The Circumcision Decision

I’m not going to lie.  I was a nervous wreck when we found out we were expecting.  I had several friends who all seemed to be navigating parenthood fairly well, but nobody I was really close to that shared with me all of the nervous discussions between couples in those last few weeks before the baby arrives.  I would have liked to know how to handle talks about vaccination, circumcision, breastfeeding, co-sleeping and all the really emotionally charged topics that new parents face today.

When it comes to these sometimes volatile subjects, I discovered that most family and friends fall into one of two camps:  they don’t want to offend you by offering their perspective OR they really don’t care if they offend you by offering their opinion!  This made it difficult for me to get some honest-to-goodness objective information because frankly, you don’t know what you don’t know.  How was I supposed to know that there were risks to formula feeding?  Nobody told me that.  How was I supposed to know that circumcision had no proven benefits?  Nobody told me that either.  Vaccination?  Don’t even get me started.  To make a truly informed decision on behalf of my children, I needed more information than I was getting from my doctors and BabyCenter, but I didn’t realize this until well after we had our first child, a daughter.

Becoming a mother does this funny thing to you.  It makes you super protective of the little people you give birth to.  It’s called ‘finding your mama bear.’  Some mama’s find it when they are pregnant, others find it when they are in labor or giving birth, and yet others find it in the first days, weeks and months of their new life with baby. I realized at some point after having our daughter that protecting my children meant becoming an informed healthcare consumer; and that meant I would become a voracious learner.

Becoming a mother again would give me another chance to put in my due diligence and this time, no stone was left unturned.  So, after we discovered that we were expecting a boy, I delved into the topic of circumcision.  What do you suppose I discovered?  Well, the long and short of it is . . . it’s terribly painful, it carries great risks and it takes away the most sensitive part of a boy’s/man’s body.  I could not fathom doing this to my son.  Alas, I needed to have “the talk” with my husband.  I approached him gently, praying that he would be receptive.  He asked if I could give him some time to look into the subject himself and I encouraged him to do so.  Some weeks went by and I nervously awaited his answer.  I knew in my heart that he would choose to keep our son intact, but I was still anxious to hear it from him.  He finally came to me and said that because it isn’t medically necessary we would not need to circumcise our boy.  PHEW!  That was easier than I thought.

For most parents, though, this decision isn’t that easy.  There is a lot of pressure from friends, family and even medical professionals to cut their baby boy.  But if you look at this topic from a worldly perspective, it doesn’t happen in Europe, or China, or Japan, or Central or South America.  It doesn’t happen in Russia or Iceland or India.  There are very few cultures that practice circumcision, but the ones that do have found ways to justify it.  It’s basically a solution looking for a problem.

There are many, many resources on the subject of circumcision and nowadays all you have to do to find a stimulating conversation about it is to hop on Facebook or any of the boards at a multitude of different parenting sites.  But, if you are a fan of science, you might be interested to know that there was a study done just a few years ago that revealed what exactly is taken from a boy/man when he is circumcised.  I understand that circumcision is a choice but this study made me understand why more and more parents are simply choosing to leave the choice to their son.  One other thing that I found comforting during my quest for the whole story about circumcision . . . there are doctors who are opposed to it, as well as nurses and lawyers.  These are all great places to begin your quest for knowledge.

There is so much more than this to know about circumcision.  Trust me when I tell you that YOUR inner mama bear is definitely hungry for the whole story!

Jennifer Moose is a childbirth educator, Director for Intact Michigan and a volunteer with Saving Our Sons.  This article was originally published  on Rochester Patch and was reprinted with the authors permission.

Please join Jennifer Moose tonight, July 3rd from 9-10PM EST on the Our Muddy Boots Facebook Page for  a live Q&A about all things circumcision and birth.

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