I was 19 when I had my son. This was in 1991, and being a single young mom, I really didn’t know too much about circumcision. Two days after he was born, the nurse came into my hospital room and informed me it was time for his circumcision and gave me these papers to sign. I handed him over. He came back circumcised about two hours later.
I didn’t have a voice at the time — I didn’t know there was any other option or what steps to take. They don’t tell you about it as if you have a choice. They didn’t sit down and talk to me about circumcision — “This is what it does, and this is what it don’t do. It’s not that you have to do it or it’s something you must do.” Instead they make you feel like it’s something that needs to be done, just a routine thing you have to sign off on for your child’s health.
I wish I had known because, looking back, I never would have done it.
My baby’s penis was all bandaged up, and before we left they taught me how to keep it clean and everything. Within six weeks, the bandages started coming off, and I noticed it wasn’t a clean cut all the way around his penis. The wound had not healed evenly. When he was around 7, this became an issue. One night he got up to use the bathroom and complained that his penis hurt. I couldn’t understand what was causing it, and I took him to the doctor. They agreed that during the circumcision, the doctor had not made a clean cut and that the skin had grown back together. As he grew older, it was pulling on the scar and was only going to become more uncomfortable.
So at 7 years of age, my baby boy had to go back into surgery and get this done all over again. How does that happen? How do you comfort a child who has to go through that — not once, but twice? That was a traumatic experience for him. My son is 32 now, and it’s not like he doesn’t remember. He’s told me, “I remember when I had to go back into the hospital to get that done, and I was young and I cried because it hurt so bad.”
Because of what my son went through and what I now know, I talk to people about it if they’re having a boy. In my family, it’s an open conversation that we have amongst ourselves. We have a lot of boys in our family, including my daughter’s son, who is now a teenager, and she chose not to have him circumcised. We have some new family members about to be here in the next couple of months and it’s come up in conversation a few times.
I have a niece right now who’s pregnant with a little boy. I’m not sure what she’s decided to do. For her and the others coming up, as aunties and moms we want them to have their own voice — something I didn’t have when I had my son. But we want to also let them know what circumcision is. They need to know that infant circumcision is not medically necessary. Everybody say it’s cleaner, but it’s not “cleaner.” So these are things we talk about.
I work part time in the film industry and I would love to be more involved in telling these stories because it’s happened to me. I know what young men and families go through when it comes to that.
It’s all about your voice. That’s the main thing. Don’t let anybody else tell you what you need to do.