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Nov 06

Sammy’s circumcision

Jewish men, as a rule, are circumcised by a mohel.  It’s a special position, generally filled by urologists or other doctors, and they not only perform the operation but also conduct the service.  When Sam was born, Marc was adamant that he be circumcised.  Everyone has their own baggage, and I’m far from exempt from that.  I grew up without a dad, I was dead certain that I wanted my children to have an active, involved and dedicated father.  I didn’t want them to have just one parent, so it was vital to me to respect Marc as a parent.  Sam was his son as much as he was mine, and it was that absolute for him.  Sam would be circumcised.  So I agreed.

The boys in my family had all be circumcised, so I wasn’t unfamiliar with the idea (although it was always done in the hospital).  That being said, it’s one thing to blithely agree to something and then realize how incredibly hard it’s going to be.  Like daycare – of course, my kids would go to day care and I’d work full time, right up until I actually HAD a child and the thought of leaving them for eight to nine hours a day was devastating.  It was the same situation with the circumcision.  Yeah, sure, we can do that, right up until I’ve got this tiny little boy – AND YOU WANT TO CUT OFF HIS LITTLE PENIS?!?!  And if I was struggling with the concept, explaining it to my non-Jewish family was even harder.  The whole idea of having a party where we’d cut off the tip of his penis and then have bagels was beyond their comprehension.
But cut it off we did.  I reminded myself over and over again that this was Marc’s child as much as mine.  That I had to respect Marc’s traditions and his right to make decisions for our child if I truly wanted him to be an equal parent with me.  
First let me back up.  Sam was a challenging baby.  To this day, six years later, I know of no other child who was as miserable as my Sammy was for the first several months.  Colic and reflux were a part of it, but part of it was just who Sam was, he doesn’t like change – and the whole concept of starting his life here just made him furious.  He cried all the livelong day, unless he was nursing.   Or in the swing – he loved his swing.  But mostly he cried and nursed.  I actually kept track one day, and had nursed him thirty separate times between six o’clock in the morning and two o’clock in the afternoon.  He only slept when I held him, and only stopped crying when he nursed.  He flipped out if anyone other than me tried to hold him, screamed unmercifully if people looked at him for too long, and being the center of attention made him nuts.  
So I was a wreck on the day he was going to be circumcised.  To put it mildly.  I was an experienced mom, he was my second baby, and I’d had literally decades of childcare behind me – but I was worn out, sleep deprived and out of mind with confusion and frustration and this overwhelming love for this boy child.  Voluntarily hurting him (and that’s the only way I could see this) was so hard.  So incredibly hard. My mother, sister, stepfather and cousin had all come early to our house.   We lived in a second floor apartment, and it was literally the hottest day of the summer so far that year.   We had no air conditioner, and the apartment was wall to wall people.  I couldn’t stop crying.  Sam couldn’t stop crying (because the mohel didn’t want me to nurse for the two hours before the ceremony).  I remember one of Marc’s aunts walking around holding him, and trying to convince him to use the pacifier.  
My mother took me into Jessie’s bedroom, and all of Marc’s female relatives assured me that I shouldn’t be there, the mothers never watch.  But I couldn’t NOT be there.  This was my child.  This was my baby, and if I was going to allow this to happen to him, I couldn’t let him do it without me there to support him.  So I sat in the room just off of the dining room, where everyone had gathered.  My father in law held Sam, and my poor confused stepfather gave him little bits of a sweet wine and it was over super fast.  They handed him back to me immediately, and he stopped crying the instant I touched him.  He nursed gratefully and went immediately back to sleep.  
The man who performed the circumcision passed away the other day, and I’m mourning him today.  Not that I knew him well, I had never met him before and only saw him a few times since then.  But he was there, on one of the most challenging and painful and ultimately rewarding days of my life.  You know how sometimes you bond to your baby the first time you meet them, and sometimes it takes a bit? I loved Sam from the beginning, but on the day that he was circumcised, I knew absolutely and without question that I was his mother and he was my son, and that when he hurt, I felt it more than I could have imagined.  It was the beginnings of a relationship that, to this day, continues to shock and amaze me, to teach me and stretch me and astound me.  Rest in Peace, Stuart Jaffee, and thank you for your part in my son’s life.
That being said – when we found out that Julianna was a girl, the first thing I thought in the ultrasound room was thank God we don’t have to have her circumcised.

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