Read more from Woolery at: Peachy Keen Birth Services
My little man. How I wish I could go back in time.
My Little Buster,
I’m so sorry. How else do I begin this?
I was teaching today and lecturing my students about the importance of doing independent research when preparing to make decisions for their labor, birth, and the care of their newborn. My final point was to implore them to research every decision. To never proceed with something because some hospital class says 'everyone is doing it,' but rather to research the hell out of it until they are confident that they have all of the information.
And so I come back to this… I’m so sorry.
As a parent, there will be a million things you will look back on and think, “Gee, I wish I would have done that differently…”
Usually it’s something minor. Like becoming upset over something that was totally age-appropriate behavior. Or when you accidentally learned a 'colorful' word while Mommy was driving.
But how do I apologize for having part of your genitals amputated for NO MEDICAL REASON? When you were less than 24 hours old, no less!
Please let me at least explain why - where I was coming from - that I thought I was doing what I was supposed to do.
As I will explain someday, I wasn’t exactly tech-savvy when I was preparing for my first birth. I just literally didn’t even know anything existed beyond the hospital class and What to Expect.
That hospital class taught us that 95% of boys were circumcised, and that it was more hygienic. I didn’t know this was a lie. And I wasn’t in contact with anyone who could tell me that this was a lie. Looking back, that is not an excuse. The mama bear in me begs my pregnant self to questions it, verify it, somehow just double check this number. But I swear to you that my brain was just not wired this way back then. It had never occurred to my naive little mind that a hospital might “misrepresent” facts back then.
As it turns out, in that year, it was actually about 50% of boys who were not being circumcised. Not the mere 5% they suggested (and now it’s about 68% who are remaining intact!). And it is not more hygienic to be circumcised… no more so than it is to circumcise a baby girl rather than teach her to properly clean her labia. But apparently it was still a-okay with this hospital to hack off the genitals of baby boys. Hell, the hospital openly encouraged it!
I wish I had known even ONE person at that time who had chosen NOT to circumcise. I didn’t have a religious reason to circumcise, so that might just have been enough to nudge me into researching just a little more.
But all I had was that stupid hospital class, so I consented to have you circumcised. And there I go downplaying it. Sending blame away from myself. The truth now… not only did I consent, I think I actually asked the doc when you would be circumcised. If only ONCE someone had mentioned that it wasn’t medically necessary... I know I would have questioned it. But no one did, so I willingly handed you over.
I remember briefly feeling sad that something about your perfect little self would be changed… and then feeling selfish because, “after all, this was a medically necessary procedure, done for your own good.”
I vaguely remember asking if they use anesthetic and something was said about sugar water. Good frigging God, I was so stupid. As far as I can tell, you had part of your genitals forcibly ripped off at less than 24 hours old with absolutely no anesthesia.
I’m sobbing now, writing this. I just want to go back in time and kick my own ass. What the hell was wrong with me?
But the way my brain worked back then, it never occurred to me that something so horrific - the outright torture of a newborn - would be even remotely legal. I thought it was really medically necessary like that hospital class had taught us, and I thought you hadn’t felt it.
And when you were a couple of months old, right as I was learning that your cesarean birth could have been avoided, I also learned the truth about circumcision. That there is no medical reason for it. And that the majority of boys are remaining intact these days.
I sobbed. I’m so sorry.
And then I became pregnant with your little brother. You two are only 19 months apart. It took some convincing of your daddy, but he eventually consented that the evidence showed there was not a medical reason to circumcise. So then it was just a matter of having him admit that you and your soon-to-be brother having matching penises was not a valid reason to amputate anyone’s genitals. And your sweet daddy very quickly came around.
You are five, and little bro is three. So far, there have been no questions as to why your penises look different. How will I answer that when it does come up? When you are still little I think I will keep it generic, so as to not freak you out. “Mommy made one decision for you, and another for your little brother.” So far each of you thinks that your penis is the most awesome thing since… well, since anything, so I don’t think it will be an issue.
But when you are older... a man… I would like to explain things more truthfully… and apologize.
I can only pray to God that you will be able to understand why I made such a poor decision, and that you will forgive me.
Of all of the parenting moments I look back upon, those I wish I could re-do, having you circumcised is the only one I have utter remorse for. I’m so sorry.
With much, much love,
Mandi Woolery is a mommy to three kiddos, wife to a super-supportive man, and owner of Peachy Keen Birth Services, located in Upland, CA. After having an all-around horrible birth experience the first time around, Mandi's passion for gentle birth began. She now teaches natural childbirth classes, and is constantly rewarded as she witnesses her students making informed decisions. In addition to preparing expectant couples through her Natural Childbirth classes, Mandi also has the great honor of attending births as a doula, and is in the process of obtaining her birth doula certification through DONA International.
For additional letters and testimonies from mothers and fathers who regret not keeping their son(s) intact, or to meet those raising both circumcised and intact boys, see: I Circumcised My Son: Healing From Regret.
For additional information on the prepuce organ (foreskin/clitoral hood), intact care, and circumcision see resources, books, websites, and articles linked from this page.
For excellent pregnancy and birth resources (alternatives to the ubiquitously horrible, What to Expect series that Woolery mentioned), see books listed in this collection.