It happened like this: we found out we were having a boy. Being who I am (a research fiend) I immediately started researching the ritualistic removal of the foreskin. I encountered the entire spectrum of opinions, from an aunt who said “Cut. Always cut.” to the guy on a blog comment thread who condemned me for leaving the final decision to my husband. I have also found that mothers (friends and family) who chose to circumcise feel the need to apologize to me for it…but I believe that every parental decision is made with the best intentions and the hope that it is truly the best course for their family, which makes an apology (to me at least – I’m intact) unnecessary.
Luckily, every medical professional I encountered gave me the same response: “he can always have it removed later, but you can’t put it back.”
This was our ultimate decision: we would leave him as nature made him and if he wants to alter that later in life, we will support him.
We were actually not swayed by the arguments that circumcision is “barbaric” or “cruel.” (Although, personally, I feel that any unnecessary pain inflicted on a newborn is cruel.) What it came down to was that the reasons for it just weren’t good enough, and the risks were just too risky.
Reason #1: It’s cleaner and there’s less of a risk for STDs.1
Actually, it’s only cleaner if you fail to wash your intact penis…and the only surefire way to decrease your risk for STDs is to be sexually responsible.2
Reason #2: You have to retract/remove the foreskin or the penis won’t “function properly.”
I have many intact adult males in my life and to my knowledge they all function fine. In fact, forced retraction causes more problems than it solves.3
Reason #3: The foreskin will get infected.
Only if you insist on retracting it before it is time. Clean it like a finger and if it does get irritated, have some sitz baths and antibiotics (if necessary) and move on. Getting the occasional urinary tract infection isn’t cause to remove the urethra, is it?4
Reason #4: He won’t look like his dad if he’s intact and dad is circumcised.
Darn. He won’t look like mom, either.
Reason #5: (as a friend of mine told me) “We’re Jewish. It comes with the package.”5
We are not Jewish, and although I respect the millennia of tradition that comes with a bris… it is not my heritage and I may or may not be sending that friend a few of these articles:
- My Son: The Little Jew with a Foreskin from Mothering.
- Circumcision and Religion from the National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers (NOCIRC).
- Religious Circumcision from Mothers Against Circumcision.
Which brings us to the risks:
Risk #1: Mutilation6: I know a young man whose poor penis was seen to by a cosmetic surgeon after his bris…because the rabbi butchered it. No, thank you.
Risk #2: Death7: It happens. It’s horrible. It’s unthinkable. It’s preventable.
I might get in trouble for telling you this last part, but as it was actually the deciding factor for my husband, here goes: the thought of navigating the wound on his penis and the umbilicus and learning how to care for the rest of our newborn son was too much for my husband. The few times he changed our nephew’s diaper before the umbilicus and circumcision healed he was tense and stressed out about it. If not circumcising helped keep my husband a calmer new father, then we would skip that step.
So there you have it: we opted out of the newborn male surgical procedure and happily left our son intact.
Further information from a few well-known and reliable sources:
- Holistic Health Practices from NPN.
- Deciding Whether or Not to Circumcise Your Baby Boy from Dr. Sears.
- Deciding Whether or Not to Circumcise Your Son? from Intact America.
Photo credit: Peaceful Parenting
- http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/resources/factsheets/circumcision.htm and http://www.who.int/hiv/topics/malecircumcision/en/index.html ↩
- http://www.circumstitions.com/STDs.html ↩
- http://www.circumstitions.com/Care.html ↩
- http://www.cirp.org/library/hygiene/camille1/ ↩
- http://www.jhom.com/lifecycle/birth/basic.htm ↩
- this one has photos: http://www.cirp.org/library/complications/ this one does not: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/01/000111074855.htm ↩
- http://www.circumstitions.com/death.html ↩