The Circumcision Decision
The other mommies I knew who had their daughters around the time I had Madison got their babies’ ears pierced. I didn’t pass judgment but I knew there was no way I was doing it. It felt like I would be putting permanent holes in her body without her permission. Who was I to make that decision for her?
Surprisingly, years later when I was pregnant with my son, Hudson, I immediately assumed I would have him circumcised. Talk about permanent. Again I felt like I shouldn’t be making the decision… not to do it. Why question years of medical practice?
Truthfully, I dreaded it. I heard horror stories from one mother and the “procedure” just seemed so barbaric. When I brought up my circumcision fears in conversation with friends and family I was confronted by strong opinions, both for and against it. It was the first time it occurred to me that my husband and I actually had a choice.
As much as I appreciate and respect the wisdom from my friends and family, I knew this wasn’t a choice Lucas and I would make based on their opinions. It would have to be something we researched, discussed, and decided on together.
From the beginning Lucas leaned against circumcision. I didn’t have a religious basis for getting it done, but I did have some fears about not doing it. Won’t it be hard to clean? Wouldn’t my son be teased in the locker room? Aren’t there increased health risks for uncircumcised boys? Doesn’t it increase the risk of STDs?
The online research I did shocked me. The “procedure” is done by strapping down the baby spread-eagle. His genitals are scrubbed and then cleansed with antiseptic. His foreskin is torn and slit so they can insert the instrument inside, then it is crushed and cut off. The worst part is, babies experience pain just like anyone else. I have read that some react by frantically screaming and crying. Some defecate. Some are unable to do anything because they are in shock. Pain killers aren’t always used and they’re not 100% effective. Even if given during the seven to ten days it takes to heal, the baby will still experience pain.
That was enough for us to decide against it. Fortunately, the reading I did also put my fears to rest. Keeping an uncircumcised penis clean is easy. Daily gentle cleansing with warm water and soap is usually all that needs to be done. You should not force the foreskin to retract. I have just read that doing so is akin to lifting an eyelid to clean under it. Research suggests that males are not at increased health risks, such as for urinary tract infections. The UTI rate for U.S. infant boys is 1%, which is actually lower than the rate for females. And, the risks can be lowered by breastfeeding. As for the potential teasing, I realized I couldn’t let that be a factor in this decision. After all, every kid is going to be teased for one reason or another and to have him circumcised just to avoid that seemed beyond ridiculous. The clincher for us was what we didn’t find: any medical evidence to justify routine circumcision.
The day after Hudson was born the pediatrician on staff at the hospital asked if we would be circumcising him before he was discharged. Just as a final validation we asked the doctor to give us one reason that we should do it. He responded, “I can’t. It’s purely cosmetic.”
Where do you stand on this issue? Post a comment and let’s hear about it.