Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Letter to My Intact Son: Why I Kept You Whole

By Ashley Goldstein © 2010

Dear Diego,

As you know, you are my first born. You are the child that taught me how to be in tune with natural living. You have erased much of my ignorance and made me grow up before necessary. I owe it to you to give you the best, and try everything I can to keep you innocent and out of harm's way. I love you more than I love living. This is a letter to you, my beautiful boy, explaining why I chose to keep you intact when the rest of the country is cutting.

You will probably be reading this when you are old enough to understand statistics, emotional reasoning, human rights, and what circumcision is (that is, if I taught you correctly). So I will start with the emotional stuff you might have already heard from me while growing up. It's a no brainier that I am of Jewish descendant, brought up in the hands of the Judaic Religion. We attended temple, your eldest uncle and 2nd cousins had a bar/bat mitzvah, and much of your distant family speaks Yiddish and Hebrew. We followed all the holidays and the children were taught the history of our people, but the males of the family were special in the way of becoming Jewish. On the 8th day of life, a newborn male is given a Brit Milah. The Brit Milah is the ceremony to welcome the newborn into Judaism by giving him a Hebrew name and a circumcision. A female newborn is just given the Hebrew name. I never wondered why this was the case, until I learned the little soccer player in my tummy was blessed with an anteater between his legs.

I always wished for a boy as my first born. I was terrified to have a daughter (an irrational fear that I have overcome) and cried tears of joy when I knew I was having a son. Your father couldn't have smiled brighter and your grandmother cried. Why she cried is something I still do not know of at this time. I never asked and just assumed it was because she knew I would go through hell over the circumcision idea (we had discussed circumcision once or twice before finding out your gender and they knew I was basing the decision on your dad, who is intact).

You probably already know what I went through with your grandparents, uncles and great-grandmother over circumcision, and if you don't, I will have no problem discussing this all after you have read this letter. But this letter is not for me to vent - it is for me to express my love for you - all of you.

Because my family went through so much trouble trying to convince me to circumcise you, my brother going so far as to print out pro-circumcision information and place it on my desk with a note, I wanted to know what it was all about. Growing up, I always asked, "Why?" I didn't want to do something if I didn't know why and how it was done. I have always been natural minded, not wanting to litter, waste or live beyond human ability, so to hear that something you are born with is bad made me curious. Why would nature have every single male grow this skin when it's harmful?

So I turned to my computer and your father. Surely since he is intact, others must be too! I thought circumcision was something that happened to every boy and only a few were kept whole. I was 15, and ignorant to everything but the things I was taught growing up. I spent many days using Google. I came to the conclusion that I had been lied to. Circumcision was done to very few and keeping a boy intact was decided for many. Europe considered it a barbaric act and many people equated it to Female Circumcision. There were activists called INTACTivists, solely fighting for the rights to genital integrity. I saw pictures of botched circumcisions, scars and videos of poor babies screaming while the doctor explains to that he is only crying because he is strapped down and not because he is slicing open his penis. I became angered and my motherly instincts kicked in to fight for you, again.

I would have been angered if someone cut me when I was a baby (since female circumcision wasn't illegal until I was 5 years old) so I had to assume you would be angered if someone cut you without your consent. What if you wanted your foreskin? And I had taken it away, for you to never get back? That didn't set right in my mind. Circumcision is permanent. I wouldn't tattoo you without you wanting it. I wouldn't force food down your throat if you pushed away because that's not my choice to make. Your penis wasn't mine. It is not anyone's but yours. You feel the pleasure/pain when it is messed with. You are the one it is attached to, so shouldn't you decide if you want a part of it to stay with you? The answer is simple: yes. I wanted you to tell me if you wanted to keep your foreskin, but you couldn't. Now you can when you are older, and when you know how it feels to have a foreskin, and I feel no guilt. If you don't want your foreskin as you grow, still no guilt because you can remove it on your own terms. But for me to say, "My son, I know you will hate this foreskin as you grow, let me get rid of it now," seemed strange in my mind. How would I know? The case is easy - I didn't know.

I had read that circumcision interferes with breastfeeding and I was so determined to breastfeed you without problems that this hit me the hardest. What if I did decide to cut you, and you didn't latch, and needed a bottle of formula? My ultimate goal/dream was to nurse you. If I was to fail I would take it to heart and never get over it. Little did I know how much I would go through with your short tongue and allergies, so I bet if you had been cut, I would have failed as I predicted. I would have a hurting baby boy, hurting breasts full of milk that I wouldn't be able to get rid of, and a baby trying to get comfort out of something made in a factory/lab. I wanted to be your comfort, for that warmth to be human and not from the stove. I needed you close by me, and selfishly, I needed you to reduce my risk for breast cancer as my mother was a breast cancer survivor. I never wanted to go through what she did. I left you intact, and you nursed whenever you wanted it, not needing the comfort to settle a pain that didn't exist, but none the less wanting it anyway.

I was not afraid of you being made fun of. Children are cruel and will make fun of you for being beautiful, kind and generous. Not much you can't do that children won't make fun of you for, so when I was given that argument, I blew it off. What I was afraid of was infections. I was told over and over again that no matter what, you WILL get an infection and it can only be treated by circumcision. I turned to the internet once again, that it being the only place I could go. I talked to many grown men who have never had an infection, or have only had one and it was treated easily with medicine. Non-painful medicine. I was content with that. That even if you did get an infection, you would just get medicine like you would if you got a sore throat or the flu. No different except in the area that it is in. I have gotten a few UTIs and yeast infections. They aren't a big deal and I knew if you got one, you also would be fine and not die. It would be another experience to learn from about the human body and the world around us.

We live in a house with running water and we always will. Keeping you clean as you grew older and your foreskin became retractable wasn't something I would be worried about. I know you could just rinse it like you do the rest of your body. You may not want to hear this, but I have taken showers with your father, I have seen how easy it is to clean, and that it takes no extra time or effort. I wasn't worried that cleaning your foreskin would be a chore.

Little did I know when I was pregnant with you that the year you would be born the circumcision rate would drop from 50% to 33% in the U.S., and it is predicted to continue dropping. Hopefully that was right, and you are among the majority instead of the minority. We may not even be living in the U.S. by the time you are reading this, therefore you definitely won't be the odd man out! I hope you grew up loving your body for what it is and how it was created. I hope you appreciate the decision I made for you and decide the same for your sons. I love you and am lucky to have such a great son to teach me the facts of life, human anatomy, and the ways of natural, healthy living.

Love unconditionally,
Your mommy!





Goldstein is a teen intactavist, lactavist and cloth diapering mama to Diego. She blogs about her daily struggles with her family, herself and the world around her at Fridge Magnets. A mommy by day and a student by night, she is on her way to change the world one reader at a time.


For additional information on the prepuce organ (foreskin), intact care and circumcision see: Are You Fully Informed?

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22 comments:

  1. Wow! What an amazing mother! She could teach a thing or two for mothers twice her age!

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  2. What a beautiful post! Thank you so much for sharing this.

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  3. You are an amazing mother! and I agree. You COULD teach a thing or two to mothers twice your age. I love that you took a stand for him. It was hard for me, I can only imagine being Jewish and trying to take that stand.

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  4. Thank you for writing this! So well articulated. Your son will absolutely be thankful for all that you've done for him. You are a strong, thoughtful young woman.
    Layla
    (another Jewish mom with an intact son)

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  5. You are an inspiration to mothers of all ages !!

    You are an incredible mother , thank you for sharing this .

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  6. I love Ashley's blog!! :D She's such an amazing mama to her little boy, this post is one of my favourites. Keep up the fantastic work, Ashley! It's hard to believe how young she is, she speaks with such amazing wisdom and maturity :)

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  7. She is fabulous! I don't think I would have been anywhere near as good a mom at her age.

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  8. Man! Aside from the part about her partner being intact & being a teen mom, I could have written the same thing to my son! I had very similar experiences (raised Jewish, lied to about how circ is such a "blessing" & so much "healthier", being told that intact penis' get such awful infections "have" to be circ'd....) I ♥ her!

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  9. Omg I think I love this girl! My son was cut.... I was stupid... I was also there while it happened.... the worst thing I have ever been witness to... I wish I had known more

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  10. This is EXACTLY how I feel about why I didn't circumcise my son!!! Minus being Jewish-I'm not. So fantastic!

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  11. This is incredibly beautiful. You really are an inspiration to mums of all ages. Certainly your son will be proud and thankful.

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  12. I had my firstborn son at 16, and did not circumcise him...like Ashly's situation his father was intact. That is the only reason I even knew I had a choice. I also researched the topic, wanting to do right by my son, and decided to refuse the procedure. I often wonder what would have happened if his father was circumcised. Would I have even known I could refuse? Would I have thought to research it? By putting her story out there for all to see, she is getting the message out that we do have the right to refuse this procedure and protect our sons. As a teen mom sharing her experience, maybe other teen moms will think about this before allowing their sons to be circumcised. So thank you!

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  13. Ashley is a smart cookie!!! :)

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  14. What a beautiful letter! I became an intactivist at 18 and I'm so thankful every day, because it meant that even had I become a young mother, my children would remain intact :)

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  15. Me too Kayla. I met Marilyn Milos in 1986 and knew she spoke the truth.

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  16. Thank you for that beautifully written piece!!

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  17. lucky boy, having you for a momma. thank you for this beautiful sharing.

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  18. Good for you for doing the right thing and staying strong and true to what you knew in your heart was right.

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  19. This letter is so touching. What a lucky little boy! It makes me so thankful to my own mother, who, somewhat radically, kept my baby brother intact way back in 1980. I didn't think too much about it when I was growing up, but I am so glad now. Good for you, Ashley! Things change one mama at a time.

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  20. So amazing! And so impressive that she was determined to learn all this and be educated so young! I wish more people would take the time to be educated!

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  21. Awesome, touching post! I am blown away especially by someone so young. Ty for sharing!

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  22. Thank you for your beautifully written letter! I too am part Jewish (not really considered Jewish because it's through my Grandfather, not my Grandmother) and an intactivist, attachment parenting, "newly" cloth-diapering Mama. :)

    My immediate family DID support our decision to keep our son intact though (even though Daddy is not, once he learned the hard truth of circ'ing he said we'll NEVER circ! :)). I have family and friends both circ'd and intact and only a few have had problems, that I know of and most of those were the circ'd. Thank you for your loving encouraging words of wisdom. I hope one day to be able to tell my son that his daddy and I love him so much that we chose to keep him whole and perfect the way God created him in my womb :).

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