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Happy Mother’s Day

Every mother, every parent, looks back on things we regret doing or failing to do for our children. Probably one of the most common parental regrets is “I was too busy; I didn’t spend enough time with my child” (the song Cat’s in the Cradle, by Harry Chapin, was all about this).

But I have never heard more pain and remorse than what is expressed by mothers who didn’t protect their baby sons from circumcision, and later realized the brutality their boys had suffered.

This pain, for many, never fades. The first time I was invited to talk about circumcision on a radio program that accepted call-ins, a woman who I’ll call Bea came on the line and began to recount her experience. In a shaky voice, Bea said she’d never thought or even heard about circumcision until a nurse came to her in the hospital while she was holding her newborn son, and asked her to hand him over. At this point in the story Bea began to cry. “The nurse told me it was time for him to be circumcised – and she was going to give him that gift. She took my baby away.”  She paused. “And then I heard the scream. I will never, ever forget that scream; it was like nothing I’d heard before or since. A few minutes later, the nurse brought me my son – and he was a different person.”  Bea went on to say that before he was taken away, her baby had been awake and calm, and making eye contact with her. After he was circumcised, he was disassociated, refused to nurse, and was later inconsolable when he cried. The first time she changed his diaper and “saw what they had done,” Bea said she “wanted to die.”

I asked, “How is your son now?”

“He’s fine,” she said. “But I am not. I feel guilty every single day.”

“How old is he?” I asked, envisioning a baby, or maybe a young toddler.

“He’s 28,” she said.

I thought of my own son, who was also at the time of this conversation, 28 years old. I reflected on how lucky I am to have had the information I needed to protect him from circumcision, to have had the support of his father, and – unlike Bea and so many other mothers I have met – to have escaped pressure from doctors, nurses, or others intent on perpetuating this horrible custom.

But why should I have been surprised that, 28 years later, Bea’s trauma remained as acute as ever? Marilyn Milos, my close friend and the “mother of the intactivist movement” has worked every day for the past 35 years to save babies from circumcision, and their mothers from the pain and remorse she feels for having ignorantly acquiesced to having her three sons’ circumcised (Marilyn awareness and trauma began when – as a newly trained nurse – she witnessed her first circumcision). Marilyn’s grown sons, like Bea’s son, are “fine” and have forgiven her – but Marilyn, Bea and so many mothers I have heard from since that radio program, have not forgiven themselves and remain haunted, decades later.

What could I say to Bea? I said the words I learned from Marilyn: “You didn’t know any better, so you couldn’t do any better. Now you know, so speak up and speak out to save babies, and to save other mothers from this regret.”

Happy Mother’s Day to Bea, Marilyn and all mothers who – whether out of ignorance or fear or pure bad luck – were unable to protect their sons from circumcision. Happy Mother’s Day, and good karma, to every mother who tells the truth about circumcision.  Live in peace.


Georganne Chapin



  • RewriteLady

    May 12, 2012 9:14 pm

    This is beautiful, Georganne. I hope you are surrounded by love and appreciation on Mother’s Day and every day.

  • Paul Frohlich

    May 13, 2012 1:27 am

    Lucky for me I was born in Czech Republic and culture that do not practice this outdatet Bronze Age barbaric act and so I am the way Nature intended me to be but this thing bother me for a very long time that this is done to totally helpless people without their consent. When I lived in California with my young two boys I was listening to doctor Dean Edel not sure if I spell his name correct and he was talking on this subject often but I did not understand fully what it was all about and no medical books would explain the reason why little boys are cut years before that I even did not realize they are cut I thought those man just for some reason look like that naturally, I was so stupid to think of it now. But one day I asked myself ” Why would Nature put it on us and for what reason?”and than it hit me one day ” It must act as an anti- friction device so a female do not hurt”. Years later I also thought that it also must be there to protect the glans softness so the cervix do not get damaged and also I calculated that in cut man the glans become rough and unsensitive. 3 years ago I got myself a computer and all my theories proved to be correct even that I suspected at that time that the folds are a double layers of tissues. What I did not know that by cutting those of the left over skin will move so well if at all during love with a lady. 9 years ago I started to write to a lady in Philippines and on the computer I discovered that 93% of boys are cut there.I wrote about it often and my future wife knew how angry I was about this barbaric act and she started to talked about it with others and saved 2 boys from this genital mutilation. Finally I came to see her for 3 weeks. At 32 she was still a virgin and wanted a baby. The event was relatively harmless to her doing love at her age for the first time even if it took 4 days before we could do it in full. If I be cut I could never do it in her case. Today we have a 4 month old baby boy and I know if I be mutilated we could not pregnant that fast if at all because I would not have the mechanic and sensitivity that trigger the responses needed where cut man of that age are often impotent or use some drugs……..but my mostly raw vegan foods do play its role in this. The genital mutilation is an evil act that do not belong in any civilized society at this age of where we shall be evolved enough not to do such a thing. It bother me deeply. it makes me very angry that this done to all those little helpless beings.

  • Paul Frohlich

    May 13, 2012 2:08 am

    Correcting myself in the above the left over skin can not prevent friction because in most damaged man it do not move at all in the sexual act with a female partner, as I learned in ” Sex as Nature intended it” web side. Why is it that Intact America do not mention the fact that 66% of USA woman do hurt in love making sooner or later, something unheard of in Europe where man are not cut. in Finland only one in 15.000 man is cut and they have the lowest cervical cancer rate out all countries.In part,if man is as God or Nature intended him to be the relationship is less harmful to both partners and so less cheating, but also less damage to the cervix specially if the girl start her love life in early age where her cervical mucosa is still not fully developed to protect the inner walls of the cervix from a virus? A well protected glans stay as soft as the cervix is and so not a damage. Nature and Her evolution is very clever. Also speaking of God most of people that cut believe in. how illogical a human mind can get? If there is a God the Creator ” He” create all things perfect and not for fun so people can correct ” Him” by cutting ” His” mistake of? This is not just illogical to do, if those believe in God this is a sort of mental disorder to do so. God is perfect and do not make any mistakes and if so its corrected by evolution over the span of millions of years. The foreskin is here that long on all mammal animals including human and so correct it is a stupidity or sort of insanity.

  • wildwahinepaddler

    May 13, 2012 4:55 am

    I had a similar unfortunate situation with being bullied into consenting….but when my baby came back to me and I saw what had been done to him, I not only wanted to die….. I wanted to kill whoever did that to him!!!! He will soon turn 33 years old and says he is fine with how he is, but that doesn’t matter, I will hold that regret for the rest of my life. He doesn’t know any different but that doesn’t make it okay, he deserved to have his whole body and I had no right to consent to someone cutting part of it off. I try to give information to others about circumcision and encourage parents to leave their babies whole, and I hope somewhere along the way I can save another baby boy from being cut.

    • jaytuohey

      May 13, 2012 6:49 pm

      No words can ease your torment.
      You were cheated by the very people that should have protected you and your son.
      I hope you have resolved this with your boy.breaks my heart when I read stories like this.
      I think that doctors have a lot to answer to…

  • JeanineRye

    May 14, 2012 4:20 pm

    I don’t understand this post, Georgeanne. What advice are you giving mothers like me? “Happy Mother’s Day, and in 26 years your pain will still be where it is today?” I refuse to be a victim and I wish I had found some solace in this post, but I have not. My son will be fine, but why can’t I be fine? Why do I live with this deep despair in the pit of my soul? Why is it worth living like this? I can’t turn back time, but I can’t move forward. It’s hell. I do not want to educate the masses, because my priority is and should be my son, and I do not believe he can grow up healthy and proud of his body if I am speaking of the “wrongful mutliation” being commited against baby boys. I have to be courageous by letting him grow up well.How do I find the strength for this?

    • RewriteLady

      May 15, 2012 12:12 am

      My experience in talking with circumcised men has been the same as Georganne’s… the angry men are the ones whose parents dismissed or trivialized their son’s response to having had this decision made for him when he was too young to consent. The mothers with regrets are not the ones who are hated by their sons. And the words of a mother with regrets can carry a lot of weight with expectant parents who are struggling with this decision.

    • wildwahinepaddler

      May 15, 2012 7:20 pm

      I don’t agree. I believe that being completely honest about what happened is better than being dishonest in order to “save face” with your son. Yes, you made a poor decision for him….No, he’s not going to die because of it, and yes, he should be happy with how he is and there is nothing wrong with that. I don’t think it’s helpful to dance around it. Advocating openly for genital integrity for baby boys is an excellent way to heal. I know I didn’t have the information I needed, nor the support to do what I instinctively knew was right, so my son’s body was altered. There is no going back, it can’t be changed, but that doesn’t mean I have to somehow make it okay in my mind for the benefit of my son. He needs to know what happened to him so he hopefully won’t make the same poor decision for any sons he might have. Knowledge is power, and truth is also power. I am okay with my regrets because I was also a victim, but it’s more important to me to face it, own it, and acknowledge it. I am not depressed every day because of it, but I know spreading the truth about it is a daily thing for me and I don’t consider it work.

    • Howard.

      May 16, 2012 10:05 am

      I agree with the previous posters. Personaly, I find it therapeutic to confront this barbaric custom. To talk about it, and educate others who may not be as informed as they might be due to the agenda of some in the medical community. To actualy save a little boys foreskin in real life is positively uplifting.

    • Marilyn Milos, RN

      May 16, 2012 8:03 pm

      Jeannine, I have three circumcised sons and I’ll go to my grave knowing they will never know the wholeness of their bodies or the fullness of their sexual experience because I didn’t know enough to protect them! Like you, I am a victim of modern medicine in the USA. I learned what had happened to my sons behind closed doors when I witnessed the procedure during my last month of nursing school (my sons were 10, 17, and 20 years old at the time). That moment literally changed the course of my life, which I’ve dedicated to bringing an end to an anachronistic blood ritual that has no place in civilized society in the 21st century. I have apologized to all of my sons. In fact, one of my sons said to me, “Mom, you have apologized to me and I’ve accepted your apology. I know what I’m missing and wish I wasn’t missing it, but I have a fine relationship with my penis and I’m okay. You don’t ever have to apologize to me again.” That was when I realized my apologies were a reminder to my son of something unpleasant that happened to him in infancy and he had moved on. I’ve not apologized again. (My life is a living apology to my sons.) I think we need to tell our children their stories because our early experiences frame our lives. When we can name our experiences and understand them, we are no longer the victim of our experiences–we become the survivor. In fact, several males have told me that, as children, they had night terrors until they learned they were circumcised. The terrors ended when they understood what had happened to them and the experience they were remembering in their dreams. You, too need to become a survivor. Deep despair will not help your son now, nor will it serve you. You did the best you could with the information you had at the time. When you know better, you do better. I am sure you would never allow any doctor to take a knife to any child of yours again without a valid medical reason, so you have learned. And, you really will benefit by sharing your experience with others. You also will need to apologize to your son one day, probably better if it’s sooner than later, and you can give him just a little information at a time…but he needs to be told he was circumcised. You can tell him that when dad and he were born, circumcision was thought to be cleaner and healthier. Now, people are realizing it’s not necessary and you wish you had been told this new information before he was born. Tell him that most boys in the USA have been circumcised but now that’s changing and you’re sharing the information you have so other mothers and fathers will know better, too. And, finally, you will be happy to know that all of my sons are proud of the work I do on behalf of infants and children and they, too, share the information about circumcision with their friends. We’ve all saved babies and I now have four intact grandsons and an intact granddaughter. While the difficult part is that we and our sons must live with the horror of a harmful traditional practice that has affected us all, the rewarding part is that we are the ones who are making a difference for the next generation, and in that, we can take pride!

  • Miriam Pollack

    May 15, 2012 8:59 am

    Dear Georganne, Thank you so much for speaking to this usually invisible part of the trauma of circumcision: the mothers who remain conscious and in anguish their entire lives. I certainly am one. Thank you to both you and Marilyn for your heroic work! With deepest appreciation, Miriam

  • Shteln

    May 16, 2012 8:47 am

    An interesting blog, Georganne.
    Mothers have been such a driving force behind educating and challenging and decreasing the prevelance of male genital mutilation- thanks, Mamas!
    The more I study the American way of birth, the typical hospital process, the more I realise how disempowering and traumatic it has been not only for the baby but for the mother as well. What a way to start a relationship. It makes me both sad and angry that the mother-son relationship has to be damaged in the way that it does from this cultural practice.
    Mothers, don’t ignore your sons if they want to know more about why it was done to them and if they tell you about harm. The worst thing you could do would be to deny his questions, thoughts and feelings. Insult to trauma can be unbearable.
    Please, guys out there, lets open more space to talk about this issue with our mothers- especially if it has shaped our relationships for the worse. We have both lost out from this practice.

  • Henry Hank

    May 22, 2012 5:19 am

    I had a student who sued a local hopsital because they deliberately went aganist her expressed wishes for no circumcision. How incredibly thoughtless and irritating. The big problem I see discussed in the above blog posting is that circumcision involves an irrevocable act very early in life. This causes all sorts of issues. My student won easily. She didn’t go for a financial settlement but did win a promise for the hospital to clarify its procedures so there could be no repetition. That was what she really wanted. Of course, if you don’t have natural childbirth, you may be suffering the effects of anesthesia and who knows how clear your brain will be? I wonder what the situation is now in that hospital, as that was fifteen years ago?

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Marilyn Fayre Milos, multiple award winner for her humanitarian work to end routine infant circumcision in the United States and advocating for the rights of infants and children to genital autonomy, has written a warm and compelling memoir of her path to becoming “the founding mother of the intactivist movement.” Needing to support her family as a single mother in the early sixties, Milos taught banjo—having learned to play from Jerry Garcia (later of The Grateful Dead)—and worked as an assistant to comedian and social critic Lenny Bruce, typing out the content of his shows and transcribing court proceedings of his trials for obscenity. After Lenny’s death, she found her voice as an activist as part of the counterculture revolution, living in Haight Ashbury in San Francisco during the 1967 Summer of Love, and honed her organizational skills by creating an alternative education open classroom (still operating) in Marin County. 

After witnessing the pain and trauma of the circumcision of a newborn baby boy when she was a nursing student at Marin College, Milos learned everything she could about why infants were subjected to such brutal surgery. The more she read and discovered, the more convinced she became that circumcision had no medical benefits. As a nurse on the obstetrical unit at Marin General Hospital, she committed to making sure parents understood what circumcision entailed before signing a consent form. Considered an agitator and forced to resign in 1985, she co-founded NOCIRC (National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers) and began organizing international symposia on circumcision, genital autonomy, and human rights. Milos edited and published the proceedings from the above-mentioned symposia and has written numerous articles in her quest to end circumcision and protect children’s bodily integrity. She currently serves on the board of directors of Intact America.


Georganne Chapin is a healthcare expert, attorney, social justice advocate, and founding executive director of Intact America, the nation’s most influential organization opposing the U.S. medical industry’s penchant for surgically altering the genitals of male children (“circumcision”). Under her leadership, Intact America has definitively documented tactics used by U.S. doctors and healthcare facilities to pathologize the male foreskin, pressure parents into circumcising their sons, and forcibly retract the foreskins of intact boys, creating potentially lifelong, iatrogenic harm. 

Chapin holds a BA in Anthropology from Barnard College, and a Master’s degree in Sociomedical Sciences from Columbia University. For 25 years, she served as president and chief executive officer of Hudson Health Plan, a nonprofit Medicaid insurer in New York’s Hudson Valley. Mid-career, she enrolled in an evening law program, where she explored the legal and ethical issues underlying routine male circumcision, a subject that had interested her since witnessing the aftermath of the surgery conducted on her younger brother. She received her Juris Doctor degree from Pace University School of Law in 2003, and was subsequently admitted to the New York Bar. As an adjunct professor, she taught Bioethics and Medicaid and Disability Law at Pace, and Bioethics in Dominican College’s doctoral program for advanced practice nurses.

In 2004, Chapin founded the nonprofit Hudson Center for Health Equity and Quality, a company that designs software and provides consulting services designed to reduce administrative complexities, streamline and integrate data collection and reporting, and enhance access to care for those in need. In 2008, she co-founded Intact America.

Chapin has published many articles and op-ed essays, and has been interviewed on local, national and international television, radio and podcasts about ways the U.S. healthcare system prioritizes profits over people’s basic needs. She cites routine (nontherapeutic) infant circumcision as a prime example of a practice that wastes money and harms boys and the men they will become. This Penis Business: A Memoir is her first book.