Postpartum - Mama and Baby

It’s Not Your Foreskin… So Don’t Touch It

January 3, 2011

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Circumcision has become a well known practice throughout the world. And sadly it has become an epidemic. It wasn’t until recently when the benefits of leaving your son intact have started to emerge. We were blinded by what the qualified doctors and pediatricians would tell us is right for our sons instead of listening to our own instincts and leaving them whole.

When I had my son four years ago I had made up my mind on keeping him whole, not because my husband was a rarity and was uncircumcised himself. But because I did not think there was anything wrong with him, so he had no need for surgery. I faintly remember a nurse who was attending my bedside ask if I wanted my son circumcised. When I told her no, she had the nerve to ask if I knew the risks of not circumcising him. Now back then I was not an activist. I was freshly married eleven months earlier, and before that I was in high school. I spent my pregnancy watching reality T.V. shows about pregnancy and birth. I was not prepared. So when I was asked if I knew the risks, me being a quiet spoken women said no, and she started to list off the things that could go wrong. Now if I was in that position today, I would have spoken up and asked her if she knew the risks of circumcision.

About a year later my son developed an infection and his penis was red and swollen. We took him to urgent care and the only thing the doctor would tell us is that he had phimosis. (Phimosis is when you cannot pull the foreskin back, or the foreskin gets stuck behind the glands.) You could tell he was not comfortable with the uncircumcised penis and with that also uneducated about it. He immediately tried to pull my son’s foreskin back and made the “diagnosis.” I still was not up to speed with the care of an uncircumcised child and I let him. He wanted to circumcise him on the spot. We declined and took our son home and did some research. (I think that is what started my activism.) This is when I learned that you are not supposed to pull the foreskin back as it may actually damage the penis. The nurse at the hospital told me to clean under the foreskin frequently. I am glad I was lazy on that part. I had only tried once and saw it was not pleasant for my son so I stopped. Then I researched how to cure phimosis. As it turns out two thirds of the circumcisions for phimosis are unnecessary because a child’s foreskin sometimes won’t retract well into the teenage years.

I found the risks of circumcision really out weigh the benefits. Some risks include: trauma to the child (sugar water does not ease the pain), the surgeon nicking an artery, excessive bleeding, swelling, or even in some cases the entire penis is amputated.

It makes me sad to see poor boys being put through this. There is no reasoning behind it. It’s not our foreskin so we should not touch it. If a grown man wants to be circumcised let him. Don’t take away his choice when he is an infant. There is good news to this though. Since more and more parents are not willing to cut a perfectly healthy baby, the rate of circumcision is on the decline. However, I could never be happy until that rate is at 0% of infants.

All I can say is be sure to educate yourself before you perform a life altering surgery on a perfectly healthy child.

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We are mamas and midwives who decided to do birth differently– and bring others along with us. We are radical, fun to work with, and great at (lovingly) calling people on their bullshit to help move us all towards a new more beautiful world. With 12 children and over two decades of midwifery between us, we’ve learned a thing or two along the way, and Indie Birth is our space to share it all with you.

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