A Nursing Student is Introduced to Circumcision

by: Darlene Owen

I wouldn’t say that I’m fanatical about it or anything, but I do have a very strong opinion about it, and am completely against it. I strongly believe in genital integrity for both, females and males.

I’m talking about circumcision.

I had never given it much thought before, until as a nursing student I actually saw a circumcision performed on a two day old, male infant. After witnessing the procedure, I began to question this very unnecessary procedure, and tried to reason what I can only describe as torture that was carried out on that innocent little baby who had no voice, no one to help him.

Witnessing that circumcision led me to educate myself as much as I could on the topic, and question a lot of the myths surrounding circumcision, and discover the actual truths.

I grew up like everyone else with the very wrong mis-conception that circumcisions were “no big deal”, and were “cleaner, healthier” etc.

I was in my second year of nursing and looking forward to my clinical rotation in Labour and Delivery since it was the area I was most interested in, and knew most likely would be the career path I would take in nursing.

It was my second day on the unit, when the nurse I was following and observing, informed me that I would be helping her to assist a doctor that morning with a circumcision.

My nurse and I set up for the procedure and talked about what was to be involved. My nurse made it sound as though it was a very minor procedure and quite simple really.

I went with the nurse to the mom’s room that was having her son circumcised that morning. The nurse asked the infants’ parents if they had any questions, both parents simply replied, “no”. If only they knew what their poor little baby was in for.

The nurse asked the parents if they wished to be present during the circumcision and watch the procedure performed. Neither parent was interested, so we then headed with the baby in her arms to the “procedure room”, which was simply… the nursery.

The nurse unswaddled the calm, sleeping baby, and proceeded to undress him. The baby began to fuss a little since it was a little cold in the room, and I’m sure he didn’t appreciate being unwrapped and removed from his warm, cozy blankets.

The nurse then layed the now naked infant down on a hard plastic body board and strapped down his arms and legs. The baby was crying very hard now, trying to fight having his arms and legs strapped down in such a straight unnatural position for a newborn.

The doctor then walked in, and was very friendly when the nurse introduced me and informed him that I was a nursing student who was joining them that morning to observe. While the doctor was talking to me, he seemed impervious to the now screaming infant. I wasn’t even really hearing the doctor at that point, all I kept thinking was, ‘Someone please unstrap that poor little guy, and pick him up and comfort him already.’ The doctor saw my obvious distress and smiled and said, “Oh, don’t worry about him, he just doesn’t like being on the board, he’s in no real distress.” ‘No real distress’? Really? This tiny little newborn was screaming and no one was responding to his cries. He was literally being ignored. I was not impressed so far.

The doctor then draped the infant in surgical drapes which covered his abdomen and legs but exposed his penis. The doctor using a swab, rubbed a solution on the infants’ penis explaining what the solution was, and that it works to cause an erection on the infant so that he can grasp his penis easier.

The doctor then grabbed the infants now erect penis with forceps and proceeded to force a sharp instrument into the opening of the penis. The infant was of course screaming the most horrid cry I have ever heard come from an infant. The nurse was proceeding to give him sugar water, which she claimed “helped soothe the baby”. This little guy seemed as though he could care less and was choking and gagging on the liquid. He just kept screaming. At times his scream didn’t even come out, he was screaming so hard. I felt weak in the knees and had to fight very hard to hold back the tears forming in my eyes.

The doctor had forced the sharp scissor-like instrument into the opening of the baby’s penis and was now forcing it open to tear away the foreskin from the glans of the penis. He then grasped the skin with another type of forcep and proceeded to cut at the foreskin. The doctor was talking away and explaining each step, I wasn’t even listening. I could not believe the unbelievable distress this baby was in, and no one seemed to care really. I then asked the doctor if he had used any freezing or anything. He simply replied, “No, it’s too risky to use on little guys like this.” WHAT? So, basically this doctor was hacking skin off of this poor little infants’ most sensitive organ, and the infant was experiencing every cut? I remember feeling so disgusted and said to the doctor, “This is barbaric.” The doctor said, “Well, that’s your opinion, but some parents prefer their boys be cut.” All I could think of was, ‘Why? Who really cares?’

When the doctor was finished the procedure, the nurse took the now exhausted infant and applied Vaseline and gauze to the infants’ very raw, bleeding penis. The infant was no longer crying, but had such a look of shock on his little face. He had just experienced the most horrific pain he will probably ever experience in his entire life.

I was at a loss for words.

The truth about circumcision is that it is not medically necessary.

It is not cleaner.

Studies have proven again and again, that it has no direct relation on cancer etc. as was once thought.

It is also a very painful procedure. The baby does feel it, experience it.

There have been studies that demonstrate actual MRI changes within an infants brain after a circumcision has been performed.

As for those who claim “it looks better”, my response is, “Really? Based on who’s decision?” A penis with a foreskin is how the penis is supposed to look. The foreskin has a function, it providess protection of the very sensitive glans (head) of the penis, and it provides ease during intercourse. During intercourse, the penis moves within its foreskin, preventing rubbing or friction of the vagina, which makes intercourse far more pleasurable for both the man and woman.

Many people will respond in outrage over female circumcision, yet still consider circumcision of males ‘the norm’.

Many parents aren’t properly informed of the procedure. It IS a very serious procedure with very many real risks involved. In my experience as a post partum nurse, many parents who were led to believe it was a ‘minor’ procedure and observed their sons’ circumcision, were sickened just as I was at the actual pain and distress it caused their infant. I have had many patients who, after witnessing their first son’s circumcision, decided immediately that they would not get any other boys they may have circumcised. Many parents told me that they wished they had known just how painful it would be for their son, that they would not have even considered it if they had known what is actually involved.

As for the argument that many men want their son to look like them, my answer is, Why? It is a stupid argument. Why can’t parents simply teach their son that their son’s penis is ‘normal and healthy’, that ‘daddy had his normal, healthy functioning skin of his penis removed surgically, unnecessarily’. I also always say to those people, “Really? Well, watch an actual circumcision and see if you still feel that way afterwards.” I have yet to see any parent watch a video, or view an actual circumcision procedure, who is not completely against the idea afterwards.

An uncircumcised penis is very easy to keep clean. There is no special care required. The saying goes, “Clean only what is seen”.

As for worrying about the son’s foreskin not retracting, and needing a circumcision later in life. That actually only occurs in a very, very small number of males. However, even if the male does need the surgery later in life, he will be put to sleep for the procedure and will not feel it. He will also be managed comfortably with pain medication. A newborn doesn’t have any of those benefits. A newborn is awake for it, will feel it, and doesn’t receive any pain medication.

Ask any grown male if he’d get his penis circumcised while awake, with no freezing, and I guarantee you’d hear a very loud resounding “NO!” Yet, many men will put their newborn son through it. Doesn’t make much sense does it?

I realize that at one time it was considered the norm. Now however, with all of the education about it, I can not understand why parents still proceed to put their tiny little newborn son through such a horrific experience.

I am proud to say that I am an intactivist, and the proud mom of two gorgeous, healthy, intact boys.

Original article can be found here.