A number of years ago, I remember delivering a baby boy, and the first thing the father asked me was, “When can he be circumcised”? The father seemed panicked. I’d never seen anything like it before. He truly seemed in an uproar that something was terribly wrong with his baby.
I told him that he would need to talk with the pediatrician.
In retrospect, I think I might have been more effective as a physician if I had replied, “You have a beautiful baby who only wants to love you and his mom. He is perfect.”
January 15, 2020 was a defining moment for me. I started a new Locums tenens (temporary) obstetrics job that day. While seated at the nurses’ station on Labor and Delivery, my body jarred at the sound of a most horrible screaming – a screech followed by the coughing sound of spittle and saliva choking a baby followed by more screaming. It was deafening. I looked at the nurse seated across from me and asked her, “What are they doing in there?” A “treatment” room was right around the corner.
The nurse replied, “They are circumcising him”.
I looked down at the ground and said, “This is just horrible. It is so unnecessary.”
More screaming and choking followed by crescendos of screeching and coughing came from around the corner. I felt sick.
The Nurse replied, “You are right”.
Shortly after that day, I began to hear a baby scream uncontrollably at night in my dreams. A horrible screaming and howling. Sometimes I hear myself say “No.” and at that point my legs jerk together and my arms also move and I wake up. Sometimes I wonder if the screaming that I hear is from the baby who was assaulted on January 15, or … is that me who I hear crying? Sometimes I have the sensation that I see bright lights, and my arms and legs suddenly cannot move. There is muffled talk, I am screaming and I have this sensation of terrific pain and more crying, but I can’t get away.
When I left this last assignment in Nevada, I remember visiting a new couple during postpartum rounds. They had their first baby the day prior. It was a truly enjoyable time as I didn’t have a clinic and could just sit and visit with the parents. They had a beautiful baby girl. I remember the father holding his daughter and seeing her move her hand up towards his face. The baby girl was making happy “cooing” sounds. The mother was looking from her bed at her daughter. Everything seemed right and beautiful. It really is an incredible sight to see, and on days like this I feel very lucky to be an obstetrician. At the same time, I thought to myself, “Why do people focus so much on circumcision when all their baby boys or girls want is to love their parents?” Their baby’s hands just want to touch their mother or father and give the parents love and be loved.
It all makes me very sad.
— James F. Verrees, M.D., FACOG
Las Vegas, Nevada
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Hi, Georganne! Several years ago a young, very pregnant Hispanic woman and her monolingual Hispanic husband moved into temporary housing in our neighbor’s basement in Virginia. I noticed her leaning against a pickup truck across the street, holding her bulging abdomen and was moved to go ask her if she was having a boy or girl. She looked at me sadly and said, “A BOY!” I said “Wonderful! Are you going to have him in a hospital?” She looked at me desperately. “Yes, but I worry!” “Why are you worried?” I asked. “Because they want him circumcised. My mother say no! I don’t wanbt it. My husband he no want it too. But hospital keep asking, asking, asking, saying he is in America now!” “You are right to say no,” I said. “It isn’t necessary to circumcise him. The hospital is wrong.” “I would have him by my mother but he so big I worry if there is problem with birth!” “I see. Well, they have to get your informed consent to circumcise, but I think I can get you information to show them that you have a right not to agree to circumcision and they have to accept your decision.” “How can I make them understand?” she said. I asked her to wait a minute and ran into my house. I turned on my computer and looked up Intact America and found a statement in both English and Spanish explaining that circumcision is unnecessary and harmful to a baby and must not be performed without the parents’ consent.” I printed the bilingual statement, rushed outside, and gave it to the woman who read the Spanish statement eagerly and said, “Thank you! I will show my mother and take this to hospital. Thank you, thank you, gracias!” She gIadly took the paper and drove off in her truck. For several days I didn’t see either the woman or her husband. Then one morning the truck appeared across the street and the woman and her mother got out. The mother was carrying a baby boy. All three came across the street as I walked toward them. The grandmother said, “Gracias, senor!Gracias senior. El nino est magnifica! Gracias! Gracias!” “The mother said, “Thank you, sir! At the hospital they asked before he was born ‘Are you suuuuure you don’t want him circumcised? Not once. Not twice. They ask me NINE TIMES are you suuuure you don’t want him circumcised?” I told them NINE TIMES “Yes, I am sure and I showed them the paper you gave us. They finally agree to not circumcise him. Thank you ever so much!
I am so grateful to Intact America for helping this happen! As mother, grandmother, and baby boy went back to the truck, I noticed the father had been driving. He leaned toward me, smiled, and gave me a thumbs-up sign. Feeling that my day had been made.
You are clearly an obstetrician with a strong sense of justice and ethics. Both of which are violated every time a baby boy is circumcised. I applaud your stance on this topic, and your obvious sense of empathy for the baby.
Being subjected to MGM (circumcision) has been a huge issue for me for all of my life. I wish the doctor had simply told my mother “You know, this is not necessary”. I wish all doctors could bring themselves to say that.
I am so pleased that this children’ts rights movement is attracting professionals like Dr. Verrees!