As many other families do, my family gets together during the winter holidays. We gathered together as is custom, but with a twist this year: my cousin had recently had a new son. This particular child was born a few months ago prematurely via an emergency Cesarean section due to an unusual condition affecting my cousin, the mother. He was under intensive care for a period of time lasting around two months.
Something strange was said aloud. The mother of this child, rather non-nonchalantly I might add, mentioned after saying that her child never really picked up on breast feeding that she hadn't heard her child scream like he did during routine vaccinations since his screaming immediately after his circumcision. This new mother, this pediatric nurse even, had consented to have her child put through the conscious pain of circumcision, and even was able to laugh (uneasily) about the situation. This child, who had struggled to even survive and cling to life for more than a month, was subjected to an unnecessary and painful surgery, and his mother found his frightened and pained screaming a topic fit for idle chat.
I had never felt such a strange, disgusted mixture of emotion in my entire life.
I watched this woman coddle and coo, sing sweet little nothings, smother with love and kisses, and speak endearingly to her firstborn child, whose genitals she paid some stranger to partially amputate with no anesthesia.
It all felt so incongruous--the reality of this child's unconsentually modified body, his pain, blood, the loving and singing mother crooning and mewling over her child--I had never felt such a lump of discomfort in my throat as I did gazing warily at the scene before me. It felt sick. It felt wrong. The phrase "lovingly mutilated" reverberated in the back of my mind.
When it came to be my turn to hold this nine pound, four ounce child in my lap, I gazed down upon his sleeping, furtively furrowed brow, and wondered if he would someday came to same stinging realization that I had--that what was done to his body was not ethically sound and very painful.
I felt so strange to be with them, like an alien among them, to probably be the only one thinking such things. I feel changed, altered, different from them, in both a surgical and ethical-awareness sense. How exactly is it that our culture has reached this point of looking away?
I wonder if this would have even phased me before.
The mother spoke of how her fellow nurses said they were against it, but she went ahead with it anyway because she thought it was "the right thing" to do. I doubt I could have done much more than that group beyond telling my personal tale, if I had tried to persuade her.
Alas, by the time I had reached the morbid epiphanies that I have, it was too late for me to voice them to save him. He was circumcised very shortly before I began to even write this blog.
Even so, I don't know if I have the courage to admit my greatest source of pain and shame to another person, let alone family. I can write these things here, behind the formidable electronic wall of anonymity, but out and about in social contexts, my secret is safely hidden but from a select few, for fear of judgment and out of shame.
Am I a coward? I feel like one.