Birth Rites

Reading Dawn’s post about her transracially adopted daughter’s conversations on race made me think about Cricket’s matching and not matching. While he is as white as all four of his parents, I am a practicing Catholic, whereas Ruth and Nora are Jewish (Nora is not from a Jewish background and has not officially converted, but attends services and celebrates with her wife). Before his birth, we had several conversations about circumcision; I made it clear that I wasn’t going to have him circumcised and would not choose that for a child of mine, but that I assumed that they would want him to have a bris. When pressed for my reasons, I explained that I talked to a nurse (years ago, in a women’s studies course) who refused to perform them—she said that it was cosmetic surgery on someone too young to consent. It made sense to me, and the arguments in favor never have—Mr. Book is also opposed to circumcision. Ruth tended to agree with us, but she worried that it would be one more thing making him different from other Jewish kids. I also mentioned that circumcision made sense for me as a religious gesture–I like the idea of a visible sign of the covenant with God. Ruth found that part less important, saying that if it became important to him in his relationship with God, he could have it done as an adult. In the end, however, they couldn’t bring themselves to have him snipped; their rabbi performed a snip-free conversion for Cricket, a simchat ben. I assume that Orthodox Jews would not consider Cricket Jewish, but they would also have some problems with his moms, so I guess that’s not a major concern.

I chose Jewish parents (and therefore Judaism) for my son with an untroubled mind; mine is a fairly liberal theology, I believe that most of the major religions are praying to the same God, and I don’t think you have to be Catholic to be saved. But. I made one plan for Cricket that I never told his moms about. When he was mine, on that first day, before I signed the papers…I baptized him. I used that “extraordinary circumstances” clause and didn’t even mention it to Mr. Book at the time. But it was important to me; on that day, I was his mom, and I made several parenting decisions. The others I had discussed in advance with his moms-to-be, but this one was private. I don’t know whether I should ever tell them—or even Cricket—about that, and I probably won’t. I did tell my mother later, and she cried, and told me that she was glad; that she had wanted to do it herself, but understood that it wasn’t her place. And then she told me that before I was baptized in church, I was baptized by my dad. Apparently on one of the first nights of my life, my mom started to worry that I could die before I was baptized (I was perfectly healthy, this was just new mom stuff), and she talked my dad into baptizing me just in case. So apparently I was just carrying on the family tradition.

6 thoughts on “Birth Rites

    • No, I don’t think they will–but if they did, I guess we’d work through it. But to be honest, I hope it never comes up. I hope that I’m never unfair to them here, but I do say things here that I wouldn’t say to them.

  1. I hope that one day you will tell Cricket this because I think it’s beautiful. (I’m impressed that their rabbi converted him w/out circ’ing. Noah is converted — and Madison will be, too. We converted him when he was four and the rabbi wanted him to be circ’d THEN but I said no way in hell. It was a barrier to MY conversion because I wouldn’t agree to circ my other sons, should I have them and the rabbi and I went back and forth about it. He finally said that he couldn’t see NOT converting me on the basis of theoretical sons.)

    Madison’s birth family is all Christian with Catholic histories. (Pennie’s parents met at Catholic high school but both are more baptist-ish now.) I wonder which — if any — of the religious traditions that are part of her family histories will speak the most strongly to her.

    • They had some long conversations with their rabbi, but in the end, as a gay man, their rabbi has had his own struggles with the doctrine and was willing. Sorry to hear that your experience was rockier–having as-of-yet-nonexistent children as the sticking point seems odd to me.

  2. Oh, susie. I’ve been so busy reading your blog like a book I can’t put down… I’ve never read a book backwards. Guess that’s only possible in Blogland. 😉 I love your blog!

    I’m a practicing Catholic too. I would’ve done the same – baptize him using the “‘extraordinary circumstances’ clause”. I think you did the right thing. I bet it was a very intimate and emotional moment for the two of you… Beautiful. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

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