A Public Apology to My Circumcised Son

By Mandi Woolery
Read more from Woolery at: Peachy Keen Birth Services

 My little man. How I wish I could go back in time.

My Little Buster,

I’m so sorry. How else do I begin this?

I was teaching today and lecturing my students about the importance of doing independent research when preparing to make decisions for their labor, birth, and the care of their newborn. My final point was to implore them to research every decision. To never proceed with something because some hospital class says 'everyone is doing it,' but rather to research the hell out of it until they are confident that they have all of the information.

And so I come back to this… I’m so sorry.

As a parent, there will be a million things you will look back on and think, “Gee, I wish I would have done that differently…”

Usually it’s something minor. Like becoming upset over something that was totally age-appropriate behavior. Or when you accidentally learned a 'colorful' word while Mommy was driving.

But how do I apologize for having part of your genitals amputated for NO MEDICAL REASON? When you were less than 24 hours old, no less!

Please let me at least explain why - where I was coming from - that I thought I was doing what I was supposed to do.

As I will explain someday, I wasn’t exactly tech-savvy when I was preparing for my first birth. I just literally didn’t even know anything existed beyond the hospital class and What to Expect.

That hospital class taught us that 95% of boys were circumcised, and that it was more hygienic. I didn’t know this was a lie. And I wasn’t in contact with anyone who could tell me that this was a lie. Looking back, that is not an excuse. The mama bear in me begs my pregnant self to questions it, verify it, somehow just double check this number. But I swear to you that my brain was just not wired this way back then. It had never occurred to my naive little mind that a hospital might “misrepresent” facts back then.

As it turns out, in that year, it was actually about 50% of boys who were not being circumcised. Not the mere 5% they suggested (and now it’s about 68% who are remaining intact!). And it is not more hygienic to be circumcised… no more so than it is to circumcise a baby girl rather than teach her to properly clean her labia. But apparently it was still a-okay with this hospital to hack off the genitals of baby boys. Hell, the hospital openly encouraged it!

I wish I had known even ONE person at that time who had chosen NOT to circumcise. I didn’t have a religious reason to circumcise, so that might just have been enough to nudge me into researching just a little more.

But all I had was that stupid hospital class, so I consented to have you circumcised. And there I go downplaying it. Sending blame away from myself. The truth now… not only did I consent, I think I actually asked the doc when you would be circumcised. If only ONCE someone had mentioned that it wasn’t medically necessary... I know I would have questioned it. But no one did, so I willingly handed you over.

I remember briefly feeling sad that something about your perfect little self would be changed… and then feeling selfish because, “after all, this was a medically necessary procedure, done for your own good.”

I vaguely remember asking if they use anesthetic and something was said about sugar water. Good frigging God, I was so stupid. As far as I can tell, you had part of your genitals forcibly ripped off at less than 24 hours old with absolutely no anesthesia.

I’m sobbing now, writing this. I just want to go back in time and kick my own ass. What the hell was wrong with me?

But the way my brain worked back then, it never occurred to me that something so horrific - the outright torture of a newborn - would be even remotely legal. I thought it was really medically necessary like that hospital class had taught us, and I thought you hadn’t felt it.

And when you were a couple of months old, right as I was learning that your cesarean birth could have been avoided, I also learned the truth about circumcision. That there is no medical reason for it. And that the majority of boys are remaining intact these days.

I sobbed. I’m so sorry.

And then I became pregnant with your little brother. You two are only 19 months apart. It took some convincing of your daddy, but he eventually consented that the evidence showed there was not a medical reason to circumcise. So then it was just a matter of having him admit that you and your soon-to-be brother having matching penises was not a valid reason to amputate anyone’s genitals. And your sweet daddy very quickly came around.

You are five, and little bro is three. So far, there have been no questions as to why your penises look different. How will I answer that when it does come up? When you are still little I think I will keep it generic, so as to not freak you out. “Mommy made one decision for you, and another for your little brother.” So far each of you thinks that your penis is the most awesome thing since… well, since anything, so I don’t think it will be an issue.

But when you are older... a man… I would like to explain things more truthfully… and apologize.

I can only pray to God that you will be able to understand why I made such a poor decision, and that you will forgive me.

Of all of the parenting moments I look back upon, those I wish I could re-do, having you circumcised is the only one I have utter remorse for. I’m so sorry.

With much, much love,

Your Mommy


Mandi Woolery is a mommy to three kiddos, wife to a super-supportive man, and owner of Peachy Keen Birth Services, located in Upland, CA. After having an all-around horrible birth experience the first time around, Mandi's passion for gentle birth began. She now teaches natural childbirth classes, and is constantly rewarded as she witnesses her students making informed decisions. In addition to preparing expectant couples through her Natural Childbirth classes, Mandi also has the great honor of attending births as a doula, and is in the process of obtaining her birth doula certification through DONA International.

For additional letters and testimonies from mothers and fathers who regret not keeping their son(s) intact, or to meet those raising both circumcised and intact boys, see: I Circumcised My Son: Healing From Regret.

For additional information on the prepuce organ (foreskin/clitoral hood), intact care, and circumcision see resources, books, websites, and articles linked from this page.

For excellent pregnancy and birth resources (alternatives to the ubiquitously horrible, What to Expect series that Woolery mentioned), see books listed in this collection.


Circumcision: The Most Twisted Logic in the World

By Clara Franco
This article was translated by the author and editors for DrMomma.org and SavingSons.org. It is available in Spanish here

Let’s imagine for a moment the following series of situations at the doctor’s office.

Scenario 1:

-You: Doctor, now that my baby is crawling, his fingernails get SO filthy - full of dirt! Besides, it’s hard to cut them; it is so much trouble and takes so much time. Because of the dirt and bacteria getting under his nails, and then into his nose and mouth, he’s sick all the time and getting infections. What can I do?

-Doctor: Ma’am, the best solution would be to immediately schedule an appointment to cut your baby’s fingertips off. A solution to last a lifetime!

-You: What?! How can you even think I would cut off my son’s fingertips?

-Doctor: But this is very normal. Lots of moms do it now. It’s harmless, really! We only cut a little piece at the tip of the finger, a very small bit. Only the part where the nail begins to grow. His hands really work exactly the same; but you’ll spare yourself of the trouble of cleaning his nails and trimming them - forever! You won’t even need to teach him how to wash his nails when he grows up.

-You: But doesn’t that hurt?

-Doctor: Absolutely not. Babies this age cannot yet feel pain, and even if they did, they won’t remember it.

Scenario 2:

-Doctor: It’s a girl! Mrs. X, I must remind you that your health care plan will cover the expenses in case you want to perform a radical mastectomy on your baby. The sooner, the better.

-You: A what?

-Doctor: You know, to completely remove her mammary glands. Breast cancer is now the second cause of death in Mexico for women over 25, and it’s more common every day! If we do the procedure on your daughter, you’ll forever forget about that risk. You could save her life! It’s better now that she’s a baby and she won’t remember. No cancer for her - ever! It’s becoming routine to do it when they’re this young. Remember, if you choose not to get the surgery, there’s still a 1 in 10 chance that she will have cancer and need the procedure anyway. Her mammary glands really do nothing but put her at deadly risk.

Scenario 3:

-Doctor: It’s a boy! So ma’am, we’re going for the appendectomy, right?

-You: Well, do you recommend it, doctor?

-Doctor: Absolutely. Look, more or less, four in every fifty children will have appendicitis at some point in their lives. And then it is a problem because if they don’t have the surgery immediately, they may die from peritonitis or septic shock. Now many parents choose to have the surgery done right after birth, and do away with the problem forever! We’ll remove it now, and spare ourselves from a scare when he’s older.

-You: But you’ll use anesthesia, right?

-Doctor: Oh no, that’s dangerous in newborns! We don’t apply anesthesia because then it would be a high-risk intervention. Besides, what’s the point? He’s so small and he can’t feel pain yet. He won’t even remember when he grows up.

Scenario 4:

-Doctor: Mrs. X, this is the third time in two years that your girl has had a urinary tract infection due to bad hygiene. Seriously, she needs to have surgery. These infections are much more common in girls than boys. You’ll see how quickly it is done - just a little cut to the labia, where the smegma accumulates, and that’s it. All better.

Scenario 5:

-You: Doctor, what can I do to keep my son from fracturing his foot for the third time?

-Doctor: Well, clearly, to amputate his feet would be the most effective solution!

Scenario 6:

-Doctor: Well, because we are already performing surgery on your son due to his accident, how would you like us to complete an aesthetic rhinoplasty? With an nice aesthetic nose he will be so much luckier with the ladies later on!...

If any of the situations above, as absurd and ridiculous as sound, seem impossible to us, we are being completely hypocritical. Because - surprise! - this is the very same twisted and ill-conceived logic that we’ve been applying to a single body part, of a single sex: the male genitalia.

It’s a completely altered, ashtray logic that we only apply to a male infant, when we decide we have the freedom to amputate a part of his penis… in a “preventive” manner.

Sure enough, there are societies where, in more egalitarian fashion, the same logic is applied to both sexes. There are societies that practice both female genital mutilation and male genital mutilation. For example, some sections of Indonesia, Malaysia, Somalia, Mali, Egypt, Kenya, etc.

There are also societies where, of course, neither FGM or MGM is practiced at all. But what’s despicable is the medical double standard, in societies where every individual’s body is highly respected, and amputation is a last, extreme resort - reserved solely for truly severe cases. Somehow, male genital mutilation has slipped in as a common, acceptable amputation surgery that a baby boy’s parents “have the right to choose.”

Let’s stop deceiving ourselves: every circumcision is an amputation, because it irreversibly removes an organ that has a name, specific functions, and the purpose of creating a normal sexual response. It is an organ that is healthy and that will no longer exist on the individual’s body after the surgery. Words such as “removal” or “extirpation” mean the exact same: am-pu-ta-tion. We cannot disguise it. Male circumcision is an amputation. And one that should only be decided upon by the owner of the body and no one else.

Rarely does a healthy human being need an amputation of anything. And, in the rest of the medical universe, amputations are rarely practiced. The need might arise because of severe, dated infections; extended, severe and uncared-for wounds; or because of gangrene (which is often the consequence of extended, severe and uncared-for wounds). Diabetes, for example, causes circulatory failures and a certain type of gangrene in the limbs, which sometimes makes an amputation necessary. But, again, those are cases of disease - uncared-for disease that has lasted a long time.

When is an amputation necessary?

• Malignant tumors
• Gangrene
• Severe frostbite (which is somewhat similar to gangrene: the organ or limb dies because the tissue is destroyed)
• Severe damage or trauma. For example, if one nearly loses an arm in an accident. If the arm remains only linked to the body by a very small part, and there is no way to recover it, amputation may be wise if the arm will only remain there as an infected limb.

No one in the medical establishment ever uses amputation as:

• A method of prevention
• Prophylaxis (as supposed “hygiene”)
• A first solution for treating infections
• A first solution for treating tight skin
• A first solution for treating anything

…Unless we are talking about the male prepuce. It is the only body part that we have not conceded the same respect to. Why are we getting carried away by such fallacy, such twisted logic? Why do we respect female genitalia, which by the way is more prone to infection and harder to clean than male genitalia, and yet we never, ever, cut away parts of it? In fact, in some nations (like the U.S.) there are federal laws in place to protect the female genitalia of minors from unnecessary cutting!

Something very similar has happened to our country’s medical establishment. We’ve ended up seeing this amputation (only this one, and exclusively this one), as something normal, desirable, "decidable by parents," aesthetic, hygienic, healthy. This is the only little loophole where no one seems to remember the Hippocratic Oath, or the need to use amputation only as a very last resort in rare and severe cases. We have conceded this amputation a sort of respect that it does not deserve. We have placed it into its own category within medical practice. (Look in many Healthcare Insurance Plans pamphlets: male circumcision really does have its own chapter).

The case becomes shamelessly lunatic when we realize that, today, many studies have been conducted concerning HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases which seek to legitimize the practice of male genital amputation on healthy individuals. These studies hold amputation as a starting point, and not the illness itself. How did we ever let this happen? What other medical study has ever started from the premise of amputation, and then tried to prove its use for something? To first push for genital mutilation, and then attempt to prove it to be good disease prevention.

Let’s imagine that an orthopedic surgeon performs a similar study:

“Medical research conducted by Doctor A. Smith, using experimental samples of individuals from Tanzania, has concluded that foot amputation definitely bears a positive effect in the prevention of various diseases and conditions; such as foot fractures, athlete’s foot and other kinds of fungi, ingrown toenails, and foot wound infections. When performed on newborns, amputation can also completely prevent accidents concerning “hair tourniquets,” a dangerous condition that happens when a hair or fine thread gets wrapped strongly around a toe, cutting blood supply. Out of 1,000 analyzed individuals, those who had feet amputations performed had a 95% lower chance of presenting ANY of these conditions, diseases and accidents!”

Doctor A. Smith is not lying. Amputating body parts does keep us from potentially having any trouble with those parts later. Because if we amputate, these organs or limbs no longer exist. Just as killing my neighbors would help me avoid any trouble with them in the future...

But that is such twisted logic that no one in their right mind would use. The body deserves respect. The body deserves treatment options. And it deserves integrity. It deserves our realization that every one of its amazing parts bears an important function - each and every one present to do something vital for normal health and funcitoning.

Would we support similar HIV studies if they were seeking to conclude that FGM is good disease prevention? No, we would probably dismiss such "research" as being unethical, and possibly a bit insane. As western women, we have been whole and healthy for centuries, knowing how to prevent and treat disease without resorting to amputation. By the way, these studies on women do exist. And yes, the results were that circumcised women had a lower chance of getting infected with HIV. Now who said there was no equality among the sexes...?

Unfortunately, too many of us allow ourselves to be sold nonsense justifications for amputation, for the most hollow and false reasons. Those of us sold on the surgery have an easier time if we also buy into the lies - "babies feel no pain" and "it won't hurt." If circumcision actually were helpful in reducing HIV, or sexually transmitted infections, or the latest "disease of the decade" then all our clinical trials would work the other way around. We would analyze the illness, and then conclude that it is solely and exclusively caused by this one body organ, and that amputation is truly the only way. But because this has never been, and likely never will be the case, we continue on in our desperate attempts to keep up with the myths and reinvent the latest "need" for prepuce amputation.

Clara Franco is the director of the National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers Mexico chapter. Read more from Franco (in Spanish) at Mexico Intacto, follow at Mexico Intacto on Facebook, or find Franco's work in English also at:

Is the Pain of Circumcision Truly "Brief"?

Intactivists: Those Uncommon Activists

Related items: 

Routine Toe Removal Has Health Benefits

For further resources on the prepuce, circumcision, and intact care, see: Are You Fully Informed?


Forced Retraction: Don't Let it Happen to Your Son

By Peggy Fenton
Read more from Fenton at Intactivist Examiner

Jenny's pediatrician told her to start retracting her baby's foreskin for cleaning at his 12-month well baby visit. Jenny didn't do it, because she read that it's not good to retract on the internet.

At her son's 15 month well-baby visit, Jenny's pediatrician retracted the boy's foreskin herself, scolding Jenny as she did so, for neglecting her son's genital hygiene. The pediatrician told Jenny to retract her son's foreskin every day for cleaning. This time Jenny listened.

From that point on, she and her husband dutifully retracted their son's foreskin for cleaning, almost every day. This continued until the boy was 18 months old.

Then one day, Jenny noticed her son had not wet his diaper all afternoon. He cried at bath time as he dribbled a little urine. Soon the baby was screaming each time he tried to urinate.

Jenny's son's foreskin was infected, as a result of being retracted long before it was meant to be. By retracting the foreskin, Jenny's pediatrician had severed the fragile connective tissue between the foreskin and glans, and prematurely stretched the sphincter opening. The internal environment was no longer sterile and the natural protective flora had been disrupted.

Instead of cleaning and caring for her son's penis, by repeatedly retracting him as her doctor insisted, Jenny had been setting him up for infection.

After several trips to the emergency room for emergency catheterization to release urine, and a painful distressing week for Jenny and her son, he finally began to mend. Jenny realized her doctor had given her bad advice.

Jenny went online where she quickly connected with other mothers of intact boys, eager to share the intact care information so commonly lacking among American doctors.

What did Jenny find out?

* Only clean what is seen, and never retract. The foreskin is there for a reason - to protect the still developing glans, and to keep it clean and healthy. It is supposed to be attached to the glans during infancy and childhood.

* Forced premature retraction is epidemic among American healthcare workers, including pediatricians, and nurses, even doctors and nurses in the maternity ward. It is also epidemic among day care workers, babysitters, and well-meaning but misinformed aunties and grannies.

* Parents of intact boys must remain vigilant during the diaper years to prevent another person from prematurely retracting their son's foreskin. Parents must proactively warn doctors and nurses at every well baby visit that their son's foreskin is not to be retracted. It can happen in an instant, and then the damage is done. Parents should be direct and firm. If necessary, they may even threaten legal action if their wishes are not respected.

* If a doctor or health care worker prematurely retracts your child, consider reporting them to your state medical society, supplying all the details.

Additional Information


Forced Retraction: Now What?

Only Clean What is Seen: Reversing the Epidemic of Forced Retraction

Medical Testing: Do Not Retract

Forced Retraction: Ask the Experts

Doctors Opposing Circumcision - Warning to Parents: Foreskin Retraction of Intact Boys - an epidemic

Doctors Opposing Circumcision - Development of Retractile Foreskin

Only Clean What is Seen (pdf)


The Functions of the Foreskin: Purposes of the Prepuce

The Phony Phimosis Diagnosis

Protect Your Intact Son

National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers Publication on care of the intact penis (pdf).

Raising Intact Sons

Basic Care of the Intact Child

Painful Urination During Prepuce Separation

Questions Regarding Normal Separation of the Prepuce

How the Foreskin Protects Against UTI

Circumcision Information Resource Page (CIRP) libray - Penile hygiene for intact males

*Note: You may wish to maintain a Diaper-On policy at check-ups to prevent this from happening. Unless there is a suspected problem, there is no reason your physician or nurse needs to remove your son's diaper. Simply state that you will be keeping it on - he can be weighed and checked with a clean diaper on, without removing it. If you'd like to learn more on how to examine your baby yourself, see the excellent book, Take Charge of Your Child's Health.

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