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"I remember being circumcised at birth"

post #1 of 47
Thread Starter 
Is there any truth to people that claim this? Undoubtedly infant circumcision is a very invasive and traumatic procedure, but do you really think that men could retain memories of that particular incident?
post #2 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by KGB View Post
Is there any truth to people that claim this? Undoubtedly infant circumcision is a very invasive and traumatic procedure, but do you really think that men could retain memories of that particular incident?
I think there are lots of reports of people remembering their own births, regardless of the circ issue. So yes, it seems possible.

We know of course, that the brain and body will always remember, regardless of an actual recollection of the event. Cortisol levels, neural functioning and pain receptors are permanently marked by circumcision.

I've found that people don't want to believe it's possible b/c that happens to be the only thing that makes them feel anti-circumcision. It seems strange to me. If a man date rapes a woman, should we all be fine with it b/c she won't remember? If we just knocked our kids out first, could we cut their eyelids off? Other issues draw immediate outrage. But circumcision gets hems and haws and excuses.
post #3 of 47
I think it's possible.

From what I understand, we all keep all of our memories, but most of them are hidden. Think of it like having some memories in brambles and bushes, and others are like little paths in the woods, can be accessed if there is a trigger or something. Others are like formally maintained hiking paths, still others dirt roads, paved roads, interstates, etc. If the brain accesses a memory often, or the memory is so significant (wonderful or traumatic), the pathway can be burned very clearly. Other memories are never accessed again and are overgrown by the bushes (what you had for lunch on December 19, 2007, for example).

Obviously a circumcision would be traumatic and would qualify as something to burn a memory of, but that issue is complicated by our transition from nonverbal beings to verbal beings. When we make that switch, we use our brains very differently. We verbal beings can't even comprehend what thinking nonverbally is like. So for most of us, things that happened before we were fluently verbal aren't really accessible, partly because they get overgrown by those brambles and partly because it's hard for us to "translate" those memories since they are nonverbal.

So I would think that the vast majority of us do not have the ability to consciously recall events that happened when we were preverbal - even though those memories are still there.

But... it IS possible that a few, very few, people bring it over. I suspect that this is only possible if the person recalled (either consciously or was triggered by something to recall it) the event during their transitional time, when they were maybe 18 months to 3 or 4 years old. If they recalled the event strongly enough during a time that they still could access their nonverbal memories, they would effectively "translate" that memory into a verbal one, and thus be able to visit it again later when their nonverbal memories are lost.

So I could see that maybe a few boys thought about their circumcision when they were little - either they were just very reflective children, perhaps, or maybe they experienced something in their toddlerhood that reminded them. Thus making that memory accessible, especially if they continued to think about it from time to time throughout their childhood and adulthood.
post #4 of 47
laohaire what an amazingly helpful post. My DH remembers his circ, something he does not share openly as it is met with ridicule.

Anyways, when he was a toddler he had open heart surgery. I wonder if the event triggered memories of his circ, and as you say, he would then have been able to transition his circ memories.

Talking about birth...I know that some of my siblings recalled their birth experiences as toddlers, and these are the ones who went on to still talk about it. Perhaps talking about their birth with them at that age, allowed the neural pathways to be stimulated and saved.


I've heard that intense growth in the first 5 years can result in the brain rerouting rarely used pathways, which is supposed to be the explanation for why most people do not remember the early years.
post #5 of 47
My DS (at 3 years old) was able to describe, with amazing detail, his birth. The details he remembered and was able to verbalize were things that he would not have picked up from other birth stories or television. He talked about the happy dark water, the big squeezes, "making big blood on mommy", the cold hands, and then the "bright light that made him warm"(he was immediatley placed under a warming lamp). This was in response to my SIL who commented to me that it is good that kids can't remember their own births.

So I say, Yes, it is possible.
post #6 of 47
There is a book written by a guy named Chamberlain called Babies Remember Birth. In it, he talks with people about their births. He does not address circumcision.

I just recently saw a blog post that quoted him where he does discuss memories of circumcision.

I fully believe there is an unconscious mental and a physical memory of circumcision.
post #7 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by laohaire View Post
I think it's possible.

From what I understand, we all keep all of our memories, but most of them are hidden. Think of it like having some memories in brambles and bushes, and others are like little paths in the woods, can be accessed if there is a trigger or something. Others are like formally maintained hiking paths, still others dirt roads, paved roads, interstates, etc. If the brain accesses a memory often, or the memory is so significant (wonderful or traumatic), the pathway can be burned very clearly. Other memories are never accessed again and are overgrown by the bushes (what you had for lunch on December 19, 2007, for example).

Obviously a circumcision would be traumatic and would qualify as something to burn a memory of, but that issue is complicated by our transition from nonverbal beings to verbal beings. When we make that switch, we use our brains very differently. We verbal beings can't even comprehend what thinking nonverbally is like. So for most of us, things that happened before we were fluently verbal aren't really accessible, partly because they get overgrown by those brambles and partly because it's hard for us to "translate" those memories since they are nonverbal.

So I would think that the vast majority of us do not have the ability to consciously recall events that happened when we were preverbal - even though those memories are still there.

But... it IS possible that a few, very few, people bring it over. I suspect that this is only possible if the person recalled (either consciously or was triggered by something to recall it) the event during their transitional time, when they were maybe 18 months to 3 or 4 years old. If they recalled the event strongly enough during a time that they still could access their nonverbal memories, they would effectively "translate" that memory into a verbal one, and thus be able to visit it again later when their nonverbal memories are lost.

So I could see that maybe a few boys thought about their circumcision when they were little - either they were just very reflective children, perhaps, or maybe they experienced something in their toddlerhood that reminded them. Thus making that memory accessible, especially if they continued to think about it from time to time throughout their childhood and adulthood.
GREAT explanation!!
post #8 of 47
very interesting! i'm so glad that my son will never have a chance to remember something so horrific
post #9 of 47
My earliest memory is of an ice bath at the hospital. I remember the rooms general size, the placement of the door and the ice in the tub. I asked my mom about it and she remembers, and she agreed that it was as I remember. I was sick often with fevers in my first year and I was in the hospital quite a few times. I think traumatic things can stick with you even at a young age.
post #10 of 47
My brother was born at 31weeks by emergency c/s due to an abrupted placenta praevia. He talked as a child of seeing distorted faces and hearing yowling, distorted noises, and the feeling of cold water on his face and being unable to breathe/drowning. He still, at 33, HATES getting water on his face.

Before my mother woke from the GA he was put in an incubator (thick plastic, distorted faces?) in a busy neonate nursery (yowling from other babies crying beyond the incubator walls?) and baptised (water on face) because they thought he was about to die and when the water hit his face his lungs collapsed and they had to whip him out and resuss him.

I too had a memory of a big black woman cuddling me in her arms for a long time. I grew up in a very racially non-mixed town as a small child, so i never knew where the memory came from (i had that memory and aside from it i only ever saw non-white people on tv), but it got really strong when i was 2.75 and a black family moved in next door to us. It turns out that the midwife who attended my birth (by planned c/s - i was the baby after the praevia baby) was a black woman and mum asked her to cuddle me while she was getting sewn up (no dads in the OR in those days, in fact my mother was the first woman her Ob had sectioned while awake with a spinal block). I don't know if i truly remember it now, because i think we can form memories OF memories when they are translated from non-verbal to verbal (like remembering a dream, and later not quite remembering if it WAS a dream or not).
post #11 of 47
Some years ago there was a lady in California who was attempting to write a thesis on this. She had collected stories from parents whose little boys had verbalised a memory of their own circumcisions. I thought her name was Rosemary Kimmel - does that ring a bell with anyone? We corresponded a few times, and I believe that she, unfortunately, ran out of money to fund her project.
post #12 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by claddaghmom View Post
I think there are lots of reports of people remembering their own births, regardless of the circ issue. So yes, it seems possible.

We know of course, that the brain and body will always remember, regardless of an actual recollection of the event. Cortisol levels, neural functioning and pain receptors are permanently marked by circumcision.

I've found that people don't want to believe it's possible b/c that happens to be the only thing that makes them feel anti-circumcision. It seems strange to me. If a man date rapes a woman, should we all be fine with it b/c she won't remember? If we just knocked our kids out first, could we cut their eyelids off? Other issues draw immediate outrage. But circumcision gets hems and haws and excuses.
I agree with all of this. I fully believe that some people have very early memories. Not being able to remember should never be an excuse to violate somebody's autonomy, whether it's circumcision or date rape.
post #13 of 47
This is very interesting!!! I hadn't really ever thought about if babies/ children/ people can remember things from that long ago. But all of these things you've all listed make perfect sense! In which case, I couldn't possibly think of putting my child through something as terrifying as a circ. Just knowing there's a fraction of a chance he could remember it is enough to say no.
post #14 of 47
I don't know if DS remembers things as early as when he was born, but he has shown recall of events from when he was preverbal.

When DS was just starting to sit up on his own at around 4 mo, I thought he might find a game of duck duck goose with his stuffed animals amusing (yeah we were a bit bored.) He didn't find it terribly amusing and it was a lot of work for me, so I never bothered to try it again. One day much later when he was talking and walking (at least 11 mo but possibly older) he just out of the blue started walking in circles around me say "duck, duck, duck" over and over.

I think people often under estimate the cognitive levels of infants.
post #15 of 47
Read Circumcision-Hidden Trauma by Ronald Goldman they have men recalling theirs circs, same with parents recalling their kids knowing what happened.

Also, I totally agree that infants can have a mind to know what they are thinking even if they don't have the ability to say they are wondering what it is but they go over to the object of to check it out .

I think when I was 8 yrs after having a mask over my face I proably recalled the stitches I had in my lip when I was 6 wks due to cleft lip . It somehow made me want to scratch my lip and itch it . Even though I wasn't having lip surgery then just palate surgery due to cleft palate.
post #16 of 47
I think it is quite possible. I have an acquaintance who told me that one of their family members remembers being circed. I had never considered the possibility of such a thing until I heard that.

The stories in this thread of people remembering their births are fascinating.
post #17 of 47
I remember being born. I had speech and language delays so I think I have a different way of thinking. I have a lot of very early memories - sensations, things I saw.
post #18 of 47
There are also accounts of people who apparently retain memories of sounds heard while in the womb. I didn't save the anecdote, but basically a guy walked into a room with a peice playing on the piano and had a feeling of great familiarity with it. However, he had not heard it before, as far as he knew. His mother informed him that she had listened to it a great deal while pregnant with him, but then had stopped. I am not getting all the details right, but that is the gist of it.

Fascinating subject.
post #19 of 47
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg B View Post
There are also accounts of people who apparently retain memories of sounds heard while in the womb. I didn't save the anecdote, but basically a guy walked into a room with a peice playing on the piano and had a feeling of great familiarity with it. However, he had not heard it before, as far as he knew. His mother informed him that she had listened to it a great deal while pregnant with him, but then had stopped. I am not getting all the details right, but that is the gist of it.
That sounds like a story in one of my Parenting books. A man that was an orchestra conductor heard a piece of music playing (or the orchestra was practicing it) and he had an eerie sense of familiarity. It kept bugging him until he finally asked his mother about it. Well she was apparently a cellist and played that song very often while she was pregnant with him.

Very interesting indeed. Most people will say that talking to or playing music for an unborn baby will affect him/her in some way. It must truly be at the deep subconcious level of memory that can only be brought back by certain triggers (smells, sounds, etc).
post #20 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by eepster View Post
I don't know if DS remembers things as early as when he was born, but he has shown recall of events from when he was preverbal.

When DS was just starting to sit up on his own at around 4 mo, I thought he might find a game of duck duck goose with his stuffed animals amusing (yeah we were a bit bored.) He didn't find it terribly amusing and it was a lot of work for me, so I never bothered to try it again. One day much later when he was talking and walking (at least 11 mo but possibly older) he just out of the blue started walking in circles around me say "duck, duck, duck" over and over.

I think people often under estimate the cognitive levels of infants.
YES! DD has soo many memories from when she was pre-verbal (i.e. <6 months). She remembers even now visits with her grandfather, who died when she was 8 months and she last saw before then at 4 months. She remembers places we have gone, Halloween costumes, games we played, and books we have read.

It wouldn't surprise me that a painful surgery on a newborn could be remembered.
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