A Changed Perspective

My husband and I come from a long-line of circumcisers. Both of our dads, grandpas, brothers, uncles (ect) have all been circumcised so we really never put much thought into it, it’s just “what you do”. We had our first son in 2001, back then our hospital still did them. I know we signed the consent form while I was in labor. Sometime after he was born they took him and did it, I was unaware. He just came back and I was startled at first when I opened his diaper to find it bloody and gauze covered. But of course knew why. We went home and that was it, it healed and we never had any problems. 5 years later we have boy #2, at this point insurance companies would no longer pay for them to be done in hospital so our pediatrician did it in his office. We could hear his screams for what seemed like forever from down the hall, after he was returned to me it was a good 45 minutes before I could get him calmed down and he cried till he was blue in the face. However, days later he was healed and all was healed and all was well.

3 years later we have boy #3. My views on a lot of things had changed and I was really very much so on the fence about circumcising, however my husband was not. He wanted it done. I had done my research and really felt it was just unnecessary and I remembered all that crying but like many moms I figured dad has a penis, he knows what’s best, right? Our 3rd son was a large baby (10lbs 8ozs), when I called our pediatrician to schedule he had concerns that he might be too big for their equipment, especially since they were booked out 6 weeks in advance for circumcisions (they only do 1 a day) and he would grow a lot in 6 weeks. It seemed like everything was trying to tell me not do this, including my gut instinct. But then 2 days later we get a call and they have an opening for us. So we go in and this time the doctor welcomes us to be in the room for it all. We stay and watch as they give him 2 injections in the side of his penis of pain relief and hook up the bell and walk away for a while. I was surprised because there wasn’t the crying that I remember with our second son, it was fast and really just didn’t seem as horrible as I had imagined. We take him home and change gauze as instructed 12 hours later and it all looks just like it did with the other boys, skin was back and the entire head of the penis was exposed. The next day I open his diaper to change him and notice it looks just like it did pre-circumcision except the skin is beyond tight all the way around his penis. I called the nurse and she says “oh that’s normal, no big deal, as it heals the skin will retract back”. Well, it didn’t. As the days went on it became obvious his penis was not like our other boys. At first it looked like they had cut the wrong skin, as if they had left the foreskin but cut the back skin -if you can imagine. It was really not pretty. I took him to see several different doctors, all who agreed, the cut was done poorly (and unevenly) and on top of that it did not heal right and they labeled it as a “botched circumcision”. The most recent doctor we’ve seen said it could have been so much worse and that we’re actually pretty lucky with this. They all suggested the same thing -wait and see. No point to doing anything until we know how growth will effect it and as long as he is able to urinate the tightness of the skin isn’t an issue, yet.

2.5 years later the skin has grown and it’s not tight like it used to be. To see him you would guess he was uncircumcised however the skin retracts to the point where you can see that he has a complete bridge -meaning the skin has fully fused (healed) around the glands of his penis and the skin is quite uneven. At his age it’s impossible to say if it will require surgery to correct it, we’ve been told that occasionally the skin can “pop” off when they get a little older and have erections/start exploring with things (much like it does with uncircumcised boys) or it could stayed fused; knowing that it healed as a complete bridge the doctor felt it unlikely that it would release on it’s own. He could never have a problem with it and be perfectly fine with it just the way it is or he may find it to be very painful as a teenager and need surgery to fix the bridge. Or he may opt for surgery purely for cosmetic reasons. At this point we don’t know if there was/is nerve damage and should he require surgery to correct it, we don’t know what kind of nerve damage that could cause. You hear of botching circumcisions but you never think it’ll happen to you, until it does. I think all men will agree that their penis is a pretty important part of their body and we’re left with a lot of guilt knowing that our decision to circumcise for no real reason at all could have a great effect on his sex life later on. Not something a parent wants to think they could have essentially ruined for their own child. So now expecting baby #4, should this baby be a boy he will remain intact. We learned our lesson the hard way and now firmly believe that you shouldn’t try to fix what isn’t broken to begin with. Hindsight is 20/20 and I sure wish I could go back and undo what was done, but we can’t so we just learn from our mistakes and hope that telling other parents about our situation could hopefully prevent them from being where we are now.

Intactavism Challenged– Guest Post by Meredith

This weekend will begin my 5th Session at Sacred Mountain Midwifery School. Each month we are given personal homework on top of our regular homework. I was assigned a topic in our circumcision debate. I have to be Pro-Circ. If you know me you will know how hard this has been. Since you don’t know me I will tell you about this emotional struggle I have had.

Growing up I never knew what circumcision was or what it meant. Even after the partners I have had over the years, I was still naive to the subject. It wasn’t until I became pregnant that I familiarized myself with the subject. We did not know the sex of the baby I was carrying so we wanted to educate ourselves on all topics. I came across circumcision photos taken by Patti Romos and my decision was made. The terror on that sweet boy’s face was enough for me.

It didn’t take any persuasion to get my husband on board. He was horrified by what was being done and confused by what was done to him. He vowed never to harm our future sons. We then began educating ourselves with facts and statistics so we would be prepared when family or friends questioned our choice.

Fast forward. My son is now 8 months old and completely whole. Each day I thank my husband for keeping him intact. I have been working on my debate project. Surfing the web for Pro-Circ information and facts. Each day I read it I become sad and discouraged. Reading things like “clinical and neurological testing of the ventral and dorsal surfaces, as well as the glans, and detected no difference in penile sensitivity between circumcised and uncircumcised men.” I became very angry when I read this:

“Separation of the prepuce from the glans during development is completed in the 5th month of gestation [Diebert, 1933]. The foreskin has no role after birth.”

How can I know what I do and present my class with such flawed studies? Such false information? I have become sad and withdrawn. My husband tries to encourage me by telling me “This will just make you more passionate and knowledgeable about intactivism.” I am not swayed and continue to struggle.

Then one night it comes to me. A solution to my emotional struggle came to me as I was watching a video by Ryan McAllister called Circumcision: An Elephant in the Hospital. In the video he compares 3 photos. One of a young boy being circumcised, one of a young girl being circumcised and one of a baby boy being circumcised. They all have the same agony across their faces. Each are feeling the same horrific pain. In that moment I knew how I would approach the debate. I would argue Pro-Circumcision but in my own way.

I will be arguing pro-Female Genital Cutting (FGC) but carefully avoid telling people I’m referring to females. In this I hope they might assume I’m referring to males and then reveal that I’ve been arguing for females the whole time. I am doing this in the hopes that people will see how unnecessary and ridiculous circumcision is on any gender. How though they are different sexes the procedure causes the same harm and disfigurement. I know a lot of people don’t think that FGC and RIC go hand in hand. They argue that FGC is so much worse and horrific than RIC could ever be, I politely disagree.

Each involve cutting of the genitals without consent. Both are done for religious beliefs or the thought that the end result “looks better.” On both sexes this custom remove erogenous tissue and is justified by supposed health benefits. With this I have found that all the fighting and education I am providing about RIC should be extended to the other sex. The extreme forms of FGC are not commonly practiced and the most commonly practiced forms are generally equal to or less severe than male circumcision. Many people think that all female circumcision is the removal of the clitoris, hood and labia and sewing up of the vaginal opening and are very surprised when they find out most of the time it’s just the hood or labia.

We should be working to protect the rights of all infants not just males. Our laws should protect all infants, not just females. I think our country’s views of equal rights need to be reevaluated. How can we protect one and not the other?  Our country says by law that a woman has the right to choose what to do with her own body, even if it means ending the life of a person who didn’t get to choose. So then why are we still not protecting a mans right to choose what to do with his own body? Men are forced to have their penises cut without consent, we do this when they are too little and small to fight back or say “No.”

Studying and preparing myself for this debate has made me more passionate about intactivism but not just keeping little boys whole. I have had my eyes opened to keep all our children whole. Isn’t that what intactavism should be about? Protecting the rights of all children not just one sex or another.

There are some great charts that outline the similarities between FGC and RIC provided here:

http://www.fgmnetwork.org/intro/mgmfgm.html

http://www.circumstitions.com/FGMvsMGM.html

http://www.circumstitions.com/FGC-stitions.html

Living simply and INTACT! Guest Post By Living Simply

Yesterday (March 30th, 2011) marked the 14th anniversary of the United States’ criminalization of female genital mutilation (a.k.a. female circumcision).  Although it was never a threat to a majority of girls in the States, a law was passed affirming their rights to genital integrity, regardless of their parents’ cultural or religious traditions.
This may be the one time in American history when congress defined and affirmed specific rights of female citizens, while failing to ensure comparable rights for their male counterparts.
I will not go into why or how circumcision became so rampant in the western world.  I will only address why we as a country should stop circumcising our boys and dispel myths that say we should.
American Academy of Pediatrics’ policy on circumcision clearly discriminates against males when compared to their policy on FGM, and yet they ultimately state that there is no evidence supporting routine neonatal circumcision.
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology’s policy on circumcision repeatedly calls it an elective procedure but also stresses that it is a decision that should be left completely up to the parents.  (I find this very interesting, because if a parent brought their kids in for almost any other elective procedure, like, say, a nose job, the doctors and nurses would be shocked and dismayed and maybe even call CPS.)
The argument that one should circumcise for hygienic reasons is ridiculous and could just as easily be used to justify female circumcision.  Parents can very easily learn how to clean and care for their intact sons, just as easily if not more easily than learning how to care for a raw post-op penis that spends 24/7 in a dark, damp (and sometimes dirty) diaper.
Studies linking male circumcision and AIDS are conflicting at best.  The United States has one of the highest rates of male circumcision and also one of the highest rates of HIV infection in the developed world, suggesting that circumcision is not helping.  Conversely, Finland and Japan have some of the lowest rates of circumcision and also some of the lowest rates of HIV/AIDS.
In a meta-analysis of statistics catalogued from 1989-2009, results are clear.  There is a much greater likelihood of complications, including illness, infection, and death from circumcision than there is from keeping a baby whole and intact. Plainly, circumcising carries more risk than not circumcising.  (Duh!)
Parents have two options when it comes to deciding whether to circumcise their newborn son; only one is reversible.  That is to say, an uncircumcised boy can always decide to get circumcised later in life.  Conversely, it is virtually impossible for a circumcised boy to decide to regenerate his foreskin.
I have personally heard doctors make the argument against waiting to let the boy grow up and make his own decision.  They say that it is better to do it when the baby is young, so he won’t remember it.  However, there are some people who believe that we subconsciously retain memories from as early as in utero.  If that is true, then it stands to reason we would retain some kind of subconscious memory of trauma in our first days earthside.
Doctors also like to calm new parents by telling them that circumcision is not painful because local anesthesia is used.  If it doesn’t hurt, then why is it so important to do it “before the baby will remember it”?  Also, talk to my husband about how much pain is actually still involved when local anesthesia is used.  (He had a local for his vasectomy, and said he felt A LOT of pain.)
I think that if we left it up to the boys to decide for themselves, there would be 99% intact males in this country.  Why do I believe this?  Because every intact man I know, is eternally grateful that he was never circumcised.  While I have read or heard hundreds of stories of men who were forever scarred (literally and figuratively) by their parents decision to fundamentally change their sexual organs.  And only 1% of intact males are faced with a medical indication for circumcision in adulthood.
Circumcision can cause permanent nerve damage, which may explain why adult males who were circumcised after becoming sexually active, report decreased sensation during sexual contact.  I guess the bright side for men circumcised as newborns is that they never knew how good it could be, so they don’t know what they’re missing.

Sex is one of the most basic, necessary, intimate, joyful human experiences we are blessed with in our short time on this rock.  Take pride in giving your baby boy the opportunity to grow up to have a fulfilling and satisfying life in every way possible, including sexually!

For more like this visit:  Living Simply in a Complex World