Circumcision Doesn’t Beget Circumcision {One of These Things is Not Like the Other}

by Mama Queenly on November 21, 2013

Yes, you read that right, we’re going to talk AGAIN about circumcision, but this post is a little different. I’m not writing this to try to tell you what to do. In fact, this post is actually going to start off with a confession; the day after my first baby was born I had him circumcised.

Whew. Okay. We got that part out of the way!

When I was pregnant with my oldest child, I must have read everything that I could get my hands on. I was very strict with myself and did everything that I could to maintain my weight, to avoid every item on that list of no-no foods (deli meats, sushi), and struggled through headaches and pains to avoid using medications like Tylenol even though my OB said it was fine. I started a pregnancy journal and had the baby’s full name picked out by 14 weeks along.

pregnancy second baby

When I got to the chapter in my pregnancy how-to book about circumcision, we had just found out that the baby was going to be a boy and I remember reading about the detailed procedure and cringing, picturing them doing this to my tiny, new baby. I had never really read anything about circumcision before, and not only that, but I literally knew NOTHING about foreskin. Like many new moms-to-be, I decided to leave that decision up to his father, figuring, “Well, Dad’s got a penis and I don’t, so he will know the correct decision to make here.”

Well, it turns out that my husband was reading FAR less about this baby than I was and without researching any part of it, or even reading the chapters I had so nicely bookmarked for him, he told me that we would have it done because “that’s just what you do” and “we don’t want him to look different.” Even though the description had made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, I didn’t argue with him.

I ended up being (unnecessarily) induced and after 12 hours of Pitocin, our perfectly healthy baby boy came torpedoing into this world. The circumcision was performed the following day and we listened closely as all of the aftercare instructions were explained to us. They even sent us home with a whole packet of information about how to care for it and danger signs to look out for in case he got an infection. (Whoa, wait… an infection?? Isn’t that what we were trying to avoid? We’ll get back to that.)

Have you ever seen a freshly circumcised penis? It’s basically an open, raw wound that you smother with Vaseline and hope that it keeps it moist enough to not stick to the diaper. Have you ever skinned your knee open? Imagine the feeling of peeling a gauze bandage off of it when it gets stuck. Now imagine someone pouring warm, acidic liquid all over it; because that’s what’s happening to this brand new, little person every time they urinate. Then that wetness gets to just sit there. You ever wear a moist Band-Aid over a cut?

Every time our new baby wet his diaper we immediately had to change him because it hurt him so badly. And when he would poop, well, that was a whole different ball of wax! Cleaning poop off of a penis and a set of testicles (especially when it’s a learning experience with a less than one week old) is one thing, but having to do it while your child is screaming bloody murder in your face because he has feces covering his raw, sensitive glans is quite another.

Fast forward a few years and now he is almost five. We are constantly reminding him to clean himself and have had to teach him to be sure to tug on his “foreskin” (basically just the remaining bit of skin that was leftover) and pull it away from the glans because it is constantly trying to reattach itself. As our son has gotten older, we have had issues with the “foreskin” trying to reconnect and also teaching him how to keep himself clean.

So when we got pregnant with our second child, I was in a different spot with the medical side of birth. I had not had a good experience with my first delivery and therefore spent a lot of time reading more than just baby books and fear-mongering websites. I started to look into the facts about birth, the facts about induction, and even the facts about circumcision. We found out that we were having another boy and the decision of circumcision came up after a prompting from our care provider.

Like I have already stated, my husband was not into researching everything pregnancy like I was and so it wasn’t something that he was concerned with. He had automatically assumed that because we had circumcised the first boy that of course we would be doing the same with the second. All those complications involved with the first baby? Yeah, those weren’t necessarily complications at all! They were just snags that happened when you leave the glans open and raw like that. Those issues we had with our first baby in the first several weeks we were all learning how to be a family were totally “normal” and were all listed in our handy little info packet that was sent home with us.

In reading up about circumcision I was very surprised to learn that, with the exception of Israel, the United States has the highest rate of circumcision. Most countries don’t practice it, in fact many have had the procedure banned. In some cases, circumcisions are botched, leaving men with noticeable scarring or sexual dysfunctions – and that is in mild cases: baby boys sometimes die from the complications of circumcision.

I also took the time to learn about the many functions of the foreskin and how having one intact would benefit my child. It might be tough to think of it like this, but the foreskin can easily be likened to an eyelid or a pair of lips. One of its main functions is to protect the sensitive skin underneath and to keep that area clean and moist.

Along with keeping the area underneath clean and moist, the foreskin is actually adhered to the glans and won’t even start to detach until around age three! So all that stuff we had heard before about it being “cleaner” to cut that part off was total BS! It’s attached! That means when your baby has one of those really big poo-splosions and craps up the back of his onesie, you won’t have to also deal with carefully and calmly wiping poop off of a swollen and painful wound. With a baby who is NOT circumcised the foreskin does a fantastic job of keeping everything covered, so you don’t have to worry about it getting inside at all! You just clean it off like a finger (likely how you’ll clean up your own finger after checking for poop) and go about trying to remove said onesie without resorting to scissors.

Then there came the whole deal with him not only looking different from his Daddy, but also looking different from his older brother. Well, when you really get down to it, they’re already going to look different in so many more obvious ways, does it really matter? For instance, our oldest boy has green eyes and his younger brother ended up with blue ones. His older brother has light brown hair while his head is covered in pale, blonde locks. They are different heights, different weights, and have vastly different personalities, so why in the world would anyone be worried about their penises looking the same, which they probably wouldn’t anyway.

circumcision decision

I was asked about what we would do when he was teased about his foreskin in the locker room at school and I honestly had to laugh at that one. First of all, adolescent boys are going to tease one another about SOMETHING, so for me to be worried about that NOW seems a bit pointless. Secondly, the circumcision rate in America is going down every year, so chances are he will not be the only boy with foreskin. And lastly, because I will explain to him why we left him intact when he is old enough to understand, he will be able to educate his friends and tell them how when he’s older, having a foreskin will make sex feel better for both himself and his partner, allow him to masturbate without needing lotion, and add girth to his penis. What adolescent boy wouldn’t want that?

And while we’re on the topic of sex we may as well just get it all out there right now: “Anteater”, “turtleneck”, “Water Snake”; the list of horrible, sex-shaming nicknames goes on. It’s a disgrace that we would alter a baby’s body so drastically just to make it more aesthetically pleasing for ourselves. Yet if someone wanted to start trimming the labia from the genitals of baby girls I am positive that people would be totally up in arms. Has it ever occurred to anyone that the basic function should override the supposed aesthetics?

I have also been asked about what I will say to my oldest son if he should ever ask me why I decided to have his foreskin removed and not his brother. Well, I plan on telling him the truth. I thought that I had read all of the right information and, at the time, I thought I was doing what was in his best interest. However, if I am truly honest with myself, reading about the procedure made my stomach turn. That feeling was human instinct and I plum ignored it. I thought I knew what I was doing and I was wrong. I felt in my heart that going through with the procedure was a bad idea but did not feel like it was truly up to me to make that decision.

And truth be told, it wasn’t. It wasn’t up to me and it shouldn’t be up to the Daddy either “just because he has a penis”.

So, okay, they say that circumcision is “cleaner” and “healthier” and will keep your child from “being made fun of.” Well let’s just say you believe all of that (which is fine, and it might be what your care provider has told you); where does it say that this procedure HAS to be done within the first week of your child’s new life outside of the womb? Isn’t there already enough going on? Chances are you’ve got a birth you’re healing from, other children to care for, breastfeeding (which can be quite stressful for some) to learn, and you’re probably hungry and sleep deprived. WHY in the WORLD would you want to add in “caring for an open wound”?

Where does it say that the offer to be circumcised will expire after the first two days? Why can’t it just be left up to the person whose penis status is being questioned to decide? A lot of people will get a child’s foreskin removed because of the possible risk of infection. But what about tonsils? Appendix? TOENAILS? All of these things can become infected yet we make no mention about having them removed at birth. Many people will research more about their newest cell phone upgrade than they will about their own pregnancy and labor, and even fewer will research about circumcision.

brothers

If I were to wish one thing for you, it would be for you to read, read, read about circumcision. Don’t just read about it in the US, check out what they say about circumcision in other countries, where it is seen as a barbaric practice. Or do your baby a solid and watch the procedure being done on YouTube. Arm yourself with knowledge and if anything, wait until the child is old enough to be given proper pain management for such a painful procedure. Even better, leave them intact and allow them to decide it for themselves.

It makes me sad when I think about what I have taken from my oldest son by having him circumcised, but I feel like I have all the opportunity in the world to help make it better by passing on what I have learned to others. Hopefully, with the correct information, they will make better choices than I did. I have looked into the information on foreskin restoration so that I may pass it on to my son should he be interested in it one day.

Having circumcised one child does not mean that you have to circumcise them all. Even if you have FIVE boys that were circumcised you can TOTALLY leave the next intact! None of our children will be exactly like the next. Even if their genitals don’t match Daddy’s or each other’s they will always be brothers and that is what’s important. I leave you with a quote that has always resonated with me about our decisions regarding circumcision:

forgiveyourself

Forgive yourself for not knowing what you didn’t know before you learned it.” – Anonymous

Photography Credit: http://earthmamaphotography.com

Further reading:
http://www.thewholenetwork.org/index.html

http://www.cirp.org/library/

http://www.catholicsagainstcircumcision.org/

http://www.doctorsopposingcircumcision.org/

http://www.jewsagainstcircumcision.org/

http://www.mothersagainstcirc.org/

http://circumcisionresources.org/

http://uncutting.tumblr.com/compilation

http://www.publichealthinafrica.org/index.php/jphia/article/view/jphia.2011.e4/html_9

http://www.noharmm.org/anatomy.htm

http://www.icgi.org/2010/04/infant-circumcision-causes-100-deaths-each-year-in-us/

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/moral-landscapes/201109/myths-about-circumcision-you-likely-believe

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{ 65 comments… read them below or add one }

Kaitlin November 21, 2013 at 5:19 pm

Just to make you feel even better my husband wasn’t ( about 22 years ago) and it never gave him problems with sex and I have never heard of him getting made fun of for it!!

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Katie S November 21, 2013 at 5:24 pm

Wow, I just watched the video and I am sick to my stomach at what I allowed to be done to my son. If we have another, we are NOT circumcising. Wish I new more then what I’ve learned now.

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Jenn December 18, 2013 at 6:18 pm

I also circumsized my first and we had out second son, 5 months ago. I’m so happy to say he is complete and intact. I was very worried about what other’s would say (some don’t like it and I just say we can agree to disagree) There are a ton of momma’s out there with one circ’d and the other’s not! I’m not alone and you won’t be either :)

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Katie June 26, 2014 at 11:59 am

Hello,
Just wondering the age difference between your boys. My 1st will be 21 mths when our second is born.

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Jess November 21, 2013 at 5:29 pm

Thank you so much for writing this. I only have one child, a son, who unfortunately and against my wishes was circumcised. I, too, left the decision to my husband who, like your husband, also did little to no research about the procedure. He decided on the circ for the same reasons your husband did. I had PTSD like nightmares for months after the surgery, and still feel like “agreeing” to the procedure was the worst decision of my life. If there ever was a re-do button, I know exactly what moment I would choose to undo.

One of my biggest worries is having another son. If I do, he will not be cut, no matter what my husband has to say about it. I realize now that the fears I have about having another son and not having him circumcised are unnecessary fears. Thank you so much for putting my feelings into words.

Thank you so much. I needed to read this.

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cady November 21, 2013 at 5:30 pm

Thank you so much for posting this! Thankfully our first baby was a girl, so we didn’t have to think about this topic last time, like you I read everything I could get my hands on…except for circumcision. We’re expecting a new little one in about 25 weeks, and while we still need to talk about it, I am in no way comfortable with circumcision if we have a boy this time. Thank you for the information!

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Rachael November 21, 2013 at 5:51 pm

Thank you for this! We chose not to circumcise our son. And I think everyone needs to be educated on these things – especially nurses and doctors. Recently, he had a high fever and we brought him into the emergency room. Three separate nurses tell us that we needed to pull back his foreskin (he’s 2 and it hasn’t retracted on it’s own yet) in order to clean it. They belittled me for making a decision that could cause my son to have a serious infection. I began to doubt that I had my information right. Then they forcibly retracted it and made it bleed in order to clean it to insert a catheter (because they said, uncirc’d boys have a higher chance of infection and they needed a urine sample). Of course, it was negative, and he spent the next week with a bruised and raw penis. I’m debating on what to do at this point, but it seems to me that educating people on circumcision is a step in the right direction.

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Craig Adams November 22, 2013 at 6:15 am

Hi Rachel,
I am sorry your son was prematurely forcibly retracted. This is assault and battery. I urge you to report this to NOCIRC. http://www.nocirc.org; Telephone: 415-488-9883

You may want to consult competent, knowledgeable legal counsel about initiating litigation to recover money damages on behalf of your son for the pain he suffered. He may develop scarring.

David J. Llewellyn, J.D., of Atlanta, Georgia, states:
“Generally the law does not permit a physician to carry out a non-emergency invasive or damaging procedure on a child without the parent’s permission. If an infant’s foreskin is forcibly retracted, resulting in tearing and pain, and the parents have not given their permission for the procedure, the law of most states provides that the parents may bring a suit on behalf of the child for assault and battery against the physician. Parents should be aware of these facts and should consult competent counsel if their child has been forced to suffer unnecessary pain without their permission.”

You can also file a complaint against the doctor with their state medical licensing board (www.fsmb.org/members.htm). Information about reporting physicians is available at Circumcision: Legal Issues (www.cirp.org/library/legal/).

The Federation of State Medical Licensing Boards (www.fsmb.org) advises that filing complaints against errant physicians improves the quality of patient care and is a service to the public.

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Auriya November 21, 2013 at 5:54 pm

All we can do as parents is to make a decision based on what we know at the time we make the decision. There is no WRONG choice. My son is uncut, I did my research and decided not to have him undergo that procedure. It is his body, his choice. That is how I feel about it. But not once have I insulted a mother for doing it. I have not sat there in my moms grouped and ranted about the cruelty of it. Those are my PERSONAL feelings, not something I need to shove at other people. They had children, those children are THEIR children and they are making choices for their kids just like I made a choice for mine. As long as they are not abusing their children or neglecting them, anyone who is being a parent is doing it RIGHT in my book. Boob or bottle, cut or uncut, ears pierced or not, it is a decision that they have made and no one has any right to give someone grief about it.

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Hugh7 November 23, 2013 at 2:25 am

“There is no WRONG choice.” To cut part of a baby’s genitals off, or leave them alone? Those are pretty dramatically different. How can there be no wrong choice between them? No parents know what their children are going to grow up to want or need in this department. They are the parents’ children, not their property, and their bodies are their own, to be handed back to them after 18 years or so of trusteeship, in as near as possible to original condition.

In a parallel universe the foreskin might be so dangerous that it was always the right choice to cut it off at birth, but not this one. Since it’s not that dangerous, and since the baby will grow up to be a man (or woman, or intersexed person) with their own views about how much of their own genitals they want to keep, the default condition, leaving it alone, is the right choice. Where it’s not customary, and doctors are taught more about the foreskin than how to cut it off, the lifetime risk of ever needing to be circumcised is less than one in 15,000.)

It’s only been a choice over the second half of the 20th century. It became customary, before and into that time, by being done automatically, without consulting the parents.

In fact outside the USA it’s not a choice at all. Where it’s not religiously compelled (including all the rest of the developed world) it’s not offered and not asked for. No decision needed. Once it’s done it can’t be undone, so there’s no point in “giving someone grief about it”, but that’s another reason not to do it.

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Larissa December 7, 2013 at 1:12 pm

Auriya, I don’t understand your comment. No one is giving anyone grief here. Do you feel like this person sharing their experience is somehow an attack on circumcising parents? It’s not. I don’t understand why people in our society so strongly feel the need to cast silence over this important subject. Isn’t it time people started talking about the most commonly performed surgery in the U.S.?

Forced infant circumcision is not a choice any parent has a right to make, outside of a medical emergency. No one but the man himself should be making this decision for his own body, since he is the one who has to live with the lifelong consequences of circumcision. I don’t say this to insult or attack anyone. I say it because it’s a fact.

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Amanda November 21, 2013 at 6:24 pm

Our son was circumcised and we found the after care very easy. We used a tea tree antibacterial Vaseline type substance and cover it with sterile gauze with a small opening for urine to go out. My son was not it pain except for during the procedure itself (we used Emla patches). We’ve had no issues with it and even though I was struggling to recover from a horrible emergency csection, we’d do it again.
You should note there are a few types of circumcisions including a full and a half. The half leaves a little bit of foreskin. Also note that Israel has the lowest number of penile cancer instances in the world.

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Kaylene November 22, 2013 at 7:12 am

Amanda I have four sons and they all were circumcised like you said no problems this article seems one sided

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Mrs. BWF November 22, 2013 at 3:43 pm

It is one sided…definitely.

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Jenn December 18, 2013 at 6:43 pm

Amanda and Kaylene, I thought so too, after I had my first son circumsized. I thought it was best for him to do it now, since intact males are dirty… right? I now believe that I’m not going to cut off my daughters labia, just so it’s easier for her to keep it clean. I’ll teach her to clean her vagina, just like I’ll teach my son to clean his forskin, when he’s retractable.

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Lauren November 22, 2013 at 9:19 am

We’d have the lowest incidence of breast cancer if we removed baby girl’s breast buds… that doesn’t make it ethical to remove the largest concentration of sexual nerve endings from an infant’s penis causing innumerable sexual problems for him.

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Stormwatch November 22, 2013 at 11:45 am

Yet these facts remain:

Circumcision destroys the main erogenous area of the human male’s body (that’s the ridged band, the very tip of the foreskin).
A boy is more likely to die from a circumcision than actually ever actually needing one.
And it’s an irreversible body modification done upon someone who never consented to it.

Do not tell yourself that you did nothing wrong, because that is a lie.

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Jason Fairfield November 22, 2013 at 3:08 pm

Denmark, where infant circumcision is effectively non-existent, has a lower penile cancer rate than the United States, where about 80% of adult makes have been circumcised. So, obviously circumcision status may not be a determinant in penile cancer. The American Academy of Pediatrics says in its 2012 statement that circumcision status alone has no bearing on the likelihood of developing penile cancer.

Cancer of the penis is extremely rare, and you cannot develop cancer in a body part you no longer have. No circumcised man will ever have cancer of the foreskin, but neither will he have lifetime use of that valuable body part. He can still develop cancer at any other site on his penis.

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Hugh7 November 23, 2013 at 2:34 am

Penile cancer is so rare it’s hard to get figures, so I’d like to see a source for the Israeli cancer claim. Circumcised men are at greater risk of penile cancer than men with a normal intact penis. The risk of penile cancer is an easily detected and treated abnormality of the foreskin, phimosis. (AAP 2012 circumcision policy, p768) Cutting off the foreskin to prevent it is like cutting off the toes to prevent athlete’s foot: it works, but at what cost?

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Larissa December 7, 2013 at 1:16 pm

But Amanda don’t you understand that you don’t have to do ANY of that with an intact child? There is no pain, no Vaseline, no gauze, no tea tree oil needed. There is no worry of complication, post-surgical infection, meatal stenosis. No matter how simple you think post-circumcision care is, it’s never as simple as leaving the child alone.

And how can you say with absolute certainty that your son did not suffer pain? You can’t possibly know what he was thinking and feeling during the surgery and while his penis was healing. There are numerous peer-reviewed studies showing that circumcision is a profoundly painful thing, and there is no reason children need to suffer this pain. http://www.sickkids.ca/aboutsickkids/newsroom/past-news/1997/study-shows-that-infants-feel-and-remember-circumcision-pain.html

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James Loewen November 21, 2013 at 6:57 pm

When we know better we do better.

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Nikita November 21, 2013 at 7:08 pm

Ahhh tears! Hugs Mama. I was 16 when I had my first son and I was a single mum. With no dad to consider I just said no way, not circumcising him and the doctors never really bought it up. (Where I live in QLD, Australia we would have to travel 4hours to the nearest doctor who performs this ‘procedure’)

My aunty was up in arms saying it will be dirty and it will get infected. I said if he gets an infection and then medically the foreskin needs to be removed we will cross that bridge if/when we come to it.

I am now married, have a daughter and a new baby boy. My husband is circumcised and he had terrible pain as an adolescent when he first started getting erections. He was more than happy to leave our son intact and will gladly be labelled an intactivist even though he himself is not intact.

I love what you have written. Thank you for your beautiful honesty and I hope you are following your own advice with that perfect end quote. xx

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Jessica November 21, 2013 at 7:16 pm

I recently completed some study in my midwifery degree that covered Female Genital Mutilation or as know in the countries that practise Female circumcision. Prior to studying this I thought male circumcision was not a bad thing to do and as my husband is circumcised maybe my future son should be.. But after everything I have learnt about FGM the thought of doing the same to my son is horrifying, why would I do that to my boy when I wouldn’t even dream of altering my daughters external genitalia. Thank you for your post hopefully people will now make a fully informed decisions about whether they will circumcise their sons or not.

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Kim January 12, 2014 at 10:28 pm

FGM is hardly the same thing where it’s commonly done to females going into puberty with dirty blades and no anesthetics.

Many baby boys sleep through being circumcised.

I’m still undecided, but comparing FGM and circumcision is like comparing apples and pears.

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Mrs. BWF January 14, 2014 at 12:09 pm

Seriously? I mean…that’s all I can say right now…seriously?

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KnF April 9, 2014 at 9:20 pm

Here is some information on the difference between Female Genital Mutilation, and Routine Infant Circumcision.
http://www.historyofcircumcision.net/index.php?option=content&task=view&id=59

FGM vs. MGM there is NO difference.

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C. W. November 21, 2013 at 8:42 pm

Thank you, thank you. I am so thankful for your honesty. My first was also circumcised and I feel horrible for ever thinking it was ok to do. I get so worked up when I read circumcision blogs because I feel embarrassed and like I made the biggest mistake of my son’s life. I wish I could take it all back and never agree to have the procedure done because “he has a kidney problem and this will reduce the possibility of UTIs”.

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Crystal November 21, 2013 at 9:25 pm

I am so grateful for this post. I too circumsised our first born for the same reasons or feelings. I kick myself constantly for not standing up for my instincts. This post has given me comfort, clarity, and the feeling that I’m not alone. Definitely not doing it again…ever

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Summer Miles November 21, 2013 at 10:05 pm

This is my EXACT story. Thank you for telling it!

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Kari November 21, 2013 at 10:27 pm

I liked this post since I have an almost exact experience. Bad first birth, circumcision, researched more the next time, and didn’t circumcise even though my husband didn’t want to go that way. I’m glad to hear more and more are going that direction. I know more would if they knew more info about it, so thanks for trying to do exactly that!

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Megan@TrueDaughter November 21, 2013 at 10:28 pm

This is always a tough subject for me. I have five sons. All are circumcised. The first was done in much the same way as your son, though admittedly, I didn’t want to do it…my husband insisted. I made him go with him and waited nearby to nurse him as soon as I could. When the next son came along, his foreskin kept adhering, it was awful…we kept having to pull it apart. The next one went well, and I though I never, ever liked doing this, every time I brought it up, my husband and I argued. By the time my next son was born I had been reading and reading. I was really starting to feel dead set against it. Until my midwife answered some questions for us. She had previously been a geriatric nurse who regularly had to send very old men down to get circs for repeated and miserable infections. I still worried, and talked to more people. My sister-in-law, also pregnant with a son at the time had been reading and talking. Her sister had pretty much convinced her that circumcising was best – her husband was Indian and not circumcised. He swore that any and all sons he had would be, as he had suffered horrible infections growing up and that they were bad enough that he, as a young man had decided to get circ’ed. I let this influence me, and still feel that perhaps it is best. My husband has 1 brother who is, and two who aren’t. The brothers who are, are divided on the subject. When my 4th son was born, we had him circ’ed. It was AWFUL. The OB did a very bad job, leaving some skin in place to become infected, but had clipped his tiny penis so close that he revealed the inner structures. I immediately asked about it, but the hospital said it was fine. I was discharged the next day and went straight to our family doc, who sent us straight to a pediatric urologist. He was aghast at the sight, but told me that the skin would eventually grow over and that my son would be okay. I asked this doctor how he felt about circumcision – he is with Akron Children’s Hospital – I figured he had to be as close to an expert as I was going to get. He basically said it is a cultural preference, but that he leaned toward doing it, for all the reasons I have previously stated. Whewsh – I will never be convinced. This is the #1 struggle I have had with parenting. When our 5th son was born, he had to be taken to the NICU in a whole other hospital from me…but we did have him circ’ed….but we had the pediatric urologist from the Children’s Hospital do it. Like I said, I am still to this day on the fence. My husband is a careful, caring dad who weighed it all carefully, so giving us both equal measure, I deferred to him…not because he has a penis, or at least not just because…but because as the MOST careful parent of the two of us, he felt so very strongly that this was what he felt was best, given all the information we had dug up in over a decade…well…he won, because I was on the fence. Still am. I totally understand not doing it. Totally. I also understand doing it. Totally. Good Luck, Mamas…we have hard decisions to make sometimes, don’t we?

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Heather November 22, 2013 at 11:13 am

You could have saved yourself a lot of trouble if you had realized it was not your or your husband’s decision to make. The only one who should be making decisions about a penis is the owner of said penis.

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Megan@TrueDaughter November 24, 2013 at 4:48 pm

Doing the best I could at the time…thanks, though. I have 10 children…I always do the best I can at the time. It was never done carelessly. Your efforts to make me feel awful about it hit their target, though. Congrats. It’ll totally change everything about how I parent from now on.

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Larissa December 7, 2013 at 1:18 pm

This is true Heather but this woman already knows this. She was brave to share her story and it’s not constructive to dig the knife in deeper.

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Emma November 22, 2013 at 2:39 pm

Hi Megan,

Many of my friends (especially those who are nurses) cite stories of geriatric men and problems that arise from being left intact. Most have never seen the issues themselves, but have only ‘heard’ about them. Research has shown that the majority of complications experienced by uncircumcised older men, were/are due to misinformation their parents received on how to care for their young son’s intact penis. During the cut happy years of the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s doctors told mothers of intact boys that they needed to “skin” back the foreskin and clean with soap and water. In addition, the boys foreskin would be forced back long before it had naturally retracted. The accepted guidelines now are that it should be treated and cleaned like a finger and that the first person to retract the foreskin should be the boy himself (i.e. not a grandmother who when giving him a bath or changing a diaper, thinks she is doing the best thing for him.) Typically this happens around age 3 but can take much longer for some boys. Doing these two things will keep fragile tissue from being damage and will lead to fewer problems for them later in life. We had to make sure possible care givers on both sides were re-educated on intact penises so they did not unknowingly do any damage.

Much of the fear mongering that encourages people to circumcise is based on ‘what might’ happen later in life. Well, we have medicine to treat UTIs and other infections in the unlikely case that they occur. Little girls often get UTIs and we treat them with antibiotics, why should it be different for boys.

With all that said, you need to give yourself grace. Regretting or fretting over the decision is not going to change the present. What you can do is encourage your sons to become educated on circumcision and to be open if their wife would like to leave their future sons intact. Be an educator and help this practice change one little boy at a time :) Peace to you and your family!

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Hugh7 November 23, 2013 at 2:43 am

“Most have never seen the issues themselves, but have only ‘heard’ about them. ”
And one man with such issues can generate a story that spreads and spreads. Why are these stories almost unknown in countries where babies are not circumcised? (Europe, South and Central America, the British Commonwealth?) Because there, doctors and caregivers have foreskins or partners with them, and know how to look after them. And why does nobody ever think of cutting baby girls to make life easier for their caregivers when they are old? The idea is outrageous. So….

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Sas December 2, 2013 at 7:17 am

As a Brit I have to echo Hugh’s point – circumcision is fairly rare over here and you NEVER hear horror stories about all these infections intact men are apparently supposed to have! I think perhaps Emma’s argument about a lack of info about proper care may be the root of these problems people in the US report; if it’s not the norm to have a foreskin then it’s not surprising that people don’t know how to care for an intact penis. It seems many problems in the elderly with infections (again, not something I’ve heard much about over here, I’ve only ever heard it mentioned by people from the US) are more about them no longer being able to clean themselves properly (or never having been taught to do so), and carers not understanding how or wanting to clean them properly, not some inevitable consequence of having a foreskin really.

Honestly, we never hear anything about the “dangers” of having an intact penis over here, just a simple reminder to teach our sons to clean themselves properly but that’s it!

I know many people who work in healthcare and I don’t think a single one of them would consider having their sons circumcised. Even Jewish friends have wrestled with the idea as they felt their religious/cultural beliefs were in conflict with what seemed to be the sensible option! It just seems like such an odd thing to do routinely in this day & age.

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Megan@TrueDaughter November 24, 2013 at 4:52 pm

Hi Emma,
Our midwife had had to recommend for circs numerous times, according to what she told us. She HAD seen it. We did talk to many people. We did weigh it. My husband is convinced that it was right and best to do it. I will never be convinced…I can utterly understand both sides. That’s why I don’t understand the battles…I think we can assume no one makes these choices lightly…I certainly didn’t. And I do agonize still. But, I cannot change it, so if my kids one day ask my opinion, I will say that it has to be their choice…perhaps the rather unkind Heather above is right, and letting them decide is best.

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Jamie November 21, 2013 at 11:11 pm

I did the same. I let my husband decide with our first child (a boy) and I fight the guilt I feel about it. I avoid reading blogs like this or looking into the research because I don’t want to feel even more guilty than I do. Honestly, I had already gone through two big battles with my husband because I wanted a homebirth and to not vaccinate that I was exhausted by the idea of battling it out on one more subject, so I gave in when he showed no sign of even listening to what I had to say. Thank God our second was a girl, I just don’t think I could have taken my baby to get it done again. If we ever have a boy again, I will go to war with my husband about it. I’ve already brought it up again and he seems to be a little more willing to listen, we have changed a lot about our lives since we had our first and I think he trusts me a little more now.

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Justin Perez November 21, 2013 at 11:36 pm

Wonderful read! Very powerful when describing the absurdity of including caring for an open wound exposed to feces.

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Nicole November 22, 2013 at 12:28 am

Thank you for sharing this story to help other families with their own very personal choices. It was very brave of you to let your self “out there” but thats also what makes it so special. It takes guts to expose our mistakes but when others can benefit it is worth it. Great story momma and dont be so hard on yourself!

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Melissa S. November 22, 2013 at 2:57 am

Wonderful, beautiful, brave post!! I had a very similar experience… I researched so many things before my first son was born but other than the different kinds of circumcision methods I didn’t learn anything about it. I was told by everyone, including our childbirth class & newborn class instructors, it was normal and expected, and even though I didn’t see the point or what was wrong with his perfect little penis I let them do it. I still can’t believe that. He screamed every time he peed for over a week and was swollen for a month.

We found out a year later, this past August, that we were expecting another little boy and this time I knew I did not want him circumcised; I had finally learned about the horror of the actual procedure and the functions of the foreskin and was so upset I’d let them do that to my baby. My husband is circumcised and felt very strongly about also circumcising baby boy #2 despite the hours of research I related to him. He finally relented when he caught me sobbing over trying to watch the Penn & Teller “Circumcision is Bullshit” episode… just the two quick clips at the very beginning of it had me in serious tears and I couldn’t bear to watch the rest. He said it means more to me to not have him circumcised than it does him to have the baby circumcised (though he still wishes he would be).

So, when our new son is here in February I don’t have to worry that they’ll take my perfect baby, strap him down & cut off a part of his body that is supposed to be there… no cleaning an open wound, worrying about swelling, or worrying that someday it won’t work right because we thought we had the right to make the decision to amputate it at birth. I am so grateful for stories like the one you shared that will make a difference in so many lives; most of the time it seems like boys are circumcised in America not because the parents (especially moms) really want to but because we’re led to believe it’s the only option. It’s not!

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Lauren November 22, 2013 at 9:19 am

I did the same. Thank you for sharing your story.

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Shannon November 22, 2013 at 10:05 am

I was fortunate. My husband eventually came around before the birth of our first son and he was my fourth child so i had already processed and considered circumcision several times before it became an issue we needed to decide on At first my husband was very insistent. Our son was his first child. Admitting that our son should remain intact almost seemed to be admitting that there was something wrong with himself. It took months of discussion and debate for him to begin considering my view. It wasn’t until i explained to him that i really could not allow it to be done and that forcing me to accept it would cause a real complication for me that he agreed to watch a video of a circ with me. That did it. His mind was changed.

We faced a lot of adversity from our OB and family, during my pregnancy. My brother even felt it appropriate to have a discussion about it, in a restaurant, and informed us that he felt we were dooming our child to a life as a “freak”. We stood firm. After our son was born we carefully informed everyone who might have to change our son to never force back the foreskin. Most people look terrified at the prospect of changing an uncirc’d boy. It amazed me and my husband how inexperienced most people were with the concept.

Knowing what we faced on the subject i am not surprised so many first sons were circ’d. There is real pressure and confusion on the subject. Be gentle with yourselves. We all live and learn and grow and we ALL love our babies.

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Shannon November 22, 2013 at 10:27 am

I just watched the linked video. That is brutal.

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Nichole November 22, 2013 at 7:24 pm

“Admitting that our son should remain intact almost seemed to be admitting that there was something wrong with himself.”
I think this is the problem with my husband. Plus he grew up very religious and conservative. His parents flipped at the thought of having their future grandson intact.

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Kathleen Langlo November 22, 2013 at 1:39 pm

My husband and I choose not to have our boys circumcised when they were babies. We didn’t see that point in it. They didn’t have any problems until the were about 3 & 4. Our youngest boy started to get UTI’s and the older one was having painful issues with ballooning of the foreskin. We took them to a specialist who suggested circumcision because of these issues. We talked with him and did our own research and decided with was the best thing to do to prevent them from being in more pain or getting more infections. Before they went in to have the surgery done we talked with them both and explained what was going to be happening. They were scared, but knew that it would help them as well. It’s amazing how smart little people can be. It was still a painful and traumatic experience for them, but they also understand that it was what needed to be done. We still talk to them about when they ask us and are supportive of whatever they are feeling. I know that it cannot be an easy thing to go through and I am proud of them for being as brave as they were then and now.

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Catherine November 22, 2013 at 4:26 pm
Larissa December 7, 2013 at 1:21 pm

Your children didn’t need circumcisions… they just needed doctors who knew something more about the foreskin than how to remove it. Foreskins are supposed to balloon with urination. It is a normal part of the foreskin retraction process. And UTIs are easily and effectively treated with antibiotics, the same way we treat our daughters when they get UTIs. Surgical amputation should always be regarded as an absolute last resort, only to be used after all other less invasive options have been explored.

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Catherine November 22, 2013 at 4:43 pm

Thank you for writing this. I had my oldest circ’d because I thought that it was just something you were supposed to do. I didn’t know at that time that it wasn’t a common procedure around the world, or that it just wasn’t necessary. I chose to leave my second son intact because I could never go through that again, yes I actually sat there while they did it to my oldest. The whole time there was a little voice telling me I needed to stop them, but I didn’t. See how strong cultural conditioning is? I really believed that it had to be done. I would ask that anyone who is thinking of doing this to consider if they would do this to their daughter? Probably not! Please don’t do it to your son either. Anyone who is anti-circ please give information to others in a kind way. I had a mom-friend when my oldest was a baby who made a lot of unkind remarks when we had the kids playing outside naked (it was summer). Moms don’t need snarky comments about their son’s penis. Doing such things just makes you look like a jerk and does nothing at all to help the issue. A simple, “Did you know…” in a kind way is all you need.

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Carolina November 22, 2013 at 6:40 pm

That video of the baby being circumcised… I was crawling out of my skin watching it. You can hear the mother sobbing… you can hear the doctor saying “Sorry, Ben” to the baby, you can see the baby writhing, and then at the end, he straight up passes out from shock.

Horrific.

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Larissa December 7, 2013 at 1:22 pm

You know Ben is actually the circumcising doctor’s son? True story.

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Shan November 22, 2013 at 10:26 pm

Thank you so much for posting this article – this NEEDS to be discussed again and again.

HIS body, HIS choice. Period.

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Jo November 24, 2013 at 11:53 pm

We recently had our second baby, a boy, and chose not to circumcise. What disturbs me is that had my first, a girl, been a boy, she probably would have been circumcised because I had not researched it at all. How sad that this surgery is often the “default”! I’m so glad that the subject came up while I was pregnant with #2 and that I was able to access the truth about it. Two of my sisters are expecting babies (one a boy, one a surprise), and I have shared with them what I had researched. Both of them were of the same midset I had been—that it was just “what you did”—but now they have both changed their minds!

It was pretty amusing telling my inlaws before he was born that we weren’t planning on circumcising our son. They knew we were planning to birth at home, in water, and not vaccinating (and were on board with all of these), but the fact that we were NOT going to have a part of our son’s penis chopped off was the one thing that shocked and horrified them!

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Maggie January 13, 2014 at 8:08 pm

I am a firm believer in leaving boys intact. It shouldn’t be a routine thing to perform an irreversible cosmetic surgery on someone who hasn’t consented to it! I did a ton of research before my daughter was born (she wouldn’t let anyone see if she was a boy or girl during her ultrasounds) and was dead set against it. My ex-husband was also not circumcised and while he initially thought we should do it, it was not hard to change his mind. I am currently pregnant with a baby boy, and one of my biggest fears was a confrontation with my husband over the circumcision issue. He is circumcised and I was afraid he would insist on it being done and was gearing up for a big battle. Sometime during my 5th month after we had found out we were having a boy, he made a remark about being so happy we were having a boy (we have 3 girls between us) but he felt sorry for him because he was going to have to be circumcised. Here came the huge adrenaline rush as I said “Why does he have to?” He said that he thought it was just something that was done. I told him (feeling so shaky inside!) that actually it wasn’t done nearly as often as they used to, and in fact in our current state the circumcision rates are only about 20% and it isn’t even covered by insurance. He turned out to be completely fine with not doing it! Months of worry and anxiety and being afraid of having a boy for nothing!

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mike February 12, 2014 at 5:11 pm

I’m not sure why but my post was removed. I’ll recap it again. Basically I was saying the reason why hospitals push for circumcision is because they make big bucks selling the foreskins to medical labs. Medical labs pay as much as $20,000 for each one, because they are the best tissue to use for skin grafts. This might sound crazy but google it if you don’t believe me. Baby foreskins are primarily used for skin grafts which becomes quite profitable, considering they actually get paid for circumcision.

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Marie February 16, 2014 at 5:49 pm

I am truly sorry for all your sons losses. As someone from outside the US it is so utterly shocking for me to have found out about circumcision, I cannot believe that a modern, civilized nation would do that to their baby boys. I’ve watched the film, it haunts me, newborn babies are so sensitive and open, and perfect. In the words of Ina May Gaskin (she was talking about women’s bodies, but the same is true here) – ‘God did not make a lemon’. In the UK we don’t even discuss how to care for our sons penises, it’s absolutely a non-issue, we just leave them alone, they get washed with the rest of their bodies. They are not problematic at all. Blessings on you all.

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Kelly February 17, 2014 at 10:53 pm

I am 38 weeks along with my 2nd baby. Our first was a girl. Prior to her birth and until last week I was sure I would not circumcise if we had a boy this time. I just didn’t think the pro’s outweighed the supposed cons. Ie, why fix it, if it’s not broken?? My husband is circumcised himself, but was easily persuaded to feel the same way as I did. Then I don’t even remember why or what I was intending to look up, but I stumbled across some article from http://www.circinfo.net the other day. As I read, I realized it was a pro-circ website written from a medical perspective. I was very defensive as I read much of the pro circ info, but a lot of the medical studies cited were were hard to refute. Another eye opening section of the website is the personal testimonies of men who have personally experienced living with and without a foreskin, and very good reasons why they chose to be circ’d later, and how much better off they are. Reading multiple testimonies and the reasons they chose to be circ’d and wished they had been as infants initially really threw me for a loop.
So, long story short, I am now due any day now, and have can truly see the benefits of having my son circ’d as an infant. My husband is still reluctant because he has not read anything on the subject either way. I realize that having a qualified doctor is extremely important in this procedure. I will be discussing specific analgesic techniques that the OB would use at my next appointment. Studies have shown that the infant has the least amount of stress/pain response if proper analgesic is utilized. Such as the provider injecting the lidocaine anesthetic in the proper places to numb the dorsal nerve, and waiting the required 5 full minutes for it to take effect. Using a sucrose solution for baby to suck on, ie Tootsweet is also proven to decrease pain in infants. The sucrose(sugar water) binds to the same brain receptors that narcotic pain medications do, thus providing similiar analgesic benefits. Medicating with tylenol before the procedure and every 4-6 hours after the circ will also greatly help any post circ discomfort.
[As a side note, I am a pediatric nurse, and have assisted with a circumcision one time when I floated to work in the nursery one shift, and seen one instance of a post circ bleed in a NICU baby, a very rare event, that was minor but slightly traumatic to me.]
I am truly agonizing over this decision, and am wary of elective medical procedure unless I have adequately researched all the pro’s and cons. I don’t believe you should just base your decisions on emotions, but it’s nearly impossible to not do that when talking about part of your beloved child’s genitals being surgically removed. That’s why I recommend and invite anyone on the fence about this, or even anti-circ to read some of the articles on http://www.circ.info.net to see some of the other arguments in favor of circimcision. I like to look at both sides of the argument, before I make a final decision on anything, because there can be so much bias with such a sensitive topic, it can help provide some balance to the debate.
Good luck to all on deciding this issue. The more I research, the less I judge on this issue. It is not necessarily a black and white issue that I thought it was.

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Mrs. BWF February 17, 2014 at 11:25 pm

If in doubt, do not do it. You can not undo it mama.

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TJF588 March 15, 2014 at 5:47 am

Be sure to read on the reputation of who backs http://www.circinfo.net. This site, “CricLeaks”, may reasonably be the most condemning information on Professor Brian J. Morris, but it is worth planting seeds of dissent when the topic is such a controversial matter as infant/child genital cutting: http://www.circleaks.org/index.php?title=Brian_J._Morris

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Kelly February 24, 2014 at 7:05 am

Just wanted to update, same Kelly as above. We’ve decided definitely NOT to circ our baby if it’s a boy. I couldn’t feel more happy and at peace about this decision in leaving our boy intact. I came full circle on this decision from where I started at. I read some more information about circumcision, and realized all the resources I was reading on PRO-circ, (circinfo.net) was highly inaccurate and the author Brian Morris has very little standing in the actual medical community. I’m a little ashamed that I actually let some of his flawed reasoning start to change my views on on circ-ing my baby. Peacefulparenting blog also has some great resources that also helped me see the light and loads of great info on intact care/what parents should know. That is all:)

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TJF588 March 15, 2014 at 6:03 am

Ah, of course my (currently await moderation) response was made before reading this follow-up. Unfortunately, when I first started delving into the matter and inundated those close to me with web addresses, one of the first provided was from Morris’s site. A terrible first impression in what resulted in me taking “intactivist” views, though my textually vocal condemnation of the practice and, shamefully, invariably of those who decide for it similarly fowled others on considering my says on the matter. It is still internally tumultuous to approach the matter with a neutrality or calmness when I have become, at greatest, sincerely disgusted with the practice, and while I know of one due child who will not be spared, I hold to the conviction that, in time, by whatever means, forced genital cutting will cease in my country (USA).

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Laurie April 9, 2014 at 10:01 pm

Thank You for writing this ‘heartfelt’ article. Thank you for sharing your story and personal feelings on what some may say is a controversial subject. ‘You’re never too old to learn’, I always say! The information you’ve shared along with the responses from others, shows how important this topic has become. In this day and age, how fortunate we are to educate ourselves and others on subject matters that were more or less taboo ‘way back when’ I gave birth.

“To Be or Not to Be” circumcised was never brought up, discussed or talked about amongst or by medical personnel, female family members and/or friends. “Should we or shouldn’t we?” was never a question and there were no pamphlets or leaflets laying on table tops at Doctors offices that contained information and/or opposing viewpoints about the subject. They just ‘did it’.

The author’s 3 older brothers were all circumcised. This back in the mid 70′s. One out of the 3 had reattachment issues during his potty-training phase. I never want to experience the hurt and painful cries from my son ever again.

We base our decisions on what knowledge we have on hand and unfortunately this topic was not for general conversation. If I knew then, what I know now; I would not have had my baby boys circumcised. It should have been their decision; it is after all, their body.

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Desiree June 19, 2014 at 4:11 pm

I have done a lot of research and went back and forth for quite some time and have come to the conclusion that I am indeed going to circumcise my son… It upsets me that people aren’t willing to accept this as a well informed, educated decision and a personal choice.

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Katie June 26, 2014 at 7:18 pm

I live in Canada and here circumcision is on the decline (with some provinces much less than others) I like a previous poster didn’t really do a ton of research in regards to the procedure. When the time came to make the decision we based it on my husband being circumcised, medical benefits ( or so I thought ) and stories of intact men having issues as well as me knowing a couple boys growing up that had to have it done later in life. The day we took my son in I was a wreck and still uneasy and unsure of the decision, but so it went and he was circumcise. He was fine, it didn’t effect our breastfeeding and he seemed to be in little pain. He did have issues with adhesions that have since corrected themselves, but was scary at the time. I have come to learn he has a loose circumcision based on the fact that he still has skin that covers the glans.
Know with baby boy #2 on the way I have done tons of research as well noted that none of my mommy friends here (manitoba) have had there little ones circumcised. In Alberta where I am from it is more prevalent ( his cousin there is as well as several of my friends sons ) I do not know what to do as they willbe 21 months apart. I don’t want my oldest to feel as though we wronged him or my youngest to feel different either. I know that it is not medically necessary, but has recently be stated as “the benefits outweigh the risks”.
Ugh!!!

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