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,
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.email@example.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