I didn't know what circumcision was when I consented to have my three sons circumcised. My doctor had told me the surgery was a necessary health measure, that it didn't hurt, and that it only took a moment to perform-- like cutting the umbilical cord, I thought. I certainly wasn't prepared when, in nursing school several years later, I saw the surgery for the first time.
We students filed into the newborn nursery to find a baby strapped spread-eagle to a plastic board on a counter top across the room. He was struggling against his restraints-- tugging, whimpering, and then crying helplessly. No one was tending the infant, but when I asked my instructor if I could comfort him, she said, 'Wait till the doctor gets here.' I wondered how a teacher of the healing arts could watch someone suffer and not offer assistance. I wondered about the doctor's power which could intimidate others from following protective instincts. When he did arrive, I immediately asked if I could help the baby. He told me to put my finger into the baby's mouth; I did, and the baby sucked. I stroked his little head and spoke softly to him. He began to relax, and was momentarily quiet.
The silence was soon broken by a piercing scream-- the baby's reaction to having his foreskin pinched and crushed as the doctor attatched the clamp to his penis. The shriek intensified when the doctor inserted an instrument between the foreskin and the glans (head of the penis), tearing the two structures apart. (They are normally attached to each other during infancy so the foreskin can protect the sensitive glans from urine and feces.)
The baby started shaking his head back and forth-- the only part of his body free to move-- as the doctor used another clamp to crush the foreskin lengthwise, when he then cut. This made the opening in the foreskin large enough to insert a circumcision instrument, the device used to protect the glans from being severed during the surgery.
The baby began to gasp and choke, breathless from his shrill continuous screams. How could anyone say that circumcision is painless when the suffering is so obvious? My bottom lip began to quiver, tears filled my eyes and spilled over. I found my own sobs difficult to contain. How much longer could this go on?
During the next stage of the surgery, the doctor crushed the foreskin against the circumcision instrument and then, finally, amputated it. The baby was limp, exhuasted, spent.
I had not been prepared, nothing could have prepared me, for this experience. To see part of this baby's penis being cut off-- without an anesthetic-- was devistating. But even more shocking was the doctor's comment, barely audible several octaves below the piercing screams of the baby, 'There is no medical reason for doing this.' I couldn't believe my ears, my knees became weak, and I felt sick to my stomach. I couldn't believe that medical professionals, dedicated to helping and healing, could inflict such pain and anguish on innocent babies unnecessarily.
What had I allowed my own babies to endure? And why?
The course of my life was changed on that day in 1979. I have now dedicated my life to bringing and end to this horrendous practice."