Why I Speak Up

By Anna Bilyeu © 2012

"Why don't you just mind your own business?"

"This is a private matter - butt out!"

"Why are you shoving your opinion down our throats? You're so judgmental!"

These are examples of responses I have heard and seen, given to people who speak up for babies in regards to RIC (Routine Infant Circumcision). This is the story of why I continue to speak up, despite my discomfort, or unease, or any negativity I might receive in response. These are the reasons I refuse to stay silent when I see misinformation being spread.

My education about the male body was the same as most kids growing up in the Midwest in the 1980/90s. I don't recall even hearing the word "circumcision" until I was at least 16. It was only about 5 minutes of the human sexuality class at my Catholic high school. It consisted of our teacher basically saying, "The foreskin is a flap of skin on the end of the penis that is removed soon after birth, for hygienic reasons. I once knew a man who needed to be circumcised in old age, and the recovery was horrible. So it's better to do it early..." 

I remember my B.S. meter going off at the time, but I didn't revisit the issue until years later. What I found out horrified and angered me. The foreskin wasn't just a “flap of skin”, it was a healthy and functional part of the male body, with a purpose. I looked into the history of circumcision in this country, and saw that it wasn't health concerns that had driven its rise at all, and that in fact, there were no health benefits to doing it. Once I learned that no health organization in the world recommends routine infant circumcision, that was it. No way would I even consider doing such things to a child of mine. 

I was so angry. I felt like I had been actively deceived. I was also immensely grateful to be learning all of this before I was pregnant. I was suddenly broken hearted for all of the parents who had believed the lies and consented to it, all the while thinking they were doing the best thing for their child. I was angry and sad for all of the boys who endured the pain of the surgery as well as the recovery period, and for all of the men who experienced difficulty because of their circumcisions. For all of the partners of those men who would also be impacted. It felt like waking up and realizing that something I had believed to be true my whole life was not. Something I thought was helpful, or not a big deal, was in fact very harmful.

I had my first son in 2005. He was born in a hospital, after transferring from a homebirth. Everything ended up going fairly smoothly, and he was born 4 hours after we arrived. I remember my midwife asking if we were going to have him circumcised. When our answer of "No Way" was heard, she sighed with relief and said, "Good!" We were asked several other times by doctors and nurses during our short stay. Each time we got the same response - clear relief on their faces and "Oh good!" I still wonder what kind of responses we would have had received if we had said "yes" or "we aren't sure..." 

I continued to educate myself about circumcision during the next few years. I came across stories about complications that can occur, how it can drastically change the function of the penis. I was saddened to read that an average of 117 babies a year die from complications. I was able to see my son's body functioning normally, and there were several times, after some really messy diaper blowouts, that I was very thankful his glans was protected. It was easy to take care of him, as I knew proper intact care. i.e. - only wipe the outside like a finger, and do not retract. I saw the natural changes that come as a boy gets older, as the foreskin becomes retractable on its own, and only by the boy himself. It was becoming very clear to me that everything I had ever been told before about the intact male body was just wrong. Seeing the way it all really worked fueled my desire to spread the word.

I started to speak up to friends and family members who were expecting. I recalled my anger, wanting desperately to inform so that there would be no more regret. I tried my best to speak with love -- to consider and reconsider everything I was saying -- so that I would be heard. It wasn't enough. I did not fully realize how huge the lie about circumcision was, how long it had been repeated, and that it had really been believed by so many people. I was not listened to. My information was ignored, several times, and I felt defeated. I was starting to think that maybe I should "butt out" -- that I should just leave others to make this decision -- even if they were doing it without having all of the facts. I started to become self-conscious. Surely everyone must have thought I was a freak or a weirdo for even talking about this. I started to forget how important the facts really were, and started believing that it wasn't my problem. I didn't want to step outside my comfort zone anymore.

Soon after those experiences, I was asked by a friend who was expecting a boy if I had my son circumcised. I froze. I was just getting to know this woman; I did not want to seem like a freak right off the bat. I considered the fact that she was planning a homebirth, and told myself that she would likely come across the information on her own. I knew she was researching a lot of natural birth and parenting information, and assumed that surely she would research this as well. So I gave up my power. I failed. I didn't point her in the direction of the truth. All I said was "It isn't necessary, so we didn't do it." I had 'minded my own business' and left it to her and her husband to decide, with no attempt to open their eyes. 

I was ashamed of myself because I let my insecurities get in the way of what was really important. After her son was born she casually mentioned that they had circumcised him. I was shocked. I carefully tried not to show it, as I did not want to offend her. Turns out, she bought into the whole 'it's cleaner' myth. She had also handed the decision over to her husband 'because he has a penis' and he took the, 'Well, it works for me!' approach, and that was that. No further research was done. 

I was crushed, but again, said little for fear of offending her. Months later, she stumbled across some of the same information I would/should have sent her. She told me she cried for three days straight out of regret. She called me and said, "Why didn't you tell me everything? Why didn't I know?" I told her about my other experiences -- that I felt beat down and defeated -- and how this all kept me from saying what I should have said. She assured me that it wasn't my fault. That she had dropped the ball on researching it, and that it was ultimately her decision. I knew that it wasn't really my fault, but I also knew in my heart that I could have stopped it from happening. Here was the one person who would have looked at all of the information and decided against it, and I hadn't shared any of it. I knew right then that I needed to push past any discomfort or worry about how others would see me. I felt a renewed sense of responsibility -- as an educated person on the matter -- to speak up, and speak loudly. My friend went on to have another son, who was left intact. She is now an outspoken advocate, in a way that sometimes only mothers who have done it, and regret it can be.

Sliding an intact info card into preemie and newborn boxes of diapers is one effective way
to reach expecting parents with information before they have their baby.

I carefully considered the best way to be heard on the subject. It seemed to be a difficult thing to just bring up out of nowhere, or to work into a conversation with friends, let alone strangers. I am an introverted and sensitive person, and I find it difficult to speak up around people I don’t know. I take care to always speak without offending; something that often feels impossible with a subject like this. When I found the
info cards and info packs on the Saving Our Sons website, it felt like I had found the perfect way to get the word out in my area, as the rates in my state are still very high. I ordered some cards and started hiding them in baby books in book stores. I also tuck them inside newborn and preemie diaper boxes. I hide them inside other baby products and items, so that they won't be found until later, when the item is home and being opened by expecting and new parents. I figure that this is a great way to get information out there, without confrontation. I ordered an info pack, so that I could have something to lend to expecting families, and they could make a truly informed decision. Facebook is also a huge help in sharing intact information. I post on my local Intact Network chapter, answer questions from parents, and pass on any information I think might be that 'light bulb' moment for people to look at circumcision in a whole new light.

It is my goal to change the dialogue, to get people to look at circumcision another way. The burden of proof is on those who wish to do it, not the other way around. A parent should never be in the position of stopping another parent from having it done. If one parent desires circumcision, they need to do the convincing. I work to empower mothers to stand up for their sons, to not take the easy way out in saying, "Well, my husband has the penis, so it's his decision." I wrote a letter to my high school, saying that I was concerned about the way they were teaching incorrect information on the topic. I pointed them to Catholics Against Circumcision, and said that I was still disturbed that so many of my classmates may have taken that information as truth, and never looked into it further.

I am no longer afraid of what people might think of me. I know that my intentions are good and if I speak the truth -- with love and thoughtfulness -- I will be heard. Things are turning around. People are looking deeper and finding out the truth. If we all speak up, our collective voice will be strong, and we can drown out the lies. I have two sons now, and I rest easy knowing I will never have to have a conversation with them about why I altered the most sensitive part of their bodies. My friend is dreading the day she will have to explain things to her older son, and that fact still weighs on my heart. I am willing to push past the discomfort that comes with discussing this issue, because I never again want to have to answer the question, "Why didn't you tell me?"

Anna Bilyeu lives with her husband and two sons in Missouri. In addition to her work as Director of Intact Missouri, she works part time from home and is pursuing a Bachelor of Health Sciences at The University of Missouri. She hopes to use her education and passion to help parents make informed choices that will positively affect their families and communities. 

Join with other families like Anna's friend who are Keeping Future Sons Intact here


2 Week Old Baby Dies From Circumcision in Norway

As reported by the Norwegian VG
Source: Gutt døde etter omskjæring i Oslo

Reidar Hjermann, Children's Ombudsman in Norway would like to see, at minimum,
an age restriction on any male genital cutting in Norway. This would protect children under the age of 15-16 from circumcision.

Another baby has died from circumcision. At two weeks old he faced complications of circumcision after he was circumcised by a doctor in Oslo, Norway. The circumcision took place at the physician's office on Oslo's East side. Currently police and the county physician are investigating the case. The baby boy was circumcised on Sunday, May 6th and died 48 hours later.  County medical officer, Peter Schou, confirms that the baby died of complications following circumcision. "We have created a formal supervision against two unnamed doctors," said Schou.

He stated that there have been several cases of circumcision gone wrong in Oslo that currently have physicians under supervision. "These are very difficult cases to investigate because patients rarely complain about circumcision, but we have serious concern from hospitals that get these kids into therapy later," he added. Each year an estimated 2,000 boys are circumcised in Norway - many of them privately and without professional control.

Health and Care Services is now considering tighter laws on circumcision, but there are intense disagreements on circumcision laws both within government and coalition parties. Some strongly advocate a ban on all genital cutting, while others wish to offer the surgical procedure through the public health system. A bill has recently circulated that would limit or ban circumcision of minors altogether.

Child Ombudsman, Reidar Hjermann, would like to see a limitation on the minimum age a child could be circumcised and feels that ritual circumcision should be banned for any child under 15-16 years of age as a matter of health and safety. Justice Policy Center spokeswoman, Jenny Klinge, said ritual circumcision of young boys should be banned altogether just as circumcision of young girls is banned across the nation.


Additional information on newborn circumcision-related complications in the United States:

Bollinger, Dan. Lost Boys: An Estimate of U.S. Circumcision-Related Infant Deaths. Thymos: Journal of Boyhood Studies. 2010;4(1):78-90.

Baker RL. Newborn male circumcision: needless and dangerous. Sexual Medicine Today. 1979;3(11):35-36.

Death From Circumcision

Circumcision Information Resource Pages - Death

Doctors Opposing Circumcision - Statement

Circumstitions - Complications

NOHARMM - Complicaitons Incidence

Baby Dies After Circumcision Surgery Blood Loss and Heart Failure

Newborn Baby Survives Heart Failure From Circumcision

Queens Baby Dies on Table During Circumcision

Baby Dies from Circumcision in South Dakota

Baby Dies from Circumcision During Jewish Bris

New York Baby Dies from Circumcision

Happy Birthday, Anastasia

14 years ago on this day, my daughter, Anastasia, was born still. She was put on machines for two months and two days, and basically tortured by the medical profession who inflicted all sorts of painful procedures on her day, after day, after day. Her short presence in my life, combined with what I witnessed happening to her tiny little body, completely transformed my world.

Anastasia died on July 14, 1998 while they were trying to slice a hole into her throat - a procedure called a "tracheotomy." It was only years later that I discovered that they often do not use anesthesia on newborn babies during surgery. Instead, babies are paralyzed so they cannot move but can feel everything that is done to them.

Anastasia - I love you so much. And until my dying day, I will do everything I can to alert people to what is happening to babies in many hospitals around the world. And I will work every day to create a reality in which it will be safe for you to live.

Happy Birthday, Anastasia.

❤ Mom

Learn more from Jeanice Barcelo, M.A., at Birth of a New EarthBarcelo is an international public speaker, an independent childbirth educator, a prenatal and birth trauma prevention specialist, and the founder of the Birth of a New Earth International School for Conscious Procreation. She is a TV and radio show host and the creator of the Birth of a New Earth Curriculum. Jeanice offers workshops, teacher trainings, and seminars, as well as a 12-week program designed especially for men.


Circumcision Costs Man His Penis Two Weeks Before Wedding

Tianjin is the third largest metropolitan in China and is home to some of the first and most well renowned medical institutions in the nation.

Imagine just two weeks before you are married, being convinced that a surgical procedure to remove a part of your genitals will protect you from potential sexually transmitted infections you may encounter in your new union.

You consent to the surgical amputation, not fully informed of the risks or side-effects involved, and end up losing your penis...

This is just what happened to a 21-year-old young man, Xiao He, in China this past November, 2011. Four months after he checked out, He is now suing Boadi Bohai Hospital in Tianjin where circumcision left him without a penis.

Over the first week following circumcision, He found his penis gradually changing in color from the bright (painful) red of a fresh amputation site, to a very dark, deep color. He checked himself into Shanghai Jiaotong University Affiliated Ninth People's Hospital on December 21st and soon after underwent another surgery on his penis for 'glans penis necrosis' due to circumcision.

The physician performing repeat surgery completed a penis debridement and local flap angioplasty of the urethra to try and save He's penis. However, the damage resulting from circumcision was too severe and He's entire penis was removed.

He was discharged from the hospital on December 31st, and claims the hospital was responsible for the circumcision which cost him his penis. He is seeking $150,000 yuan (equivalent of $24,000 U.S. dollars) to cover medical expenses. He's newlywed bride also attempted to file suit against the hospital for emotional damages, but was denied on the basis of her age. Legal age for a woman to marry in China is 20 years, and Xiaoli had not yet reached her 20th birthday when they married in December, 2011.

The physician who performed circumcision on He is believed to be licensed in one Chinese city (Anlu City) and not Tianjin. This may play into the Peace District court proceedings which will begin next week between He and the hospital where he was circumcised.

The local Tianjin Times is reporting on He's case.

Additional resources on circumcision at: Are You Fully Informed?


Cameron Diaz on Circumcision

Today on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Cameron Diaz got quickly to the heart of things as she's been doing in all her interviews lately when she turned to the audience and said, "Can we just talk about circumcision for a second?" And continued, "Gentlemen, are you comfortable with circumcision? Are you comfortable talking about that?" With Fallon chuckling in the background and an audience making light of a subject many likely know very little about, Diaz said, "It's funny how many men actually want circumcision for their children... I would think that men would be like, 'No - don't touch it. Leave it alone.' But apparently many men are not comfortable with foreskin..." And Diaz may just be out to change that.

In the new film, What to Expect When You're Expecting, Diaz and co-star, Matthew Morrison, play a couple who venture through many new territories as they move toward parenthood. One of the subjects that comes up - and one which their characters, Jules and Evan don't see eye to eye on at first - is circumcision. Evan is Jewish, but after diving into research on the subject, Jules learns more and more just how unnecessary and barbaric infant genital cutting is.

What to Expect originally included a detailed description of just how infant circumcision happens in North America. This description of circumcision (essentially the same no matter if surgical amputation is done via Plastibell or Gomco clamp) landed on the cutting room floor.

Cameron explained in a CafeMom interview:
We knew [people were skittish] when they made us cut out a bunch about circumcision. To get a PG-13 rating we had to cut out the actual description of circumcision. So apparently it is very uncomfortable for people to hear how it works -- when you have to clamp on the foreskin, pull it over [the glans], and then slice it off. That is apparently really uncomfortable for people to hear. But I think it is important to know. America is the same way about their beef - they just want it delivered in a styrofoam package with saran wrap over it. They don't want to know how it got to you. Same thing with circumcision...
The shocker in this is not that Americans remain ignorant to the realities of circumcision, or even that this big film chance to educate the masses on infant genital cutting was passed up. Rather, it is that describing such truths would earn the film an "R" rating, while at the same time we continue to subject the most innocent of our little ones to such horrors each day...

We DO it. We just don't talk about it.

How many perfect, healthy newborn baby boys will be cut this coming Friday on the day What to Expect is released in theaters? How many of those babies will face one of the many negative consequences of circumcision? How many of their parents will regretfully find this information too late - because no one was willing to share with them? How many American boys will have their bodies permanently altered, and experience a life-long change in function? How many of those boys will grow to be men who would have liked to have their whole penis?

Who is going to speak up?

Diaz tried.

Will you?

Question circumcision. Research genital cutting. Being fully informed will never hurt you... but it may just benefit your children.

Diaz and Morrison CafeMom Interview:

Diaz TODAY Interview (includes circumcision clip from What to Expect):

Diaz on Jay Leno (includes film clip):

Diaz on Jimmy Fallon (includes film clip):

"His Body, His Choice" advocacy bracelets available at SavingSons.org
Photo courtesy of Intact Washington

Books, websites and articles on circumcision and intact care at: Are You Fully Informed?


He's Just a Little Boy

He stands at the plate with his heart pounding fast; 
The bases are loaded; the die has been cast. 
Mom and Dad cannot help him; he stands all alone. 
A hit at this moment would send the team home. 

The ball nears the plate; he swings and he misses. 
There's a groan from the crowd, with some boos and hisses. 
A thoughtless voice cries, "Strike out the bum!"
Tears fill his eyes; the game's no longer fun. 

Remember - he's just a boy who stands all alone.

So open your heart and give him a break.
For it's moments like this a man you can make.
Keep this in mind when you hear someone forget:
He's just a little boy, not a man yet. 

 ~Author Unknown



Related Posts with Thumbnails