Circumcision: My Story

By Danielle LeRoy © 2012

My two sons walking along the ocean's edge.

I feel like I have to tell my story.

Not because I think I am some super human that needs to be studied. Because I am just like every other mother out there. Nothing makes me special or different. I found out I was pregnant when I was 21 years old. I went to bed at night dreaming about pink dresses and barbie dolls. I had the *perfect* little girl name picked out. I dreamed all about how a little girl would look up to me and I would do all these fun girl things with her. I also dreamed of breastfeeding and baby wearing. I would let her run around naked in the summer sun. I would let her sleep in my bed. She and I would wake up to the warm sun on our faces!

January 2007 I practically danced into my ultrasound. Telling the tech that I JUST KNEW my baby was a little girl! I laid down, she squirted that cold gel onto my belly. The tech wasn't overly nice, I was freshly 22 years old and single. No family, few friends. I was in the ultrasound alone. It didn't bother me but it seemed to bother her.

She smirked and asked me if I had any boy names picked out. "Nope." "Well you are having a boy so you will need to pick a boy name." She said indignantly. I am pretty sure I was in shock. I just kept thinking, what in the heck am I going to do with a little boy? Was she sure? This baby is a *gasp* boy?

I went to work after the ultrasound and told all my co workers that it was a boy. Everyone laughed about me thinking it was a girl. We joked that he might have to wear a dress, or at least some pink! Then someone, and I am not sure who, asked if I would circumcise him. I said, "I don't know. Maybe not. I mean. I don't know." I remember this conversation so clearly. It was over five years ago but it could've been yesterday in my mind. I remember what I was wearing and where in my work place I was standing. I don't remember who asked me, but I remember their words.

As soon as I said I might not do it, everyone chimed in. "You have to snip the tip!" "It is cleaner, you don't want them to get an infection." "Foreskin is so gross...who likes turtlenecks?!" None of these really phased me. But then... "You have to have him cut, you don't want him to be the only guy in gym class with a covered wagon." First of all...that is hilarious. Covered wagon? Ha! I busted out laughing! Covered wagon! Then I got to thinking about my own gym classes in high school. Ugh. I was bigger than most girls in every way. Taller, bustier, bigger feet. It was terrible. Going into those locker rooms and slipping into gym clothes as fast as my over-sized body could move. Torture. In fact I stopped going to gym class in the 10th grade and had to take it again my senior year. I didn't know anything about having a son or a penis, but I did know about the horrors of the locker room. No way was my son going to go through that!

A month or so later I moved 1,000 miles away with a friend. Circumcision didn't really come to mind again. One OB visit close to my due date I asked the doctor about his opinion on circumcision. I remember this very clearly also. "Well, it is cleaner. I would have it done if I were you." Something inside of me wilted. I remember thinking, "Well, if he says I should do it then, I have to do it." This was before Facebook -- social networking was limited to Myspace and even that was pretty basic. I only knew how to shop online, I never used the internet to do research. In fact, when I was in high school and college we used real books to do research. I took a "Childbirth Class" and circumcision was never once mentioned. Car seats were. The epidural was. There was one day on breastfeeding. That class was a joke. I was the only one there as a single parent, so no one talked to me. It was so awkward.

June 2007 my beautiful boy was born. 1:39pm. 9lbs 12oz. I turned into a mother in that exact moment. He had to go to the NICU because he had gotten stuck. I tried to get out of the bed to follow him, I hadn't even delivered the placenta yet! I cried and some nurse told me to relax. Please, I hadn't even touched my son yet... I just birthed all alone and I wanted my baby! I was up and walking in 45 minutes. I paced outside that NICU waiting to be let in. I needed my baby in my arms. I needed him to hear my voice and smell me. I knew he needed my milk.

I was finally let in, but I was not allowed to hold him just yet. I couldn't nurse him either. They wanted to bathe him first. I was all alone, I didn't know I could refuse. 4:45pm that night I finally got to hold my baby. I was so scared, I had never held a newborn before. But I knew that he was mine and I was his. I held him for about 30 minutes before they made me leave him in the NICU. I was told to eat and relax, he needed more tests, and NO, he could not breastfeed yet. He was so big they thought he had high blood sugar (he didn't). I was up all night walking back and forth to the nursery, begging for my baby. At 2am the nurse promised me that if I went to sleep until 6am, I could have him in my room for the whole day. But this story isn't about my birth or birth experience so I won't go further into my feelings about the way we were treated while we were there.

At 6am I sat straight out of bed and rang for the nurse. I started crying happy tears, I could finally have my baby all to myself! I had no family and no friends around so no one would bother us - just me and my baby all alone, finally. They brought him into me and I scooped him up and put him inside my hospital gown. He stayed there until 1:30pm. Then they came in to get him to be circumcised. Everything inside of me said no. I started crying. I felt like I had fought so hard to get him here and now they wanted to take him away again. I told the nurse I didn't really want to let him go. She said it is better if it is done now because he won't feel it. She told me that most babies don't even cry. She said she wouldn't give him a pacifier, she would just put some sugar water on her finger tip, and it would be over in just minutes. She calmed me down enough to take him, and I cried when he left the room. I wrote in my journal about how awful this whole thing was, and nothing like I wanted it to be.

The nurse brought my son back to me. He was asleep. She said, "He did great." And added that he never even cried and that it was probably harder on me than it was on him. He slept all day and nursed just one time.

The next day we went home. He slept all day again and nursed only once. But he grew to be a strong boy and turned 5 years old this June.  He was exclusively breastfed until he was 7 months old and weaned at almost 14 months.

Fast forward to 2010. I was pregnant again and having another boy! I was ecstatic! I loved having a son! I loved everything boy and was SO glad that my first born was a boy! There was a lot going on during my second pregnancy. We became homeless when I was 20 weeks pregnant. I was single again. I needed to move back to my home state and figure things out. Get back on my feet. There was A LOT on my mind, and circumcision was never one of those things. I just assumed I would have it done. After all, I didn't want him to look different than his brother. I think I actually said that to someone too.

I did have friends with intact children, and it never bothered me. I never thought twice about it. In fact, no one ever said anything to me about it at all. All penises are different, whatever. No biggie.

My second son was born in June 2010. 4:55pm 8lbs. 11oz! He was beautiful and perfect just like his big brother. We were going through some trying times as a family but I was so glad to have this little boy! I stood up for myself a little more with this birth. I had a c-section (again, this story is not about my birth so I won't complain here) but he never left the OR, and as soon as I was wheeled out of the OR I had them put him skin to skin on my breast. He nursed right away! I tucked him into my hospital gown and thanked God that we were finally together.

I don't remember him being taken to be circumcised, nor do I remember signing any consent form for circumcision. His pediatrician (who was also my pediatrician) came in when he was two days old and while looking him over she said, "Oh, you've had him circumcised." All I could say was, "Yeah."

Five days postpartum I was readmitted to the hospital with necrotizing faciitis. I refused to leave my son and I needed emergency surgery. The nurses told me he could stay, but I had to have a non-patient adult with me at all times. Also, if he was circumcised, he could not be skin on skin with me. I didn't understand what his penis had to do with anything. I wouldn't learn until later this was because we could not have two open surgical wound sites (mine and his) coming into contact with one another.

I was in the hospital for two weeks. That was a lot of time to hang out with my friends who took turns staying in the hospital with us all day and all night. It was also a lot of time I spent on Facebook. I stumbled across a link to Peaceful Parenting on Facebook and then to I saw a lot of things on this site that I practiced. Cosleeping, babywearing, extended rear facing, breastfeeding, home and unschooling and... circumcision? Wait, what?!

I spent one full night reading everything on circumcision at, and then I left this site and went onto other pages. I looked at the American Academy of Pediatrics. The World Health Organization. The CDC. No one recommended routine infant circumcision. I cried and I cried. I laid in the hospital bed and I wept. I kept telling my recently circumcised son how sorry I was.

What had I done? Why had no one told me? How did I not know? Why didn't I find this out sooner? I researched car seats for MONTHS - why did I never look into circumcision? I flashed back to that nurse in 2007 who took my first son to be circumcised. SHE LIED TO ME! That was my first thought. My son did cry! He was hurt! He did not sleep through it - he shut down from the pain and the trauma of being cut. It never should've been done. Then I thought back to the doctor, a man with dark hair and very hairy arms. He wore the ugliest green scrub top. He lied to me! It is NOT cleaner. He should not have recommended it! Then my coworkers who joked about the "big snip." Did they lie to me too? Or were they like me and just didn't know?

Not only was I over coming this massive infection that almost killed me, but now, because my son had an open wound, I could not undress him and slip him into my shirt. I did not get to feel his soft warm body on my breast. I needed that comfort - I needed to feel his little body rise and fall on mine. But he had a wound too. I kept him dressed. I was careful when I changed him. We left the hospital when he was two weeks old, both of us with healing wounds.

A few months after I learned the truth about circumcision, I started asking people about it. A LOT of my friends said things like, "It is a personal choice for parents to make." I didn't agree with that but I didn't know how to tell them this. How do you just tell people that they are wrong? A month or so later I decided that my friends were good people and they just didn't know the truth or facts about circumcision. I mean, I am a great mother... I do my best. I love both of my children with every fiber of my being. I make educated decisions. I never purposefully hurt them. Sure, it was horrible when I found out the truth of what I put my sons through, but I am glad that I know now so that I can make sure that no future sons will go through that. Certainly my friends will want to know the truth too! I made it my job to tell people the truth about circumcision.

Wasn't I surprised when I discovered that a lot of people do not want to know the truth. Babies are dying every week, here in the United States, from circumcision. How could people get angry and defensive about this fact? I lost friends. I was called names. Then one day someone called me a name I had never heard before: Intactivist. It felt so good.

None of my new 'intactivist' friends called me names or made me feel bad about circumcising my boys. In fact, a few of them called me brave for admitting that I was wrong. It took a while, but I do feel brave now. I am not afraid to talk to people about circumcision. I am not afraid to save babies. I post links on my personal Facebook profile and I make them public. I send messages to people I know are expecting. I send intact info packs of materials. I card Target and Walmart. I wear a tshirt that says, "If men were meant to have foreskin, they would be born with it!" I serve as Director of my state's Intact Chapter. I can turn a conversation with a stranger to the subject of circumcision in no time!

One day I will apologize to my boys. My oldest has no foreskin at all and has the brown scar line from his circumcision. When the time comes, if he wants to do so, I will offer to support him in restoration. My youngest does have foreskin left and his glans is covered completely. I am thankful for that, at least he still benefits from having part of his foreskin remaining. I know they will forgive me because they are so kind and compassionate. They will know that I never meant to hurt them. I cried a few times writing these heart is still so heavy. I sometimes look at pictures of the boys when they were first born. Being propped up by a nurse, their wet little bodies and swollen faces... and their intact penises. That is when I am most sorry. That is when I want to turn back the clock and tell myself to go with my gut and that if it feels wrong it IS wrong. I speak out against routine infant circumcision because the pain and remorse I felt when I found out the truth cut me so deeply that I cannot let anyone else feel like like this. Please, research circumcision.



  1. Thanks for sharing your heartfelt story. I struggle with the same remorse. I have five sons. The youngest is now 22. I had no way of researching circumcision back then. I believed it was cleaner and would make them feel more normal since most boys had it done back then. Their dad was circumcised. If I could turn back time and undo it I would. I too am very sorry, but pleased to say that my two baby grandsons are intact. That gives me comfort.

  2. Yes, thank you for sharing! You are brave to admit you were wrong, especially since it does seem so hard for many women to do.

    "Wasn't I surprised when I discovered that a lot of people do not want to know the truth."

    You said a mouthful right there. Shocked the heck out of me, that's for sure, and it's why I'm not nice about my intactivism with those types of people.

  3. roger desmoulins9/16/2012 2:30 PM

    @LeRoy: "I don't remember him being taken to be circumcised, nor do I remember signing any consent form for circumcision. His pediatrician (who was also my pediatrician) came in when he was two days old and while looking him over she said, "Oh, you've had him circumcised." All I could say was, "Yeah.""

    What you describe in the quoted paragraph was unethical medicine, and I am astounded that it took place as recently as 2010. Apparently, there are American maternity wards where RIC for boys is still the default. The decision to circumcise should be made before birth, and should be communicated in paperwork filled out before the mother checks into the hospital. This is not a decision that mothers should make after giving birth, and that is triply true after a c section. Childbirth and abdominal surgery can cloud a mother's judgement.

    @Haskins: there was absolutely no support in print for leaving American boys intact before 1980. And you had to be pretty deep into progressive childrearing and natural childbirth to know that intact was an option before the internet got up and running.

    Most American fathers have been strongly biased towards circumcision because they themselves are circumcised. In fact, the slice of America most resistant to intactivism is str8 men. Nearly all obgyns are str8 men, hence the high USA circ rate. Apparently, str8 men are often guilty of generalising from a sample size of one.

    Disclosure: I am lifelong str8, and intact.

  4. my son was circumcised the same way your first son was. it was done vary tight and has a brown ring around it about half way down his shaft. or about 1 1/2 inches from the head. if i new what they all did i would have neaver agread to have him circumcised.i am so sorry i did it to him. hop he will forgive me when he get older.


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