Thursday, December 01, 2011

Circumcision's Profound Impact on My Family

By R.J. Bly © 2011

Mother and Son II painting by Bryce Brown of Bryce Brown Art


What follows is my personal and intimate experience with routine infant circumcision. Infant circumcision is a very emotive issue for me and it took a lot of courage for me to write this. My only hope is that others might gain something from my experience.



Once we discovered we were having our first baby boy, the topic of circumcision briefly came up. I don't have a penis, so I was intimidated by the subject and left the decision up to my husband. I trusted that he would know best because he is a kind, loving man. I did a little research - but not balanced research. I focused on the benefits of circumcision and passed over the possible complications and risks. I was too unsure of myself, as a new mommy, to question this.

When my baby boy was a couple of weeks old, we took him in to have him circumcised. I was so nervous and everything in my being was telling me to hold my baby tightly and bolt out that door. I asked the doctor why we should be doing this and he told us that our son would thank us when he was older. So, I handed him over and allowed the doctor to strap him down. I insisted on being there by his side because I felt that if it had to be done then at least I could be there to hold his little hand.

It was the most horrific sight I have ever seen and it still haunts me to this day. I can tell you that circumcision was EXTREMELY painful for my newborn baby boy. He had the painkiller and the nerve block but still he cried so hard that he turned purple in the face. Pliers were used to pull his foreskin away from his glands. The clamp and a scalpel were used to cut away his foreskin and he did bleed. It was awful and I cried.

For several days after, he screamed every time he peed. My heart would break, every single time. Cleaning is/was not easy for us. For several weeks, I had to apply ointment to his red, sore penis after every diaper change to keep the urine and fecal matter from infecting his exposed glans and to keep it from chaffing. He cried every time I had to do this. Circumcision compromised our breastfeeding relationship and his sleep patterns were restless for weeks. He was a baby with difficulties (borderline colic) which I now believe was post traumatic stress due to his circumcision. He would not look me in the eyes for months. His development was disorganized and full of anxiety. He seemed very sensitive to pain and did not cope will with stress. He was emotionally upset and physically uncomfortable for much of his infancy. He has had bleeding, penile adhesions, infections, rash on his glans... He would cry every time he grabbed or pulled on his is genitals. I was full of regret over having him circumcised and it was one factor as to why I suffered postpartum depression. Three and a half years later, I still have to clean around his coronal ridge because smegma gets caught there. His glans is very sensitive and this makes him uncomfortable. Through all of this, and by doing research, I have learned that these complications are not uncommon.

Due to my son's temperament and sensitive nature, I believe he would have benefited greatly if we had left him whole. I'm not saying that circumcision caused my son's behavioral challenges, but that it amplified them, and it has had a profound, disruptive effect because of his sensitivities. I worry that the trauma he experienced due to circumcision will continue to have a negative impact on him, with long lasting physical and emotional scars. Having my first son circumcised is my deepest regret, for him.

Three years later, we discovered we were having another baby boy. I was so upset because I knew we would have to have the circumcision discussion, again. I wouldn't have been able to live with myself doing it a second time, knowing what I know now, but my husband did not agree. We did hours and hours of research and had many intense discussions. In the end, my husband admitted that the only reason he wanted it done, again, was so our new son would match his daddy and his older brother. I thought he had known best the first time around but how could he... he was circumcised as an infant and that's all he knows.

During my second pregnancy I was seeing a Jewish midwife. We had several conversations about circumcision and how my husband and I were struggling with it. She explained that she decided to have a Bris but not circumcise her son. This was instrumental in giving me strength to stand strong in my conviction to allow my son to remain whole. If my Jewish midwife could keep her son whole then I, as a Christian, could keep my son whole, too.

This time around, I fought so hard to keep my second son intact, and I was reluctantly willing to let my husband leave to protect my child. He could either accept that our next son would remain as God intended, or he could walk out that door, if he chose to. Eventually, he accepted that our son was not going to be circumcised. Praise the Lord, my second son is healthy and whole!


Caring for my intact son is very easy, and he has had no issues. We just wipe off the outside, like a finger, and we're done. He does not cry when he grabs or pulls on his genitals because his penis is whole and it isn't a sore, sensitive open wound. Our breastfeeding relationship has been very smooth, enjoyable and full of trust. The newborn stage was peaceful and I can see that his development is so much more organized than my first son's. He is calmer, much more tolerate of stimulations, and copes easier in stressful situations. He trusts me and looks at me with so much love. I believe that leaving our second son intact has been very positive emotionally and psychologically, and his character shines through, the way it was meant to. For my second son, I have no regrets to contend with and no postpartum depression because I followed my mommy instincts and protected my child by keeping him whole.

I used to think circumcision was our parental choice, until I realized it was impacting me in a big way. My husband is circumcised and after years of marriage we are realizing that his lack of foreskin is causing me pain during sex. I always thought the chaffed, burning and raw pain that I feel for several days after sex was my fault. I tried everything to make sex more comfortable, but nothing significantly helped. Now, we are realizing that circumcision is the cause. I am so angry over what circumcision has taken from our marriage! I am so upset that my husband and I cannot enjoy each other the way we are meant to! His parents made this decision for him, but I do not feel it should have been their choice. Now my husband and I have to live with the consequences of that decision for the rest of our married life.

On top of my pain, my husband has lost sensitivity over the years and he has tight, bent erections. Sometimes they can be painful for him because he does not have enough skin to grow into. My husband is slowly beginning to realize that we made the right decision when we kept our second son whole, and this intimate struggle has led us to discuss foreskin restoration because it would benefit both of us. Male circumcision impacts women, too, and I worry about my first son and his future partners. The worst part of this whole situation is that these complications were completely preventable because routine infant circumcision is an elective, unnecessary procedure.

How will we explain to my boys the reason one was circumcised and one was not?

We will explain that we did the best we could based upon what we knew at the time. Then, we learned more so we did differently. We will tell them that we love them both very much. I hope that they will have the maturity to accept one another for their differences, and love one another unconditionally. We will tell them that they are both very much loved, but a little different. We will apologize to our first son for taking his choice away, and tell him about foreskin restoration. We will support and encourage our son in any way that he needs, so he can make the choice to take back what was taken from him, if he chooses to.

As you can tell this is a very emotive issue for me and I have deep personal and intimate reasons as to why I feel so strongly. Please understand, I am not judging anyone for their own past choices; I'm simply sharing my story. I have one circumcised son and one intact son, and I love both of them fiercely. I can relate to both sides of this issue, and have learned so much from this experience.

With that said, if I could go back, I would definitely leave our first son whole because it is his penis and, therefore, I do believe it should have been his choice to make. In the end, my first son's sacrifice saved my second son. When we know better, we do better...

Mother with Two Sons by WillowTree


Hear from other parents who have walked a similar road and are raising both circumcised and intact sons at, I Circumcised My Son: Healing From Regret.

To begin a faith-based investigation of your own, see these faith considerations on circumcision (Judaism, Christianity, and Islamic resource lists).

Additional information on the prepuce (foreskin), intact care, and circumcision at: Are You Fully Informed?


Also by Bly:



R. J. Bly is a wife and stay-at-home mom to two precocious little boys, Keaton and Deckard. She says that it is a joy to be able to stay home with her boys and offer them the very best of her time and energy. Bly comes from a broken family (neglect, physical abuse, emotional abuse and sexual abuse) but she plans on doing everything in her power to provide her boys with a safe and loving home. She says her sons have taught her a great deal about patience, love and respect. Because of them, Bly is an intact advocate, a homebirthing, full term breastfeeding, natural immunization building, cloth diapering, babywearing, cosleeping momma. 

Bly graduated from Washington State University with a degree in Public Relations/Communication and hopes to apply this to a career once her boys are older. For now she says mothering is her chosen full time job. Bly volunteers her time as a La Leche League Leader to help mothers and their own babies in her community.  She has been diligently working with a few colleagues to purse a breastfeeding in public bill for Idaho and hopes to introduce it into the 2013 legislative session. Bly also serves as Director of Intact Idaho, a grassroots chapter sharing research based information on intact care and circumcision to parents and professionals across the state. 

~~~~ 

20 comments:

  1. If I had it to do all over again, I would not circumcise my son. He had penile adhesions and pain and having to watch him to through those things was horrible.
    Thank you for sharing your story. It does help other people to see your experiences.

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  2. Thank you! This is a powerful story and informative. I had always heard that circumcising would enhance adult sex, for both partners and I was afraid not to circumcise if we had a son. Thank you for your perspective! I would NEVER do any sort of genital mutilation on a girl, so it was really bothering me that I would consider doing this on a boy.

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  3. Thank you for sharing you story, it is very similar to mine. The one thing I didn't learn but wish I had before making the decision to circumcise my first son was the functions of the foreskin. I honestly believed it was "just skin". And I think that's what bothers me most about it, that I am responsible for taking pleasure away from my son. Now when I try to educate parents about the dangers of circumcision, I like to start with foreskin 101 - what it is and what the functions are. We all want the very best for our kids, so why take away the best part of a boy's genitals?!

    My husband's circumcised penis does affect our sex life. It just feels like something is missing. For a long time I thought it was me, that my body had changed after having 3 babies. I need help to orgasm (vibrator) and he is losing more and more sensitivity, we're only in our 30s! He is considering restoring but doesn't know where to start.....

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  4. Thank you so much for sharing. Thankfully, my sister had already had two boys before I had my son, and had done research on it, and informed me. She had her first son done, and regretted it enough after her research on it that she refused to have her second son cut. When she explained to the older son that his little brother's penis would look different from his, all he did was shrug, and said all he wanted was his brother to have the same color hair. :)

    They showed a video of a circumcision in my childbirth class, and that was enough to convince me to NEVER have it done. I wanted to throw up! Thankfully, since my son's father was intact, there wasn't an issue. The fun part has been finding a decent pediatrician who didn't want to circumcise him because he wasn't fully retracted by 3 years old. We've had to switch docs quite a bit. :(

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  5. Thank you for having the courage to write and publish this, especially the parts about your marriage difficulties.

    American medical schools are despicable for teaching RIC, and for doing no honest research about the complications and drawbacks.

    I am intact because my mother threatened to divorce my father if I were circumcised in infancy, as he and his mother wished. For years, I was ashamed of my "odd looking" penis, which received no support whatsoever in USA printed matter. But narratives like yours make the error of my ways evident. I am deeply deeply fortunate to have had the mother that I have, who insisted that I retain all the tender bits Mother Nature intended me to have.

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  6. My son was cicumcised in a religious ceremony (a Bris). It was horrific to watch and was botched. I will forever regret our decision. His foreskin is fortunately still intact but he will have a scar forever. At the Urologist after, we were told that many times baby boys come in with the entire tip of the penis cut off.

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  7. I'm gonna be honest. I couldn't read the entire post. I get too emotional. My experience and feelings are identical. A year later, I still feel guilt every time I change his diaper. My husband is circumcised but did not want our son to be. I was naive and thought it HAD to be done. I am SO HAPPY that you shared this post. It just adds further justification to my decision to never ever again have a child circumcised. If we wouldn't do it to a girl, why on earth would we do it to a boy?!? Poor little babies.

    Stop by and visit me some time: http://cinderelladuty.blogspot.com

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  8. Thank you so much for sharing this.

    I found your blog a while ago, and I've learned so much about how circumcision effects women through you. I've read almost everything you've ever posted about, and most of the websites you link to. The more I read, the more sense my sex life began to make. Everything just fell into place. The technique that does nothing for me,.... the pain and discomfort,...... I've realized how much I'm missing out on because my husband was cut. And I'm so angry with my FIL who insisted it happen (with no regards to his wife's wishes). I thought it was something wrong with me! I thought there must be something broken about my body. It has had a HUGE (I mean, massively detrimental) effect on our marriage. My lack of satisfaction during sex has brought our marriage to the brink several times. I hope that doesn't sound like I'm petty or sex crazed, because that really isn't it. DH is perfectly happy with his lack of foreskin because it "looks better," and has resisted any attempt I've made to get him to consider restoration. That really hurts me because it's important to me, and he just can't understand why. He thinks I'm criticizing him and "picking on" him.

    My oldest son is circumcised. A doctor convinced me it was the only option when he had a lot of adhesions at 15 months. I haven't been brave enough to really face that fact that in all likelihood, if I had done my homework, I would have been able to save my son's foreskin. I haven't been brave enough to face the damage I have done to him, or to his future partners. You have been, and that inspires me. I think you are very, very brave, and very courageous, and I really admire you. Thank you so much.

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  9. Thank you for telling this. Circumcision is a business, a money maker for doctors who care nothing for you. Just like a million other procedures that ruin the lives of thousands!

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  10. Thank you for posting this! Though I do not have a son, and have yet to have to make this decision, I am having a lot of struggles with my husband on this issue. Luckily we had a beautiful little girl, so it was not a big deal, but if we do have another child and it be a boy, I will not circumsize even if it is against what my husband wants. It is humbling to know someone else has dealt with the husband situation.

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  11. I feel like we are kindred spirits, having one son who is and one who isn't. I shared my story, that I finally decided to write last month. I decided not to discuss our decision until after he was born. People are less likely to questions a decision after the fact, or so I have found. I linked to my story if you'd like to feel less alone :)

    http://companiontothewind.blogspot.com/2011/11/one-son-is-and-one-son-isnt-how-we-came.html

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  12. I have just currently returned to school after a long break, and chose to do my first research paper on why not to circumcise thinking that if I could get one of these young kids in my class to retain the info I give in the paper, I would be happy. After doing some research, I learned that discarded foreskins after circumcisions are sold to research facilities for research. I have not gotten any further with my reasearch at this point, so I wanted to ask on here, why is that not talked about? Im sure that is a huge money maker, and that is what motivates the hospitals and doctors, and the goverment.. Anyone know about this?

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  13. Monika73 - It IS talked about. Just not by those who need it for sale. We rarely discuss what is done with tissues and organs after amputation in hospital settings, and rarely are they just discarded. In fact, most hospitals even use the placenta after birth (if a woman does not take it with her or request something specific herself) for research.

    Here are some links to the prepuce being used for cosmetics and with burn victims/skin grafting:

    Stealing Foreskins:
    http://www.drmomma.org/2009/12/stealing-foreskins-science-of-skin.html

    Are Foreskins the New Botox?
    http://www.drmomma.org/2010/04/article-asks-are-infant-foreskins-new.html

    The Foreskins in Oprah's Facecream
    http://www.drmomma.org/2009/10/foreskins-in-oprahs-facecream.html

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  14. Thank you for sharing your story. I am lucky to have a husband intact, so we didn't have any issues with our sons. When you try to talk to people about the benefits of not circumsizing your son, a lot of people I know just shrug it off & say that since their partner is, they want their sons to match or that the father wants them to match. Stories like this help get the point across that uncircumsized penises should be the norm. It is a lot like breastfeeding in the way that b/c it's not the "new" norm & bottle feeding is, people look down upon it.

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  15. this story made me cry (and I'm not a sap). We left our son intact and the more I read the more emotional I become. I am so happy we did, and I have since done my best to educate my friends on the procedure. Thank you for your story. Thank you for your transparency. Thank you for leaving your second son intact.

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  16. This is my second time reading your story... and it makes me sad for your and your family all over again. I'm sorry you are having to deal with so much from it. I am extremely happy and proud that you are sharing your story with others in hopes of preventing another baby boy from suffering. You are an amazing mama!!!!!
    I shared this before, but for people here... my husband and 2 year old son are both intact, and I am so happy. I am so happy b/c I thought about this long before I was even married... I was in high school, and going to church and hearing about circumcision I thought it sounded horrific, and I wondered if, as a Christian, I had to do that. After reading more, and seeing it was an old testament promise, and in the new testament it says it that's not what makes you a Christian. I was always set against it. When I met my husband and we grew to knew each other, I was so happy to discover that he was intact, and happy about it! I knew I'd never have to fight for my son... the war was already won. I am so thankful everyday for that. And my heart aches and breaks for families that have had to deal with this hurt. I have shared the way I feel about circumcision openly on my facebook page, and I've had a great response. I have had mommy friends tell me they regret circumcising their sons, and they would NEVER do it again. I am so glad that by sharing information like this, you can change the future for another family.
    Thank you so much for being another voice. <3
    ~Amanda

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  17. Although I am not from the USA I am circumcised. I just hope I never lose sensation but after reading this I am beginning to realize I am going to lose sensation. I still can orgasm from intercourse but for how long? I don't even want to think about it.

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  18. "I always thought the chaffed, burning and raw pain that I feel for several days after sex was my fault."

    For me, this was the most powerful line of this story. As a fellow woman who could have written this very sentence herself, I empathize with all women who have to come to this conclusion. That they are the cause of their suffering. Before meeting my intact husband, I experienced painful sex with many partners, and was told by many men that I must have something wrong with me to not enjoy sex. I tried so hard to enjoy making love with my circumcised partners, and always felt like a failure.
    Needless to say, I will not be circumcising my son who is due next month. Thank you for writing this.

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  19. Thank you for sharing your story. I, too, can empathize with so much of what you wrote. My husband is circumcised, and he insisted that our son be circumcised, as well, because he didn't want our son to feel "different" from his dad. I did not want to do it, but I was naive and uninformed, so I gave in... and deeply regret it. Our son is now 13, and thank God, a generally happy, healthy boy. However, I am heartbroken that we took away a part of him. Intercourse with my husband is painful and not at all enjoyable. It has had a terrible effect on our marital relationship. I don't want my son to be negatively impacted this way in his future relationships! It absolutely breaks my heart, and I don't know how to even begin a conversation with my husband or my son about it. At some point, I want to apologize to my son for what we did, and I am trying to find a way to do so that will not make him feel negatively about his body or his manhood. I am also researching foreskin restoration (non-surgical) so he will have that option when he is older. I hope the stories we are all sharing will reach other women so they will make a more positive, natural choice to keep their sons intact. All the best to you. *hugs* Sincerely, D.D.

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