To many parents of a newborn boy circumcision seems like the thing to do (aside from religiously motivated parents). Why? Oh, because . . . it’s more hygienic (not true), it’s more common among little boys (not necessarily true), everyone else did it in the family (is this ever a valid reason?).
Up until the week prior to J’s birth, we were set on circumcising him. Not for religious reasons, but for most of the other reasons parents come up with. It’s easier to clean, we don’t want him made fun of in the locker room, etc. Our doula suggested that we do a little reading and thinking about the reasons against circumcision. We begrudgingly did so. To our surprise, we discovered a whole lot of facts out there that changed our mind.
1) Religious reasons.
We are not Jewish or Muslim. The Catholic Church has no definitive stance against circumcision, and conversely it does not require it. So religious reasons were a non-factor for us.
2) Health benefits.
The American Pediatric Association no longer recommends routine circs. Instead it states that there aren’t any significant benefits that make it worth doing. Health is not a factor in circumcising! Infections that may occur in that area of the body would be tended to like infections elsewhere. In the rare event someone needed to be circumcised later in life for health reasons, it is readily available at your local urology clinic. Yes, there was a recent study about reducing HIV infection transmission by circumcision in Africa. This has not affected the APA’s recommendation for American baby boys.
3) Looking different.
The percentages of boys kept intact are rising. There will be many ways in which our child may vary from his peers (religion, hair color, etc). Instead of shying away from having him differ from his friends who may somehow know that he is intact, we’d prefer to teach him about respecting his body and others’ bodies and understanding that differences are okay.
We didn’t see the point in an elective surgery that could result in a devastating mishap, burdening him with health problems (infection, improper cutting, etc).
Proponents of circumcision argue that it is difficult to keep the foreskin clean, and maybe even more difficult to teach a toddler or young child how to keep that part of his body clean. Really? I don’t even get this argument. There are plenty of cracks and crevices in a young child’s body that are challenging to clean (change an explosive poopy diaper lately?). Routine proper hygiene of the entire body is both a necessary part of parenting and of being an person. I’m confident we can teach it and J can learn it.
We couldn’t imagine putting him through more trauma after birth. It didn’t make sense to having another open wound site, second to the umbilical cord stump.
In conclusion, it’s not that you’re a terrible parent if you circ your son. Lots of people we know have, and I’m sure lots more people will know will. I just encourage parents to give your reason for doing it a good, depthfilled examination. Consider these factors, research, and talk to your friends who have and haven’t before you make a very important decision for your son and his future.