Hands - The Hands of a Nurse


Our hands can be used to harm, to heal, to love, to punish, to communicate, to nurture, or to work. As a doula, my hands are skilled in relief and respite. As an educator, my hands are used to communicate and to demonstrate. As a midwife, my hands will be used to catch and console.

Hands are powerful.

This is the first post in a series about hands. Mothers, doulas, midwives, educators, and nurses hands - they all speak for themselves - stories of regret,  forgiveness, empowerment, and love.

To start our series, let's talk about the hands of a nurse who was willing to stand up to what she knew was wrong - ethically, morally, and bodily. A nurse who put her job and her future as a healer on the line to speak for those who could not speak.

This might not be what you had in mind when you think of the hands of a nurse, but her words are powerful enough that, I believe, she needs to be heard.

Her actions, and others like hers, are what has resulted in U.S. circumcision rates falling from 56% in 2006 to 33% in 2009. Thank you Mary.
Look at these hands.

These hands have taken a newborn baby from his mother’s safe warm breast and his father’s sheltering arms, and these hands have tied this baby to a cold hard platter and served him up to the circumciser.

These hands have readied the scalpel, even as they caressed the brow of the terrified baby as he struggles for freedom and searches my eyes for compassion he will not find.

A tortured being has sucked frantically on this finger in a hopeless effort to end the agony as his flesh – his birthright – is ripped from him and thrown in the garbage.

These hands have removed the diaper painfully adhered to the feces-covered wound between his chubby legs.

These hands have shielded my ears from his screams.

Nurses of America, I did not become a nurse to hurt babies, and neither did you.

In 1992, with over 20 other nurses at St. Vincent Hospital in Santa Fe, New Mexico, I gave notice to my employers and declared I would no longer be an accomplice in the atrocity that is infant circumcision.
I have reclaimed my tattered soul and begun the process of becoming whole again.

I am a conscientious objector in the war against our infant brothers and sons and it feels wonderful.
Nurses of America, wipe the blood from your hands and join me!

- By Mary Conant, R.N., Statement to the press May 25, 1994, Third International Symposium on Circumcision, University of Maryland.
Mary Conant is a co-founder of Nurses for the Rights of the Child. She is one of the original 24 Conscientious Objectors to Circumcision nurses at St. Vincent Hospital, Santa Fe, New Mexico. She also appears on Barry Ellsworth’s video documentary The Nurses of St. Vincent: Saying No to Circumcision.


J-Law said...

Thank you for posting this. As a nurse I see many parents who choose to get their babies circumsized. The medical field presents circumcision as a "non-judegmental" choice most often instead of providing more truth about the abuse and effects of circumcision instead of the mere fact that it is not medically necessary.

As nurses we are always supposed to advocate for the health of our mothers and their babes. I hope that in the future more nurses can help educate parents about the atrocity of circumcision and like these nurses just refuse to be a part of it.

The hospital I work for does not perform circumcision in the hospital but only at the private DR's office which actually gives the parents more time to think about it. If there was more advocacy in the hospital and in general pop-culture I think this trend would be impacted hugely.

delightfulpregnancy said...

Wow, powerful. As I was reading this RN' account, I wanted to turn my face and not have to succumb to the mental images she describes. And yet it happens every day and many in our culture are so blind to it. "They're just a baby--they won't remember it." "He'll get over it quickly." "They're not crying b/c of the pain, they're just crying b/c they don't like being strapped down." Anyone who has ever been witness to a circ will testify against all these silly statements!

I am so thankful for this RN who was willing to stand up for her beliefs and work to protect babies from needless harm! We need so many more like her. God bless her. :)

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