Choosing to Leave My Second Son Intact, Despite the Intactivists

January 7th, 2013 by Dionna | 23 Comments
Posted in Circumcision/Intactivism, Compassionate Advocacy, Guest Posts, Just for Fun/Miscellaneous, natural parenting, Pregnancy and Birth

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As a passionate advocate for children, it is hard for me to see certain parenting practices flourish. It is my belief, though, that every parent is working with the tools they have at the moment. Our compassion and kind attempts to share information, not our criticism and judgment, will usually do more to change a person’s mind and heart.
In today’s guest post, my friend Kym shares a story that illustrates the above. Thankfully, despite the treatment she received from certain parents who identify as intactivists, Kym chose to educate herself about circumcision and keep her second son intact. Please consider the feelings of others when you speak out. Your words can alienate or educate. Choose them wisely.
You can read more about Kym at the end of the post. If you feel so moved, please leave a comment of support here or at Kym’s site.

_________________________

The day after my son was born, I signed the release papers to have him circumcised. Yep, I hear the gasps of horror. But it happened. He was circumcised a day after he was born.

My son was circumcised for two reasons:

  1. His dad wanted it done; and
  2. I didn’t do much research.

My train of thought was “Well, I’m not a boy, I don’t have a penis, so I don’t know enough to make a choice about it. I’ll leave it up to his daddy.”

I know better now, and so does my husband. I know enough now to:

    1. Be thankful my son made it through the procedure alive; and
    2. Never make the decision to circumcise another child of mine.

I recently had another son, and we chose not to circumcise him. Circumcision will be his choice, one he can make when he’s an adult and fully understands the consequences.

I was called an abuser, a mutilator.

But it took me awhile to know better, to learn better. Part of it was because even before my oldest son was circumcised, I had this nagging momma instinct telling me it was wrong, and I ignored it. I didn’t want to admit that one of the first decisions I made as a mother was wrong. What mother wants to admit that?!

The other reason, though, that it took me awhile to change my mind about circumcision was how I was treated by many who opposed circumcision when they found out I had a circumcised son. I remember one night especially well. I had asked for some information on a Facebook page. I mentioned our first son had been circumcised and said I wasn’t sure what to do if we had another son. I asked to be pointed to research and resources to help me make a decision.

I was called an “abuser,” a “mutilator.” One poster said she was “praying I didn’t have any other children since I obviously didn’t know how to care for the one I had.” People asked me, “Why do you even need to research? It’s sick to do it in the first place.” I think my question only got about twenty responses, and the majority of them were along those lines. Several people did point me toward helpful resources, for which I was thankful. I deleted my post and unliked the page pretty quickly; embarrassed, hurt, and extremely turned off by the term “intactivist.”

They were my first encounter with the “intactivist” movement, and they left a very sour taste in my mouth.

After looking at some of the website links I had been given, I quickly made the choice that any future sons would not be circumcised. I also made the decision to never associate with those who claimed to be “intactivists.” Looking back, I realize it was unfair of me to judge a very large movement by a few people, but they were my first encounter with the movement, and they left a very sour taste in my mouth.

I like to think of myself as very open-minded. I have friends from all walks of life, and I enjoy discussing various viewpoints with friends. I prefer to do this in person, as words often get jumbled via the internet, but I have seen many examples of respectful disagreements on forums and even on Facebook. I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if I had not kept an open mind after having been treated that way. What if the harsh words of those mothers had influenced me to stop looking at the subject any further? Could it have kept me from wanting to find out more about circumcision? I don’t know, but I have a feeling it would not have been a positive outcome.

“You can say anything you want, it’s all in how you say it.” A Google search pulls up about a million different versions of this saying, but it all means the same thing:

Word choice is important. It’s important because how you say something can either make people want to continue to listen to you, or turn them off completely.

Regardless of the subject, the reaction to how you choose to present your viewpoint or opinion or even a factual piece of information about a subject depends greatly on your method. Everyone has experienced this in some form or another. Whether the topic is something serious like religion or parenting, or something trivial like a haircut or outfit choice, the words chosen mean a lot. And I don’t care how many times one quotes “sticks and stones,” the fact is words do hurt.

I’m guilty of saying hurtful things, we all are. The issue is being aware of what is said, apologizing when necessary and trying not to let the negative words of others discourage us or destroy our desire to learn or make a better decision down the road.

It’s been about three years since then, and even though I still remember those cutting words, I now consider myself an intactivist. But a gentle one. My prayer would be that no baby boys are circumcised, but it is going to be a long time before that is a reality. So in the meantime I encourage education and research on the subject. Respectfully.

_________________________

Kymberlee is a SAHM mommy of two little boys, a proud Air Force Wife and a misplaced Texan trying to stay warm in South Dakota. She enjoys blogging about both parenting and other topics (such as her love of sewing and generally being creative) at Our Crazy Corner of the World.

photo credit: mrvklaw via photopin cc

23 Responses to:
"Choosing to Leave My Second Son Intact, Despite the Intactivists"

  1. Jeanette   JeanetteIBCLC

    Hear, hear! Yes, how we talk to mothers matters. As someone who has participated in political actions for many, many years, I am not opposed to dramatic, big, bold and sometimes upsetting actions. But I’ve always reserved those for different audiences – policy makers, media outlets. It is so important to remember our audience. I believe that when we talk to mothers with respect, provide them with evidence-based information, and a full range of options, they will make the best decisions for their families. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences!

  2. realmomofnj   realmomofnj

    Hear, hear! I left my son intact and am so glad I did. It’s nice that not circumcising is catching on! http://www.realmomofnj.com/2012/07/12/youre-welcome-son-why-we-didnt-circumcise/

  3. I always cringe when I see conversations like what you experienced. I’m sorry you experienced it, but I’m also happy that you can now be a “positive intactivist.”

  4. Elizabeth

    Well said! My first child was a girl, but I remember her pediatrician asking me about circumcision just in case the ultrasound tech was wrong. I was completely caught off guard, and my answer was pretty much the same as yours: “Um, I guess we’d do circumcision– my husband is” (and my brothers, dad, and every guy I’ve ever dated…). I didn’t even know that there WAS a choice.

    I’m due with my son in March, and we’ll be bringing him home intact and perfect. But I can’t condemn or humiliate another mother for considering circumcision, because there was a time when I didn’t know any better, either. Education needs to happen in the context of a loving and respectful conversation, not through bullying.

  5. Andrea

    I could have written this. Every. Single. Word.
    This was my exact experience. I’ll never forget the first time I was called a “mutilator” and “child abuser” from a member of a gentle parenting Facebook page, when I inquired about alternatives to circumcision. I also quickly unlinked the page and spent the remainder of the evening in tears.
    I also have made the decision not to circumcise my second son (who will hopefully be here anyday now ;)), but I also don’t consider myself to be an intactivist. Hopefully this article will shed some light on those that are so quick to judge and condemn others. I also hope that any moms out there that were pushed away because of harsh words, will do the research on their own, and find their way again.
    Thank you again for such a beautiful post!

  6. Louise

    You’re absolutely right. I decided a long time ago after getting over the passionate part of my patenting that as long as their kids are well taken care of that I had nothing to worry about. If someone asked me how I felt about a topic id share my info and leave it be. I’ve convinced more people to breastfeed than anything else. I had so many worries about the fetus I am carrying now that thank goodness it was a girl. I’m sorry people mistreated you. I always try to use logic to state my case, never name calling. That gets us no where.

  7. Tracy

    Thank you for sharing your story. I think that no matter what you are passionate about it’s both easy to get carried away, but important not to get carried away in how you speak about it.

  8. Traci

    I could have written this first part of your post. We circumcised our first son for the same reasons that you stated. We just had our second son a few months ago and he was left intact. I avoid telling intactivists that our first son was circumcised because I’m worried about some of their feedback. I will forever feel guilty about having him circumcised. Unfortunately, my family and friends all support circumcision because of old ‘research’ and not doing their own reseach on the subject. My prayer is the same as yours that one day, circumcision will no longer exist. I’m sorry for the hurtful experiences you had on this a few years ago. This post is a great reminder to intactivists -Thank you so much for this post.

  9. Happy Annie

    Kym, I am so sorry that you had that terrible negative experience on that FB page. I am a member of the Whole Network FB page and I always am very careful about what I say to others. One of my best friends circumcised her two infant sons despite the facts and evidence I presented her with, but she is still one of my best friends and I know that she is a good mom and loves her boys. She really thought that she was doing the right thing. I am very glad that you left your second son intact, but circumcising your first son does not make you a bad parent. Like the famous saying goes, “when I knew better..I did better.” You are in such a powerful place to be able to help give new parents facing this issue good advice in a respectful way. I’m happy you wrote on this topic and I hope that those people who feel the need to belittle another or call names will read it and be changed by it. Best of luck to you and your family! <3

  10. Unfortunately, the awful comments come from both sides. I’m glad you were able to not let your hurt feelings and embarrassment keep you from making the right decision the second time. Mistakes can be forgiven, as long as they are admitted to be mistakes. Many intactivists have been attacked so viciously, the sour taste in their mouths can never go away. We just can’t understand why expectant parents don’t second guess their decision once they learn that it is controversial. Still, thank you for sharing your story.

  11. CircEsAdreim

    Judith expressed my thoughts exactly. Some of us have been fighting this fight for so long, have seen so many horrible things (death, horrendous damage, etc.) that it does boggle our mind when any parent appears to be on the fence about something so terrible. Thank you for sharing your experience, though; it is instructive.

  12. R

    I respectfully and kindly disagree, Judith. There is no reason for lashing out at a parent asking for more information. And it really doesn’t matter if negative comments come from the other side. Intactivists are a representation of a certain cause and every time one of them unleashes their anger upon an innocent bystander (because of that sour taste from a previous, unrelated experience) they cause the whole movement to lose credibility. The insults are uncalled for regardless of any sour taste. Cruel remarks are a hurt, not a help. It’s up to each “intactivist” to be the bigger person, the mature person. To rise above the bickering and insults and share the facts. If the listener wants to hear more then share more. If the listener is resistant then please, let it go and move on. It’s that simple.
    I have left a “gentle” parenting group and several anti-circ groups because of the hateful, unnecessary comments and holier than thou attitudes. Who needs ‘em?

    • I am so sorry you experienced that kind of abuse from people who purport to believe in gentle parenting. I am a proud “Intactivist” but I believe in educating, offering my own story, and doing my best to persuade with facts. Attacks like those you experienced are, unfortunately, prevalent in all kinds of activism, but I find it particularly distasteful in the fight to educate about circumcision.

      I’m so glad you recognized your instincts and are moving forward in support of your “whole” son. There is one more child in the world who gets to make the choice for himself.

  13. Janine   thejaninefowler

    Ugh, that’s frustrating. Condemning someone for the choices they have already made (and can’t undo) has got to be the worst way to bring someone to your side. Everyone has some mama regrets.

  14. Lauren

    My mama instinct told me he was perfect the moment they put him on my belly. I looked at his whole little body and instinct told me as well that I didn’t really want him to go through with it. I know better now to listen to that instinct. I’m looking forward to having another child and know whatever gender, no one will hurt them in that way again.

    I’m sorry you went through what I did, no one else really knows the depth of regret that comes with it. <3

  15. Melissa

    So sorry you had a bad experience. Please remember there are asshats in every group and the nice ones can’t control them.

    Congrats on your children, I’m sure you are a great mom and a bigger kudos to having the fortitude to leave your 2nd son intact. It takes a lot to break the chain.

  16. I felt compelled to return to this thread after a discussion among some of my intactivist peers. It’s truly a blessing that you gave the matter serious thought in spite of what you experienced.

    Thank you for keeping your 2nd son intact. You honor your motherhood by going with your instincts.

  17. Shannon @ GrowingSlower   growingslower

    I am sorry to say I never really did my research ahead of time. I left the decision up to my husband as many of us do, and luckily he decided that we shouldn’t do it. Thank you for sharing your story. It is a good reminder for all of us natural parents who are quite passionate about our beliefs. Thanks for linking up with the Tuesday Baby Link Up! I hope you’ll join us again tomorrow!

  18. Amber   AmberStrocel

    You’re right, word choice really does matter. I also don’t believe that casting blame or making judgments ever helps. Unfortunately, I think sometimes people can get too caught up in choosing sides, forgetting real people are involved. A little compassion goes a long way, and is much more effective if you actually want your viewpoint to be heard.

  19. Thank you for your honest post. I have tried to be so sensitive to friends and family about circumcision and it is so refreshing to read your reactions and your emotions about it. I am definitely an “intactivist” but only quietly and gracefully so!

  20. Vanessa - Natural Family Today   NaturalFamToday

    Yes! Thank you for saying what has been on my mind for quite some time. I am so tired of hearing “intactivits” beat women over the head with their cruel talk about circumcision and the women who have made that choice before they knew better. We may not agree with circumcision, but making that choice doesn’t meant women don’t love their children or deserve to be treated with judgement and unkindness.

  21. Good post and I totally agree with a lot of the comments above – I realize not all intactivists are like this, but unfortunately I’ve seen these kinds of comments A LOT. One person once tried to tell me it was an isolated incident, but sadly I don’t think it is.

    It’s like anything you’re advocating for in the parenting world – breastfeeding, cloth diapering, formula, SAHM, etc. You will never get your point across by calling people “stupid,” etc. :(

  22. Kerri   giggly_kerri

    I too went along with my husband’s decision to circumcise our first son. I cried during that first diaper change. We chose to keep our second son intact.

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