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 the doctor it 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 attached
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, which he then cut.
This made the opening of 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 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, exhausted, spent.
I had not been prepared, nothing could have prepared
me, for this experience. To see a part of this baby's penis being
cut off - without an anesthetic - was devastating. But even more shocking
was the doctor's comment, barely audible several octaves below the
piercing screams of the baby, "There's 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 an end to this horrendous practice.