Changing Diapers & Changing Minds (About Circumcision)

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Cuteness overload “Born Perfect” cloth diaper found here.

The Great Cloth Diaper Change happened this weekend and I spent it educating about circumcision, a surgery that many American baby boys undergo in their early diapering days. I represented Intact Houston at Wellspring Midwifery Care & Birth Center‘s GCDC event, at which attendees attempted to set a new record for the number of babies changed into a cloth diaper simultaneously across the globe.

First, if you’ve ever wondered about how to cloth diaper a baby after circumcision, please read this.

Now I’d like to share some of the interactions we had throughout the day.

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A daycare worker planned to keep her baby intact. When a little boy at her daycare had to undergo additional surgery to repair his adhesions (also known as ‘recircumcision’), she started to research the practice. She watched a video of a circumcision and immediately decided to never do that. We educated her about proper intact care and the harmful epidemic of forced retraction in infancy, as most of the staff at her place of business habitually retract intact boys.

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A young woman stopped by our table here two years ago with her baby daughter. She didn’t know much about circumcision; in fact, she was neutral about it at the time, and seemed to believe it was best to defer to the husband. We had given her lots of information to take home and hoped she would look into it further.

We were excited to talk to her again this year because it turns out she’s become quite an outspoken, well-educated intact advocate! She said our previous table is where she first learned about circumcision.

She was accompanied by a pregnant friend who was currently expecting a boy. She was trying to gather information on how to convince her husband they didn’t need to circumcise.

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A local midwife was in pursuit of resources to have available in her office. She begged us to speak to a local pediatric office that recently started offering circumcision, despite claiming to be intact-friendly for a time in the past.

When a health provider’s stance is that they are neutral, or when they participate in child abuse by circumcising infants themselves, they are in fact NOT intact-friendly.

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A woman (not pictured) talked about how, in many hospitals in the 1980s and earlier, they would take newborn boys to be circumcised without acquiring any sort of consent from parents.

We described many anecdotes of mothers fresh from birth whose babies were whisked away to nurseries and circumcised without asking them. Though this was more common in past decades, it still happens today. A quick news search will find many babies who were cut against parents’ wishes.

Another woman who visited our table informed us about a baby in Dallas who was recently circumcised despite his mother intending to keep him intact. We have to wonder how this ethical breach can possibly be excused, especially when we realize there is no suitable recourse for a permanent loss.

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We were happy to see this circumcision regret mother who wandered over to our booth two years ago. She had a young son at the time, and our table display is how she found out she had made a grave mistake. It was a very emotional interaction. Since then, she has continued to reach out and show support for the cause. This year she is pregnant again, and we believe she will keep her baby intact regardless of sex.

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A birthworker is helping out with the upcoming March For Moms: Improving Birth Rally in May. She said how much she would love to see a booth like ours there, and appreciated the professional, educational look of the materials we displayed.

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This handmade crochet penis (in a range of skin shades) was helpful for demonstrating several things:

1) The functioning foreskin showed how it moves by rolling into itself.
2) The frenulum was pointed out to those who don’t realize it is almost always ablated or destroyed during circumcision.
3) By rolling the foreskin forward and back, we show how there are varying lengths/glans coverage in the normal range of appearance.
4) We showed how the foreskin changes throughout early developmental stages.

Get one for your own advocacy purposes here.

We had a productive and lengthy conversation with this nursing student. She was so eager to learn and remained open to information, even though she had her own young son circumcised. She said they were not taught anything about foreskin in nursing school, other than how to remove it and myths such as “It causes infections,” “It’s hard to keep clean,” and “Intact boys will have to retract every time they pee.”

She told us about how her son ended up with adhesions during his first year, which her pediatrician instructed her to push/rip back and advised her to keep an eye on them in case he needs another surgery. We never recommend additional revisional surgeries after circumcision. When boys grow and their body develops, especially during puberty when they undergo many hormonal changes, whatever foreskin they have left (in this case, in the form of adhesions) will naturally separate as it would have if kept intact. If that doesn’t happen, effective solutions that are less radical than more surgery include steroid creams and tugging exercises to loosen scar tissue.

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A fellow vendor inquired about our booth and we explained how we share resources on circumcision, intact care, and foreskin restoration. She casually said she had decided to circumcise her sons. She had grown up in South America where cutting isn’t the cultural norm, so the males in her own family were intact. But she had her boys circumcised because her American husband was and it is the cultural norm here.

Unfortunately, the second circumcision surgery didn’t go “as smoothly” as he ended up with penile adhesions, and she wondered whether it would cause him problems later on. We told her honestly that, yes, he likely would experience unnatural effects caused by circumcision and also the resultant adhesions. However, this is a common situation among young circumcised boys today and we let her know she could find answers and support in our group for regret parents.

Not too long into our talk, she realized she’d made a mistake and expressed that she felt heartbroken. She was worried they wouldn’t want to come to her about any eventual issues they have regarding their genitals or sexuality. We armed her with knowledge to empower herself so when her boys are older, she will be able to keep a dialogue open if they experience problems.

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See more photos from the event here.

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