Skip to content

Happy Mother’s Day

May 12, 2012

Every mother, every parent, looks back on things we regret doing or failing to do for our children. Probably one of the most common parental regrets is “I was too busy; I didn’t spend enough time with my child” (the song Cat’s in the Cradle, by Harry Chapin, was all about this).

But I have never heard more pain and remorse than what is expressed by mothers who didn’t protect their baby sons from circumcision, and later realized the brutality their boys had suffered.

This pain, for many, never fades. The first time I was invited to talk about circumcision on a radio program that accepted call-ins, a woman who I’ll call Bea came on the line and began to recount her experience. In a shaky voice, Bea said she’d never thought or even heard about circumcision until a nurse came to her in the hospital while she was holding her newborn son, and asked her to hand him over. At this point in the story Bea began to cry. “The nurse told me it was time for him to be circumcised – and she was going to give him that gift. She took my baby away.”  She paused. “And then I heard the scream. I will never, ever forget that scream; it was like nothing I’d heard before or since. A few minutes later, the nurse brought me my son – and he was a different person.”  Bea went on to say that before he was taken away, her baby had been awake and calm, and making eye contact with her. After he was circumcised, he was disassociated, refused to nurse, and was later inconsolable when he cried. The first time she changed his diaper and “saw what they had done,” Bea said she “wanted to die.”

I asked, “How is your son now?”

“He’s fine,” she said. “But I am not. I feel guilty every single day.”

“How old is he?” I asked, envisioning a baby, or maybe a young toddler.

“He’s 28,” she said.

I thought of my own son, who was also at the time of this conversation, 28 years old. I reflected on how lucky I am to have had the information I needed to protect him from circumcision, to have had the support of his father, and – unlike Bea and so many other mothers I have met – to have escaped pressure from doctors, nurses, or others intent on perpetuating this horrible custom.

But why should I have been surprised that, 28 years later, Bea’s trauma remained as acute as ever? Marilyn Milos, my close friend and the “mother of the intactivist movement” has worked every day for the past 35 years to save babies from circumcision, and their mothers from the pain and remorse she feels for having ignorantly acquiesced to having her three sons’ circumcised (Marilyn awareness and trauma began when – as a newly trained nurse – she witnessed her first circumcision). Marilyn’s grown sons, like Bea’s son, are “fine” and have forgiven her – but Marilyn, Bea and so many mothers I have heard from since that radio program, have not forgiven themselves and remain haunted, decades later.

What could I say to Bea? I said the words I learned from Marilyn: “You didn’t know any better, so you couldn’t do any better. Now you know, so speak up and speak out to save babies, and to save other mothers from this regret.”

Happy Mother’s Day to Bea, Marilyn and all mothers who – whether out of ignorance or fear or pure bad luck – were unable to protect their sons from circumcision. Happy Mother’s Day, and good karma, to every mother who tells the truth about circumcision.  Live in peace.


Georganne Chapin

14 Comments leave one →
  1. May 22, 2012 5:19 am

    I had a student who sued a local hopsital because they deliberately went aganist her expressed wishes for no circumcision. How incredibly thoughtless and irritating. The big problem I see discussed in the above blog posting is that circumcision involves an irrevocable act very early in life. This causes all sorts of issues. My student won easily. She didn’t go for a financial settlement but did win a promise for the hospital to clarify its procedures so there could be no repetition. That was what she really wanted. Of course, if you don’t have natural childbirth, you may be suffering the effects of anesthesia and who knows how clear your brain will be? I wonder what the situation is now in that hospital, as that was fifteen years ago?

  2. Shteln permalink
    May 16, 2012 8:47 am

    An interesting blog, Georganne.
    Mothers have been such a driving force behind educating and challenging and decreasing the prevelance of male genital mutilation- thanks, Mamas!
    The more I study the American way of birth, the typical hospital process, the more I realise how disempowering and traumatic it has been not only for the baby but for the mother as well. What a way to start a relationship. It makes me both sad and angry that the mother-son relationship has to be damaged in the way that it does from this cultural practice.
    Mothers, don’t ignore your sons if they want to know more about why it was done to them and if they tell you about harm. The worst thing you could do would be to deny his questions, thoughts and feelings. Insult to trauma can be unbearable.
    Please, guys out there, lets open more space to talk about this issue with our mothers- especially if it has shaped our relationships for the worse. We have both lost out from this practice.

  3. Miriam Pollack permalink
    May 15, 2012 8:59 am

    Dear Georganne, Thank you so much for speaking to this usually invisible part of the trauma of circumcision: the mothers who remain conscious and in anguish their entire lives. I certainly am one. Thank you to both you and Marilyn for your heroic work! With deepest appreciation, Miriam

  4. JeanineRye permalink
    May 14, 2012 4:20 pm

    I don’t understand this post, Georgeanne. What advice are you giving mothers like me? “Happy Mother’s Day, and in 26 years your pain will still be where it is today?” I refuse to be a victim and I wish I had found some solace in this post, but I have not. My son will be fine, but why can’t I be fine? Why do I live with this deep despair in the pit of my soul? Why is it worth living like this? I can’t turn back time, but I can’t move forward. It’s hell. I do not want to educate the masses, because my priority is and should be my son, and I do not believe he can grow up healthy and proud of his body if I am speaking of the “wrongful mutliation” being commited against baby boys. I have to be courageous by letting him grow up well.How do I find the strength for this?

    • May 14, 2012 11:41 pm

      I am going to try to answer your post, Jeanine, and I hope that others will also weigh in.

      You say you don’t want to educate the masses, because you need to focus on your son, and (understandably) you don’t want him to hear you say he is “mutilated.” Jeanine, you don’t need to carry a banner; you don’t need to advertise your son’s status, and you certainly never need to use the word “mutilation” when talking with or about him. Just a quiet one-on-one conversation with a friend or family member could spare that person in the future the agony you are describing now.

      You cannot hide the remorse you feel from your boy. You can apologize to him when he is old enough to have the conversation, and tell him you didn’t know what you were agreeing to when you were asked to sign a consent. You can tell him that the other boys and men you know are all circumcised, so you had no idea that it was not “the thing” to do. You can tell him the truth – that you are sorry – and that you love him and want the best for him. You can answer his questions.

      And – again – you can tell other parents-to-be about your experience.

      For the most part, the mothers I have met who have told their sons of their regret have been forgiven; in fact, “Mom, it’s ok, get over it,” has been the response of many. For the most part, the men who are incensed and unforgiving are those whose curiosity, grief and resentment have been disregarded or ridiculed by their mothers and fathers – as though the loss they have experienced is unimportant.

      You will never do that to your son; you have already said that you live in pain, and there’s no way you will trivialize his experience.

      Talking about it to others with similar experiences, and speaking out to spare others the same pain WILL help you. And it will ultimately help – not hurt – your relationship with your son.


    • RewriteLady permalink
      May 15, 2012 12:12 am

      My experience in talking with circumcised men has been the same as Georganne’s… the angry men are the ones whose parents dismissed or trivialized their son’s response to having had this decision made for him when he was too young to consent. The mothers with regrets are not the ones who are hated by their sons. And the words of a mother with regrets can carry a lot of weight with expectant parents who are struggling with this decision.

    • May 15, 2012 7:20 pm

      I don’t agree. I believe that being completely honest about what happened is better than being dishonest in order to “save face” with your son. Yes, you made a poor decision for him….No, he’s not going to die because of it, and yes, he should be happy with how he is and there is nothing wrong with that. I don’t think it’s helpful to dance around it. Advocating openly for genital integrity for baby boys is an excellent way to heal. I know I didn’t have the information I needed, nor the support to do what I instinctively knew was right, so my son’s body was altered. There is no going back, it can’t be changed, but that doesn’t mean I have to somehow make it okay in my mind for the benefit of my son. He needs to know what happened to him so he hopefully won’t make the same poor decision for any sons he might have. Knowledge is power, and truth is also power. I am okay with my regrets because I was also a victim, but it’s more important to me to face it, own it, and acknowledge it. I am not depressed every day because of it, but I know spreading the truth about it is a daily thing for me and I don’t consider it work.

    • Howard. permalink
      May 16, 2012 10:05 am

      I agree with the previous posters. Personaly, I find it therapeutic to confront this barbaric custom. To talk about it, and educate others who may not be as informed as they might be due to the agenda of some in the medical community. To actualy save a little boys foreskin in real life is positively uplifting.

    • May 16, 2012 8:03 pm

      Jeannine, I have three circumcised sons and I’ll go to my grave knowing they will never know the wholeness of their bodies or the fullness of their sexual experience because I didn’t know enough to protect them! Like you, I am a victim of modern medicine in the USA. I learned what had happened to my sons behind closed doors when I witnessed the procedure during my last month of nursing school (my sons were 10, 17, and 20 years old at the time). That moment literally changed the course of my life, which I’ve dedicated to bringing an end to an anachronistic blood ritual that has no place in civilized society in the 21st century. I have apologized to all of my sons. In fact, one of my sons said to me, “Mom, you have apologized to me and I’ve accepted your apology. I know what I’m missing and wish I wasn’t missing it, but I have a fine relationship with my penis and I’m okay. You don’t ever have to apologize to me again.” That was when I realized my apologies were a reminder to my son of something unpleasant that happened to him in infancy and he had moved on. I’ve not apologized again. (My life is a living apology to my sons.) I think we need to tell our children their stories because our early experiences frame our lives. When we can name our experiences and understand them, we are no longer the victim of our experiences–we become the survivor. In fact, several males have told me that, as children, they had night terrors until they learned they were circumcised. The terrors ended when they understood what had happened to them and the experience they were remembering in their dreams. You, too need to become a survivor. Deep despair will not help your son now, nor will it serve you. You did the best you could with the information you had at the time. When you know better, you do better. I am sure you would never allow any doctor to take a knife to any child of yours again without a valid medical reason, so you have learned. And, you really will benefit by sharing your experience with others. You also will need to apologize to your son one day, probably better if it’s sooner than later, and you can give him just a little information at a time…but he needs to be told he was circumcised. You can tell him that when dad and he were born, circumcision was thought to be cleaner and healthier. Now, people are realizing it’s not necessary and you wish you had been told this new information before he was born. Tell him that most boys in the USA have been circumcised but now that’s changing and you’re sharing the information you have so other mothers and fathers will know better, too. And, finally, you will be happy to know that all of my sons are proud of the work I do on behalf of infants and children and they, too, share the information about circumcision with their friends. We’ve all saved babies and I now have four intact grandsons and an intact granddaughter. While the difficult part is that we and our sons must live with the horror of a harmful traditional practice that has affected us all, the rewarding part is that we are the ones who are making a difference for the next generation, and in that, we can take pride!

  5. May 13, 2012 4:55 am

    I had a similar unfortunate situation with being bullied into consenting….but when my baby came back to me and I saw what had been done to him, I not only wanted to die….. I wanted to kill whoever did that to him!!!! He will soon turn 33 years old and says he is fine with how he is, but that doesn’t matter, I will hold that regret for the rest of my life. He doesn’t know any different but that doesn’t make it okay, he deserved to have his whole body and I had no right to consent to someone cutting part of it off. I try to give information to others about circumcision and encourage parents to leave their babies whole, and I hope somewhere along the way I can save another baby boy from being cut.

    • jaytuohey permalink
      May 13, 2012 6:49 pm

      No words can ease your torment.
      You were cheated by the very people that should have protected you and your son.
      I hope you have resolved this with your boy.breaks my heart when I read stories like this.
      I think that doctors have a lot to answer to…

  6. Paul Frohlich permalink
    May 13, 2012 2:08 am

    Correcting myself in the above the left over skin can not prevent friction because in most damaged man it do not move at all in the sexual act with a female partner, as I learned in ” Sex as Nature intended it” web side. Why is it that Intact America do not mention the fact that 66% of USA woman do hurt in love making sooner or later, something unheard of in Europe where man are not cut. in Finland only one in 15.000 man is cut and they have the lowest cervical cancer rate out all countries.In part,if man is as God or Nature intended him to be the relationship is less harmful to both partners and so less cheating, but also less damage to the cervix specially if the girl start her love life in early age where her cervical mucosa is still not fully developed to protect the inner walls of the cervix from a virus? A well protected glans stay as soft as the cervix is and so not a damage. Nature and Her evolution is very clever. Also speaking of God most of people that cut believe in. how illogical a human mind can get? If there is a God the Creator ” He” create all things perfect and not for fun so people can correct ” Him” by cutting ” His” mistake of? This is not just illogical to do, if those believe in God this is a sort of mental disorder to do so. God is perfect and do not make any mistakes and if so its corrected by evolution over the span of millions of years. The foreskin is here that long on all mammal animals including human and so correct it is a stupidity or sort of insanity.

  7. Paul Frohlich permalink
    May 13, 2012 1:27 am

    Lucky for me I was born in Czech Republic and culture that do not practice this outdatet Bronze Age barbaric act and so I am the way Nature intended me to be but this thing bother me for a very long time that this is done to totally helpless people without their consent. When I lived in California with my young two boys I was listening to doctor Dean Edel not sure if I spell his name correct and he was talking on this subject often but I did not understand fully what it was all about and no medical books would explain the reason why little boys are cut years before that I even did not realize they are cut I thought those man just for some reason look like that naturally, I was so stupid to think of it now. But one day I asked myself ” Why would Nature put it on us and for what reason?”and than it hit me one day ” It must act as an anti- friction device so a female do not hurt”. Years later I also thought that it also must be there to protect the glans softness so the cervix do not get damaged and also I calculated that in cut man the glans become rough and unsensitive. 3 years ago I got myself a computer and all my theories proved to be correct even that I suspected at that time that the folds are a double layers of tissues. What I did not know that by cutting those of the left over skin will move so well if at all during love with a lady. 9 years ago I started to write to a lady in Philippines and on the computer I discovered that 93% of boys are cut there.I wrote about it often and my future wife knew how angry I was about this barbaric act and she started to talked about it with others and saved 2 boys from this genital mutilation. Finally I came to see her for 3 weeks. At 32 she was still a virgin and wanted a baby. The event was relatively harmless to her doing love at her age for the first time even if it took 4 days before we could do it in full. If I be cut I could never do it in her case. Today we have a 4 month old baby boy and I know if I be mutilated we could not pregnant that fast if at all because I would not have the mechanic and sensitivity that trigger the responses needed where cut man of that age are often impotent or use some drugs……..but my mostly raw vegan foods do play its role in this. The genital mutilation is an evil act that do not belong in any civilized society at this age of where we shall be evolved enough not to do such a thing. It bother me deeply. it makes me very angry that this done to all those little helpless beings.

  8. RewriteLady permalink
    May 12, 2012 9:14 pm

    This is beautiful, Georganne. I hope you are surrounded by love and appreciation on Mother’s Day and every day.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: