couple hours later, he was again covered in blood. He was pale, out of it and wouldn’t nurse. Fortunately, the doctors got the bleeding under control, but in coming months, she felt his penis had healed, but not correctly. It would turn out he had adhesions.
She followed the steroid cream protocol — which aims to dissolve the adhesion — one time before quitting. They soon relocated to another state where the new pediatrician would inform her that the circumcision was performed incorrectly and he now had two urethral openings, a condition known as hypospadias, a side effect of the procedure.
At 18 months old, her son needed general anesthesia and surgery to repair the adhesions. Mom needed a year of medication and therapy to deal with the emotional toll this experience took on her. She is expecting another boy; he will remain intact.
While Sarah didn’t research circumcision before her first son was born — despite having researched so many other choices — they had to delay the procedure because he was born with hypospadias, a condition wherein the opening of the penis is on its underside instead of the tip. So he wasn’t circumcised until he was 9 months old. At that time, his foreskin was used to extend his urethra. Recovery and potty-training were successful.
All of that went well and it still didn’t occur to them that anyone didn’t circumcise out of choice, so when their second son was born they also chose the procedure for him. It wasn’t until he was a bit older that Sarah stumbled upon others discussing the benefits of remaining intact that she questioned her decisions.
Since then, she and her husband have explored the research on circumcision and why people choose to forego it. While she regrets her choice, she knows there is no sense in beating herself up over things she can’t change. Instead, she does what she can to share her knowledge with others in hopes they won’t have to live with that regret. Their fourth baby is on the way and should it be another boy,”we will not make the same mistake”, she says.
When Stacy was pregnant with her first of three boys, she started looking into many topics that were new interests to her as a budding mother. Circumcision made the list, and it didn’t take long for her husband to express his feelings on going along with the American tradition. She didn’t think it was a big enough deal to argue over and agreed with him.
When their second baby boy was born, she figured it would be best for him to match his big brother and father. Her husband was actually present for the procedure with their second and he nearly passed out from just watching it happen. When her third son was due to be born, she didn’t really think about it.
Often, when a circumcision turns out okay the first time or two around, parents become more comfortable with the process and think well the other boys turned out fine.
This time would be different though. Stacy accompanied her third baby boy during the procedure and described it as an awful experience that completely changed her mind on circumcision. Ever since, she regrets circumcising all three of them and feels sick that she treated the procedure like it was normal and commonplace.
Stacy and her husband are both in agreement that any future sons will not be circumcised. She feels they’ve taken something away from their sons that they will have to apologize profusely for someday.
The first four words out of Amber Hess’s mouth were “I’m a regret mom.” Before her first baby was born, her gut steered her away from circumcision, but she ultimately succumbed to the pressures of society with its claims of circumcision making for a cleaner penis and helping to protect against infection. She told herself he wouldn’t remember it.
Relatives pushed stories of infection and the need for the procedure later in life when it would be more painful. Her son’s procedure was carried out using the plastibell method. She was told no cutting was involved, as though trimming off the skin after it has essentially been crushed is less painful.
She felt awful immediately following the procedure that left her infant screaming in agony. Afterward, his latch was impaired when trying to breastfeed.
Despite retracting as they were told and using Vaseline, her son still ended up with adhesions, a common consequence of circumcision where the skin attempts to reattach. For 18 months her son suffered with this painful side effect. Today, she still blames herself for putting him through all of that and has trust issues where genitalia are concerned.
He fights his parents when they try to teach him how to properly clean himself there and screams out asking them not to hurt him. Amber has two more sons now that are both intact, but she struggles with the fact that she had to sacrifice that for her first son and learn her lesson the hard way.
This regret Dad was the only guy I found willing to share his point of view, and it goes like this. When he was a child, he overheard his mother and sister discussing his nephew’s circumcision. When he inquired about it, he was told it was something that boys have done at birth and they implied it was almost something special, and that he too had it done to him.
He carried this belief throughout life and assumed it just what people do, and so he made sure his first two sons were circumcised, too.
After he met his wife, she was helping him bathe his son one evening and broke down into tears when she realized he was circumcised and asked her husband why. He admittedly didn’t have an answer and noted it’s just something boys have done. She asked why again, and he couldn’t really answer that question.
This was the beginning of her encouraging him to research further into the origins of circumcision and the option of keeping boys intact.
The more he learned about circumcision, the angrier he became that it was done to him and that he consented to it for his sons. He is angry he didn’t know the right questions to ask, and that he wasn’t given the information on the functions and benefits of foreskin. He knows now that he wouldn’t have chosen circumcision had he been given that information.
Now he called himself a regret dad. His only solace is trying to spread awareness that other parents don’t have to put their sons through this procedure he refers to as a barbaric ritual.
Vanessa has joined the pool of many regret moms in believing that she took something away from her son that didn’t belong to her. Researching this choice wasn’t even considered prior to the procedure because after all, didn’t everyone do it? Her husband was circumcised. He was okay. What was there to research?
Contrary to many practices, her child’s doctor did use local anesthetic. The procedure was fast; the baby didn’t cry. Instead, Mom did when she got home with her baby and saw the blood in his diaper.
She felt instant guilt over what she had allowed. Everything seemed to be healing up just fine and then without warning, his penis began to retract into his body a couple weeks after the circumcision. For her son’s first year of life, his penis was completely hidden unless erect or when he was urinating. Researching the buried penis — a real complication of circumcision — led her to other research on the topic.
She learned about bodily autonomy and the right her son had to choose for himself whether his sex organ should be modified. Today, she lives with the guilt of taking that choice from him and worries that he may need a grafting procedure someday to manage the side effects that spurred from it. A self-proclaimed intactivist, Vanessa wants other parents to know one thing. It’s not your penis. It’s not your choice.
10The Morose Mommy
This mommy’s word struck me deeply enough to quote her directly. She remarked that the pediatrician had a migraine on day 1 of her son’s life so he delayed the procedure until later in the day. She noted, “I have no idea if his migraine affected his abilities to cut a piece of my son off or not, because I wasn’t there.” This is important. It is rare that parents are allowed to be with their son during the procedure.
Her son’s circumcision was also botched. She described his genitals to me as being red and angry. Breastfeeding was impacted for this mom and her baby boy, too. She is still struggling to come to terms with what her choice caused her child to go through because she didn’t know any better.
Since his birth, she has taken her son to see his doctor a few times because of the circumcision specifically. Each time the doctor acts like it’s no big deal and says she’s not retracting the skin enough to clean it. She ended her words to me sobbing, because she knows retracting is unnecessary, but doctors continue to recommend it. This often leads to more injury. Luckily this mommy knows better now.
9The Nurse Who Couldn't Nurse
This mom recalls watching her first circumcision as a student nurse. She can still remember how they strapped the poor baby boy down, naked and cold with nothing but a pacifier coated in sugar water to calm him. His cry still hurts to think about. “His little eyes bugged out and then clenched shut from the pain,” she said, continuing to note “some of my classmates cried and my professor rolled her eyes, claiming that newborns can’t feel pain.”
When it was her turn to make that decision, it was one she and her husband would spend her whole pregnancy arguing over. His family and friends insisted a non-circumcised penis was gross, filthy even, and wrong in the eyes of God. He wouldn’t acknowledge the research in an attempt to cling to his blind faith in circumcision. She cried throughout the procedure.
Her son also struggled to breastfeed afterward, and she remembers him being inconsolable and wailing during diaper changes. To this day, she blames circumcision for why their breastfeeding journey was cut short and she wasn’t able to share that bond with her baby. It is a regret she and her husband both share now.
Her little boy has suffered from multiple urinary tract infections and sores on his meatus due to the unnecessary surgical procedure. She credits her midwife to changing her husband’s point of view while she was pregnant with her second son, who is intact.
Amy’s oldest son was circumcised at 1 day old simply because that’s what everyone she knew did with their sons. It didn’t occur to her to question it. It doesn’t occur to most parents. Despite the fact that her son had a penile torsion — which should have exempted him from being qualified for circumcision — the doctor performed the procedure and they did so incorrectly.
Her sweet boy was left with excess foreskin bunched on one side. He suffered from numerous urinary tract infections, as well as balanitis. Before he was even a year old, he had to be put out for surgery on his penis to correct his circumcision. She had the torsion corrected then, too, although it wasn’t severe enough to warrant it on its own.
Amy started researching circumcision after she met her husband and became pregnant. He voiced his opinion on it and said he would like to keep their baby intact if it was a boy. Researching opened her eyes to all the information she wished she had known before. It is traumatic, and there is no medical need for it.
Today, she worries that her son will have scar tissue from his botched circumcision and that it may cause problems during adolescence or adulthood because of her uneducated choice.
Christina’s choice to circumcise was actually based on religious reasons. Her son was calm throughout the procedure as she held her finger dipped in sugar water in his mouth to soothe him. She would later learn that the reason he was so calm was because babies are put into a state of shock when they undergo circumcision. She believed the doctors when they lied and said he wouldn’t feel pain.
Five years later, she was expecting another boy and wondered if the religious reasons she had been touted all along had any clout. What else was there to do but bring out The Bible?
She couldn’t believe she was actually wrong. Those who are still of the belief that circumcision is a Christian staple obviously haven’t browsed Galatians, Philippians, Titus, 1 Corinthians, or Acts recently. Biblical circumcision was to be completed on day 8 by the parents and remove only the acroposthion, leaving the foreskin and its functioning intact.
The Jewish religion added to the practice of total circumcision removing the foreskin around 140 A.D., after Jesus Christ professed no need for it.
Christina’s oldest son has scarring from the circumcision and she reports a serious compulsion for masturbation — something parents have been told circumcision can curb. She knows she will have to tell him what she consented to someday and possibly explain why she didn’t have it done to her second son. Though she notes he’s not ready for that yet, it’s likely going to take until then for her to formulate the apology she feels she owes him.
Leah followed her husband’s lead and that of everyone else she knew when she consented to having her first son circumcised. The regret didn’t take long to rear its ugly head, though. When he was returned to her after the procedure, she could tell he had been crying a lot and then when he woke up he would cry out terribly every time he peed.
That’s all it took for Leah to change her mind. She told her husband on the spot that if they ever had another baby boy again, he would not undergo circumcision. She stuck to her word, too. The future held another son for them and he is intact.
Her regret lingers over her first son, but she is grateful that it pushed her to learn more about circumcision and the different ways it is carried out so that she could make an educated decision for their future kids.
Before her son was circumcised, he was awake and alert. After, Brittany recalls him sleeping for two days and barely waking up. She would later learn this was the body’s natural response to trauma. She chose this for him thinking he would be made fun of later in life if he wasn’t. Now she realizes any partner that actually loves him will love all of him exactly how he was born.
She learned it was a blatant lie that circumcision makes for cleaner genitalia. For her son, the extra skin reattached itself and nearly caused him to need surgery. While she’s grateful he didn’t need it repaired, there have been other problems. Yeast keeps growing in the pocket of skin the adhesions created. While they keep it clean, he complains because of soreness.
Brittany worries that the reattached skin will keep pulling on her son creating open cuts. So she is always on the lookout for potential infections. She wants other parents to know they shouldn’t waste their time with pros and cons when it comes to circumcision, because there are no good, valid, medically supported reasons to do it as a preventative measure.
Like many others, Nikki didn’t think circumcision was something she needed to research. Everyone did it. In fact, you were weird if you didn’t. She actually happening upon circumcision research while looking into vaccines and trying to decide whether or not the Vitamin K injection was safe or worthwhile. Other mothers tried to warn her, but they were harsh in their delivery and turned her off from researching further. So her first two sons were both circumcised.
At two months old, her second son had adhesions where the skin was trying to reattach itself, and the nurse forcefully ripped them apart. This didn’t sit well with her mommy instincts. She began researching again and discovered how common adhesions are and that they can cause scar tissue and other issues. She realized the procedure is entirely cosmetic and regrets her choice. She worries they could have problems down the road that will be her fault.
Her third son, due this month, won’t be circumcised. When he is older, he can decide if he wants to be circumcised or not. While the procedure is more painful as an adult, it can be performed under general anesthesia so that the male is oblivious to what is going on. Often, men balk at this claiming the recovery will be uncomfortable. I would question then what they think it must be like for a newborn.
3The Hopeful Mother
This mother’s story isn’t uncommon. She grew up with the belief that an uncircumcised penis was disgusting. This is a cultural norm that has been propagated for far too long. In America, women would be in an uproar if it was suddenly decided that women needed their labia removed in order to be physically attractive and that we should do it to newborn girls who are unable to consent for themselves.
For this mom, her partner wasn’t circumcised and it made him very self-conscious. They read about the procedure and decided it was best to go through with it so their son didn’t feel different from his peers. It was a choice made to protect their son’s confidence in his body. Like many mothers, she felt she only realized how wrong it was after her son was returned to her, bleeding and crying.
After a trip to the urologist down the road to rule out some side effects, she decided she was no longer in favor of circumcision. She stopped caring about what others thought. Instead, mothers like her have to worry about what their sons will think when they are grown. She remains hopeful that foreskin restoration procedures will be more plentiful and beneficial by the time he is an adult.
Blythe is actually a Mom to two boys and both are circumcised. She, like many Moms who have found the error of their ways via long nights spent pouring over medical research, spent lots of time looking into natural birth, vaccines and other things that come in tow with having a baby and making educated decisions.
Her husband was on board with her med-free birth and plans not to vaccinate and to encapsulate her placenta. To a well-researched Mom, this is practically the norm, but to a well-meaning dad-to-be it’s often a lot of extreme concepts to absorb. Blythe was met with a lot of grief from her family and friends on these topics, too. When the reality of circumcision came to her attention, her husband told her in so many words not to even attempt going there. So, she didn’t.
She certainly wasn’t the first, nor will she be the last, to take the path of least resistance. Dad wanted both of his sons to look the same and look like him. In retrospect, both Blythe and her husband took time to watch videos on circumcision. You can too, like Elephant in the Hospital. Now they both regret their choice and have agreed any future sons will be kept intact. When you know better, you do better.
1Me, Myself and I
Yep, regret mom here. I was just 19 when my first son was born and it rarely occurred to me that I should look beyond the words of my doctor for anything medical at that stage in my life. Perhaps had I known it wasn’t really a medical procedure I was signing my son up for, things may have been different. Fortunately, nothing became of it.
There were no adhesions, hooded foreskins, flaps of skin or other side effects that would need repairing. He didn’t seize, or die from it as more than 100 do each year.
Years later when it came time to have another baby boy in my life, I couldn’t rationalize the choice to circumcise after my eyes were opened to the truth behind it. I won’t carry on with my life draped in cloak of regret, but rather I will wear my thinking cap and feel pride for the choice I have made to be informed and let my children choose for themselves what they do with their bodies.
I find it hard to believe all men are created imperfect and needing modification.
The foreskin actually serves a purpose. Removing it reduces sexual pleasure and lubrication, as well as protecting the nerves in the glans. The intact penis is self-cleaning and never needs retracted. The Americanized concept of routine infant circumcision exists nowhere else. In fact, the majority of the world’s men are intact.
Most that are not are Muslim and were circumcised for faith-based reasons. No medical or health organization in the entire world recommends the routine circumcision of infants. So, ask yourself, why do it?
Sources: The Circumcision Reference Library, American Academy of Pediatrics, Circ Info
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