Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Cate's Story: A Reluctant Dad, A Mom who said "Never Again"

When we were pregnant with our first child, we decided not to peek at the gender and just wait and be surprised. My husband was adamant about circumcising if we had a boy. I did a little research, but only on pro-circumcision sites.

 I deeply regret not researching more. I was just so relieved that my husband was on board with my choices about alternative parenting practices, like natural birth at a birthing center, etc. I thought I should give him this one thing that was important to him. We had a birthing center birth, so I found a pediatrician that performed circumcisions in her office. When the baby was born and we found out he was a boy, I started feeling panicky, but stuffed my feelings down. We had the appointment scheduled for 5 days after birth. Looking back, I am really glad we had breast feeding established and that the circumcision surgery wasn’t performed on his first day on Earth.

The whole elevator ride up to the doctor’s office, I felt so anxious. I really wanted to grab my baby and run, but I stuffed those feelings down. After the initial check up, she said it was time to start the circumcision. I had wanted to stay in the room, but changed my mind last minute. My husband stayed, and I waited outside the door. I began to hear an infant cry while waiting outside the door. I wanted to go back in to him, but was afraid to startle the doctor and make her botch the surgery. The crying seemed to go on and on and on. I started to cry and hyperventilate. The nurses brought me a cup of water and chair. It was the worst 5 minutes of my life. When they told me I could go back in, my baby wasn’t tear streaked, he was very calm. I asked him, “but wasn’t he crying?” and the told me he didn’t cry at all (my husband had let him suck on his pinky that was coated in sugar water. It’s supposed to have a calming effect on babies). It turned out that the cries came from a baby in the next room was getting her 2 month vaccinations, but the way the sound traveled made it sound like my son. I was so relieved he didn’t cry. We took him home, I nursed him and he fell asleep. He slept for a long, long time. I roused him to try and nurse him about four hours later and checked for excessive bleeding, but he fell right back to sleep. He probably slept 8 hours straight. I called my mom and asked her about it, but she said he was probably just sleeping off the local anesthesia and when you’re sleeping you’re healing.

I later found out he was most likely in shock. Oh my poor little baby. In the following days, he would cry every time he peed, I can’t imagine how much it stung and burned him. I would cry every time I changed his diaper, his little penis just looked so angry and sore.

No one had told us to pull back the skin around the head of the penis, we weren’t given much post surgery care instructions. He had a very loose circumcision, and the skin started to re-adhere but I had no idea. By 5 months, it was totally reattached but I never realized it. It started to leak pus out of a little hole where the skin hadn’t re-adhered on the side of the penis. I did a little research, and figured out what had happened. All the re-adhered skin was trapping germs and skin cells inside. According to my research, the skin needed to detach or it could cause a lot of problems later on in life when he started to have erections. I soaked the area in a warm wash cloth over the course of a few days, and it started to detach. That was when my real regret started to sink in, his penis was just trying to go back to the way it should be. When I was researching all this, I found lots of web sites against circumcision, and my eyes were really opened. I began to feel so sad
regretful about what I had done.

When my son was around a year old, I told my husband I regretted it. I told him all the things I had found in my research, how it’s just a cosmetic surgery with no medical benefits. I told him I felt like a dog owner that had her dog’s ears clipped just so they would look a certain way. I told we were no better then the parents that have their daughter’s genitals cut in Africa, we just had a sterile surgery instead of one on a dirt floor in a hut. Needless to say, that didn’t go over well…. We kind of just left it at that for awhile. We had planned on starting to try for another child when my son turned two, so right around his second birthday I dropped the bombshell. I told my husband that if we were to have another boy, there was no way on earth I would allow him to be circumcised. I would fight him tooth and nail over it. I told him it mattered so much to me, that I was willing to not have another child and leave our son an only child so it wouldn’t have to come to that. 

My husband and I do not argue ever. We have a very peaceful marriage, and usually never disagree on anything. We decided it would be better for us to forego having another child then to risk having another boy and having a giant rift between us. I was heart broken. I did not want only one child. But that is how important not circumcising again was to me. There were many nights I cried over it, and my husband would hold me as I cried. We just couldn’t see any other way. My husband was very, very adamant about having his son(s) match him. I did ask him could I gather all my arguments against it and present them to him at one time so I could say I tried everything. He allowed me to do that. I tried to keep my emotions out of it, and just present facts. Facts like circumcision only began in this country as a way to curb masturbation in young boys. Sex doesn't feel as good without a foreskin. Babies die from circumcision, it’s just not a well reported thing. The rate of parent's circumcising is dropping, so the whole “locker room” argument isn't true anymore (and our kids will be home schooled, so that’s a moot point anyway). The New Testament of the Bible states it’s not necessary, so the whole “God requires it” argument doesn't work (and if you look at the way it was required in the Old Testament, it’s very different form the medical circumcision of today. Back then it was just a ritual cut, not slicing off the entire foreskin).  It didn't change his mind, but I felt like I had done all I could. From time to time, when we’d be out in public and see a little newborn, I’d just look at my husband with sad eyes and he would know what I was thinking; that I wanted another. People would ask us, “so when is the next one coming”, and we’d just tell them we were done.

By the time my son’s third birth was approaching, I was finally coming to terms with the fact he really was going to be an only. I had prayed for an “oops” baby, but had even quit doing that. We were getting past the baby stage with him, he was sleeping through the night, weaning, and potty learning. I was starting to look forward to the next stage of our lives. One day, we were riding in the car and I threw out one last time, “I really want another baby”. And to my very great surprise….he said okay. OKAY!?!? What??? Did I hear right??? He told me, “I’ve really been thinking about it, and if you’ve done all this research and really come to the conclusion that it’s best to not circumcise, I will concede to you. I still want any sons we might have to match me, but I’ll give that up so we can have another child. If we have a boy and they ever ask us why they don’t match each other, you have to be the one to explain it to them”. I was in such
shock. I just started crying and hugging him, I couldn’t believe he told me that in the car. I just wanted to jump in his arms and kiss his face. I loved my husband so much in that moment. I know how hard it was for him to “give in”. I guess he just needed a lot of time to process to everything. I floated around on cloud 9 for days. I was so ecstatic he had changed his mind. We started trying right away, and got pregnant on the first try. I went from never thinking I was going to have another child to pregnant in just a matter of weeks. What a whirl-wind. My husband really wanted to peek at the gender this time, and….we are having a little girl! She will remain intact, just as every child deserves to be.


  1. The obsessive desire many circumcised fathers have to have their sons look like them is a grave social evil. It is consistent with my long standing claim that circumcision is a huge problem in the social psychology of human sexuality.

    I live in a society that furiously circumcised for 40-50 years, then gave up the practice. Over the past 50 years here, it was common for a circumcised father to raise intact sons. Nobody talks about that, much less stresses over it. Everybody here accepts that medical wisdom evolves over time, and that the time to circumcise is over.

  2. Hi,
    I was premature when I was born, as my parents did not circumcise me until I was 2 1/2 years old. I hated it. I told myself that if I had a baby boy, he would not be circumcised. They did not do that good of a job on me. My penis looks like a peeled banana.

    My (late) wife favoured circumcision, but she let me make the final decision. Of course for me there was no decision to make. The answer was NO! NO!! NO!!!

    My brother had his first son circumcised. He told me that the circumcision was so badly done that he had to take his week-old baby in for "corrective surgery." Surgery to fix something that should not have been done in the first place. He learned his lesson though, because he said "NO!!!" to his other 2 boys being circumcised. So they have retained their 4skins.

    Sure the pro-cutters say that the risk is low. Do you want your son to be in that "low-risk" category? Because no matter how mad you get or sad you feel or how much $ you sue for, you the parent is not the one who has to live with a ruined penis.

    Best wishes, Bill Bristol bbb444@hotmail.com

  3. I would be very disturbed if my husband had been at all adamant about putting our children through something painful and potentially life threatening just to force them to match. They can choose to undergo "matching surgery" when they're older but I doubt they will.

  4. First of all, Cate, congratulations on your little-one-in-waiting! You'll love having a girl. Little girls are ferry diiferent than little boys, but still lots of fun.

    I really don't get the "needing to match Daddy" argument. It seems...borderline perverted. Really, how many fathers and sons sit around comparing penises? Is this actually done? I know my mother and I never sat around and compared vulvae. *Shudder*