Tuesday, March 01, 2011

No Longer Intact: My Son's Story

By Barbara C. Smalley © 2011


I have not been able to bring myself to tell my story until now, but I am hoping that in sharing, others may become more aware of the harm of genital mutilation.

My son was born in January of 1995 when I was just 19 years old. He was my first child, and only breastfed for a few weeks. He was born with the right testicle still in his groin and our pediatrician told us from the start that he would need surgery to bring it down if it didn't descend by 18 months of age. The issue of circumcision never came up at all during his well baby visits. In fact, I had no idea what circumcision was! I thought all babies were just born like my son (which they are), and eventually grew outward to look like my husband.

When my son's testicle still had not descended at his 18 month checkup, the doctor (who had just been assigned to us) said he needed orchiopexy, and we set the date. On the day of the surgery, there was no mention of circumcision as we were signing the surgery papers - not before or during or after. When the doctor came to speak to us post-orchiopexy, while our son was still under anesthesia, he made a casual comment to us that they were "going to go ahead and circumcise him." I asked what this meant. The doctor told us that it was not a big deal, just a simple procedure to prevent infections. They would remove some extra skin from the head of his penis. My Mom said she had to have it done to my little brother... and the doctor then turned to my husband and added that most "men are circumcised." In that moment, I wasn't given any information or time to think about it. I did ask about the pain of the procedure, and the doctor told us it wouldn't hurt him at all. We were not handed any papers to sign or consent to the circumcision surgery itself, and looking back I am not sure how the doctor was able to legally perform the amputation. I nodded my head when he told me it would not hurt my son... and I guess this was our agreeing to the circumcision.

After our sweet baby boy was awake and in recovery, the pressing thought crossed my mind that I had just allowed something terrible to happen to my baby. From birth he had been such a satisfied and happy baby, easy going and socially excited - but not after this. The first time he wet his diaper, and I went to change him, he was wincing with pain and whimpering. His little mutilated penis was so swollen, black and blue, bruised, and crusty with blood. The saddest thing is that my sweet boy wouldn't talk! He wouldn't interact! He was so withdrawn and no longer my happy, social toddler. The first ten days of healing, he just slept most of the time, and kept bleeding a little off and on, and crying. His sweet spirit was gone. And he was not the same emotionally. Where did my son go?

I was heavily pregnant with his sister at this time. And when she was born, his remaining babyhood was robbed due to how "high needs" she was. He didn't get the attention he deserved and his resentfulness escalated - toward me, his sister, and his Dad. His behavior worsened. He got kicked out of the nursery at church for being a bully before he was even two years old. But I see now that he was really hurting inside. I realize looking back that he was an emotionally, mentally, and physically injured boy who was struggling to stay happy, free from anger, and continue to enjoy life as he had those first 18 months.

To this day he struggles with depression and self esteem. And I blame myself. He does not enjoy hearing about the intactivism efforts I'm involved in, but he is very emotionally compassionate toward people in pain - especially his mommy! After I became an intactivist, and when I realized what I did to him as a toddler, I cried for weeks. He was there by my side, ready to accept my apology and forgive. He doesn't like me blaming myself. Even now, as I am finally writing this, it hurts so much inside and I am reliving the nightmare of it all with an elephant on my chest...and I cannot breathe.

I was looking through all our pictures last night and could not find the cute naked baby pictures - the intact ones I have of my whole, happy, son before his circumcision...

But today I will try not to let it upset me, because I want my son to know that I love him more than words can say, and that he is my world, no matter how he looks, or what he has or has not done, or what he will do in his life - he is my son, my very own boy. And while some things may be able to be taken from us, robbed from us without so much as a whisper of our consent, no one can take this from us.

I love you V., I am so sorry that I let this happen to you.
Thank you for forgiving me, 
Mom


One year ago, I inquired about a circumcision info pack from DrMomma.org, not knowing how much her kindness, understanding and willingness to share with me and lend me that packet would mean to me, and change my life forever. Thank you, DrMomma. ❤

If you are reading my story, and would like a circumcision information pack, you can request one here. If you cannot afford the donation to cover the whole cost of materials and shipping, please write to me (through peaceful parenting at DrMomma.org@gmail.com) and I will see what I can do to cover the cost for you.

~~~~

Barb Smalley is mom to three children aged 16, 14, and 4 1/2. She mothers in an attachment parenting manner, homeschools, and advocates for children's rights both in real life and online. Read more from Smalley at SmalleLife

To hear from other parents with circumcised sons, or join with moms and dads keeping future sons intact, see items at: I Circumcised My Son: Healing From Regret

Resources on the prepuce organ (foreskin), intact care and circumcision are cataloged in Are You Fully Informed?

Onesies and Tees Available at MadeByMomma

~~~~

58 comments:

  1. Incredibly moving! I probably should not have read this at midnight after nursing my son to sleep. It makes it all the more potent. Thank you for sharing!

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  2. Thank you Barb for sharing this very sad story. Hugs...to both of you!

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  3. I'm so proud of you Barb and I know your son is too. That's a hard thing to do. He knows you love him and that when you know better, you do better. ♥ I love you ♥

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  4. You were tricked, lied, and deceived. It was NOT your fault! Bastards!

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  5. Well done for telling your experience Barb x *hugs*

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  6. awh, i love you mommy and i will never ever blame you for what the doctors did to me at that time, i have come to forgive you, and i want you to know that the time has long past therefore it no longer causes pain to me, the way you have raised me and kept me in your life has made me into what i am today, that in itself should be something to cherish. You are a perfect mommy to me and i wouldn't change it for the world! Yes you have messed up a few times in the past and i forgave you for that the moment you gave birth to me, i will never hold you hostage for neither your, or my, mistakes. i love you mommy omie squamie and always will. :)

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  7. Awww, thank you son. I will always be your Mommie Omie Squamie. You are the best son! I am so proud of you baby. ((HUGS))

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  8. ((((hugs))))

    Thank you for writing this. I know it must have been hard.

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  9. Aww what your son wrote was beautiful! I'm sobbing here :) x amazing mama and amazing son x x x x x

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  10. It was very hard. I was actually afraid some would look down on me for it, but thanks to Fanny and my son, I feel confident that nobody will now.

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  11. Thank you for sharing Barb. Like you, I was duped when my son was born 30 years ago. I was told by what I thought were trusted medical professionals to advise me on what was best for my son and his future health. I was misinformed, lied to, and allowed this to happen. I will never forget, until the day I die, the look on his newborn face when they brought him back to me. It was then I knew that I had been betrayed by the doctors, and that I, in turn, had betrayed my son. Honey, this was not your fault, it was not my fault, but I sooo feel your pain. Your son is a wonderful young man, who is wise beyond his years. You should be proud to be the wonderful mother that you are.

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  12. V- Smalley is my ♥hero♥! What a wonderful job you have done of raising your son. His unconditional love for you is a testimonial to the fact that you ARE an amazing mother. Again, thanks for sharing your story!

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  13. If you weren't given adequate information, you actually can hold the doctor liable. I'm a big fan of filing litigation against perverted doctors. I'm sorry that this happened to you :(

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  14. Thank you for sharing, Barb! It is confessions like yours that can hopefully open up the eyes of those who refuse to see the truth.

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  15. Thank you for your honesty - I posted an article on this on my blog and the amount of negative criticism I got from the pro circumcision mothers was shocking. I am really gladdened to see the beautiful comments here. We all make ill informed decisions - but its the humility in admitting our error which makes all the difference to those affected. I am sure your son appreciates you and the love you have shown since. i would love to interview you if you are interested. Fiona @ iloveraw . co . uk

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  16. what a heartfelt note. barb, we all f*&* up from time to time, that's what parenting is all about. learning from those mistakes is what GREAT parenting is all about. your son is fine, at least he'll have a mom who will allow him to explore his circumcision and apologise for it - 99.99999% of boys wont have that from their parents.

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  17. Honestly Barb, bravo to you. I have an 8 month old daughter and I'm certain I've made mistakes left and right. However, it's the fact that we can admit that we've made mistakes that is so important and that we work to fix them.

    Most parents 'know' they've made mistakes, but if they openly acknowledge those mistakes, they also realize they 'have to take action' to change their' behavior along with giving an apology. More work and thinking... the last thing auto-pilot parents want :/ Sadly, ignoring the problem is just easier... not that it yields good results.

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  18. Barb, You are such a beautiful mommy. I am crying my eyes out as I read your testimony. Your son has bestowed upon you the highest compliment a parent can hope for, you have raised a caring and smart young man.I am going to Washington DC this month for anti- circumcision rally/march. I will have your story of how you and your son were betrayed as one more reason to speak up for our baby boys. I love you.Victoria <3 <3

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  19. Thank you for sharing your story!

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  20. Barb, this made me cry. You are such a strong woman and mother.♥

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  21. my mom once said to me, 'welcome to parenting, one piece of humble pie after another.'

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  22. Tears! Thank you for sharing this Barb. If you want to know what a wonderful parent you are - look at your son.

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  23. Thank you for sharing! It's thanks to people like you- people who were lied to, people who realised they made a mistake, people who realised they were going to make a mistake- that change is taking place! All of you wonderful intactivists are making a difference. By sharing your stories you are changing people's minds and saving countless baby boys from the pain and anguish that your babies and you have been through! It had to have been difficult to share this, but know it's not your fault! You were taken advantage of! And it seems you've done an amazing job raising your son and that he loves you very much!

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  24. Oh Barb! That makes me so angry for you and your son.
    They'd just 'go ahead and do it', huh? Just forever alter the boy and the man he'd become, to add an extra line to the bill? That arrogance...
    We are not our experiences, we are how we respond to them, and your loving compassionate son has proven this.
    My heart breaks for you both though, that you were robbed in this way :(

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  25. *Crying! Oh, Barb, I'm so touched, I can't even type properly!
    And your son's response....I am so choked up right now. ((Hugs))

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  26. Oh Barb. :( I am so so sorry. The fact you have been open and honest with your son, expressed your sadness and asked for his forgiveness is amazing. It's no wonder he loves you so much!

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  27. I sat here for several minutes weeping for you. Your story is so sad, yet so hopeful. I wasn't sure what I would say, for I would love to just hug you instead....Then I saw your sons post to you! I cried even more and for longer. Bless you both. You are both wonderful people and so lucky to have each other. Keep up you good work, and spreading your story for everyone!
    Trina

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  28. Thanks Lauren. I wish I could have done right by him from the beginning, but when we know better we do better.

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  29. Exactly! And knowing he will grow up informed and leave his babies intact...what a blessing that part is!

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  30. It sure is. I have confidence that ALL of my future grandchildren will be WHOLE.

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  31. ‎*tears!*

    This is so touching Barb, and your son is a wonderful young man. You were lied to at a very vulnerable time, and it makes me so sick to hear of how those doctors took advantage of it. So much for informed consent, but sadly I know you are not the only victims of a situation like this. You are blessed in being able to see the truth and share it with your son. When other men have the conversation with their parents, they are often met with indifference and invalidation of their feelings, and it just hurts them even more. I've seen it talked about so many times online and it is tragic. It blesses my heart so much to see what you and your son have between you ♥ Thank you for sharing your story.

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  32. All of us involved in intactivism are so intimately aware of pain Barb, our own and others. The fact that you recognized what happened and apologized to your precious son is a huge step toward healing.

    For many of us relationships with our parents are forever degraded, not because they handed us over to be circumcised, but because forever afterward they stubbornly clung to the notion that they did the right thing and our pain is something to "get over."

    You've so clearly explained your experience and feelings here. Your story is powerful and very helpful toward helping stop this injustice. Thanks for speaking out and I hope you find the balance and strength to continue to share your experience.

    Your son is lucky to have such a caring mother.

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  33. Aww, I am glad you finally got your story out there... I can not believe this happened.

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  34. This broke my heart... How DARE those so called Dr's do that to your little boy... This most def is NOT your fault. Thank you for sharing your story. *Hugs*

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  35. Andrea von SchoeningMarch 01, 2011 2:08 PM

    Barb, thanks for sharing your story! Thank you for having the courage to apologize to your son! Many parents never evaluate if what they have done was the best thing, and many many parents never apologize to their children for anything. Your son's comments speak volumes about what a beautiful young man he is, and you have played a big part in that! You have been real with him, and you have been real with yourself. The world needs more Moms like you!

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  36. I am so very sorry. This is a horrific story of a doctor committing an atrocity against someone. You didn't even know what circumcision was! Please don't blame yourself. I would consider possibly looking into suing the doctor for this. How many other boys has he butchered?

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  37. Barb, thank you for sharing your and Vs story, so that this will not happen to more boys. Bless you for being a strong, dedicated mother, and for raising such a caring compassionate son. Love you lots!!!

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  38. Just posted this here. http://www.momaroo.com/742107077/is-it-legal-for-a-city-to-place-a-ban-on-circumcision/?page=1#viewcomments

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  39. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your honesty in telling this difficult story. Thank you for telling the truth about your feelings and not continuing the lie that 'it's no big deal'.

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  40. Your son should be getting close to the age at which he could sue the doctor on his own behalf. Since there was not informed consent process, I would think there would be a pretty good case.

    It's very important that these bastards get held accountable as much as possible and hopefully learn that there are potential consequences to manipulating parents into agreeing to unneccessary surgery for their children.

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  41. I'm really surprised no one mentioned circumcision when he was born. When I had my son last year, I was asked at least 3 times if I wanted him circumcised(I didn't).

    You would think that any normal doctor who comes across an intact toddler would just assume that his parents want him to be that way. Instead, that doctor decided that the normal penis he was born with was a problem and decided to TELL you he was going to take care of it. Wow...who does he think he is?

    If, by any chance, my son ever happens to need any type of surgery where I can't be present, I'll try to remember this story so I can protect him from an unauthorized circumcision.

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  42. She *must* tell him about foreskin restoration if she hasn't already, to save what's left of his glans' sensitivity, to reverse the keratinization process and to protect what remains an internal organ from irritants, etc.

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  43. Your son has one year from when he turns 18 to sue the doctor. I think he should, doctors need to be sent a message that this is not ok. No consent was given by you, and this was an absolute violation of his right to a whole body.

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  44. My hand was over my heart while I read your story. I was so touched by it. I am so sorry that this happened to you and your son. We put our trust and faith in doctors so easily and often learn after the fact that they did not educate us about all of our options.

    Recently my son had eye surgery and there have been complications resulting from it that were never discussed as a possibility to us. I have this churning in my stomach that I did something wrong or that I should not have been so trusting of the doctor to begin with. Such a hard lesson to learn at the expense of my son's eyes.

    Anyway, my heart goes out to you and your son. I know that your awareness is healing for him and you.

    Thank you for sharing your story.

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  45. The perpetrators, accomplices, and accessories to that felony mayhem on the sexual organ of an infant must be prosecuted for that crime. We must demand that the law enforcement and legal justice system take appropriate action. If they fail to or refuse to take action, then that is also a crime. There is probably no statute of limitations for this type of crime.

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  46. roger desmoulinsMarch 02, 2011 5:51 PM

    The crux of the problem is described in the following passage. What it describes is incompatible with ethical medecine. Whether or not to circumcise the boy should have been decided well before the surgery. The surgeon was well aware that the boy was intact as soon as he examine him pre-op. That's when he should have had a conversation with the Mom, not when he was still knocked out from his testicle surgery.

    In much of the USA before 1990, every newborn boy was circumcised unless Medicaid would not pay for it, or the parents clearly objected and were proactive in raising the issue.

    Note the subtle appeal to crass conformity and to the fear of raising a boy with a Weird Dick.


    "When the doctor came to speak to us post-orchiopexy, while our son was still under anesthesia, he made a casual comment to us that they were "going to go ahead and circumcise him." I asked what this meant. The doctor told us that it was not a big deal, just a simple procedure to prevent infections. They would remove some extra skin from the head of his penis. My Mom said she had to have it done to my little brother... and the doctor then turned to my husband and added that most "men are circumcised." In that moment, I wasn't given any information or time to think about it. I did ask about the pain of the procedure, and the doctor told us it wouldn't hurt him at all. We were not handed any papers to sign or consent to the circumcision surgery itself, and looking back I am not sure how the doctor was able to legally perform the amputation. I nodded my head when he told me it would not hurt my son... and I guess this was our agreeing to the circumcision."

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  47. Unfortunately, many, if not all, surgical consent forms such as the one you had to sign for the original procedure, contain language such as..."I also consent to any other procedure that the surgeon may deem necessary in the course of performing this surgery." It is in there to cover the doctor from later malpractice suits such as the one being discussed here. The doctors usually cover themselves so that they can pretty much do whatever they please. So sad.

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  48. I am absolutely baffled by this post - in the UK we only circumsize for health reasons (eg if there is a problem with the foreskin that prevents the penis working properly, a friend had it done in his 20s for that reason). Islamic/Jewish families choose to have it done, but as a rule most British boys are what you call in tact!

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  49. Richard RussellApril 14, 2011 2:37 AM

    roger desmoulins said..."Whether or not to circumcise the boy should have been decided well before the surgery. The surgeon was well aware that the boy was intact as soon as he examine him pre-op. That's when he should have had a conversation with the Mom, not when he was still knocked out from his testicle surgery." __//__ Roger is absolutely right, but it's very likely the circumcision had already been done. Most US doctors are so challenged by the sight of a foreskin that they can't help themselves, and just impulsively cut off any one they see. Then someone mentions that there was no consent, and next is the little charade described here. There are many cases on record where this has happened; if the parents adamantly refuse to consent they are later told, "Oh, it was done by mistake, but that's alright because it's better for the boy anyway." That used to work in court, but more and more attorneys are getting judgments for wrongful circumcision. Parents should make a big issue about it before any surgery begins, and should demand to be present for the surgery even if through a glass partition. There may be an actionable case here for the boy to bring at age 18; too late for parents to sue. This mother is brave and humane; clearly her concern is for other boys and their parents. She deserves high praise for telling the story.

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  50. Thank you all for your kind words! I will fight til my death for children to have their right to bodily integrity. -Barb Smalley

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  51. This is terrible and the doctor should be held accountable for his actions.

    Consent forms are not required by law but all medical facilities use them to protect themselves. This stupid doctor did not protect himself and you can be the beneficiary of his stupidity.

    Since this happened more than 3 years ago Barbara, you yourself can do nothing but your son can. He can and should bring suit against this doctor in a court of law. He can bring suit with you now or he can wait until he is 18 years old and do it all by himself. This is because of the Statute of Limitations law. As a minor, he can not bring legal action. When he turns 18, he can even though this happened many years ago. He needs to contact competent legal representation before he turns 18 though so there will be adequate time to get it through the courts.

    There are two attorneys who specialize in cases like this, John Geisheker and David Llewellyn. John is legal counsel for Doctors Opposing Circumcision and lives in Washington state (I believe). You can contact John through the Doctors Opposing Circumcision website. David Llewellyn is an attorney residing in Atlanta, GA. You can also contact him by searching his name on the internet or by contacting NOCIRC.org. Both are licensed in several states and in the states where they are not licensed, they have local attorneys they work with.

    Previously, wrongful circumcision cases didn't get large jury awards but it appears this has changed recently. The last one David worked on (that I am familiar with) was one in Georgia where he got the plaintiff $2.8 million. This would be a just reward for your son's loss and a reasonable punishment for the doctor. It would also send a very strong message to all doctors that they are putting themselves at substantial financial risk if they try these shennagans in the future.

    This is why virtually all hospitals now require a surgical consent form now. Back in the early 1970's and before, it was quite common for doctors to circumcise boys even when the parents voiced strong objections. In the early '70's, a doctor circumcised a Jewish boy against the wishes of the parents. For Jews, circumcision is a religious ritual performed by Jewish officials and this was denied to these parents and they brought suit in court. This sent a very strong message to the doctors and hospitals that they were liable and since, there have been no more (or very few) of these undesired infant circumcisions.

    Barb, you or your son can help to insure that other parents and their children are not abused by medical professionals by taking this action and I recommend that you at least start an e-mail conversation with John or David to investigate the probable outcome of such an action. It's well past time to stop this abuse!


    Frank O'Hara

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  52. Thank you for writing your story. Your son is amazing for forgiving you and you must forgive yourself. You have empowered so many with your story and hopefully someday this will no longer be an option in the U.S. Blessings to you and your wonderful family. My husband is cut, but we chose to keep our son whole and that is all we can hope for, that the future generations will stop hurting our precious boys. You are amazing for writing this.

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  53. Thank you for your kind words Amy. :)

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  54. Danielle NethertonJuly 25, 2011 5:39 PM

    I'm so sorry that this happened to you. It makes me so angry that this, even still today, is happening to baby boys. I know I wasn't an intactavist until my son was violated and I'm sure many others have horror stories to share. Keep spreading the word and sharing your story, just as I did, so that one day people will be informed and change will happen.

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  55. It is wonderful that you were willing to write about this terribly painful part of your life. My eldest is a girl, and after growing up with 6 brothers who are all circumcised, I would have agreed to circumcision if she had been a boy because I was also a 19 year old when she was born. I didn't know anything else, I didn't question whether something was right or wrong. I think God gave me a girl first so that I would have time to mature before making decisions that will affect someones future that drastically. I am now 37 with a 2 year old intact son and a 1 year old daughter. All of my children will be educated about their bodies and safe sex and normal, natural parts of life, rather than this clean up, zip lock, fast food way of managing our health. I wish you and your children the best.

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  56. My son was born perfect. He was so sweet and never cried. At first I thought something was wrong because we could not get him to cry but he was just so perfect and had such a gentle personality.

    My husband insisted he be circumcised and I agreed against my better judgement. They took my sweet perfect boy into the room next to mine and I could hear him screaming. I had never heard my baby cry up until this moment. His daddy was with him.

    They said they numbed it but the way he screamed I believe he felt every bit of it. I set on the edge of my bed shaking in terror and finally after several minutes my husband came and got me. He took my hand and led me into a darkened room.

    My baby laid naked under a heated table and he was kicking and screaming in pain. I tried to pick him up and comfort him but I got blood on my shirt and he would not stop.

    I don't remember much after that or how he got dressed I was in so much shock. I carried him back to my room and held him and tried to calm him but he would not calm down. I was a mess. I had never heard such screaming before and I had two girls that were 18 and 16 at the time.

    My husband finally took my sweet boy and sat with him and he was calmed down in about 5 minutes and fell asleep on his daddies chest. Everything seemed to change for me. My son went into that room perfect and came back different.

    Not only did he look different but he was not the same quite and gentle little baby I had given birth to. He is now 13 months and I am use to the way he is. I will never know if in fact that mutilation as they call it made him a different child than he would have been as I only knew him for 3 days before then changed him forever.

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  57. Kimberly-((HUGS)) to you! I feel your pain. Please know that it is not your fault and that you are loved. :)

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