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photo of my oldest son and I by Sandi Heinrich Photography
I have something to say, and it's that I am 100%, gut-wrenchingly, without a doubt, against genital mutilation - otherwise known as circumcision.
This wasn't always the case.
My husband is circumcised, and I never really gave it any thought until my second son was born in late 2008. Our first son was a victim of our ignorance. Sadly and regretfully, he is circumcised. We didn't know any better at the time. We thought it was what we were supposed to do. So that he could "look like his daddy," because it was supposedly cleaner and easier to care for, because if you didn't you were weird, or as one person told me, "It's gross if you don't."
When my first son was born in 2004 we didn't have great internet access to do research. I was also only 25 and none of my friends had kids at the time. I didn't have anyone to teach me or to guide me.
So, if you are wondering why I care so much, and why I am writing about issues like this - it's because I wish I had had someone in my life 6 years ago who would have told me what a mistake I was about to make. Someone to tell me that all of my beliefs and feelings about circumcision were false. Someone to lead me to studies and to the knowledge I would need to make a different choice.
My husband and I made a mistake and we are regretful, but with all of our pain we want to make a difference for other parents and baby boys.
Here are some facts about circumcision that we find worth noting:
1) No health organization in the WORLD recommends the procedure.
2) It is the amputation of a completely normal body part, much like the amputation of a toe or the outer ear.
3) There are many myths surrounding circumcision - examples being that it somehow helps to prevent some diseases and cancers, or that it makes the penis more hygienic.
4) Circumcision is a huge money maker for the medical industry. Money that is hard to give up even though the AAP and WHO have made statements saying that there is no reason to do the procedure.
5) This procedure is highly painful for infants. Babies feel pain at a much greater level than adults. Even though anesthesia is sometimes used, it is never substantial enough to keep the infant from feeling the excruciating pain. Many medical workers or parents will claim that their baby boy slept through the procedure or was calm. This is because they enter a semi-comatose state in order to survive the excessive pain (similar to how you or I might lapse into a coma if someone started cutting our genitals apart). After the procedure baby boys are withdrawn and unsettled. This often interferes with sleep, breastfeeding and bonding. Circumcised baby boys often won't look in their mothers eyes after the procedure. There are studies showing that this kind of trauma in an infant can have LIFE LONG implications!
6) The foreskin has a purpose! It protects the glans (head) from abrasion (which if it is exposed causes a decrease in sensation over the years because of the formation of a callus). It also excretes essential fluids as it is a mucous membrane. It protects the urinary tract from infection and guards against sexually transmitted diseases.
7) The foreskin plays a role in an adult males partner's life too. Many defensive men (and women) will say they are just fine without their foreskin. But one can also be just fine without a finger, arm, toe, etc.
8) There are many risks that go along with the procedure such as hemorrhage, infection, damage to the glans, tightness of the skin on the shaft (painful erection), scarring, and death. Circumcision has a complication rate of 1 in 500 and a death rate of 1 in 500,000. I believe the numbers are along the lines of 200-300 baby boys dying per year from the procedure. These numbers are higher in Africa.
9) Circumcision is a violation of human rights. Thus why it is called genital mutilation. It is the amputation of a human being's body part without their consent.
10) Just because daddy is circumcised doesn't mean baby needs to be too. One of my dear friends was counseling a couple who were expecting their first baby boy any day. The couple didn't really want to cut their son but were distressed that baby should look like his daddy. My friend brought up a good point. She said, "So, dad, if you were missing an arm, would you cut off baby's arm so he would look like you?" This was the ultimate deciding factor for this couple. Of course they wouldn't do this! Every child is unique and needs to be treated as such. If daddy really wishes to 'match' his son, he can consider restoration.
11) "The US has the highest rate of medically unnecessary, non-therapeutic infant circumcision in the world - and yet the HIV infection rate in North America is twice the rate in Europe, where circumcision rates are low." (The Truth about Circumcision and HIV by Gussie Fauntleroy; Doctors Reject Circumcision as HIV Prevention). The only way to protect oneself against as HIV is abstinence, monogamy, barriers, no IV drug/shared needle use and sterile surgical instruments.
I also should say that I understand that there are religious belief issues surrounding circumcision and it is never my intention to insult anyone's religion. I am touching on two religions, Judaism, because I was attacked by someone whose partner is Jewish and they were offended by our stance on the procedure, and the LDS church, because my husband was raised Mormon.
Many Jewish families are choosing not to do the procedure to their baby boys. Dr. Mark Reiss, a retired Jewish physician states, "Growing numbers of American Jews are now leaving their sons intact as they view circumcision as a part of Jewish law that they can no longer accept." There are many Jewish couples that are very active in their religions that now speak out against the procedure and refuse to let it happen to their children. Instead, some are choosing to do a "Brit Shalom" ceremony which translates as "Covenant of Peace" instead of a "Brit Milah" which translates as "Covenant of Blood."
The LDS church has asked that circumcision be done away with. I take this excerpt from "The Book of Mormon on Circumcision" and I encourage you to read the full article.
In Moroni 8:8 of The Book of Mormon, Christ, following his death and resurrection, speaks to the people of the western hemisphere, the Nephites and Lamanites. He says, "Listen to the words of Christ, your Redeemer, your Lord and your God, I came into the world not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance; the whole need no physician, but they that are sick; wherefore, little children are whole, for they are not capable of committing sin; wherefore the curse of Adam is taken from them in me, that it hath no power over them, and the law of circumcision is done away in me.To quote my husband, "In the Mormon faith, it is taught that the body is a temple and is not to be marked, so much so that many women in the faith refuse to pierce their ears. Why, then, would it be okay to permanently alter the body of an infant male, who was created in God's own image? Especially when there is scripture that states clearly that it is no longer a ritual of significance?"
Someday we will apologize to our first born son and explain to him what was done to him and why. My deepest hope is that he forgives us for making a decision about his body that was not ours to make.
I will not stop fighting for the end of circumcision. I cannot stand by and let other misguided or misinformed parents make the same mistake we made. The pain I feel is tremendous and I am going to need therapy (yes, seriously) to overcome my feelings of remorse. If I can prevent this from happening to other sweet mamas and baby boys, I will. This is not an attack on those that have chosen to do the procedure; after all, I fall into this category. All one needs to do is to watch a circumcision being done, read what it really is, and how it's done, and what it does to a baby's brain. Once one does this, I highly doubt they would let it be done to their sweet child.
I am happy and proud to say that our second son is intact. When he was born we still didn't know exactly what circumcision was, but we knew it didn't feel right. I am so glad we made the decision not to cut him by following our primal instincts. And now that we know the truth about circumcision, we are even more thankful that we left his body whole.
If you would like a circumcision information pack sent to you, I will gladly pay to have one sent. It contains tons of great information to read and also comes with videos to watch. All you have to do is send me a message (InHonorofGavin@gmail.com) and I will take care of it.
I mentioned being informed earlier in this post. I encourage you to visit this page as there are many excellent articles on circumcision, among other peaceful parenting ideas.
And finally, I must thank those of you who are making a difference and standing up against this horrid procedure. I wish I could do more, I wish I could reach farther. I am honored to know that so many of you feel the same and are making a difference for our baby boys, their parents and their future partners.
"I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better."
~ Maya Angelou
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