Circumcision: Never Assume Parental Knowledge

By Jen Sugarbaker
names in this story have been changed to protect identies

I have a story of circumcision regret, not for my own son, but for a baby I did not save.

My brother Jim, and his girlfriend, Carrie, gave birth to a beautiful, premature baby boy. They live in the Northeast, and I live in the Southwest, but I communicate with Carrie frequently over Facebook as our boys are about the same age. When their son, Evan, was born a month and a half premature and placed in the NICU, I never even thought to talk with Carrie about circumcision. I just assumed that because her son was so small and fragile, she would not want to do anything to hurt him. I also knew that she was aware that my own son is intact, and that she would follow my lead.

I was shocked when my mother called and told me that my new nephew had been cut, only a few weeks after birth.

I learned an important lesson that day: if you know someone who is expecting, or has recently had a baby, TALK TO THEM about the dangers of circumcision and the benefits of keeping children intact. Never underestimate the other parent's naivety on the subject, or the powerful pressure a mother may be under from her partner, her family, or her medical providers to circumcise.

I wish now that I had spoken up for my nephew, and I refuse to let another opportunity like that pass me by. Please, do the same and speak up whenever you have the chance to do so.

Info packs (large and small), as well as postcards for a friend - are available via SOS here.

Hear from additional parents who are keeping future sons intact, and those who have worked through circumcision regret:


Press Release: More than 200 Jewish Leaders Will Bless Intact Jewish Boys

At this Brit Shalom, the parents washed their son’s feet (Brit Rechitzah) as a symbolic sign of Jewish covenant and welcoming, rather than circumcising him. Other aspects of the service involved honoring of the parents and grandparents and giving the son his Hebrew name.

The movement to welcome newborn Jewish boys into Jewish life without the surgery of circumcision has reached a milestone—over 200 officiants are now available to perform the peaceful welcoming ceremony. Over 120 of these are rabbis. Many of these officiants are members of the Reform, Humanistic, Renewal, and Reconstructionist Jewish movements. Not all of the officiants on the list are opposed to circumcision, but some are. Several Rabbis on the list have intact grandsons, some have intact adopted sons.

While most celebrants are Rabbis and Cantors a variety of other Jewish Leaders are available to lead these rituals. Other celebrants include professors of Jewish Studies, Synagogue leaders, leaders of Jewish retreats, and Rabbinical students in a variety of Jewish movements.

Called brit shalom  (Hebrew for covenant of peace), this alternative naming ceremony corresponds with traditional brit milah welcoming ceremony, except that there is no cutting of the baby. “They’re especially happy ceremonies, for that reason,” says Mark Reiss, M.D.

For 14 years, Dr. Reiss, has been recruiting celebrants of brit shalom for his web page. He estimates that an annual 300-500 boys are welcomed into the Jewish community with brit shalom ceremonies in the United States. Most U.S. states, several Canadian provinces, and other countries are represented on Dr. Reiss’ celebrants list. Twelve of the celebrants are in Israel, where a young Jewish Intactivist movement is budding (intactivist = intact + activist).

“The celebrants include rabbis, cantors and other lay leaders, who need not reject circumcision themselves, but want to accommodate parents who do. New celebrants are always welcome,” says Dr. Reiss.

Jewish parents including Natalie BivasMoshe RothenbergDiane TargovnikMichael S. KimmelSara Rockwell and Shawn Stark have written about their experiences holding a Brit Shalom and raising intact Jewish sons.

Those who wish to contact Dr. Reiss to request an officiant, to add their name to the list of celebrants, or to learn more about brit shalom may do so by phone (415) 647-2687 or by email at

Misled Regret: The Unwanted Circumcision of My Son During Hypospadias Repair

By Ashley Focht © 2014

I was 26 when I gave birth to my first son. As any first time mom, I was worried and researching things for my baby's sake. I knew that I would breastfeed, and I was weary about vaccinations, but felt backed into a corner because I knew he would go to public school and I was not sure how to maneuver exemptions. Prior to my son's birth, circumcision was brought up once and both his father and I said yes, of course we will circumcise - that is just what you do, after all.

At birth our son had a few issues, but nothing major and the pending circumcision surgery was far from my mind. The pediatrician on call said our son may have hypospadias (where the urethra is not on the head of the penis) and that he would require surgical correction as a result. The next day, my OB came in and said he wasn't entirely positive if this was the case, but that we should ask yet another pediatrician about it. He then added that if we did not get a definitive diagnosis he could still perform the circumcision within 30 days from my son's birth. [Editor's note: If hypospadias is suspected at birth, circumcision will not be immediately performed because the assumption in many U.S. hospitals is that it will be done when corrective surgery under anesthesia is done, and that the foreskin will be used in the hypo/chordee repair.]

We had a new pediatrician the next day, who gave the same diagnosis. We went home and were told to call a urologist around 4-6 months. From the time we were home to the first appointment with the urologist, my son had no complications. He did have a short foreskin, and as he grew we were able to see how the urethra was not at the head of the penis, but not far off from its normal location. We could also see a curve to his penis. The urologist confirmed that he also had chordee. He told us that both aspects of our son's penis could be corrected with the use of his foreskin. The surgery was scheduled for 2 months out.

The night before surgery, he came down with his first illness and the appointment had to be cancelled. Around this time I became friends with two intactivists, each with an intact son. As we became friends and talked more, my husband and I questioned whether the surgery, and ultimately the circumcision that came with it, were necessary. We finally researched and felt so sick knowing that we were ready and willing to do this to our son. But what about his condition?

The urologist drilled it into our heads that he would not only have trouble urinating, but also could see complications in fertility. We wanted what was best for our son. Our pediatrician told us we should go ahead with it, and a second consult with the urologist gave me a false hope that he would try to not use our son's foreskin in reconstruction. He assured us that if it wasn't necessary to circumcise and use the foreskin for the hypospadias and chordee correction, he would tell us, but that our son's penile curvature was to such a degree that he always recommended surgical correction. We felt backed into a corner. Would our son hate us if we had the surgery? Would he hate us if we didn't? 

We scheduled again.

We backed out.

We scheduled a third time with much pressure in both directions all around us...

I really went into it thinking that I had expressed to the doctor how badly I did not want him circumcised, and I really believed our son would come out of everything with, at the very least, a repaired foreskin. Surely this physician would honor our wishes for our son as we'd expressed them all along.

The day came, and I held my son as they gave him medicine to calm him down. I watched as a nurse carried his limp body back into the OR.

I waited for 3 hours.

And then I finally saw him -- sweaty and sleeping, tubes and IVs still attached. I held him and cried as the doctor told me there wasn't enough foreskin to save and he had to be circumcised, but that everything "went great."

In that moment I hated myself. I wanted to take it all back. Deep down I knew I was making the wrong decision, and I still made it. He was bandaged up and had to have a tube coming out of his new urethra for a few days. Everything was covered, so the severity of it had not hit us just yet. We took our son back to get the bandages removed and make sure everything was healing well. When we returned home and did the first diaper change we really saw it...

We both cried. We had seen our son normal and intact for 18 months, and now we saw this.

It never got easier. Every single diaper change is a kick in the stomach -- a reminder of how I didn't stand up for my son, how I let everyone else make a decision that I knew in my gut was the wrong one. I just hope that when the time comes he will understand that his Dad and I only wanted what was best for him, that we went into thinking that the good of the surgery would outweigh the possible evil. If nothing else, I just hope he remembers how much we love him.


Read more from parents who have regretfully had one or more son circumcised, and are keeping future sons intact at:

Dr. John Fitton: All Genital Mutilation is a Violation

Dr. John Fitton of the East Midlands Regional Council of the British Medical Association spoke up recently against the BMA's motion 324 (pertaining to female genital cutting) because it fails to protect all children regardless of sex (male, female and intersex). Dr. Fitton begins in this video at minute 13:10: He states:
This motion discriminates. It is downright sexist. [...] The billions of normal, uncut world populations would think it is absurd that we are even debating this in our tiny, tolerant time, let alone qualifying the phrase 'genital mutilation' with the word 'female.' FGM, MGM - all GM - is a violation.  
I was over 50 before I saw my first case of screaming infant after mutilation at one of the cutting clinics that had sprung up in our shire counties. [...] It is disgraceful that the general medical council turns a blind eye to this trade. And what a profitable bloody trade it is too! And I use the word 'bloody' to remind us of the occasional child who bleeds to death.  
This cutting trade has no place in our profession and any doctor who is profiting from it should be ashamed. And be warned, if molestation can be prosecuted after 40 years, so might mutilation.

The male (left) and female (right) clitoris/penis and prepuce are analogous and homologous organs. During the first trimester, they are also visually the same. Both are natural, normal, purposeful body organs that equally contribute to the health, functioning, and well-being of their owner.



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