The first time I saw a circumcision was on a video tape a friend had sent me. I wanted the see what circumcision is: What are the "steps" of the operation?, I wondered. What is actually cut off?
The newborn baby was asleep on a molded plastic board, eventhough he was strapped to it at his elbows and knees so they could not move or bend-- a sort of eerie snow angel. He turned his head from being on its side to facing the ceiling, awakening from his brief, peaceful sleep with a yelpish cry. The doctor had begun to insert a long, metal probe into the opening at the end of the baby's tiny penis.
A moment of silence was broken by a very high-pitched squeal from the baby-- about the very top keys on the piano, I'm guessing-- as the doctor raked the probe in circles between the foreskin and the head of the penis. As it continued, the squeal decended in pitch, getting increasingly louder and wider. It personified grief.
As this was happening, a strange tingling shudder started at the back of my head near the top of my spine, and travelled down it in perfect synch. with the haunting cry. It spread through my arms as it passed by, traveling down the rest of my body. Reaching my feet, the shudder rounded the end of my toes and continued up the front of me where it ended, finally, in the pit of my stomach. It was as if I were looking down at myself as an outside observer, as I very unexpectedly started to sob deep, full sobs uncontrollably.
Ironically, I don't remember the 'steps', or even the rest of the video. "This baby is probably several years old by now," I thought, "this circumcision long behind him. This is only a video-- a representation through recorded light and sound waves. How much "more" is it "in real life"? For sure, it was very real for that newborn baby boy.