03 June 2012

Nurse’s Description of a Circumcision

Circumcision by David Gollaher, 2000, Excerpts

Marilyn Milo’s life was permanently changed when as a nursing student she witnessed her first circumcision. On the fateful day, she joined her fellow nursing students in the hospital nursery where they found a baby strapped spread-eagle to a plastic board on a counter top across the room. He was struggling against his restrains – tugging, whimpering, and then crying helplessly. Her natural instinct was to comfort the child. When the surgeon arrived, he suggested she put her finger into the baby’s mouth to pacify him. But nothing had prepared her for what happened next.

“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. The baby began to gasp and choke, breathless for his shrill continuous screams. My bottom lip began to quiver, tears filled my eyes and spilled over. I found my own sobs difficult to contain. 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.”

Milo does not view hers as a protest movement. “I’d like to make the point that we are not about “protest” as much as we are about human rights and truth. The demonstrations were a way to bring attention to the issue when the media were reluctant to cover this taboo subject. The history of circumcision in the West is not about differences or opinion. It is about the infiltration of genital mutilation of infants and children into Western medicine. I don’t deny I am passionate about the issue, and it is because I was mother first, before I saw a circumcision as a nursing student. It’s been twenty years that I’ve been living with the screams of the baby in my ears – a sound I have never heard come out of the mouth of a human being, except during circumcision [and I have four children!]. I am as chilled and disturbed by it today as I was twenty years ago, and I know that this is consistent with post traumatic stress.”

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