For Regretful Moms and Dads
– A Journey
To be a mother – bitter/sweet. Enlistment in the most daring life journey. A new path, filled with the ultimate joys and deepest sorrows at every turn. Our lives – never the same. Bliss intertwined with sadness – flowers growing, watered with our tears along the way.
The parturient days, full pregnant belly, ripe, bulging, ever awaiting, lusty with life.
Birthing rushes, like oceanic waves, first gentle and pulsating, then fierce and crashing. Not always “blissful” or “peaceful”, but victorious none the less.
In triumph, new life emerges. Baby announces – start of his/her journey on tremendous trip of life!
The flurry of medical rituals may be a background – some okay, others annoying, incongruous – all now just a blur.
New infant, rose-petal soft skin, snuggling, nuzzling for nourishment. New mother, exhaustion/ecstasy welded together in new experience.
Hair strands like finely spun silk on little round, perfect head. Newborn squeaking, sighing noises, sweet tunes like wind through the trees.
Newborn sweet perfume, the scent of purity, innocence, emergence. Wondrous, trusting little eyes now looking to us. All of our senses are open. Breasts now full and bulging.
Honey-sweet liquid nectar flowing from mother – providing sustenance, nutrition, the power to heal the universe, the juice of life.
But “fragile”, “delicate” – not us! We are the stronger sex.
The horror! The threat! Culture demanding blood, damage, attacking, menacing! Slicing through our idyllic experience like a jagged, angry knife. Baby screams! The blood! The trauma!
The picture damaged now, out of control, surrealistic, violated, contorted. The birth blissful world, now gone gray.
We can mend. We can survive, but never the same. We sew it back together with our hearts, but the scar remains forever.
And the blissful mother-infant picture now morphs into the angry mother she-bear un-hesitant to rip to shreds the enemy that has threatened and damaged her young. We must survive! We will survive!
I wrote the above to paint a picture with words, figuratively using broad brush stokes to convey my own experience of the births and circumcisions of my older (now grown) sons – especially after the beautiful home birth of my third son in 1977. Although we survived, something beautiful and perfect was damaged, brought back to earth, in a sense “killed” by smashing the essence of the idyllic state we once knew. We are the regret parents of intactivism. We have seen the grotesque horror of circumcision face to face, heard our babies’ screams, and felt the heartbreak. Modern day intactivism has been watered and nurtured by our tears. We are among the strongest forces determined to put an end to this assault upon our young. We carry the dual image of the ever sweet, nurturing new mother and the angry she-bear emblazoned in our hearts. We will fight until we win!
What can we do? In the immediate aftermath with grief and horror still so fresh a dear friend said “stay in present time.” Focus on “right now.” The physical wound has healed. Infant pain now encapsulated in the past. Gruesome fact – there’s no time travel, no way to go back and undo what is done. Baby is still sweet and snuggly, suckling eagerly at my breast. (The wound in my heart remains – singed there forever!) Beautiful baby must heal me. I awaken from a distressing dream and tell my baby “I love you! I just made a mistake!”
I take my baby into the bathtub with me. Warm soothing water laps over both of us, warm like the tears I have shed. Baby suckles, relaxes, blissfully drifts to sleep. Like the magical post-birth moments when we first met, a semblance of that perfect birthing energy is now re-created as best we can. I too once felt ripping pain yet I’m still sweet and so are you. My path may not be right for every parent, but focusing on the positive moments can greatly heal. Cherish every goofy, magical little grin. Savor the snuggly moments as mother and child. Feast on the awesome blessings of life – the silent, ever strong majesty of trees, the pulsating power-chant of ocean waves, the glorious, ever-changing radiance of the sun setting, the sparkling intricate beauty and delicateness of a flower, the soothing, flowing liquid balm of exquisite music.
Our children grow. They refuse to stay babies. Life is mundane – filled with laundry and groceries. Life is an ever changing adventure of camping trips, soccer games and birthday parties. Life is also burdensome with endless toys and clutter, bouts of the flu, squabbling, tantrums, skinned knees and broken dishes. Parents’ choice – keep laughing or go insane!
Circumcision regret hovers in the background – a silent shadow. How could things have been different? The scar will never leave Three more babies come to me – a beautiful baby girl, another adorable boy, and yet another precious girl. (Two other little girls left me much too soon – another grief, a different story, emblazoned in my heart.) No more babies born to me are cut. Our people do not cut girls. (Girls do face a multitude of other traumas.) New little boy – how can he know how precious his new life is? 8 days old, gets to sleep and nurse peacefully. 9 days old – nothing bad has happened. Can he ever know the worlds that had to move to make his life be peaceful and his body be whole? Can he ever know his unharmed foreskin shakes generations of blindness to the core? Can he be my new baby boy all over again, re-fashioning the past, erasing the trauma?
No one is perfect. We all make mistakes. (The cruelty of infant circumcision – we have been lied to by culture, friends, relatives and the medical profession – yet as mothers, too often naive and confused, WE get blamed!) But our own parents made mistakes. Our children will make mistakes. Parents of intact sons will make other mistakes.
Love is the healing balm for every harm. Without love we are empty. Without love we die.
Our children teach us every day. They are ever strong, vibrant. We must hear them if we ever wish to learn. On TV I see a happy little girl, romping around, laughing and playing. This child had endured an unspeakable tragedy. She had been accidentally shot in the face. She had faced some 20+ surgeries to repair the destruction. No child should ever be hurt unnecessarily, of course. But their resiliency amazes us!
My first son, as a ever busy 22 month old toddler once grabbed a hot pot of freshly made tea, spilling it on his legs. I recall the frantic, agonizing morning at the doctor’s office, the doctor and I attempting to soothe him with ice, then antiseptic medication, and finally bandages covering his ankles to his thighs, my baby screaming the whole horrible time. A quick shot of Demerol and a trip back home gave him the blessing of sleep for the afternoon. I continued heavy hearted, certain that my baby wouldn’t walk or wish to move for weeks. To my great surprise and delight, my undaunted, unstoppable child woke up that evening and was soon running around through the house, climbing on furniture, laughing and giggling (bandaged legs and all)! The experience was of course traumatic, but our life lessons never cease.
When old patterns shatter, new worlds emerge.
If infant pain is now a bygone, maternal anger remains forever. As the angry she-bear my now bared claws attack the typewriter keyboard. As “the pen is mightier than the sword” so now “the keyboard and pounding hands are mightier than the clamp and knife.” I cannot live in a world that attacks the genitals of its young. I must change it. I have been given a writer’s soul and a mother’s and childbirth educator’s heart. The words flow out through my fingers. Healing essence flows with it through my heart. I reach out, wherever I can, to anyone who can listen. I am of the “baby boomer” generation. Social change seeking justice runs through our blood. Each word is written, sealed for all time, in my own blood. I will reach thousands and more, through history and through time, even after I have left this earth. Sweat pours from my brow. I take the pain into my own being so that future babies will be spared.
Each person’s path of creativity differs. Intactivism is an ever vibrant, healing, multi-dimensional group effort. I was never meant to be an “army of one” – however starry-eyed I once was. We are a many faceted community. Some lead protests. Some organize symposiums. Some speak out publicly. Some make posters and informational material. Some teach calmly. Others rage with righteous anger. We all have tremendous communal cooperation and energy. Joining the intactivist community provides a wonderfully healing journey. One finds amazing, incredible people, each one reflecting altruism – the saintly willingness to sacrifice oneself for the betterment of all humanity.
Yet stark reality continues to crash through my brain. My once beautiful, (damaged, but ever loved) home born baby now faces the brink of adulthood. His body now private, out of mother’s domain. A routine medical check up is needed for school and I catch a glimpse as the doctor examines him. The truth continues to smack me in the face. It is still a circumcised penis – even if right now he doesn’t care. I say nothing. Ever protective, I will not give him unneeded hang ups. But thousands of hours of writing, volumes of paper – letters and treatises, laundry baskets of mail hauled to the post office, a garage full of books, and even a new baby boy left whole refuses to change the fact.
Infancy flees by quickly. Traumatic events, however distant and vague in our memories, never cease to shape us. The pain of circumcision lurks eternally in our lives, even if never recognized. Like an angry mutation gone awry, ever duplicating itself on future generations. Only those awakened have the power to kill this vestige of a broken humanity It lurks as an ever haunting remnant of a world gone insane, living in terror of our creative life force – our sexuality, yet gladly embracing the power to destroy itself. Old absurdities can be abandoned to rot in the dust, but this destruction remains, carved into our bodies, ever present in our lovemaking. What could have been there? What is missing? We are all cut off. Our senses are blunted.
Children become adults, all too soon it seems. Their own sexuality – a realm far beyond parents’ reach. The only words available are “I’m sorry.” Repress the horror, survive in the fog of apathy, or face the horror and scream! But let it, oh please, let it die with you. Leave our grandsons to be free. Let humanity be healed.
By Rosemary Romberg
“…. I don’t think guilt is the appropriate label for what we mothers of circumcised boys feel. Guilt comes from doing something you know you’re not supposed to be doing. Had we known, we NEVER would have allowed anyone to take a knife to the genitals of our sons. Once we learn the truth, we feel a profound and overwhelming sadness, regret, remorse, and anguish about not having known or questioned. Nothing in our imaginations could have conjured up the gruesome truth about what happens to baby boys behind closed doors. We didn’t even know enough to question this grotesque practice, which is why we’re left so distraught once we understand the horror of circumcision. Such is the power of cultural conditioning, especially when it’s fraught with the cutting of the genitals of children. Now we know so much because we are strong mothers who had the courage to face our mistakes and make a difference in the world by telling others what we wish we had been told, what we wish we had known!” – Marilyn Milos, R.N.
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