I Had My Baby Boy Circumcised & 8 Years Later, It's My Biggest Regret

Brittany Barna

Brittany Barna

As told to Lauren Levy by Brittany Barna.

THIS. IS. CIRCUMCISION, people. I heard the screams. I could hear it from outside the room and down the hall in the lobby and I buried my head into Nicholas's dad's arm because I couldn't stand it. All I wanted to do in that moment was go get my baby out of that room. 

I will never forget the way he looked when they brought him back to me. It took me several minutes to calm him, which was very much unlike him. He was such a good and happy baby when he first came home. They told me "this is normal," but its not. I will never forget the way his little penis looked, so bloody and raw like a giant wound at his first diaper change. And thank God he healed quickly because I cringed at every diaper change. It broke my heart every time he flinched and cried when I'd wipe him or put ointment on, as instructed. 

It. Was. Awful.

  • Still, I defended my decision vehemently for years, partly because I believed it really was the best thing. 

    Brittany Barna

    But also partly because I didn't want to believe that I had made such a permanent mistake that only my son would have to pay for. 

    I permanently altered his genitals without his consent. And once I realized that the reasoning behind it is bogus and that no medical institution in the world recommends it be done routinely, I was devastated. 

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  • But I really thought I was doing the best thing at the time. I wish I had known better.

    Brittany Barna

    I was 19 years old and 15 weeks pregnant when I found out I was having a baby boy. After much deliberation, his father and I decided that his name would be Nicholas. Choosing his name was the easiest decision that I made. 

    As an expectant young mom, I was faced with so many decisions that I felt entirely unprepared to make. I spent much of my pregnancy seeking out any information related to pregnancy, childbirth and newborn care. I was surprised to find so much division on nearly every topic. One topic in particular caught my attention though, because it was a decision I would personally be faced with in a few short months and yet I knew nothing about it. The topic: circumcision. 

  • Many of the moms I spoke to had chosen to circumcise, citing medical reasons such as lower risk of UTIs and other infections.

    Brittany Barna
    Many relayed that their boys had tolerated the procedure well and been “just fine.” A few moms argued that circumcision was unnecessary and painful, but few gave any evidence to back their claims. I also talked to one young man whose mother had left him intact. He told me he wished he had been circumcised.

    Still, I was on the fence as I wasn’t convinced that it was the best or worst thing. At that point I turned to Nicholas’s dad. At the time, it seemed logical to allow the one with the penis to ultimately decide what would be done with our son’s. He was circumcised and therefore his son would be, simple as that. That was the end of the conversation. I scheduled the appointment at his first pediatric appointment and at 8 days old, I took him in to the office to be circumcised.

  • When it came time to sign the consent form, the nurse said to me, “You know this is an elective cosmetic procedure, right?” 

    Brittany Barna

    But it was too late then, we had already made our choice. So I said, “I did my research and I think it’s what’s best." That was it. I signed the consent form and they got to work. Initially he was just fussy. I’ll admit it was an uncomfortable feeling as a new mom to be sitting in the waiting room, separated from my baby for the first time in 10 months, listening to him fuss and not being able to comfort him. But I was confident that he was in good hands.

    “He is just upset because he is tied down,” one nurse reassured me. But soon his fussing turned to blood-curdling screams. I remember thinking, “This can’t be normal!” I wanted so badly to go and get him out of that room. I didn’t. Instead, I pressed my head against his dad’s arm to drown out the sound. What an awful thing: to drown out the sound of your newborn son’s screams and cries. Now there were three nurses right there comforting me, telling me it wouldn’t be much longer and I’d be able to nurse him right away.

    After what seemed like forever, they brought him out of the room swaddled and took us into an exam room to go over aftercare. I didn’t hear much of what they said and left it up to his dad to listen as I tried to comfort my baby. It was no easy task. My usually very happy baby was distressed. Nothing I did calmed him, not even my breast which he typically latched to readily.

    You could see the concern all over my face. Again they told me, “It really didn’t hurt him. He’s just crying because he didn’t like being strapped down.” Even if that were true, and I don’t believe it was, it was clear that it had been torture to him.    

  • It was not anything he should have had to go through, because the truth, that it took me so long to learn, is that circumcision is not necessary.

    Brittany Barna
    Part of me knew that I had made the wrong choice that day, but I defended my decision vehemently for years. I didn't want to believe that I had made such a permanent mistake. It was much easier to tell myself that I had done what was best for my son than to accept that I had made a big mistake and had my son's genitals permanently altered without his consent.

    One day, many years later -- after Nicholas was having painful adhesions, after seeing the scar from his circumcision and wondering still if I had made the right choice -- someone sought to gently educate me on the truth of circumcision. “MY son did fine,” I protested. “He nursed fine and he is over a year old and is just FINE.” She gave me some resources and encouraged me to research more.

  • Duped is the best way to describe the way I felt. The more I researched, the more convinced I became that I had made the wrong choice. 

    Brittany Barna

    Still, I didn’t want to accept it.

    I posted in a Facebook group titled, Hey LLL: Circumcision Affects Breastfeeding! Tell moms the truth. The group was created to protest the removal of information regarding the effects of circumcision on breastfeeding from, newer copies of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by the Le Leche League. My post read, “Ok, this is an honest question. Please no attacks or anything. I have never met a man who DIDN’T want to be circumcised or was unhappy that they were circumcised but I HAVE met a few men who wished they WERE circumcised. Thoughts? Good sources?”

    The post was immediately reposted by page administrators and I quickly received numerous responses including or leading me to the stories of hundreds of men who are unhappy that their parents had them circumcised as infants. I learned the proper structure and function of the foreskin. I learned how few places in the world routinely circumcise baby boys (Hint: it’s mainly the US; The World Health Organization estimates that about 30 percent of men worldwide are circumcised.) I learned that no medical organization in the world recommends that circumcision be done routinely. At best, circumcision is an elective cosmetic procedure with some possible health benefits that can easily be achieved by other means, such as proper hygiene and safe sex.

  • I learned more than I wanted to learn but I just couldn’t stop.

    I stayed up all night reading everything I could get my hands on -- every study, every article, and every personal story about circumcision that I could find. When I was done I was emotionally exhausted. I went into Nicholas’s room, held him while he slept, and cried.