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.

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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.

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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.


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Intact Advocacy Bracelets

Advocacy Bracelets

All bracelets and soft baby bands can now be found with free shipping at Etsy

Educational Info Graphics

A collection of informative graphics that you are welcome to use in your advocacy and education.

"There is not one single medical reason to circumcise a baby." -Dr. Christiane Northrup

WHY put our son through excruciating pain in his first days in our arms, for an unnecessary surgery that can result in severe side effects, including death, all to alter his penis in such a way that he will have less protection in childhood, and experience less pleasure as an adult?

Be his voice when he has none.

Circumcision of multiples, equals multiple mistakes. -Dr. Elizabeth Noble

We wouldn't cut their babies... why cut ours?

I support: equal rights, children's rights, human rights.

A brief history of circumcision in physician's own words:

"It is virtually impossible to witness infant genital cutting and not recognize this act as a form of sexual assault." -Danelle Frisbie
Facebook Friendly Version:

Saint Patrick's Advocacy Tees from Made By Momma

Smegma: from the Latin and Greek words for SOAP: Skin cells, oils and natural lubrication - something that all women and all men normally produce that is healthy and clean.
Red Foreskin is not an emergency... What to do instead.

"It's best for the family..."
It is not the 'family penis.'

 Onesie and Baby Tee from Made By Momma

 Informational cards available at:

2 versions (above/below)

More of Nicole's story originally at:

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