*Names have been changed to protect their identities*
My son was born perfectly in March of 2012. Aside from not getting the delivery I truly wanted, everything was fine. I thought I had done my research on everything I needed to. I looked up what to eat, what not to eat, a little bit of breastfeeding info, what to do when they get sick, typical things like that. But I never researched circumcision. When I was pregnant, the only time circumcision came up was when my aunt said to me, "You're going to circumcise him, right?" I didn't even realize I had an option not to. Like most regretful parents, I believed it was normal. I replied, "Yeah... I guess," and she said, "Good. It's gross if they're not and you don't want him getting made fun of in school." Again, I thought this was the typical rationale anyway and didn't question it. It wasn't brought up again until my son was a week old and had his first appointment.
During his first week of life during the diaper changes, I thought that his penis was how all newborn penises looked and that somehow through circumcision, the "actual" penis would be revealed. I'm not really sure how to explain this thought. I thought that the way a newborns penis looked was naturally only temporary and that circ'ing him is what needs to be done to make it look correct. I didn't think it needed to be corrected or needed to be done to prevent STDs and stuff. I literally thought it was mandatory to be done so they were normal.
Ohhhh how naive and rather stupid I was. Any type of common sense or logic would tell me that if he was born that way, then THAT was natural. But society has tricked us all into believing that the human body is imperfect and if there's anything we can do to make it "perfect," then it needs to be done.
It was at his first appointment, at eight days old, that he experienced this procedure. The doctor, without informing if why or how or explaining any risks (not that that would have convinced me not to since pediatricians wouldn't make any money if they discouraged the procedure) that it entailed, asked me if we were going to have it done. I still have the consent form I signed, taking away my son's rights to genital autonomy and integrity.
Procedure: Removal of foreskin
They asked us if we wanted to be in the room with him and we said no. My husband shuddered at the idea. Men don't like anything coming near their penises that could harm it so he said he couldn't bare to watch. I also didn't want to see my baby in any pain so I said no also. What the hell?! You would think that if I couldn't even be in the same room with my son because I couldn't see him in pain, that that would be the red flag that said "DON'T COME NEAR MY SON WITH THAT KNIFE!" And can you believe it; his pediatrician actually said that it was best if we weren't in the room with him because then he might think we were the ones causing pain. (As I tear up just writing this) I still said yes to it. I watched that doctor take my son out of the exam room and into another area of the clinic while we waited.
They came back shortly and the nurse said, "He took it like a champ!" and I smiled. My son was slightly asleep so I thought it must not have bothered him at all (after extensive research, come to find out babies actually fall asleep so their bodies can shut down since it can't handle the pain). What shocked me though, was that he had a sucker in his mouth. My 8 day old! A sucker! I kind of chuckled at it and thought it was odd but didn't speak my mind. Again, I thought all of this was normal, even my feelings of "uncomfortableness." She said they gave him sugar water to distract him from the pain and that also struck me as odd. What kind of life altering procedure other than infant circumcision requires sugar water and candy as a means of coping? I mean, I was put completely under to have my wisdom teeth removed but my son was given some sugar water and a topical ointment to cope with his foreskin (which is actually fused to the head of the penis. It's like tearing a nail from the nail bed) being removed?
Anyway, we went home and the site was bloody for a few days. It's the only procedure that the bandage is a feces and urine soaked diaper. But once again, I thought this was totally normal. Circumcision was that and it was never brought up again in my house -- until about a year later. Shortly after my son was born, I created a group on Facebook for moms to get together and share experiences and ask advice and get support from. One day, around my son's first birthday, someone asked the group if anyone has circumcised their son and why did they. Many people responded, explaining why they did it but one person asked why would you have it done and subject an infant to such a thing. While most people got defensive over this comment and started defending their reasons and being extremely prideful, I sat behind my computer screen and watched what this person had to say to everyone. She shared information that I had never heard of before. She shared links to videos and pictures and articles disproving all the reasons to circumcise. And as I started opening the links and seeing the pictures, I was horrified. All of the uncomfortable feelings I had in the doctor's office were justified. That began my need to know. I researched more on this topic than I had any other topic. I felt like the worst mom in existence. Reading on what it feels like for the infants and how unnecessary it is makes me feel sick to this day knowing that I just went ahead and had it done.
I could go on and on about the facts and what I've learned, but there's no information out there that you can't find yourself. In the Information Age, there are no excuses. There was no excuse for my lack of knowledge. My son was subjected to an obsolete procedure, he felt the pain of his foreskin being removed, he was thrown from the safe comforts of my womb to a cold table where he was held down against HIS will and I can never forgive myself for it. I can learn to live with the guilt and learn from my mistakes and fix the future, but I can't go back in time.
In a way, I'm glad I've experienced it this way. If I had been against circumcision from the beginning, I probably wouldn't fight it. I would just believe this was how natural looks and I might think most people were left intact. It's the fact that I learned from my mistakes and learned what my son went through that I can now fight to save future boys. I have had women tell me that their minds have changed because I shared information with them and that means more to me than anything.
Some people might ask how I will deal with any future children being left intact when my oldest son will be circumcised and I already know how I'm going to handle it. If another son asks me why he doesn't look like my oldest, it will depend on the age on how I answer. If they are children, I will explain to them that everyone is different. Not one person's private areas looks like another. Which is true, right? Even in adulthood, every penis and vagina looks different than the last. If they are older, teenagers or adults, I will be honest. I will explain to my oldest that I believed circumcision was normal and that as he grew and as I did my research, I learned it wasn't necessary. He will know that it wasn't because I loved his brothers more than him that I left them intact. He will know that it was a judgement error on my end and I will be apologetic for taking away his say in what was done with his body. All of them, intact and circumcised, will grow up knowing that they are who they are and all of them are different and perfect in their own ways. I have no doubt that they might react differently than I am expecting now, but I have several years before I need to worry about how I will take on this situation. But for right now, I am going to try to keep moving forward. Subjecting a child, your own child, to genital mutilation is not something that is easy to live with. I cry often about it and seek reassurance from people going through the same thing that I can do this and I did what I thought was best at the time, but I have to keep moving forward and making a difference.
If I could say one thing to every expectant mom out there, it would be this: your son will be born perfect. He will be a strong person and will feel empowered, even if he doesn't know it, when he can make his own decisions about his body when he is older. They don't deserve the pain. Every reason for it has been debunked. Your son will be born perfect just the way he is. Don't try to make him perfect in society's eyes. He's already perfect in yours.
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