Warning: this post contains graphic details that may be upsetting to some readers.
While parents can often be divided on the topic of circumcision, one side we don’t often hear is that of the medical staff who perform them.
Registered nurse Emma* worked in a public circumcision clinic for three months in the early 1990s, assisting midwives and doctors as they carried out the procedure on dozens of babies.
“The parents would arrive at the clinic nervously cradling their tiny babies,” Emma tells Mamamia.
“They had signed consent forms and applied some EMLA numbing cream to their child’s penis. They had to hand their precious son over to me and I would carry them into theatre.”
As the most junior member of the team, Emma was charged with physically restraining the babies during the procedure, which she understandably found very challenging.
“I would have to unwrap the baby and remove their nappy prior to the circumcision. The babies were cold and vulnerable; immediately they would start to fight against me.
Sean Szeps shares how he explains genitalia to his kids on our podcast, The Baby Bubble:
“I am not a big person but I would have to place my hands over their thighs and my forearms on top of their arms to hold them still. My face would be close to theirs and I could see and feel their reaction up close.”
While Emma held each baby as gently but firmly as possible, the doctor placed a plastic device over the baby’s penis and then withdrew the foreskin over the top. A ligature would be tied around it to stop the blood flow and then the doctor would use a scalpel to remove the foreskin.
“Some babies screamed immediately but most took a massive intake of breath before howling loudly. They were all inconsolable – some for 15 minutes – some for half an hour.
“I personally believe, having seen the procedure many times, that the numbing cream made very little difference.”
In total the whole procedure would only take a few minutes. Emma then had to dress the wound and apply pressure to stem the bleeding.
“I had reservations about performing circumcisions on babies prior to working in the clinic as I am not religious, but assisting with the procedure and seeing it happen up close like that confirmed it for me.
“Anyone who says a baby can’t remember has not been in the room with them to experience it. Who knows how much impact it has on a person later in life?”