Circumcision- A Mother's Ramblings


I have noticed lately that in my classes there are lots of questions about circumcision. It is a subject that I try to approach very gently so as not to upset people or turn them off, no matter what direction they are coming from. As people who are NOT YET parents, their take on circumcision is a little different than those of us who have already made this decision for our child. Generally people who have little boys have some kind of emotional investment and pride or guilt when it regards the choice that they have made regarding the foreskin of their son.

People however, who have yet to make this decision, look at it differently. Sometimes mom and dad lean in different directions on the subject but both seem to want to make the best choice yet find it difficult when there are so many voices, experts, studies and opinions on either side. What they express to me is that this cacophony of noises makes it really difficult to listen to anybody. Then, when the couple needs grounded, thoughtful, and unemotional information, they feel they have nowhere to turn.

Here is my stumbling response as somebody who would not circumcise but also does not consider herself a vocal intactivist. (I can not guarantee no emotion either, but I tried to just lay out where I am coming from. Links at the end also with good info.)

~Logical Birth~

There are many reasons for me that natural birth is an important choice for me and something that I want to share with others. One of big reasons I think that natural and instinctive birth is important though is because it makes sense.

It makes sense, logically, that the female body is designed beautifully to both gestate and birth with power and joy. Women have long done this and it seems obvious that the entire process must occur for some reason that is important for the species and for the woman and child.

If we follow this line of thinking, it seems to also make sense that the baby boy, when born, is beautiful and perfect just the way it is. Just as we would not cut a hole in the mothers abdomen unless absolutely necessary, we would not cut off a part of his body, unless there were some very good reason for it. Why would he be born with an immediately expendable and useless part?

~Peaceful Baby Days~

Another reason why I love natural birth is that it is not an emergency- it is just a natural and peaceful act. I also think that it is important, especially in those first few days and weeks as a baby, for life to be peaceful. I admit that I choose out of hospital birth for my second and third children not because I didn't think I could do it in a hospital (I had already) but because I was disturbed by the postpartum experience. I thought that it all together had a very negative effect on the baby and on me and on our start together.

So, as a mom, if I am seeking to cherish those first few days with my newborn, and if I value them and feel that they make an impact on the child and mother-----forever----- how does circumcision play into this idea?

When I think of how an infant is treated in the current hospital system I am frankly disgusted. I realize that this varies greatly regionally but here is a common layout of what we do to babies.

-Baby is born- rather than emerging naturally and being allowed to turn and move and participate in the process, the baby is at the very least tugged and pulled on and "assisted" and at worst yanked with a device like a vacuum.

-The cord is cut- this is still often done almost immediately. A huge amount of the BABIES blood may not get to it because of this premature cutting and clamping.

-If you are lucky you get your baby right away- if you are lucky. Still, the room is often brightly lit and full of strangers.

-Eye ointment- A preventative goop for potential STD's is placed in the infants eyes often within the first hour or two of life.

-Tests, weighing, and general poking and prodding- many procedures and tests are done on baby, often within the first hours of life and often in a room separate from beloved mother, to whom he has literally been tethered for the last nine months. He is rather surrounded by strangers in a brand new world.

-The clear casserole dish- I have to give my beloved Bradley teacher credit for calling the clear, safe, infant bed in the hospital the "baby casserole dish". I couldn't describe it better myself. Sadly, the infant is often not in mothers arms, against her warm bosom or by her side.

-The experts descend- they can be extremely helpful, but it does seem somewhat contrary to the natural process for a new and enormously instinctive and hormonal mother to be surrounded by experts in everything from pediatrics to breastfeeding rather than just basking in her own intuitive knowledge and the unique bond that only SHE has with this baby.

-Then before you leave the hospital, circumcision- and last but not least, before the baby is sent home, we take it to a separate room, strap it on a circ board, and remove his foreskin. Without getting graphic, or overly emotional, this is simply how it is done.

How many mothers do I talk to who have strange trouble breastfeeding? How many have issues with their own self confidence? How many have a baby that they feel is a stranger in their home? How many have postpartum depression? How many babies are colicky and difficult to soothe?

I sincerely wonder if the way we treat babies impacts them in ways that we simply can not, and maybe do not want, to understand.

The circumcision at the end of it all seems to be just one last assault on what can and deserves to be an euphoric and amazing part of both mom and babies journey into their new life together.
~
For me, many subjects all mesh into one when I consider birth and baby care. I realize that life is difficult, even traumatic for all people. But I see a baby as a pure vessel, sent here to be loved and cared for. They come NEEDING love and attention and touch. They are programmed to need others. They must touch another human in order to eat. Their birth can be peaceful and ecstatic. I want this baby to have the best birth possible and have its entry into the world be joyful and a calm transition to a very new life, outside the protection of the womb.

Trying to avoid as many unnecessary traumatic and invasive procedures right after birth is a gift that I desperately want to be able to give my children. Avoiding circumcision is just one thing among many others that for me just doesn't fit into the first days of a babies new life. I believe that how they are treated in their first hours and days can impact them forever in ways that we can not see or measure immedietly. That is why I chose not to circumcise.

~

I have tried to include some resources that are not too emotional, may show both sides, and are informative.

Other resources on circumcision-

Very descriptive and information filled statement by the AAP on circumcision, reasons, cleaning, etc. Many sources refrenced also-

Educational video on circumcision- anti-circumcision but informative and not too emotional-

Doctors who oppose the procedure

A basic breakdown about infant circumcision, with many links (including handouts, studies and the statements of various groups) included at the bottom on various circumcision issues.

Comments

Christy said…
Excellent post!!! I am also disgusted by the disrespect shown to newborns in the hospital. It is exceedingly traumatic for the baby to be separated from his mother. He is then poked, prodded, and not at all handled gently, quietly, and respectfully. Everything about it treats him as subhuman. This all adds tremendously to his trauma. I would argue that circumcision is by far and away the most traumatic thing to happen to baby. His fused foreskin is ripped away from his penis and then cut or clamped off. No one cares that he is being tortured. We literally take brand new babies and genitally amputate them. This certainly qualifies as torture. How many mothers would volunteer to be tied down and have their clitorises cut off? Our culture often thinks it doesn't matter what we do to babies, as we think they won't remember. Some still think they don't feel pain. So, this must mean it's acceptable to rape someone in a coma. After all, they won't feel it or remember, right?
Christy's comment is exactly the kind of attitude that makes me outraged.

Mama Birth, I appreciate your non-emotional and non-biased information presented in your post without making me feel guilty or horrible about the choices I will make one day. Because we do plan on circumcising if we ever have a son and I feel it can be done in a safe, less traumatic way than presented on many websites and videos when you take the time to educate yourself and talk to the hospital caregivers about your wishes (and also to have one or both parents present to make sure it is carried out appropriately).

I believe it is cleaner and healthier for baby in the long run. Children get their tonsils taken out, appendixes removed, etc. all the time. Should circumcisions be done as cruelly as they are or right after birth? No but they can be done and women shouldn't be made to feel like horrific mothers when in the end all they're trying to do is the healthiest and best thing they can for their son(s).

This is one of those Mommy subjects that really irks me. This is the first post I have ever seen that you can tell is anti-circ but still presents the facts and information so families can make better decisions. Not every family is going to not circumcise, especially when ostracized by other parents who feel it is their God-given right to preach to other parents on what they should do with their own baby.

Breast or bottle? Self-soothe or wear baby? Circumcise or don't circumcise? These are all MY choices. And I will make them with the best interest at heart; my child.
Amanda Farrow said…
Great post!!! I would really recommend watching several circumcision videos..something I wish I did before going with my son to have his preformed..I'm not willing to say if it would have changed my mind or not but wish I would have researched it more. I must say it was very interesting the way the doctor approached the surgery with one of the parents in the room.
Lisa said…
I have to respectfully disagree with you Joy. You're right, there are a lot of decisions that parents have to make for their children, but there rights should end at the point that it interferes with a human's right to genital autonomy. No one has the right to decide to unnecessarily remove a body part of an unconsenting infant.
Debra said…
http://www.foreskin.org/fleiss.htm
This link is an excellent article about the foreskin, its benefits and purpose.
Perhaps this is the approach to take. Not anti-circumcision but clear, concise information of what the foreskin is about. When I present this information, parents invariably realize that it serves a great many purposes and with that understanding choose to leave their baby's penis alone. End of story.
Dionna said…
What a beautiful post, thank you for sharing your thoughts.

@Joy - I do hope you will reconsider. A circumcised penis is no cleaner or healthier than an intact penis - and there are so many reasons to leave a baby as perfect as the day he was born. We remove tonsils and appendices when they become diseased. A normal penis is not diseased, it is just a body part like a nose or an eyelid - both of which get dirty every day, yet we wash them without a second thought about cutting them off.
The point of the matter is that circ is NOT cleaner, it does NOT prevent infection, and there is no reason to do it in infancy. It can cause sexual dysfunction and death. Ultimately, it's not the parent's decision to make. It's not their body, they will never have sex with the boy. This is not a "family decision". It is a choice for the owner of the penis to say if he wants it done or not. We have a duty as parents to protect our children. Why subject them to unnecessary cosmetic surgery as infants? Why mess with something that they were born with for a reason and has been great for thousands of years?
Lisa said…
Hmm...Mama Birth, I think you may have a mole. "Circumcision" posted a lot of questionable links, including circinfo.net, which is a site run by known circumfetishist Brian Morris. Not a reliable source.
Cyn said…
Warning - the post made by "Circumcision" sounds like Morris, Waskett, or one of their other circumfetish cronies. CircInfo.net is linked with circumfetish group(s). Do not trust anything you see or read from CircInfo, Brian Morris, or Jake Waskett - their sexual fetish is what prompts them to troll the internet, looking for any way possible to promote or justify the genital mutilation of males.
Mama Birth said…
I deleted it- but what is a circumfetistsh? (sp?)
I didn't check the links. This stuff is mentally draining...
Cyn said…
For more info on circumfetish/circumfetishists:

http://circleaks.org/index.php?title=Circumfetish&oldid=40

The site CircInfo is connected with CircList and the Gilgal Society (circumfetish groups). Names connected with these groups are Brian Morris, Jake Waskett, and Vernon Quaintance (among others).

They pretend to be a valid source for circumcision information, but few people know their underlying motives for promoting circumcision. They are a very disturbing group - and it's even more disturbing that many unsuspecting parents look to their site for information. They have no idea.
Cyn said…
Your post was excellent, btw. Thanks for sharing. I wish more people thought like you did. If they did, this brutal practice of unnecessary cutting of children would end.
RD said…
With circumcision being as common as it is, one would think that we would have, by now, a body of research comparing rates of PE, ED, jackrabbit sex, etc. in cut and intact adult men. We would have some research looking into possible long term adverse consequences of RIC. The amazing fact is that we don't. Last century, obgyns in the English speaking world cut off about 100 million foreskins without having any knowledge about possible adverse consequences for adult sexual pleasure and functionality. This situation is blatantly unethical, and medical school profs are entirely to blame for it.

There are number of studies claiming that the presence of absence of foreskin does not affect glans sensitivity. Only one study (Sorrells et al 2007) appreciates that the difference between cut and intact rests in the tissues amputated by circ. There is ample anecdotal evidence that circ, in some cases, detracts from sexual pleasure and functionality.

@Joy, a man should have a say in deciding whether or not he experiences adult sex with or without the foreskin he was born with. Hundreds of millions of European and Japanese men keep their foreskins, and have no problem with that fact. Being intact is a problem only if he doesn't take a daily shower and is clueless about responsible sex.
Hannah said…
Great post and perspective. I do think it is important for parents making this decision to have accurate information. Sometimes that information is a bit graphic. For example, I had read several articles (both "against" and "neutral") before I learned that the baby's foreskin is actually attached to the glans like a fingernail and needs to be scraped/ripped off in essence, leaving this sensitive area "raw". Ouch.

Your description, while accurate, leaves room for people to still believe the myth that the foreskin is a small "flap" of skin just getting in the way down there, instead of realizing that it is the outer protective layer covering of most of the penis.

And for all the "it's a difficult decision with so many different voices on either side", I couldn't find a single medical organization recommending I get my child circumcised.
Maria said…
After commenting on a different post about your stance, I found this one. It's very good, and some of the exact reasons I said no, before I started pulling back the face of circumcision. After all, I birth at home because I believe MY reproductive organs are awesome, why wouldn't my son's be?

Unfortunately we are quite culturally attached to circumcision, and after I started looking into the facts, I quickly became an intactivist.

If we wouldn't cut our daughters, why is it okay to cut our sons? The same arguments about hygiene, aesthetics, etc etc etc could easily be used to cut the labias of little girls, but do we? Hell no! That should be our same repulsion toward male circumcision.

We have been deceived by our culture, by junk medicine, and by those who have sick sexual fetishes. I'm glad to see someone mentioned Jake, Brian, et al as disgusting circumfetishists.

The one point I want to make, since you say you believe in God: The Bible is very clear we are not to circumcise. Gal 5:2-4 is about as clear as it gets, but my fave is

Gal 5:11: I wish those who were troubling you would MUTILATE THEMSELVES!