“I Am a Mother Who Had Her Son Circumcised”

First of all, I am not an advocate of circumcision. I would throw my weight behind [fully support] eliminating it as a practice. It is traumatic for the mother as well as the boy. The more people who stand against it being a “good” medical practice, the easier it will be to decide to not circumcise.

However, I am a mother who had her son circumcised. I discharged extensively, consulted widely, and did the best I could to make a good decision in a complex social situation.

I am a raised-Catholic USer married to a man who is Arab, raised Muslim, from a Middle Eastern/West Asian country. When we decided to get married, I decided to raise our family with our extended family, from both sides, included in our lives. Our house has often felt like a Middle Eastern household; relatives have come and stayed for months at a time. My husband’s mother lived with us for the first six months of my son’s life.

As an experienced RCer, I was well aware of the trauma of circumcisions, having counseled with men who had worked full-out [without restraint] on their own circumcisions. I also knew that some Jewish RC women were not circumcising their sons, and that was my initial plan: to have no circumcision.

I discussed the issue with my husband, interviewed members of his family, did many sessions, wept and wept, and consulted with people in the RC Community whom I felt would help me with a perspective. Finally I decided to proceed with the circumcision and to make it as un-traumatic as possible.

Why did I proceed? I knew there was a tremendous amount of anti-Muslim oppression and sentiment in the United States, I had given my son an Arab/Muslim name, and I felt that I had to make a decision on his behalf. And if he were not circumcised, it would be a dominant fact about him on the Arabic side of his family, and I did not want that to be how people identified him.

Also, I talked to one of his cousins who had been born in Kuwait and hadn’t been circumcised near the time of his birth. He told me that when he was in Syria, at the age of twelve, his relatives had brought the person who would perform the procedure to his house, and he had been circumcised then and there. He told me that it was the most horrible experience of his life.

I wanted to delay the circumcision long enough to build a solid foundation of safety and connection for my newborn son but to do it before it would be more traumatic at a later age. I talked with a pediatric urologist. He told me that after six weeks it would have to be done surgically, with a general anesthetic. I decided to do it at six weeks. Then—local anesthetic or none? The men I asked blanched and said “local.”

The doctor who had delivered my son agreed to do the procedure and explain it to him, go slowly, encourage and permit discharge, and cut as little as possible.

We went into his office. My son was strapped down on a little board. I told him what was happening, strap by strap, and what was going to happen, and I held him tenderly as much as possible. I told him that he was going to have part of his foreskin cut off and that he would look like his father and other relatives. I said that it was the best I could think of and that I would hold him, stay close, tell him what was happening and why, and let him discharge. I told him that he would be someone who had been circumcised with a lot of attention and discharge, which would put him in an interesting position.

As the doctor gave him a shot of anesthetic, I told my son that it would tingle and feel numb for a while but that later he would be able to feel everything. The foreskin was stretched with some silver contraption, then it was cut, then it was over. The doctor appreciated my son, including his penis, and reassured him.

As we left, I held my son, and he cried and cried. We got in the back seat of the car and he cried more, wanted to nurse, burrowed in, and then slept deeply, as close as he could get. A few hours later one of my male Co-Counselors, who had worked extensively on his own circumcision, came over to counsel my son with me. We were on the bed. He said something loving like, “So something happened to you today?” and my son cried for well over an hour. My Co-Counselor put light pressure on my son’s toe. Every time he stopped crying, that touch started him all over again. After the crying, we kept going—through playing, yawning, and so on.

That was it. [That’s what happened.] My son and I stayed very close, and we still are. He did RC family work through high school and is now thirty-one and wonderful.

I feel that the actual decision was less important than that I stepped up to the plate [took responsibility] and made the decision, as a female and as a mother. I used it to get closer to my son and more committed to him.

I look forward to a world without circumcision in which there is full respect and safety for Jews and Muslims, males and females—however we get there.


Reprinted from the e-mail discussion list for RC Community members

(Present Time 193, October 2018)

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00