A Public Apology to My Circumcised Son

By Mandi Woolery © 2010
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,

Your Mommy


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 Should I Circumcise? The pros and cons of infant circumcision.

For excellent pregnancy and birth resources (alternatives to the ubiquitously horrible, What to Expect series that Woolery mentioned), see books listed in this collection.



  1. I am crying so hard right now. I had BOTH my sons circumcised for the same reason: I thought it was what I was supposed to do. "For their own good." Oh, I wish I had known then what I know now :'(

  2. Thank you for speaking out. Your courage will inspire other parents to seek what's best for their own little guy.

  3. My first child, a girl, was born in 2004. I'm so glad my first was a girl or it's likely that I would have made the same mistake the author made. I was young and didn't have the proper information available to me.

    My son was born 6 months ago and was not circumcised. He's perfect and healthy. I can't imagine ever feeling the need to "fix" him.

  4. my son is 2 and we never considered circumcising him at all. if that's the way he was brought here in this world, that's how we should learn to live with it. having said that, i didn't take you made a mistake by circumcising him. as a thoughtful mother, you were just trying to do your best!

  5. At least you learned from it and did better the second time around. My mom made the same mistake twice before she got to me and then did it again. I doubt she even thinks about it anymore, let alone feel any remorse.

  6. Thank you for sharing your story. I hope that you can allow you to forgive yourself as you only did what you thought was best for your son at that time. You did not, nor would you ever, intentionally harm him.

    I am expecting and it greatly concerns me that the birth plan I was given to fill out does not have the option, "do not circumcise my son". The only options are 1) I have not decided about circumcision and would like to speak to a health provider. 2) I would like my son circumcised. 3) Me or my partner would like to be present during the circumcision. That's it!! I plan on taking a large red marker and writing my wishes in large print at the bottom. I fear, however, that it is still such a routine procedure that it will just happen by mistake.

  7. I could have written this. My first two sons were both circumcised because 1)I was told it was the hygienic thing to do, and 2)I thought it was some sort of requirement for my church. Turns out, I was horribly wrong on both counts. But I didn't know anyone who would tell me otherwise until a couple years after my youngest was born...10.5 years ago.

    Now that I'm to have another boy, I am finding myself feeling extremely guilty over what I allowed to be done to my older boys, but OH SO THANKFUL I know better than that now.

  8. BIG HUGS to you. I am sorry that you are having to go through this. At least your son knows that you feel sorry about it. There are parents out there that think it is okay to cut their sons even after they have heard all the facts.
    Right now he is happy and healthy and knows that you love him. You can not undo the past, but you can try an accept it and move forward.

  9. Your story broke my heart. I know you feel very guilty, but you know you only did what you thought and was told was best for your son. So be easy on yourself. You learned from your mistake.
    And that is life. We live and learn.

  10. Only a handful of USA medical school profs have put their opposition to routine neonatal circ in the public domain. I know of only ONE professor of pediatric urology who has done so. Pediatric urology is THE medical specialty on the front line of problems caused by circumcision. American medical and sexual research has not been honest at all about counting the complications of routine circ, especially those that don't manifest themselves before middle age.

    I don't see Mandi as guilty of anything. Rather, she is merely one more victim of the systemic evils I mention above, and of the lies and sexual ignorance spread by those employed in many USA maternity wards, and of American sexual provinciality. American doctors and nurses almost never take a course in human sexuality. And if a course were offered, it would not speak the truth about circumcision and sex. That truth is emerging mainly because more and more young women are throwing caution to the winds and speaking about their personal experience with cut and intact.

  11. Thank you so much for sharing this. I am SO GRATEFUL that someone raised the issue with me before I became pregnant with my son. My husband and I had always planned to circumcise if we had a son but we immediately changed our minds. It's not a comfortable subject, but I share the facts as often as possible in hopes of changing someone else's mind. Yay for fewer circumcisions every year!

  12. Thank you so much for sharing. I too would have made the "wrong" decision if either of my first two children would have been male. This was 30 years ago and there was "no one" who didn't circ at the time. My husband was, and I didn't think there were other options. It wasn't until I got to know people who were also planning home births with my third daughter that this issue was raised. By the time my son(my 4th) was born there was no question that he would remain intact. I would have been in the same shoes as you.... in fact, my son has a half brother who was circumcised, as was his father and there was never a problem with having to explain. There are many differences between each of the siblings, this was just one of those things. When he is an adult and is expecting a son of his own you will want to share details, explaining that you want him to have the knowledge you didn't have when he was born.

  13. I am crying so hard right now. Crying with you, crying for you, crying for your oldest son, and crying at the goodness in your hubby to see the light too. I am so sorry this happened to you. This is so wrong. I know you are taking the blame, and I understand why, but you alone are not at fault. If the hosp. staff told you the truth as they believed it, or if they out right lied to you doesn't matter, they told you it was best for baby, and mama's who don't know the truth trust the doc! That isn't your fault. Education on this subject that is accurate is hard to find. Best wishes to you. I think he will understand. But know, you have changed the next generation by saving your second son, and that is something wonderful!!!

  14. Thank you for your honest post. My perfect 3 1/2 year old baby boy was circ'd right after birth. We are pregnant and if we have a boy this one will not be circ'd. I understand your guilt and your pain. If I had known when my first was born what I know now, he would NOT have been circ'd. I try to console myself with the fact that I'm raising him in as gentle and connected a way as possible. I hope that the relationship that we share is strong enough for him to forgive me when he finds out what I did to him. I love my little man so much.

  15. I cannot get over the guilt of having my son circumcised. I am so mad and upset at myself for not having researched this issue more before he was born. I feel like I will never get over what I have done to him.

  16. I am crying too. I can't get past the guilt I feel as well. I know better now and I like you had a horrible birth in 2007 which lead me to the field of being a postpartum doula. One of the worst thing is that I am surrounded by doulas who have intact boys because they knew better. I know my son loves me unconditionally as I do him and he will understand when I explain it to him. I went on the breastfeed him for 27 months when he stopped himself and know that since day 2 (after the horrible act) done to him, I have made more informed and gentle decisions in my parenting. Much love and respect to you and your lovely boys! Peace.

  17. You will never get over the guilt, and I judge myself constantly for being so weak when my perfect, beautiful baby boy was born 32 years ago. There is no excuse for giving in to a demanding spouse who thinks he should make the choice since it's his son. On top of that, a nurse was backing him up on it, and I was out numbered. There is no excuse good enough and some day I know I will have this conversation with my son and apologize to him. I know he will forgive me, but it doesn't change what I allowed to be done to him. The whole thing made me ill and the way they brought him back to me made me realize he had been screaming in agony. How could I let this happen? I never had another boy, but I know for sure, I would never have let this happen again. Now I am committed to spreading the truth and hopefully my efforts will make a difference in other little boys lives.

  18. I am proud to work for a hospital that does NOT encourage circumcision. If parents ask, we provide information but do NOT promote it. And if parents insist, we use anesthesia and "Sweet Ease" (sugar water) to the baby if parents consent. But first we educate on why it does NOT have to be done. And Mandi, please forgive yourself and move on. Discuss this with him when appropriate. You obviously are a very loving mother. Peace <3

  19. Finding out Mandi's story and stance on circ as a student in one of her classes just reaffirmed the choice to keep my son whole. It was nice to know I wasn't insane, as a lot of my friend and family have bought the farm on the benefits of the horrific surgery without consideration for the opposing view. My own DAD (who I love dearly) was mad that I didn't circ my son, told me I'd regret it blah blah blah. I know I was right. I knew it was right since my husband is also, and in the UK, this is just NOT common practice. Besides, I feel bad enough when I, say, catch little man's skin with my engagement ring or some other minor klutzy mom move. I can't imagine how I'd feel willfully putting him through that much pain. It's tough to explain to the victims of circ.

    By the way, if you're reading this, Mandi is a FANTASTIC CBE in the Inland Empire area. I was so excited to see her blog post listed here on drmomma! Without the things I learned in her class I would have never made it through my 4 day, home to birth center to hospital roller coaster, eventual c-section and NICU stay birth.



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