People have asked me to write about Pape’s birth here in Dakar, but I just don’t feel like it. It was a very stressful, weekend-long event and there are other things I’d rather write about. Like his circumcision.

Bonus points: By blogging about his snipping, I’ll give him material to use in his future bestseller on being raised by toubabs in Africa and his mom embarrassing him with her lack of boundaries.

So here’s the deal. Due to the aforementioned crazy birth weekend, we didn’t get around to having this procedure done until last week. After getting no sleep on Sunday night (tossed and turned in bed, regretting the decision to read up on the actual how-tos of procedure), we arrived at the clinic reception area on the 1st floor at 8:35am.

At our pre-snipping consultation we’d asked for an estimate cost, but after going to three offices no one could tell us. At 8:35am on Monday, however, the receptionist said that was something we should have had in hand, so sent us up to the surgeon’s office on the 7th floor to get it.

Important detail: There was a huge ngente (Muslim baby baptism) being held on the top floor of the clinic, so the five-person elevator was cram-packed all morning long with people in fancy robes, jewels and sunglasses going up, down, up, down… The lines to get in the elevator were about 10 people deep on every floor. So we hoofed it.

Once on the 7th floor, the surgeon told us we had to pay him the $200 fee in cash or by check, but the second fee for the operating block could be paid to the clinic with plastic. Fortunately, I had one check in my wallet. The snipping would go on.

The surgeon instructed us to take the payment receipt down to the receptionist on the 1st floor so Pape could be admitted, then take him to the operating block on the 2nd floor. Got it.

Once at the operating block, they asked for his admittance form. Hadn’t been given one, so back down to 1st floor. They told me to first pay the operating block fee of about $100. So I went to the 3rd floor to pay.

As my toes touched the 3rd floor, Cheikh called me to say they were taking Pape into start the procedure but needed the diapers in my bag. So I went back down to 2nd floor operating block then back up to the 3rd floor to pay.

The only credit card machine in the whole building is located in the office of a very nice, soft-spoken administrator. My voice was all wobbly as I explained that I needed to pay for my son’s procedure. Swipe, print, sign.

As I turned to walk out, I started to cry (just lightly, but still). I asked the man if I went down to the operating block if I’d be able to hear Pape crying. He pointed to a chair and told me to ‘patient’ a minute. Then he called a midwife and said, “I have a woman in my office. Her son is being circumcised and she wants to know if you can hear him from the hallway where you are… Mmm… Uh-huh… Okay, thank you.” Then he turned to me. “Madame, it’s okay. He’s already started the procedure but they are in a back operating room so you can go wait in the hallway and not hear him. Don’t worry, Madame. It will be over soon.” Of course, then I started really crying because of how sweet he was treating this wobbly, worried mom in his office.

So my tissues and I headed to the 2nd floor. On the way down, I got a call from my friend Lauren who was checking in on me. She’s got three boys (one of whom was snipped on their kitchen table) so she knew what I was going through that day. In the middle of the call, I heard Cheikh say Pape was coming out of the operating room. I’m pretty sure I hung up on Lauren mid-sentence (so sorry if I did!) but am also pretty sure she understood.

True to Senegalese form, the nurse handed Pape to me and said, “Give him the breast.” Yes, ma’am. She then took us to a room to wait for an hour – the very same room where I’d waited for an hour for fetal monitoring when Pape was born. They’ve since painted over the windows so that people riding in the glass elevator can’t see in. Nice touch.

After half an hour Cheikh got permission for us to go to the clinic restaurant for coffee. We walked up to the 8th floor, saw that it was totally packed out with baptism guests and video cameras. (Not sure who the baby is, but his parents are apparently a BIG deal.) So we walked back down to the 2nd floor where a nurse checked the bandage before sending us up to the 7th floor to see the surgeon before being discharged.

Check, check, check… everything’s good. We can go. Back down to 1st floor receptionist to be discharged… but not without a little memento from that morning. I walked our of the clinic with a carefully wrapped foreskin in my purse.

Following a theme of this post… My friend, Peggy Itschner, will be participating in the Big Climb, a stair climb up 69 flights of stairs on March 25th. All proceeds benefit The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Please consider supporting her by going to and clicking ‘donate’.