Monday, December 14, 2009

Circumcision: What I Wish I'd Known


The following is written by one of our heroes, Marilyn Fayre Milos, who is the founder of the National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers.

It seems, through Milos' life's work that she is the exact antithesis of the type of person Martin Luther King, Jr spoke of when he declared that, "He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it." Because of her own bravery and honesty and ability to grow, both as a mother and a birth/babies' advocate, Milos recognized the wrong in what was done to her own sons, and forever changed the world for countless others as a result. What an amazing woman she is!

Excerpt was published in The Truth Seeker, "Crimes of Genital Mutilation." (July/August) 1989; 1(3):3.

I didn't know what circumcision was when I consented to have my three sons circumcised.

My doctor had told me the surgery was a necessary health measure, that it didn't hurt, and that it only took a moment to perform...like cutting the umbilical cord, I thought. I certainly wasn't prepared when, in nursing school several years later, I saw the surgery for the first time.


We students filed into the newborn nursery to find a baby strapped spread-eagle to a plastic board on a counter top across the room.

He was struggling against his restraints - tugging, whimpering, and then crying helplessly.

No one was tending the infant, but when I asked my instructor if I could comfort him she said "Wait till the doctor gets here." I wondered how a teacher of the healing arts could watch someone suffer and not offer assistance. I wondered about the doctor's power which could intimidate others from following protective instincts. When he did arrive, I immediately asked the doctor it I could help the baby. He told me to put my finger into the baby's mouth; I did, and the baby sucked. I stroked his little head and spoke softly to him. He began to relax and was momentarily quiet.

The silence was soon broken by a piercing scream - the baby's reaction to having his foreskin pinched and crushed as the doctor attached the clamp to his penis. The shriek intensified when the doctor inserted an instrument between the foreskin and the glans (head of the penis), tearing the two structures apart. (They are attached tightly to each other during infancy so the foreskin can protect the sensitive glans from feces and contaminants.)

The baby started shaking his head wildly back and forth - the only part of his body free to move - as the doctor used another clamp to crush the foreskin lengthwise, which he then cut. This made the opening of the foreskin large enough to insert a circumcision instrument, the device used to protect the glans from being accidentally severed during the surgery.

The baby began to gasp and choke, breathless from his shrill continuous screams. How could anyone say circumcision is painless when the suffering is so obvious?

My bottom lip began to quiver, tears filled my eyes and spilled over. I found my own sobs difficult to contain. How much longer could this go on?

During the next stage of the surgery, the doctor crushed the foreskin against the circumcision instrument and then, finally, amputated it.

The baby was limp, exhausted, spent.

I had not been prepared - nothing could have prepared me - for this experience.


To see a part of this baby's penis being cut off - without an anesthetic - was devastating. But even more shocking was the doctor's comment, barely audible several octaves below the piercing screams of the baby, "There's no medical reason for doing this." I couldn't believe my ears, my knees became weak, and I felt sick to my stomach. I couldn't believe that medical professionals, dedicated to helping and healing, could inflict such pain and anguish on innocent babies unnecessarily.

What had I allowed my own babies to endure? And why?

The course of my life was forever changed on that day in 1979.

I have now dedicated my life to bringing an end to this horrendous practice.


"If anything is sacred, the human body is sacred."
~Walt Whitman



To read from others who have sons who were circumcised before having accurate and complete information, see I Circumcised My Son: Healing From Regret

Additional prepuce, intact care and circumcision information at: Are You Fully Informed?

If you circumcised your first son, and would like to keep future sons intact, or make a difference in the lives of your grandsons or boys born around you, please join other like minded parents on at the Keeping Future Sons Intact Facebook page or at the private KFSI group


For those who have not yet witnessed the difference between an intact vs. circumcised newborn baby boy, here are two examples:




58 comments:

  1. I read this and I am in PAIN knowing that so many people do this to their sons everyday. After reading this I hugged my son and am so thankful I didn't put him through this.

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  2. That is so depressing. Its torture. I did not circumcise my baby boy and after reading this am soooo glad hat I made that decision.

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  3. Thank you for posting this excerpt, just shared it on B in the hopes another mama will make the right choice.

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  4. Yeah, sawing off an infants foreskin doesn't hurt. And doctors still believe this to this day!

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  5. Right? How can people even think that for a second? SICK!

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  6. Hooray for Marilyn!

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  7. I can't believe this is allowed to go on still!!!!!!!!! I am reposting for friends.

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  8. A true hero and champion for children ♥

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  9. wow! that hurt to read. it makes me wonder, right now, at this very moment, how many babies are being tortured like this? how can we EVER end male violence when this is how we start their lives? so gut-wrenchingly sad.....

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  10. Truly heartbreaking :-( I cried for a week when I first found out about circumcision, held my darling boy in my arms while he slept and cried for all those poor baby boys. I thought it was only done for religious reasons, which was bad enough, but to find out it's done routinely in the US was a gut wrenching shock to me. It's something I find hard to campaign about or get people's interest in because it doesn't happen here, and like I did, people think it's just a religious thing (therefore horrible but not something you can really get involved in).

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  11. At least I educated myself before my son was born, so he was spared that unnecessary torture!

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  12. Gee, doctors actually lie or are ignorant?? Who'd a thunk that? Pray that circumcision for all babies is stopped!

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  13. It is a HUGE big deal for these babies that go through a permanent genital modification without permission. When the babies are supposed to be welcomed with love and breastmilk, not genital cutting. There are studies that show baby boys that go through a circumcision their brains are permanently altered due to the cortisol levels from the pain, they are more susceptible to pain later in life. In addition it is a huge violation of human rights do it to someone without their consent.

    Thanks so much for this link Erin, Marilyn IS one of my heroes!!!

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  14. Here is a AAP study on neonate pain:

    http://aappolicy.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/pediatrics;105/2/454

    "A lack of behavioral responses (including crying and movement) does not necessarily indicate a lack of pain."

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  15. Oh yeah! You're right, Enith...I completely forgot about the pain issue. They found that "the more painful procedures an infant experienced, the less effective morphine is in alleviating pain."

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090927130048.htm

    The way I see it, hyper-stimulation due to forced exposure to intense pain influences the hard-wiring of the brain to set the threshold higher than biologically normal. In other words excessive infant pain is altering the negative control mechanisms of the body! This is HUGE.

    Poor little babies. We are playing in a big sandbox.

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  16. I had birth defects, and not too long ago, I learned they operated on me without anesthesia---now i know why I hate doctors so much!

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  17. I'll never forget the pain my son was in after his circumcision. I can attest first hand too that it interrupts breastfeeding: he came back to my room, started nursing and he was fine then all of a sudden he starts SCREAMING in agony, and I was frantically trying to figure out why and kept trying to get him latched back on and he was crying too hard to be able to...then it hit me: he probably just peed on his fresh wound. That was the first time he associated his mother with betrayal.

    My youngest son was not mutilated, and I knew I didn't care what my husband said. (lucky for me he was just fine with my decision).

    It gets me down to my bones thinking of the pain so many millions of baby boys have experienced.

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  18. *hugs* to Laura. You made my heart race a little. :(

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  19. that is a great study Guggie!

    Laura (((hugs)))

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  20. I remember reading that too about some babies screaming and some almost going into a shock like state....I guess those latter babies are the ones they say, "didn't realize what was going on". If we can allow ourselves to clear our minds completely of anything that we were told when a child growing up, why in the world would we do this to our little babies. Seriously, this perfect little being, and we think doing this is normal. It's horrific, and even more horrific that we don't see how wrong this really is. This is a baby who we take away from his mother, strap down, cut, who bleeds for no freaking reason... IF one were convinced that it were necessary, then why do it in such a way that is so extremely violating. At least treat it like any other medical surgery. It isn't our decision. It's their body. I've said it before and I'll say it again, but the more you learn about it, the more you think about it, the worse it becomes. It's only those who choose not to think about it that say that it's no big deal.

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  21. This stuff makes me cry :-(

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  22. yup. thats exactly my feelings right there. i just had no idea. how barbaric. my poor baby :( why! why do they keep it such a secret? is it really that expensive that they almost require us to do it? i mean, really. come. the heck. on.

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  23. So many parents share this same experience... Trusting doctors and the masses of people who've gone before them. We all need more critical thinking, and to take back our parental knowledge, and it's the responsibility of those who know better to disseminate the knowledge...

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  24. I wish I had know better. They didn't take off enough skin and now they want to fix it... there is NO way that is happening. I knew I should have fought my husband more on this one.

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  25. Good for you Jamie in recognizing this and protecting your son!!

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  26. Jamie: the more tissue that is removed, the greater the damage caused. You're absolutely correct not letting anyone go back for a second go at your son. Good for you! Sorry you were misled into thinking this was somehow a good thing.

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  27. The trend to cut less has me believing its done because more parents are saying no to infant genital reduction surgery. Less money for doctors so they have to compensate by hacking off not only once but two times, sometimes three times ON THE SAME INFANT and billing a surgery code for each time the knife meets the infant's penis. its vile!

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  28. Jamie - your son is lucky that he was at least cut by a doctor who performed a 'loose' circumcision -- this is more common these days as doctors who do still cut babies have learned tightly cutting a baby leads to much more harm (often much more pain as the penis grows/stretches, and very painful erections and sexual activities later in life when there is no excess skin or movement). Your son will at least have something to 'work with' should he choose to restore someday. (More on foreskin restoration can be found here: http://drmomma.blogspot.com/2009/10/restoration-uncircumcising-of-men.html). I wholeheartedly agree with James -- the more of the prepuce/frenulum/ridged band and surrounding tissues that are removed, the more damage is done. Your son is blessed to have a mother learning all she can in this area and protecting him now against any unknowing physician wishing to perform additional amputative surgery on him. This topic is actually one that has been coming to me in questions a LOT lately (as I mentioned, more doctors are performing 'loose' cutting now on boys - especially as more men sue for the damage done to their genitals). I am in the process of writing an article response about this because of how many people are in your shoes - your son is not alone.

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  29. I suppose he got lucky, but I'm still so angry for letting it happen. I should have argued more with my husband and insisted but I didn't know better. I stayed in the room for the procedure and held his hands while they did it. I still want to puke when I think about it. I am glad they left "too much skin" (it's totally covered except when erect) and am never ever letting them touch it again.

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  30. that is the main reason my son is intact. NO person (not even my husband) could persuade me to cause this much pain to my child...especially unnecessary pain.

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  31. I wish people would take this issue (and other issues that are similar in my mind - breastfeeding, vax, etc) more seriously. There are so many out there that have at least HEARD concerns about it, and choose to dismiss them because they don't want to be bothered to look at it themselves. SOOO sad.

    Every time I change my son's diapers, I revel in how perfect he is and think about how grateful I am that I found out more about this subject before he was born. He is perfect - intact!

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  32. I knew I would never do it if i had a son, because of what my mother told me about it... she had to watch one in nursing school, too late for one of my brothers ( she still tears up thinking about it) But I get angry and upset every time I think about ANY child having to go through this. We try as parents to convince our children for the first year or so that we will ALWAYS be there for them and fight the world for them... this is counter-intuitive... especially as it is not medically necessary. It is one thing for a child to endure something that is necessary for there existence... it is entirely different to put a child through this for aesthetics. What I can't understand is why there isn't a HUGE movement to stop this!!!??? The idea of water boarding a TERRORIST who masterminded a plot that killed thousands of Americans causes so many people upset that it is in the news every night... but this injustice, this torture perpetrated on our little boys with in the first hours of their life is somehow acceptable???? How does that work? because I can't wrap my mind around it!

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  33. Kristen - I think the same thing with my son when I change him (and with my husband when we are intimate for that matter), I recently seen a video of a child being circumcised on a friends facebook (not knowing what I was looking at beforehand), and I haven't been able to sleep right since!
    (I also agree with the vax and breastfeeding concerns too), here the vaccinations are free (In Canada) so everyone just goes and gets them without realizing what is IN them. There are alternatives: Homeopathic Vaccines (which are sugar pellets taken orally) and the kids LOVE the taste, there are no preservatives because you pay as you go ($15 a disease) which to me is well worth it!

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  34. I am SO glad I did the research and found out what circumcision was before I had my son!!!!!!!

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  35. I am so happy I did not do this to my boys. I wish I had been informed about more things, but this is one thing I got right. I hope parents who have had this done, can come to terms with it by knowing this procedure has been touted as medically necessary for so long now. When discussing it with my pediatrician, he said the necessity was about 50/50. I went with the 50 that did not cause pain to my child.

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  36. Laurie - It is quite unfortunate that so many ill-informed medical personnel have presented there to be ANY medical 'benefit' to the genital cutting of infants. This ubiquitous spreading of myths and misconceptions has only been the case for little boys in our country for about the past 50 years (with a 'high' in the 1970s), but thankfully it is dramatically on the decline as parents (and med school students) are becoming more educated on the subject today. The most eye-opening of phenomenon surrounding the once proclaimed 'medical advantages' of genital cutting (prepuce amputation) is that the SAME claims were made in the United States prior to the late 1950s in support of the circumcision of baby girls. Major medical journals touted the 'benefits' of prepuce amputation of girls even into the early 1960s...and then with a rise of the Women's Health Movement and the Feminist Second Wave, this was highlighted as being nothing but destructive...and the knives were turned on boys. Clips of pieces from medical journal articles supporting female genital cutting for the same reasons later given for male genital cutting are included in this video: http://drmomma.blogspot.com/2009/09/history-of-female-circumcision-in.html

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  37. our son was born 2 months early. our days and nights were spent in the NICU. then we were told we got to do our overnight before taking him home....of course we didn't sleep a wink with our 3 lb baby who was no longer on any monitors. 8am comes around and time for discharge and the nurse comes to us and hands my husband a paper to sign authorizing circumcision...he signs it. no education...no conversation. nothing. just sign here sir. we didn't even have room colors picked out or a car seat when he was born. we weren't prepared to be making that decision...especially after 3 weeks of ventilators and brady monitors and 48 hours straight of NO SLEEP. the only solace I can take now is trying to change our hospital's policy so that at least in the NICU, where moms and dads and families are grossly overwhelmed and even more underprepared, they are never handed a piece of paper to make this life altering decision again. :(

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  38. Hillary - how awful that this was placed upon you and your husband in the circumstances you were in. To not give you any type of informed 'consent' (even though those cut are never the ones consenting)... it seems like gross malpractice. I hope that changes are made SOON in the NICU where this occurred to your dear little son. Where are you located by the way? (If you don't mind telling us where he was born). It honestly sounds like something that should be reported. It CAN be reported to the legal department of DOC: http://www.doctorsopposingcircumcision.org/about/contact.html

    You (and your son for sure) certainly have grounds for lawsuit in this matter.

    Have you seen this young man discussing his recent suit (and win)? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H8szj1jFCWM

    It doesn't make it any better. But I guess it sends a message that this is NOT okay. Many men are speaking up about it here as well: http://www.sueeasy.com/class_action_detail.php?case_id=258

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  39. This absolutely broke my heart. I'm a first time mom of a 20 week old baby girl. We'll be trying again for another (hopefully a boy). I was always told that circumcision was a quick pinch and the pain was over. I had no idea how it was done. I've asked mothers about their sons circumcisions and they all say they weren't present for it. They'd probably think twice about doing it if they knew. I'm sure it is extremely painful and I wonder why it was ever started in the first place. I was always told it was done for hygienic reasons. Could someone explain this?

    I also noticed how many women commented on how they went against their husbands wishes and avoided the circumcision. I believe that men understand why their sons should be circumcised (I use the word "understand" loosely).

    Odds are my son WILL NOT be circumcised but will it come back to haunt me when he's an adult? I've heard plenty of women talk with disgust when describing an uncircumcised penis. If there are no medical reasons for this then why on Earth is this allowed to happen?
    Please excuse my ignorance. And I thank you for this article.

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  40. Barbaric! I am proud to say both my boys remain intact even though my husbands religion dictated otherwise. Thankfully he woke up to the fact as well that it was purely ridiculous.

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  41. It wasn't an issue I'd ever thought much about until I found out when I was pregnant that I was having a boy. I did some research into the practice and consulted my obstetrician, who is against circumcision as a routine practice. I was horrified at what I'd found out. I shared the information with my husband, and he agreed with me on our son not being circumcised. I'm so happy we made that decision.

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  42. I had NO idea how awful this procedure was! I am horrified that no anesthetic or pain medicine is given. It's unreal that people actually believe the baby forgets this or doesn't feel it!

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  43. This is really sad :( Made me upset reading it. Thankfully I'm not from the USA. I'm European, British actually, therefore circumcisions not really happening over here. It's not even very well known either tbh. If I went around telling people when I was pregnant with my son, Leon (now 14 months) that I was circumcising him they'd be shocked and I'd probably lose a lot of friends. I wish a lot of major countries were like most of Europe. I hate the way people say 'Intact' as if it's a different way of life. A minority. It's the ONLY way of life.

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  44. My husband has a scar (which he says he would be proud to show everyone so they could see the pain he went through) from when he was circumcised. He is obviously STILL bothered about the scar to this day at nearly 30 years old. I am pregnant with our fourth child - a surprise but if it is a boy it will be our first and I have been waiting for years to NOT circumcise my son. If this child is a boy he will be safe from being mutilated.

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  45. My son is just over a year old and I am SOOOO thankful that he was spared from this horrible procedure. His father was very much for getting it done but I spoke with the Dr. and got all the information I could to fight it. When it came down to it, he wasn't there the day I had to officially decide like he was supposed to be so I was able to keep my son intact without the fight, but I would have faught if necessary. Mothers, do not let this happen to your son's!!!! So many men think it should be done just because it happened to them, which shows how deep the psychological scars can go. FIGHT IT!!!

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  46. Im not sure whats making me feel more ill, picturing what was recounted above, or the article I just read on live cannibalism.

    Im so glad I work in the Public Health System, NSW Health does not allow Circumcisions to be performed in its hospitals. I dont think I could cope if I were looking after a child intra or post operatively...

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  47. I'm so thankful that my midwife explained to me that this was painful and unnecessary. Poor babies : (

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  48. i wish my midwife would have explained circumcision to me before I had my son. (of course my hubby and I didn't know that we were having a boy, but she did and I guess she didn't want to give it away. She wasn't present for my birth, yet another huge regret of mine. The only dr at the hospital was a totaly jerk). Now he's 8 months old and everytime I look at him I think of the pain he must have felt WITH my permission to let it happen. My hubby and I simply weren't educated enough when T was born. I have vowed not to let that happen to my friends though. I messaged all my friends who were expecting boys with this article and a brief explaination of circumcision and the pain babies go through. If it saves even one baby from that torture, I'll have at least helped. I can't undo what happend to my son, but I'm going to try to stop it for future boys.

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  49. I'm sorry you didn't have girls Marilyn, it would have spared you so much personal pain :( I wish I had girls because I prob wouldn't know the atrocity at such a deep level either, knowing how narrowly they escaped the circ culture's knife merely because their mother hates western medical intervention of any kind when dealing with healthy human organisms.

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  50. Thanks, Jena. I do have a daughter. It was having sons and learning the horror of what happened to them that prompted me to stand up to the dominant paradigm, the status quo, and the current medical model in defense of babies. The pain of circumcision is what has kept me going for the past 32-1/2 years (longer than most of you have been alive). I am grateful that now each of you, too, has picked up the banner. Together, we will bring circumcision to an end in the USA!

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  51. I just had a baby boy, and had never heard any of this other side. It was just standard to me to have our boy circed for preventative measures (you've heard it all). My husband took him in to do it while I rested (the day after giving birth). After waiting a while I decided I wanted to be there to comfort our little guy. I was assured they used local anesthetic, and they did, but he still screamed till he was purple. I walked in after they had separated the foreskin from the head. They were waiting for the skin to die before detaching all the instruments. He was spread out on the table screaming, and the dr. was just standing there, back turned to him, having a normal conversation with the nurse like nothing was going on behind him. No one was paying attention to my son, consoling him, or concerned for him. I was told he had to sit like that for a couple minutes. I looked to my husband, who was collapsed in a chair, crying, with his head between his knees because he almost passed out from watching the procedure. I was not once told how unnecessary it was to circumcise. Of course my boy is healthy and happy, he nurses GREAT, and shows no long term effects that it seems some babies suffer from, but the trauma on our family alone, and knowing I consented to that breaks my heart.

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  52. So glad I had girls :) this was an issue both times I was pregnant BC my dad is a minister, but my husband had to go back ansd have it redone when he was 8 years old!!!! He is scarred for life both mentally and physically!!! Cant imagine putting any child through this !!!!

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  53. i had my son circumcise and it was the worst day of my life.! i regret it until this day.. he was circumcise the day i was getting released from the hospital.. i could hear him screaming i tried to get up from my bed and tell them to stop but couldn't.. i had a second degree tear and lots of stitches i couldnt even do one step.. and pushed my nurse button and no one came to my room until it got quiet and they brought it to me and he was sound sleep.. i have a little bit of resentment towards my husband since he was the one who pushed me to do it.. i never cried so hard in my entire life like i did that day.. if i have future kids and they are boys i will not circumcise them..

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  54. Both my sons are intact. I am very thankful for my aunt who taught me about circumcision when I was pregnant with my first son. He is now 28. Two years ago he took me aside and thanked me for letting him decide. His son is intact, too.

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  55. I was born in south America were circumcision is not practice ,I got marry in NY and I remember when my first son was born the first thing that the doctor said was we are going to circumcised the baby tomorrow,I was there, I told my wife and the doctor no way you leave him alone,I still remember the face of the doctor when he heard me. Few years later we had two more boys and they were spare the ordeal,never had any problems with their penises up to this day they are very happy that they are intact.Future parent should get inform that the operation is not necesary

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  56. Oh my ... This is crazy .. I'm so happy I did not go with it !!! I would never wanna hurt my baby in any way and definitely not by getting a piece of his peewee cut !!

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