Misled Regret: The Unwanted Circumcision of My Son During Hypospadias Repair

By Ashley Focht © 2014

I was 26 when I gave birth to my first son. As any first time mom, I was worried and researching things for my baby's sake. I knew that I would breastfeed, and I was weary about vaccinations, but felt backed into a corner because I knew he would go to public school and I was not sure how to maneuver exemptions. Prior to my son's birth, circumcision was brought up once and both his father and I said yes, of course we will circumcise - that is just what you do, after all.

At birth our son had a few issues, but nothing major and the pending circumcision surgery was far from my mind. The pediatrician on call said our son may have hypospadias (where the urethra is not on the head of the penis) and that he would require surgical correction as a result. The next day, my OB came in and said he wasn't entirely positive if this was the case, but that we should ask yet another pediatrician about it. He then added that if we did not get a definitive diagnosis he could still perform the circumcision within 30 days from my son's birth. [Editor's note: If hypospadias is suspected at birth, circumcision will not be immediately performed because the assumption in many U.S. hospitals is that it will be done when corrective surgery under anesthesia is done, and that the foreskin will be used in the hypo/chordee repair.]

We had a new pediatrician the next day, who gave the same diagnosis. We went home and were told to call a urologist around 4-6 months. From the time we were home to the first appointment with the urologist, my son had no complications. He did have a short foreskin, and as he grew we were able to see how the urethra was not at the head of the penis, but not far off from its normal location. We could also see a curve to his penis. The urologist confirmed that he also had chordee. He told us that both aspects of our son's penis could be corrected with the use of his foreskin. The surgery was scheduled for 2 months out.

The night before surgery, he came down with his first illness and the appointment had to be cancelled. Around this time I became friends with two intactivists, each with an intact son. As we became friends and talked more, my husband and I questioned whether the surgery, and ultimately the circumcision that came with it, were necessary. We finally researched and felt so sick knowing that we were ready and willing to do this to our son. But what about his condition?

The urologist drilled it into our heads that he would not only have trouble urinating, but also could see complications in fertility. We wanted what was best for our son. Our pediatrician told us we should go ahead with it, and a second consult with the urologist gave me a false hope that he would try to not use our son's foreskin in reconstruction. He assured us that if it wasn't necessary to circumcise and use the foreskin for the hypospadias and chordee correction, he would tell us, but that our son's penile curvature was to such a degree that he always recommended surgical correction. We felt backed into a corner. Would our son hate us if we had the surgery? Would he hate us if we didn't? 

We scheduled again.

We backed out.

We scheduled a third time with much pressure in both directions all around us...

I really went into it thinking that I had expressed to the doctor how badly I did not want him circumcised, and I really believed our son would come out of everything with, at the very least, a repaired foreskin. Surely this physician would honor our wishes for our son as we'd expressed them all along.

The day came, and I held my son as they gave him medicine to calm him down. I watched as a nurse carried his limp body back into the OR.

I waited for 3 hours.

And then I finally saw him -- sweaty and sleeping, tubes and IVs still attached. I held him and cried as the doctor told me there wasn't enough foreskin to save and he had to be circumcised, but that everything "went great."

In that moment I hated myself. I wanted to take it all back. Deep down I knew I was making the wrong decision, and I still made it. He was bandaged up and had to have a tube coming out of his new urethra for a few days. Everything was covered, so the severity of it had not hit us just yet. We took our son back to get the bandages removed and make sure everything was healing well. When we returned home and did the first diaper change we really saw it...

We both cried. We had seen our son normal and intact for 18 months, and now we saw this.

It never got easier. Every single diaper change is a kick in the stomach -- a reminder of how I didn't stand up for my son, how I let everyone else make a decision that I knew in my gut was the wrong one. I just hope that when the time comes he will understand that his Dad and I only wanted what was best for him, that we went into thinking that the good of the surgery would outweigh the possible evil. If nothing else, I just hope he remembers how much we love him.


Read more from parents who have regretfully had one or more son circumcised, and are keeping future sons intact at: http://www.drmomma.org/2010/05/i-circumcised-my-son-healing-from.html


  1. Oh, mama. That is a really hard, not to mention, uncommon, situation. It is clear in this writing how much you deliberated and agonized over his surgery, and as you said, you made it known to his urologist you didn't want him circumcised. This is not a failing on your part. You and your husband went beyond due diligence and made the best decision you knew to. I hope someday you can forgive yourselves.

  2. I am so, so sorry this happened to you and am in tears reading your story. I hate that we can't even trust doctors to give us the advice we need when we are vulnerable and scared. Thank you for speaking out--I know you will save other babies, and parents, from the pain of circumcision. You are so brave.


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