Sunday, September 27, 2009

Mothers Observe Sons Circumcision

Stories collected at the Circumcision Resource Center



If you have a story to share, please let us know. If you are a parent who circumcised your first son, wish to keep future sons intact, and would like to talk with other parents who have done the same, please drop me a note. I will connect you with others you can talk to who have walked down that same road and kept future babies whole at birth. There is also a Facebook page you may be interested in: Keeping Future Sons Intact (parents here have both circumcised and intact sons, or they plan to keep future sons/grandsons intact). There is also a group of like parents: 2nd Son, 2nd Chance: Parents who say never again to circumcision.

To learn more about the functions of the foreskin and the many reasons the prepuce organ is vital to all babies and adults, see here.

For additional information on intact care, the prepuce, and circumcision, resources (books, sites, articles) can be found at: Are you fully informed?


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The typical hospital circumcision is done out of view of the mother in a separate room. However, a few are observed by parents, and many Jewish ritual circumcisions are done in the homes of the parents and observed by family and friends. Although some parents may report that this is a positive experience, this is not always the case. Women are more likely than men to report distress from hearing an infant crying. (1) Regarding circumcision, the father is more likely to deny his son’s pain because it could remind him of his own circumcision feelings. Therefore, witnessing the circumcision and the infant’s response can have a particularly shocking effect on the mother. Only recently have some parents been willing to describe their agonizingly painful experiences at their son’s circumcision. Though further research is needed to tell us how common these responses are, the fact that they exist at all is reason for concern and reflection.

Some mothers have written about their experiences with circumcision during the previous year. “It was as close to hell as I ever want to get!” one wrote. Another related this memory:



My tiny son and I sobbed our hearts out. . . . After everything I’d worked for, carrying and nurturing Joseph in the womb, having him at home against no small odds, keeping him by my side constantly since birth, nursing him whenever he needed closeness and nourishment—the circumcision was a horrible violation of all I felt we shared. I cried for days afterward. (2)

Melissa Morrison was having a difficult time seven months after she had watched the (nonritual) circumcision of her son:


I’m finding myself obsessing more and more about it. It’s absolutely horrible. I didn’t know how horrific it was going to be. It was the most gruesome thing I have ever seen in my life. I told the doctor as soon as he was done, if I had a gun I would have killed him. I swear I would be in jail today if I did have a gun. (3)

Two other mothers have reported to the Circumcision Resource Center that watching their son’s circumcision was “the worst day of my life.” Another mother noted that she still felt pain recalling the experience about a year later. She wrote to her son:


I have never heard such screams. . . . Will I ever know what scars this brings to your soul? . . . What is that new look I see in your eyes? I can see pain, a certain sadness, and a loss of trust. (4)

Other mothers clearly remember their son’s circumcision after many years. Miriam Pollack reported fifteen years after the event, “The screams of my baby remain embedded in my bones and haunt my mind.” She added later, “His cry sounded like he was being butchered. I lost my milk.” (5)

Nancy Wainer Cohen recalled her feelings connected with the circumcision of her son, who is now twenty-two:



I heard him cry during the time they were circumcising him. The thing that is most disturbing to me is that I can still hear his cry. . . . It was an assault on him, and on some level it was an assault on me. . . . I will go to my grave hearing that horrible wail, and feeling somewhat responsible, feeling that it was my lack of awareness, my lack of consciousness. I did the best I could, and it wasn’t good enough. (6)

Elizabeth Pickard-Ginsburg vividly remembered her son’s circumcision and its effect on her:


Jesse was shrieking and I had tears streaming down my face. . . . He was screaming and there was no doubt in his scream that he wanted mother, or a mothering figure to come and protect him from this pain!! . . . Jesse screamed so loud that all of a sudden there was no sound! I’ve never heard anything like it!! He was screaming and it went up and then there was no sound and his mouth was just open and his face was full of pain!! I remember something happened inside me . . . the intensity of it was like blowing a fuse! It was too much. We knew something was over. I don’t feel that it ever really healed. . . . I don’t think I can recover from it. It’s a scar. I’ve put a lot of energy into trying to recover. I did some crying and we did some therapy. There’s still a lot of feeling that’s blocked off. It was too intense. . . . We had this beautiful baby boy and seven beautiful days and this beautiful rhythm starting, and it was like something had been shattered!! . . . When he was first born there was a tie with my young one, my newborn. And when the circumcision happened, in order to allow it I had cut off the bond. I had to cut off my natural instincts, and in doing so I cut off a lot of feelings towards Jesse. I cut it off to repress the pain and to repress the natural instinct to stop the circumcision. (7) (italics added)

After several years, Pickard-Ginsburg says she can still feel “an element of detachment” toward her son. Her account is particularly revealing. That she “cut off” feelings toward her son by observing his circumcision suggests that her son may have responded similarly toward her by experiencing his circumcision. Furthermore, because she was willing to feel and communicate the intensity of her pain, we have a clue to why more mothers who observe their son’s circumcision do not report such pain. Denial and repression may keep this extreme pain out of their awareness.

Observing their son’s circumcision has left some parents with a deep feeling of regret. The following quotes are typical:



I am so sorry I was so ignorant about circumcision. Had I witnessed a circumcision first, I never would have consented to having my son circumcised. (8)

Always in the back of my mind I’ve thought, “I wish he hadn’t been cut.” I have apologized to him numerous times. (9)

If I had ever known, I wouldn’t have done this in a million years. (10)

I felt as if I might pass out at the sight of my son lying there, unable to move or defend himself. His screams tore at my heart as his foreskin was heartlessly torn from his penis. Too late to turn back, I knew that this was a terrible mistake and that it was something that no one, especially newborn babies, should ever have to endure. A wave of shock coursed through me—my body feeling nauseatingly sick with guilt and shame. All I could think of was holding and consoling my child, but his pain felt inconsolable—his body rigid with fear and anger—his eyes filled with tears of betrayal. (11)


Some mothers who did not witness the circumcision have since regretted allowing it:


The nurse came to take the baby for the circumcision. I have relived that moment over and over. If I could turn back the hands of time, that would be the one moment I would go back to and say, “I don’t think it’s a good idea. I need another day to think about it” and just hold on to him because I wasn’t sure. I think if I had held on to him it might have turned out differently. I just shouldn’t have let him go when I was so ambivalent. After they took him I went into the shower, and I cried. (12)

When they brought him back to me, I could see that he had been crying and had a glassy, wild look in his eyes. I think it was terror. I didn’t know what had been done to him, but I could tell whatever it was, it hurt. I’ll never forget that look. They probably shattered every bit of trust he had. I’m very angry about it. I would never have done that to my own son. No mother would take a knife to her child. When I looked at his penis, I was again instantly sorry that I had allowed it to be done. (13)




NOTES

(1) Frodi, A. & Lamb, M., “Sex Differences in Responsiveness to Infants: A Developmental Study of Psychophysical and Behavioral Responses,” Child Development 49 (1978): 1182-8.

(2) O'Mara, P., ed., Circumcision: The Rest of the Story (Santa Fe, NM: Mothering, 1993), 75-6.

(3) Telephone conversation with CRC office, 1995.

(4) Friederich, L., letter in O'Mara, Circumcision: The Rest of the Story, 79.

(5) Pollack, M., “Jewish Feminist Perspective,” paper presented at the Third International Symposium on Circumcision, College Park, MD, May 1994.

(6) Interviewed at CRC office, 1994.

(7) Romberg, Circumcision: The Painful Dilemma, 78-84.

(8) Sexty, L., letter in O'Mara, Circumcision: The Rest of the Story, 84.

(9) Cohen, N., interviewed at CRC office, 1994.

(10) Northrup, C., telephone conversation with CRC office, 1994.

(11) Raisbeck, B., “Circumcision: A Wound Which Lasts a Lifetime,” Healing Currents, 1993, 21.

(12) Dion, J., telephone conversation with CRC office, 1995.

(13) Miller, C., telephone conversation with CRC office, 1995.

23 comments:

  1. Thank you for that. At a Skeptics' Conference on Saturday, a New Zealand nurse said that when nurses banded together to refuse to hold babies for circumcision, but said the mothers must do it themselves, the circumcision rate plummetted. Fortunately for New Zealand, but not the US, the Circumstraint™ had not yet been invented.

    A mother told me that while she was in labour (mercifully with a girl) a nurse had come in to vent, "They're circumcising a little boy, and I can't stand the screaming."

    The bumpersticker you head the column with is available (with many others, and T-shirts, etc.) from The Intactivism Shop.

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  2. I feel so much the same. I'll never forget how stupid I was and I wish....

    At least I did better the next time and I'll never stop voicing my pain for what i ignorantly allowed to happen before.

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  3. One of the most horrible guilts I have is the fact that I allowed my first son to be circumcised- back in '91!!! It still makes me want to cry to think about it 18 and a half years later.

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  4. I agree with Janet and Dani!!!

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  5. what i feel so terrible about is that i did NOT KNOW they didn't numb the babies before they did it. i feel sick when i think about that. my family doctor knew how badly i was feeling over the circumcision of our other two sons. he told me that he didn't remember a thing from his own, and that he would numb our son before he did the circ. he knew hubby wasn't going to change his mind. i'm glad that at least that time, our son was numb for the procedure. and while i've longed for another son, i don't think i could stand it to have him circ'd like the others have been. not sure if hubby would change his mind yet or not. :(

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  6. You live with someone who favors infant sexual abuse?

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  7. Mothers always have final say (legally) on matters with their babies in U.S. hospitals. And they should - Mom carried this baby (and protected him) for 40+weeks inutero and he is HER baby to protect on the outside - no matter what her partner wants to do to him.

    There is NO doctor who should be advocating for the amputation of healthy organs from non-consenting persons. It is a violation of the "First, Do No Harm" oath. http://www.doctorsopposingcircumcision.org/

    Unfortunately, even if/when anesthesia is used (rarely is it, and sometimes doctors tell mothers this even when it is not used) it is injected into the fatty tissue above the penis and numbs the dorsal surface, but the frenulum and perineal nerve is BELOW the dorsal nerve block injections so even "anaesthetised" babies feel excruciating pain (and often pass out, scream, seizure, etc) when the prepuce is torn and the frenulum is severed.

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  8. All that said -- even if circumcision were COMPLETELY pain free -- this is not the biggest part of the issue. We are amputating organs that are VITAL to healthy, complete, optimal functioning of human beings. I really hope everyone (at least everyone who I can reach) learns about all the many functions and purposes that the prepuce organ serves. It is an important organ (to health, sexuality, development) unlike any other. It impacts not only a boy/man, but his partner as well. No one should have it stolen from them. Not women. Not men. Some Functions of the Foreskin: http://drmomma.blogspot.com/2009/09/functions-of-foreskin-purposes-of.html

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  9. A lot of parents (my own included) were not informed prior to allowing their first son to be cut at birth. Marilyn Milos (founder of the National Org of Circ Information & Resource Centers) is another example of a beautiful, loving mother who walked this path. She has dedicated her whole life since learning about what was done to her sons to make sure it does not continue happening to other babies.

    It is horribly unfortunate that we do not FULLY and sufficiently educate on all the MANY important functions and purposes of the prepuce organ ('foreskin' in boys and 'hood' in girls)

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  10. I am traveling and lecturing at universities in the Midwest right now on the prepuce organ and circumcision, and the myths and misconceptions (and general naivety surrounding this issue) are mind-boggling. VERY FEW professionals study this topic in graduate/medical school, so I understand why accurate information is not readily available for parents. But to amputate (without anesthesia) 1/3-3/4 of a newborn baby's fully functioning, healthy, most sensitive organ... doesn't it just completely go against all innate mothering instincts? I expect that if parents HAD to hold their baby while he was being cut apart, more mothers would snatch their babies tightly into their arms and become the momma bears protecting their cubs that we once were.

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  11. I believe, that several of you, like many other mothers (and fathers) have a very unique position on which to share with others. You've been in both places, became educated, and can share experience that more and more parents need/want. I literally meet parents every single week who want to know what they "should say" about cutting their first child, and wanting to keep the rest intact. You can be such an encouragement and source of knowledge and inspiration! :)

    No one ever regrets leaving their daughters/sons WHOLE at birth.

    BTW - i wonder if fathers who witness this atrocity have the same reaction? maybe not as intensely...but I have met several fathers who said the same thing -- that they could not believe the horrors of circumcision once they witnessed it first hand and would never repeat it with another son.

    I love Derek (a father who blogs about this): http://drmomma.blogspot.com/2009/09/circumcision-will-you-make-cut.html

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  12. Once I was educated about the harms of circumcision (while expecting our son), there was NO WAY I was going to allow anyone to cut his genitals. There was enough trauma and (in retrospect) too many interventions as it was. Circumcision would have destroyed whatever bond was left.

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  13. I could never sit there and watch that happen to my son

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  14. After reading things like this...I praise God every day for my mother for being smart enough to keep my brother intact and for teaching that circ is WRONG...and of course my son is intact!!!
    If ANY man, woman, etc...wouldn't "budge" on circ, he would no longer BE my husband/wife, etc No way No how!!!...NO ONE WOULD TOUCH MY CHILD! I don't care if my husband wanted it or not...he would have to pry MY BABY from my COLD, DEAD ARMS! NO WAY IN HELL.

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  15. I have 2 sons. My first boy was born when I was 18 years old in Texas. I never knew that was a choice and so when the doctor came in and whisked him away I didn't bat an eye. When they returned him to me when a swollen and oozing penis, still lightly sobbing, I knew something terrible had been done. I instantly regretted allowing such a thing to happen to him. I had never seen or heard of an intact penis but I told myself that I should have another son, he would have such a thing. My husband, at the time, thought I was being dramatic but I knew it was wrong.
    When my next son (with my current and most wonderful husband and life mate)was born three years later we refused to sign the consent form that was bundled in with my intake papers. Shortly after my sweet son was born he was picked up for "shots and a short evaluation" and returned to me an hour and a half later with a circumsized penis. (Legal matters were taken, but what what good do they do my son?)
    I am, once again, pregnant. We don't know if we're having another boy but what I do know is that I am now 10 years older and 10 years stronger. Fortunately for us, I will be delivering this babe at home, so the risk of such a thing happening again just isn't there.
    I would NEVER again allow doctors to remove a functional and vital part of my son's anatomy. I would hope that anyone considering it would think long and hard on what it is they are consenting to. It is mutilation. Plain and simple. Mothers, stand up to fathers who insist on brutalizing your child's most sacred part. Listen to what your soul is telling you. I wish I had.

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  16. I know several parents of my generation who have told me they held their infant son while he was being circumcised. None of them expressed any regrets about the experience. Such is the extent to which American culture has demonised the foreskin.

    Routine circumcision without complete local anesthesia of the penis is sexual violence. It is the rape of an infant boy. It should be a major crime.

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  17. I circumised my first son and it was the worst mistake i have made as a parent. OMG..the blood. HE bleed so bad, he almost needed a transfusion. HE has had some reattachement problems and at 4.5 still complains that his penis hurts some. IT has gotten better over the years, but still. I wish i wasn't so niave and I wish i didn't just go along with society. When i think back to his newborn days, i just want to cry. I at least knew more and knew better for my second child. He is thankfully intact!!!!! I know i will have to have some explaining to do when he is older and i will apologize. I honestly do not understand how parents who actually are INFORMED can still do this to their child.

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  18. When I was seventeen I frequently babysat for a family of six children.

    One night my mother and the mother of the children had a girl's night out while I minded my younger sister and the children.

    About 45 minutes after I had been left in charge the baby (who was less than six months old) started screaming. I held him and tried to soothe him, and then decided to change his nappy.
    What I saw when I opened his nappy left me in little doubt as to why he was screaming.
    He had wet his nappy, and soaked the cotton swaddling that had been packed around his little penis with urine and blood.

    I cleaned him up as best I could, trying not to further aggrevate or pull at the wound, while one of the other children calmly informed me he'd been circumsised that day.

    Nothing would calm him. He screamed untill he was exhausted, and then he sobbed and hiccuped. I cried right along with him.

    When our mothers returned home I raised hell. To do that to your son is unthinkable. To do it and leave someone else in charge, with no warning, and no instructions as to what to do for your newly mutilated son is unforgiveable.

    I had neer been happier that my mother was a vocal advocate for intact foreskin, and backed me up. She had not cut her son (much to the surprise of my cut catholic father), and would not have left me tending to her friend's wounded child had she known.

    I've never forgotten, and to this day will not sit in silence when I'm told of someone's plan to cut their child.

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  19. I'll be 78yrs old next Sept. I never allowed our son to be circumcised. I was not as a child. Eight years ago, phimosis developed to the extend I could barely urinate and I had to be circumcised. My son had the same experience around 40yrs of age. Clenliness was never the problem with either of us. My mother taught me how to take care of that chore and I taught our son. I STILL do not condone circumcision-but do not know the reason for our problem. I still miss my foreskin and have had problems with pain & infections ever since(with consistant clening practices)Surely we are not the only two males that have had this problem....The glans penis had yet to toughen up to where its not tender when rubbing against my underwear. That's my story & I'm stickin' to it....

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  20. I also deal with the guilt.
    I had this beautiful birth with my 4th baby boy...I loved this baby so much,and then I took him to have this done....the more I learn about it,the more I just want to take it all back.
    I wrote our story about circumcision,and I feel that I need to say more-and my post about circumcision is the most popular post on my blog...that means that maybe I'm making a difference for other little baby boys.

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  21. I was a volunteer in a well baby nursery at Baylor Hospital of Dallas when I was 15. I'm now 33 with two children.

    Witnessed lots of circumcisions and each were the most horrific moments of my life. Baby boys were lined up in the nursery and each were cut. They let out the most horrible screams. Many of the cuts left the babies with infections. Most Mothers were clueless to as what even happened. I used to take the babies back, tell them how sorry I was, and swore, "never my Son". I recall how the babies were strapped down, how they were in immense pain and the blood!


    When I went to have my Son I was so happy to refuse the genital mutilation of my Son. I'm so happy I kept my promise to all those suffering babies all those years ago. I will never forget those sweet little sniffles and they way the would lose their breath. I hated the blood in their diapers. It really was traumatic. Please don't cut your sons.

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  22. If anybody have any info about what the hospitals in US ask to "do" or "accept" or "sign" about a new born baby girl? please let me know I don't want surprises because seems like sometimes they do things without your consent and that will brake my heart!

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    Replies
    1. Oh don't worry about a girl, at least she's safe from genital mutilation since it's outlawed in the USA.

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