Thursday, April 10, 2014

From Penis Amputation to Parenting: How Reconstructive Surgery Saved One Man After Botched Circumcision and Allowed Him to Father a Child

By Danelle Frisbie © 2014
NBC Bay Area News Brief

Mike is a new father from Mississippi, with a story to share that is filled with both great regret and great joy.

When Mike was 7 years old, he was circumcised. Complications from this genital cutting led to severe infection that spread quickly. Physicians at the time made the call to amputate his penis to save his life. Living without normal male anatomy was, understandably, very difficult. Mike visited psychologists and physicians in an attempt to bring some normalcy back to his life. However, he was often left without hope, and became severely depressed.

That is, until his uncle found information about Dr. Gordon Lee at Stanford who specializes in reconstructive surgery of the body's organs. Seven years ago, Mike met with Dr. Lee for the first time. Lee ended up utilizing tissue from Mike's thigh to reconstruct a functioning penis - and this past year, Mike went on to father a baby. As far as he knows, it is something that Dr. Lee says is, "a world's first!"

Dr. Lee continued in reflection on Mike's situation, "What we do here is not so much life-saving, but life-GIVING."

Still working through the emotional trauma that losing your genitals to circumcision would inflict upon most of us, Mike says, "Without Dr. Lee, this would not be possible. And if my story can help anyone, I want it to. If anyone had to go through what I went through, I want you to know it is possible... When I first held him, I didn't know what to say to him. My first words were, 'my Munchin'... and for the rest of my life, I think I'll call him 'Munchin.' [...] I bought him this Superman stuff because I knew he is a miracle. I love the symbol - it is hope. For him to be here, something had to go right."

Related Reading: 

Repeat Circumcision: Lessons Learned From the Mother of a Botched Baby

$700,000 Infant Circumcision Amputation Settlement

Circumcision Costs Man His Penis Two Weeks Before Wedding


Saturday, March 1, 2014

Extreme Ballooning in the Intact Child

By Natalie Cornish © 2014
Read more from Natalie at Confessions of a Crunchy Momma

When our son, Andrew, was approximately 12 months, he had such an extreme urinary tract infection that his urine became sort of like sludge. It would ooze out when he urinated, and appeared gritty. Our family doctor cleared it up with antibiotics, but after that experience his urine started becoming trapped inside of his foreskin after urination. The opening of the foreskin would be squeezed shut, and only a drop or two would exit. I don't know if this was related to the UTI in some way, but it only began after this time. I worried a lot because it seemed the entire contents of his bladder would be inside the foreskin, and I thought that maybe the urine would be forced back up the urethra, perhaps causing damage to the urinary tract, or result in more UTIs. This amount of urine would cause his foreskin to swell to the size of half a lemon (which is pretty big on a tiny little boy). THAT is what I considered outside of normal ballooning. My older son's foreskin (at age 5) also balloons when he urinates, but no where near this much.

I spent a lot of time on the internet searching for things like "trapped urine," "foreskin ballooning," and "small foreskin opening," but really wasn't able to find a lot of information outside of the diagnosis of phimosis. At such a young age, real phimosis is almost unheard of, though many U.S. physicians misdiagnose it in children because they are not well informed on normal male (intact) anatomy.

Everything I read online made it sound like what my son was experiencing was way outside of a normal range, and my concerns grew. By the time Andrew turned two, our family physician thought perhaps someone else should take a look. She didn't know what to do, and while she is intact-friendly, she unfortunately doesn't see many intact boys in our part of the state. She referred us to MSU Pediatric Urology where we saw Dr. Bartkowski. The first recommendation from him was to circumcise. I told him I wanted to avoid that, and that we should try anything less invasive first. He thought about it for a while and decided on a course of steroid cream, hoping to widen the prepuce. We used that for three weeks. The extreme ballooning was still happening, so we scheduled a follow up appointment. Dr. Bartkowski very reluctantly said to try for another three weeks, but told us using it any longer would "make Andrew's foreskin grow too big" and then we would be told to circumcise for that reason. If the second course of cream didn't fix the problem, then he again suggested circumcision.

We used the cream for three more weeks and still had the issue, so I just did not call or go back to Dr. Bartkowski. We started seeing the issue arise less and less, but Andrew became interested in potty learning and the ballooning was causing a problem because he would become frustrated that nothing was coming out, so I started searching for another physician.

There were several local intact-friendly pediatricians, but none of them would take us on a consult, and we did not wish to switch providers permanently. I had heard that University of Michigan Pediatric Urology was good, but they wouldn't take our insurance. Several months of calling around yielded nothing but frustration on my part. Then I heard about Dr. Van Howe, and that he was moving to Saginaw from Michigan's Upper Penninsula. This placed him within a two hour drive for me instead of eight or more hours.

When I called in his new office in August, his practice wasn't set up yet and they thought he might start taking patients in September, but the staff did not have a lot of information. I called again in September and his staff confirmed that they would take our insurance but they were not sure if they could take us as a consult. I had to call several more times and explain our full situation each time before I finally got an answer. I convinced them to see us in the beginning of January, and got our referral straightened out with our local family doctor.

Amazingly, none of his staff that I talked to knew that Dr. Van Howe was such a big name in the genital autonomy field and that he would know so much about the intact male body. But this was our golden ticket and I was determined to see him. We saw Dr. Van Howe on January 10th and he was so kind and patient. I explained Andrew's whole history and my concerns. He said that even this extreme amount of ballooning is normal - in fact, it is good because it demonstrates that everything is still nice and elastic as it should be. In some very rare cases, the prepuce tissue becomes hardened, like a callous, and is unable to expand.

He did an exam on our son and said that the opening of the prepuce is a good size, but that we could try to encourage it to open up a little more with another course of steroid cream. He suggested using this for 6-8 weeks straight. He was confident that the cream would resolve the issue, if time alone did not. If the cream (and time) still did not work and we continued to be concerned, we could attempt surgical correction in a procedure that makes three very small incisions, like pie wedges, then rotates the cuts to make one bigger opening in the prepuce. It is a common surgery in Europe (where virtually all boys and men are intact), but only about six physicians in the United States know how to perform the procedure. It would have to be done by a pediatric urologist who can do plastic surgery, and the closest one is in Boston (that he knew of). However, he did think that Andrew's situation is very normal, and that having the surgery would be extreme.

Finally, after all this time, my nerves are at rest. Andrew is normal, and I think the cream and time will do its work. I'm once again a happy mother.

Find further information pertaining to intact care at the Intact Care Resource Page or by clicking the tab at the top of Saving Our Sons:


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Post Circumcision Tools and Discarded Newborn Foreskin

The above photograph depicts circumcision tools post-surgery by Gomco clamp. This image was captured by a labor and delivery nurse working in an OB unit, and shared with Brother K of the U.S.-based group, Bloodstained Men and Their Friends. This nurse writes:

"I had a bad day at work - lots of stupid circumcision related bullshit, so in a fit of rage I thought you might be able to use a verifiably real photo I took recently after circumcision. The baby screamed the whole time, in spite of a dorsal penile block. His foreskin is on the sterile field to the right in this photograph. The red on the tools and gauze is blood. I was sitting in the room next to the nursery charting. [The father], after reading his bible today, wanted to wait until the baby was 8 days old. The bible apparently never told him to marry the baby's mother though... I know I will be savaged for not throwing myself over the baby. People don't understand how unproductive that would be as a nurse. Everyone would think I was just some psycho.

I don't participate in circumcision surgery. I just work in the OB department. I know they're going on, but I don't take part. And every once in a while I influence a parent to not do it. Many [colleagues] have said they wouldn't circumcise their own boys if they had it to do all over again. Hopefully my next workday will be better.

The good news is that more and more parents are choosing to [keep their sons intact] than ever before. They really are! Use the picture to gently educate."

Learn more about how circumcision is performed in North American hospitals and clinics today: 


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

My Fourth Son: Knowing Better, Doing Better and Why Gentle Advocacy Approaches Are Effective

By Vanessa Shirey © 2014

Mason is my fourth son, but the first who we kept intact. My other boys are 12, 10 and 6 years old, and unfortunately, I wasn't educated on circumcision when I was pregnant with them. Or, maybe I should say that I wasn't receptive to information available on circumcision at the time. I'd only come across such material when reading through circumcision 'debates' on parenting forums, and they were usually pretty ugly - with name calling and hateful remarks tossed out at parents who had circumcised in the past. Why would I want further information from someone who said I was a bad parent, or from an individual who didn't think I was fit to be a mom? The ol' saying that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar is sometimes true...

It wasn't until I found other genital autonomy advocates with gentle, research-based approaches that I truly grasped how atrocious genital mutilation is. Then, I began to ask myself questions -- Why do Northern Americans find it appalling when they hear of girls being circumcised, but not our boys? Why are boys not granted the same genital autonomy as girls? Why are our boys less deserving of full and functioning genitals simply because they were born male? We often focus so much attention on the equal rights that women deserve in our society, and yet our men are dealt the lesser hand in this department.

When we found out we were expecting another perfect little boy, it was a no brainer. I told my husband that I would absolutely not circumcise again and braced for battle. But his retort was to say, 'okay,' and it was as easy as that! Fast forward to May 28 when our little ham arrived, and I breathed a sigh of relief knowing that this time I was leaving our son the way he came into this world. His penis wasn't defective. Everything about him was perfection.

Today I tell pregnant mothers to research, research, research. Your husband having a penis doesn't make him an expert on the functions of the foreskin, or on circumcision, just as me having a vagina doesn't make me an OB/GYN. There is nothing strange or abnormal about having an intact son after circumcising in the past. It shows that we are capable of change and facing mistakes head on. Even my mother-in-law, (who unexpectedly passed away in October and mothered three sons of her own) became informed on how barbaric infant circumcision is. I will never forget her thanking me for leaving her new grandson, Mason, whole.

While I cannot save the world, I managed to save at least one baby boy -- my youngest son. And it is my hope that you will be encouraged to do the same for your next baby boy as well.

To share your experiences, write to


Monday, January 13, 2014

Frail and Broken: Painful Memories of My Son's Circumcision

By Kelsey Mackey © 2014

My name is Kelsey. On October 19, 2010, I gave birth to my first child - a boy. He surprised us all with his red hair and his uncanny resemblance to my husband. He was perfect. I was thrilled to be his mother, and I knew it was my duty to do everything I could in my life to benefit him.

October 20, 2010, on day two of his life, less than 48 hours old, the doctor came in to check on me, went down her routine list of questions, and then got to the question of whether or not I wanted to circumcise him. With confidence, I quickly replied, "Yes!" My doctor almost did a double take, and said, "But you know that it is purely for cosmetic reasons, right?" I replied in an annoyed tone, "Thanks, I did my research. I know what I'm doing. Yes, please have it done." She made a mark on her clipboard and prepped for the procedure.

Truth be told, I did not do any research, at least not any REAL research. I maybe jumped into circumcision debates, and found comfort in what the pro-circumcision people were saying, but that's about it. I had no real basis for my belief that circumcision was necessary. It mostly came from whispers around me and seeing circumcised men without a care in the world, never having any problems.

The whispers I heard were such things as, "uncircumcised boys are dirty," "uncircumcised men/boys get ridiculed immensely,"(which was only fueled by me witnessing such childish cruelty in my own schooling), whispers of "it's just something that all boys need done," "its cleaner," "intact penises look disgusting," "if you don't have it done now when they can't remember and don't feel pain, then you almost always have to get it done later, so circumcise him now to save him later..."  All of these whispered myths are those I have found to be completely false, presumptuous propaganda as my wisdom has grown.

Yet at the time, I was solidified in having this done to my son. I sent him off with the nurse who was effectively taking him into the butcher shop. They wheeled him off in his bassinet. About an hour passed, and they wheeled him back in. He was quiet and almost in a sleep like state.

I asked, "So how'd he do in there?" And I'll never forget the response: "Not good. Not good at all. He screamed the whole time." I could see the pain in her OWN face, but because the patient is always right, she was obligated to do this to my son.

He was probably screaming at the top of his tiny, little lungs in agony, writhing around as he was strapped down to the circumstraint. And she had to remove his foreskin with a steady hand and a heavy heart. It was something I knew she did not want to do after nonchalantly trying to talk me out of it to begin with.

What I saw then, and what I see now, are virtually two different visions. As a new and naive mother, with my newborn son, I saw a tuckered out baby boy after having a "medical procedure" done that was totally necessary in order to keep him healthy and happy. What I see now, looking back, is the horror that is my ultimate wrong decision as a mother - to have a healthy, vital, functional, purposeful part of his genitals cut off in a cruel and unusual way.

As odd as it is, right after they wheeled my son back into my room after circumcision, the photography cart followed them and it was time for newborn pictures. I look at the pictures now and see no life left behind my son's eyes. I see him frail and broken. I see the sugar water still dried around my son's mouth - as if sucking on a sugar coated sponge did his poor self any good while his penis was being sliced, crushed and torn apart. I see the diaper with fresh blood on it, from a behind-the-scenes picture that my husband and I took during the photo shoot.

Worst of all, I see the pictures from his first day of life - his first bath, his pure and innocent facial expressions as he slept (top photo). I see the pictures of when he first made his entrance in the world - seeing his miraculous, perfect, intact penis... It is now nothing more than a painful memory for me, full of regret and shame for taking that perfect penis from my son and putting him through so much trauma.

I will forever hold this tremendous guilt and sadness with me, and I will forever be apologizing to my son for the choice I made on him. I will speak out against this cruel and unnecessary procedure, and I will keep any future sons intact.

To all parents: do your research, make the right decision. Don't harm your brand new baby. Don't make the choice that you will one day regret and cannot turn back from. Save yourself the grief, and save your son from all of the trauma, pain and lifelong hardships that come with circumcision. Save your sons.

To share your story, write to


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Circumcision: Breaking the Cycle

By Ashley Williams © 2014
Read more from Williams at The Heady Housewife

Six years ago while pregnant with our first child I researched many new parenting topics. Breastfeeding, cosleeping, vaccination, doulas and having a natural hospital birth, among others, were researched heavily. The subject of circumcision is one I hadn't researched as much. Not knowing the sex of our baby put the topic at the bottom of my list. My friend and doula had asked what my thoughts on circumcision were. At the time I thought a common likeness to my husband and social norm were important. Sadly, I was very ignorant of the process of circumcision, the motives behind it, and I really thought almost everyone was circumcised.

We gave birth to a beautiful little boy at 5pm on a Monday, and by 10am on Tuesday he was circumcised. I knew 15 seconds after he left our closet-sized recovery room that the decision was wrong. Of course, I didn't tell myself that, or let myself grieve that choice for several years.

The feeling I had when they brought him back to me still sticks with me today. It wasn't just sadness - it was guilt. In general, my parenting choices are based on my instincts as a mother, and I know even if I am not at my best, if I try my hardest, then I did okay. But that first day I did not. I ignored those instincts. I failed. Being a new mom of less than 20 hours I didn't know what those instincts felt like. If I had waited even a one hour more -- maybe even a few extra minutes -- I could have changed my mind.

At the time I was thinking of all the 'what if's' -  although I challenged every other 'what if' associated with my baby. Back then circumcision seemed justified - but only because it was too hard to actually think about. That is, by choosing not to do it, it would cancel out any validation circumcision had. If it is not okay to circumcise my baby, then it is not okay to circumcise any baby - including his father. I believe many dads justify their own circumcision by circumcising their sons. And that is heavy, uncomfortable stuff for a new parent.

Fast forward two years. I become pregnant with our second child. By now we had decided a drug free birth at the hospital was more work than we wanted to deal with again, so we chose a birth center. While preparing for the big day the circumcision conversation was brought up. What if it is another boy? Do they need to 'match?' Would it cause a problem if they didn't? At that moment we both decided it wasn't our choice to make. That was the moment we swallowed the big pill. We admitted how wrong we were for doing it last time, and how a part of each of us was angry that my husband and our son had been circumcised.

So many parenting decisions are reversible. I can discipline a certain way, feed my children a certain way, and have certain sleeping arrangements, and then change my mind after I realize there is something better for my child. Circumcision doesn't have a take-back option. It is irreversible.

We had our second boy at 10pm on a Sunday. At that moment we knew he would stay whole. He remains intact, and can choose whatever he wants to do with his body as an adult. We live in a time and place where access to information is so available, and where circumcision rates are so split, that your children most likely will ask you why one day. For me, "So you matched your dad..." was, and still is, an unacceptable answer.

Today, six years later, we are blessed with another beautiful boy. How lucky we are to have three young men to influence and help grow into respectful and mindful adults. To be able to teach them that their body is theirs and deserves respect, and how hygiene and responsibility are an important thing for all of your body parts.

Yes, the difference between our circumcised child and his intact brothers has been noticed and questioned. For us, the answer is a lesson we learned the hard way on how we thought he needed to be a certain way to be 'normal' and healthy, when in truth we were wrong. It is a lesson in understanding that irreversible decisions made for someone else, and based on common likeness, are hard to justify and it is best to question them. Most importantly, though, we have learned that no matter how difficult it can be to break a cycle, if that is the right thing to do, then it is worth it.


To share your story, write to

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Intact Advocacy Bracelets

The following genital autonomy bracelets are those currently available. Ordering multiple bracelets? Email your selections (type/color/quantity of each) to with your address and use this one link to order: or follow alternative directions below.

All bracelets are $3 (shipping included) with the exception of the 1-inch-thick rainbow bracelet ($4). Additional items (info cards, postcards, buttons, pins, pens, tote bags, etc.) can be found at the INFO CARDS tab at the top of this website.

If you prefer to order without PayPal taking out 5%, you may do so in the following manner:

 1) Log onto
2) Click the "Send Money" tab at the top of the page
3) Enter in
4) Put in your total amount
5) Check "I'm sending money to family or friends."
6) Include a note with the items/quantities you're requesting and your mailing address OR email this information to when your transaction is complete.

Orders may also be sent via mail to:

Saving Our Sons
P.O. Box 1302
Virginia Beach, VA 23451

♂ His Body, His Choice 
Royal Blue

♂ His Body, His Choice ♂
♂ His Body, His Choice 


♂ His Body, His Choice 
(BLACK - DrMomma)

❤ My Foreskin
Request Here

♂ Not Circumcised? Lucky Stiff! 
Request Here

Go Green ♂ Save His Peen!
Request Here

 Be Wise ♂ Don't Circumcise!

Be Wise ♂ Don't Circumcise!

Genital Autonomy = Human Right

Genital Autonomy = Human Right

 Brit Shalom  
Request Here

❤ Foreskin
*  One Inch Wide  *

Education, Not Amputation
(with male and female symbols - genital autonomy for all)
Request Here

 ♂ Cutting is Not a Cure 
Request Here

No Medical Excuse for Genital Abuse
Request RED Here

Request WHITE Here
(or include a note with description of the bracelets you would like when ordering multiples)

❤ peaceful parenting 
Request Here

peace  love  parenting
Request Here

Note: Green is more of a 'true green' (darker/deeper). See image below.
Light from the photograph makes these appear brighter/lighter than they actually are.
peace  love  parenting
(Deep Green)
 Request Here

Are you an advocate for nursing mothers and their babies as well?
Find breastfeeding wrist bands here.