Monday, August 29, 2011

A Gentle Reminder When Discussing Circumcision

Surely it would be wise for us to remember that perhaps the parents you meet online who consented to circumcision on behalf of their children did not realize fully what circumcision was or what it would do to their sons. Some might have even been coerced into it, or had their sons taken away without notice.

If these parents are honestly reading any links you posted or thinking about your reasoning, it would be a good time to support them in their journey as they begin to realize the horror of what they cooperated in, the grief crashing down upon them, and finally the betrayal and guilt of being swept into this culture of hurting babies.

Although it's easy for us to feel that parents should fully inform themselves before ever consenting to surgery on their children, we must remember that it is still culturally acceptable and even obligatory to follow the advice or guidance of the doctor. The thing is, any informed and ethical doctor would discourage consenting to circumcision and refuse to perform it.

Parents carry a lot of blame in a lot of things when it comes to raising children. They shouldn't carry the blame for being conditioned to obey an unethical doctor who solicited circumcision surgery for their sons, or who did not take a few minutes to outline the basic risks and damage that their sons would experience from it.

If we lose this moment in time where we can reach out, support, empower and love, then we risk ostracizing these parents, and in a cruel way, forcing them into a corner of despair and guilt.

As much as we must always speak out for the wellbeing of the innocent children, please remember the wellbeing of the parents. Speak truthfully, but with charity. Mend hearts and build friendships.

Whitney regrets consenting to circumcision for her son.
She loves him dearly and is a mother just like any mother. 

Meet other parents who regret their sons' circumcisions. Think about them and their experiences when you feel like lashing out.


  1. Thank you for this. I circ'd my first, even though I didnt feel right about it. I felt alot of pressure from other mothers with boys. Infact someone else paid for it because insurance wouldnt cover it and we were young and poor! I was more informed the second time around and reallly struggled with the decision, simply because I didnt know how I would explain how I could do such a thing to my first and spare my second. So both my boys are circ'd. It eats me up everytime I see the word. I will probably always hate myself a little because of it. I always hope I never get asked about it because I feel sick to admit they are.

  2. True...but FWIW, I met anti-RIC moms online after I allowed my first to be circumcised and they were too supportive and made me feel like, while it was unnecessary, they would be fine in the end. I ended up allowing my second to be circumcised as well b/c "unnecessary" wasn't enough reason to go against my husband who felt strongly it be done again. It wasn't until I met hardcore intactivists who told me it was WRONG, HARMFUL and a VIOLATION that I really woke up to what RIC truly is. The women who told me the truth are the ones who gave me the courage to put my foot down and not allow my third son to be circumcised. Even my husband is now thankful for those women who gave it to me straight and stopped us from allowing another one of our babies to be violated.

  3. :) Don't worry, Erin, you will not find any waffling from me lol. I think we can just strive to be kinder. It depends on individual terms, I guess. I've certainly posted without judgment in my heart and been accused of attacking. :/ Thank you for sharing your story!

  4. Thank you for this! I regret my first son's circumcision and I feel bad enough without being attacked.

  5. Having been one of those Mamas 10 years ago, I think being super confrontational isn't helpful. If anything, it makes a new mom or pregnant mom put up walls. A pregnant new mother is overwhelmed and often "knows it all", so blasting them with rhetoric can make them dig in their heels, think those people are crazy and subsequently ignore the information.

    While I wish the one intactivist I met online would have pushed harder to save the rest of our group from not circumcising, I don't know if I would have listened. All I know now is that I respect (and now agree with) her stance and I regret not listening, and also for the way I sat by while the rest of the group treated her badly. (gotta love Babycenter)

  6. Your post here is a perfect example of being civil but also not sugar coating. This sentence, for example, "it would be a good time to support them in their journey as they begin to realize the horror of what they cooperated in," is very compassionate but also uses the word "horror," which I think doesn't pull any punches. When I get involved in these discussions, I will be polite but I will also use the word "amputation" (and almost always swallow down the word "mutilation," which I think is also accurate but perhaps cannot be heard by those not ready). It's all a delicate dance, isn't it? But you dance brilliantly, and I appreciate that your voice is getting out there with this important message.

  7. I regret circumcising my oldest as well. As ridiculous as it sounds now, I didn't know people didn't do it so we had it done, it's just what you do to boys. He battled adhesions for the first 18 months and they finally stopped as our 2nd son was born. I had already made the decision by that point that he would be left intact. It was a fight with DH but he ultimately supported my decision and knows it's not necessary. The boys are 8 and 6 and I'm not looking forward to the day I have to explain my choices.

  8. Thank you Guggie for posting this! Remember these parents are NOT monsters, they were misled, misinformed, and thought they were doing the BETTER thing for their child! Yes you may argue with others who still think they are right and that they are still doing what's better for their child. But still be GENTLE with them because you STILL have a chance to make an IMPRESSION on their mind and what do you want to leave them with? Bitterness towards some angry activist online?Where they are hellbent on proving wrong or ignoring altogether? Or something that will cling to their thoughts each time circumcision crosses their mind and causes them to pause and rethink?

    Let's be gentle to ALL parents regardless of their stance on the issue, because it's not only those that you are arguing with that you are impacting but those who come behind them and read those same words, or those who that person will now tell about those crazy online activists to ignore what they say because they are loony/crazy etc.

  9. I think we also need to use this kind approach when being the first in a family to break with tradition. My mother gave birth to me and my brother at a military hospital where laboring women were shaved, episiotomies were standard and routine, and where I am SURE circumcisions were also standard Air Force issue. They had my brother circumcised thinking that it was just something that you had to do.

    When we had our first son my (intact) husband and I were very careful how we told my parents that we were NOT circumcising. The idea was not to insult their parenting, but to educate them in how things are changing. We now have two intact sons who have fantastic relationships with my parents.

    To those parents who circumcised and regret it I would like to point out that no parent is perfect. We all make mistakes. Give yourself a pat on the back for the things that you are doing right.

  10. Excellent piece. I had recently been thinking of writing something like this as well - about how we should put our best foot forward in our quest to spread accurate circumcision information. A parent having circumcised their child does NOT mean they are a cruel or bad parent. We are conditioned to trust our doctors, and it takes time and courage to realize that they are not the knights in shining armor that we were taught they were.

    Sometimes the debate is frustrating. That doesn't mean it is appropriate to attack and accuse. Our goal is education, and if we can't treat people with respect, we'll never get the point across. Be truthful, be firm, but remember to be courteous and kind as well.

  11. I would like to email a photo and comment with this, but I need to be able to email or upload the pics. Please let me know where to send them. Thanks.

  12. Whitney's baby boy, shown above, is maybe the cutest and most alert baby boy I can recall ever seeing. Quite a few boys recover very nicely from having been circumcised.

    American routine infant circumcision is a melodrama whose villains are not the parents who give the nod (they are mostly victims of a profoundly conformist parenting culture). The villains are the medical school profs who train doctors to circ, and who do not research the complications of circ, especially the damage to adult sexual pleasure and functionality. I also blame the pediatric urologists who do a steady trade in "revising" circs and repairing circumcision damage, but decline to put this fact in the public domain.

  13. you can forgive yourself. can your son? i hope so. most guys don't hold it against their parents. i do. but there's other factors into why i do.

    i think victims have a tendency to feel elemental blame, and they have to point it at someone. and for them, anyone whos ever assisted in mutilation is to blame. are they wrong?

  14. TO hear from the other perspective may shed some light. I did not circumcise my first son, who then had a foreskin that did not retract, and was causing extreme discomfort for him. We had the procedure done at age 6, and he fully remembers the surgery. My second son, (four years younger) also was not circumcised at birth, and had the same issue, we hadn't dealt with the older ones issue when #2 was born, thinking it would still be ok. He had the procedure done at 5. Son #3 was circumcised at 8 days, my husband and I were present, he fell asleep during the procedure because he was so relaxed. My older 2 still can get pretty mad that we waited.

    1. Please read the following article. Children at ages 5 and 6 are not actually supposed to be able to pull their foreskin back. The surgery was not actually needed in any of these cases.

  15. homeschooln4years, how old were your sons when you realized their foreskins could not retract, and who was the person trying to retract them? What exactly was causing the pain? I bet you already know this, but just in case you don't I'll give a little detail. Boys retract at different ages. Some can do it when they are toddlers, others when they are in school, and still others don't retract until they are too old to even let their parents know that it happened. Some men never retract at all, but as long as everything functions normally in that area they are perfectly content with how things are. The important thing is that no one ever forces a retraction on a little boy's penis. It's completely unnecessary and often causes tearing that leads to scar tissue that leads to pain, infection, and more scarring. That becomes a vicious cycle. This retraction-pain-scarring is what led to many of the "necessary" circumcisions of the past three generations of American boys.

  16. Oh mama, that must have been so hard for you to have to make that decision, and twice :(

    Unfortunately, so many doctors are so misinformed at the natural workings of the intact penis, that they may have misinformed you as well. Many, many boys are not fully retractable until as late as puberty, and many boys (like girls with intact hymens) do experience some discomfort when becoming retractable. Usually some steroid cream and stretching exercises can solve the issue.

    It is such a shame that doctors, who we are supposed to trust, are so quick to jump to amputation.

  17. Homeschooln4years, I was giving a diagnosis of phimosis when my 4 y/o son was unable to retract his foreskin. I did not know then that we were NOT supposed to attempt retraction. His doctor gave us a referral to a ped urologist to have him circumcised. I came home with the paper and did some serious research for my instinct was screaming out against having my son cut. After discussing the information I had uncovered with my husband and son we threw that referral away. My son is now 6, still intact, and can retract his foreskin with no problems (we allowed him to attempt retraction on his own, in his own time).

    I am very sorry you were not given better information. Many doctors today are not properly informed on caring for an intact penis and too many children are being harmed because of it. I strongly urge you to do more research before sharing your perspective and further spreading misinformation.

  18. While I agree on some points with you, Guggie, parents who consent to circ can't just be patted on the butt, have a lullaby sung to them and sent on their merry, ignorant way. A baby boy circ'ed is not fine. It's good to pass along information in a kind fashion and not attack individuals for the decision but rather to attack circ at a societal level but honestly, even if a doctor says it's ok, if you've done your research (any surgery should be researched, especially a cosmetic one, which is what circ is considered), a doctor who has also likely been circ'ed and can't admit that someone velcro'ed him down and violated him unnecessarily or who has a partner who is likely circ'ed will not sway you

  19. Great points. I am soooo happy I had the information and ability to convince my husband (thankfully it didn't take much) and my boys are intact.
    But I have consented to some medical things under pressure that I later thought "why did I say yes to that" or "why didn't I fight harder", such as a doctor who wouldn't "let" me delay cord clamping, and an ER policy that asked to take full body x-rays of our son to check for signs of abuse (how can you say no to look like an abuser).
    Obviously, neither of those are as directly harmful as circumcision, but they made me understand the pressure to say yes to medical personnel.

  20. I hate my mother for allowing this genital mutilation to happen to me, she condoned this, I will never forgive her, nor the doctors. It is no wonder men do not trust doctors, why would a man ever trust after they had his most sensual body part ripped and cut, then live with a disfigured penis, every time you take a pee you see how you were abused, and how do Americans justify the child abuse, sexually abusing children prevents aids, excuse me, it's education and condoms that do this so much better than child abuse.