“… I’m angry at myself. I’m angry at our society that condones and promotes this genital mutilation… I just now realized that my son’s circumcision wounded me as well as him. I carry his pain as well as my guilt,” said one mother.
Not only is circumcision damaging to a baby’s physical and emotional health, mother’s who consent to having the foreskin of their child sliced off are often left traumatized, ridden with guilt, and unable to forgive themselves for the remainder of their lives.
Circumcision is not only an excruciating and traumatic event for a baby that results in permanent alterations of the brain and increases the chance of that baby developing autism by 46%, but we now have testimony from mothers who have been permanently traumatized after witnessing their children being circumcised. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), “witnessing an event that involves… a threat to the physical integrity of another person; or learning about unexpected or… serious harm,…or injury experienced by a family member,” are experiences that may result in PTSD. These experiences certainly fit the description of somebody witnessing their son being circumcised.
Many times infant circumcision is done in a room separate from the mother that just gave birth, but there are also times when parents can hear, and even see the circumcision being performed. A U.S. study from 1978 found that women are more likely than men to feel distress from hearing an infant cry, and according to Ronald Goldman, author of Circumcision: The Hidden Trauma, the father is more likely to deny his son’s pain in regards to circumcision because it could remind him of his own circumcision.
Statements from Mothers Who Witnessed Their Child’s Circumcision
The following is a compilation of statements from mothers, reported to the Circumcision Resource Center, whose testimonies suggest that they are exhibiting symptoms of PTSD from the operation:
“My tiny son and I sobbed our hearts out…. After everything I’d worked for, carrying and nurturing Joseph in the womb, having him at home against no small odds, keeping him by my side constantly since birth, nursing him whenever he needed closeness and nourishment – the circumcision was a horrible violation of all I felt we shared. I cried for days afterward.”
– Anonymous Mother
“I heard him cry during the time they were circumcising him. The thing that is most disturbing to me is that I can still hear his cry… It was an assault on him, and on some level it was an assault on me… I will go to my grave hearing that horrible wail, and feeling somewhat responsible, feeling that it was my lack of awareness, my lack of consciousness. I did the best I could, and it wasn’t good enough.”
– Nancy Wainer Cohen
“I’m finding myself obsessing more and more about it. It’s absolutely horrible. I didn’t know how horrific it was going to be. It was the most gruesome thing I have ever seen in my life. I told the doctor as soon as he was done, if I had a gun I would have killed him. I swear I would be in jail today if I did have a gun.”
– Melissa Morrison
“I have never heard such screams… Will I ever know what scars this brings to your soul?… What is that new look I see in your eyes? I can see pain, a certain sadness, and a loss of trust,” wrote one mother to her son.
– Anonymous Mother
“It was as close to hell as I ever want to get!”
– Anonymous Mother
“Jesse was shrieking and I had tears streaming down my face… He was screaming and there was no doubt in his scream that he wanted mother, or a mothering figure to come and protect him from this pain!!… Jesse screamed so loud that all of a sudden there was no sound! I’ve never heard anything like it!! He was screaming and it went up and then there was no sound and his mouth was just open and his face was full of pain!! I remember something happened inside me… the intensity of it was like blowing a fuse! It was too much. We knew something was over. I don’t feel that it ever really healed… I don’t think I can recover from it. It’s a scar. I’ve put a lot of energy into trying to recover. I did some crying and we did some therapy. There’s still a lot of feeling that’s blocked off. It was too intense… We had this beautiful baby boy and seven beautiful days and this beautiful rhythm starting, and it was like something had been shattered!!…When he was first born there was a tie with my young one, my newborn. And when the circumcision happened, in order to allow it I had cut off the bond. I had to cur off my natural instincts, and in doing so I cut off a lot of feelings towards Jesse. I cut it off to repress the pain and to repress the natural instinct to stop the circumcision.”
– Elizabeth Pickard-Ginsburg
The trauma inflicted upon a baby often has traumatic effects on the mother when the event is witnessed in some way. One of the most severe lifelong effects of this is a mistrust and damaged or broken bond between the child and his mother for the remainder of their lives. As the child grows up the mother wonders why her boy is distant to her, and the circumcision that he underwent probably explains it to a large degree. Even in cases when circumcisions were not heard or seen by mothers, there have been reports of complete and lifelong irrepairable regret:
“There is a deep wound of guilt in my heart around my son’s circumcision. Though not the only mistake I made in parenting, it is certainly the gravest and the one I have the most trouble forgiving myself for… I’ve cried many times about my son’s circumcision. Somehow I keep thinking I should have known better. How can I forgive myself for this one? And how can my son forgive me? How can I make it up to him?… I’m angry at myself. I’m angry at our society that condones and promotes this genital mutilation… I just now realized that my son’s circumcision wounded me as well as him. I carry his pain as well as my guilt.”
– Anonymous Mother
American psychiatrist Karl Menninger has said that “What’s done to children, they will do to society.” The road to peace and justice on earth is paved by eliminating the trauma inflicted on children at birth, and for the remainder of their lives. Pregnant women who birth their children in non-hospital settings and refuse circumcision are the greatest heroes of this world.
- Circumcision: The Hidden Trauma, Ronald Goldman, Ph.D.
- Circumcision Resource Center