My wife and I were concerned that our son might one day develop an ear infection, and our research indicated that, although extremely rare, it is possible for an ear infection to lead to more serious health problems … so, just hours after he was born, we had a doctor cut off his ears.
Completely insane, right? Then can someone please tell me how it ever became “routine” for parents to have part of their newborn sons’ penises lopped off?
The entire premise seems unconscionable to me. I’m supposed to believe that a healthy baby boy is perfect in every way except for that piece of skin covering the head of his penis? The same piece of skin that every baby boy is born with? Sorry; I’m not buying it.
When my wife was pregnant with our first child, she decided that, seeing as how I’m the one equipped with a penis, she would leave to me the decision about what to do with our son’s.
Full disclosure: My parents had the newborn me circumcised. I was born in 1970, a year that marked the beginning of a decade during which, according to Wikipedia, 91% of all male babies born in the U.S. were circumcised. I don’t blame my parents for their decision, given how prevalent male circumcision was at the time. That said, if given the chance for a do-over, I’d opt for staying intact.
As for my son, I had pretty much made up my mind from the word “go,” but I still did some research before setting anything in stone.
One of the pro-circumcision arguments I heard was that removing my son’s foreskin would remove with it the possibility that he would experience confusion or negative feelings about the fact that he looked different from his circumcised father. This did nothing to sway me any more than if I’d lost a limb earlier in life and someone suggested that, for uniformity’s sake, I have that same limb removed from my infant son’s body.
A related pro-circumcision argument I heard was that my uncircumcised son might feel embarrassed or self-conscious when the day comes that he shares a locker room with his circumcised peers. This also didn’t move me. I figured that, by the time he’s old enough to be in a locker room, he and I will have long ago discussed his uncircumcised penis, and that, in general, if his mother and I have done a relatively good job of parenting him up to that point, he’ll be comfortable with himself regardless. I also weighed in the fact that, thankfully, my generation seems to be less inclined to circumcise than was my parents’ generation (the previously referenced Wikipedia entry notes that circumcision of newborns in the U.S. had dropped to about 56% in 2003, the year my son was born), so it seemed like a safe bet that he wouldn’t be the only uncut guy in the locker room.
Other pro-circumcision arguments included findings about a decreased risk of contracting or passing along sexually transmitted diseases, but other corollary factors — to include the population used in the studies (one of the more widely referenced studies was conducted in the third-world country of Uganda) — caused me to question the applicability of those arguments as regarded my son, and proponents on both sides of the issue admit that practicing safe sex plays a far greater role in preventing the spread of STDs … so, again, I was far from convinced that circumcision was the answer.
And not that I needed any further convincing from the anti-circumcision crowd, but if I had, the potentially disastrous results of a botched circumcision would have been more than enough to persuade me. I can hardly imagine the guilt I would have felt if I had subjected my son to an unnecessary surgical procedure that had resulted in a bad outcome (and I’d argue that having part of your penis cut off is a bad outcome in and of itself). The thought of electively doing something to a newborn that could result in excessive bleeding, infection, or death, or that for the rest of his life could affect his ability to function sexually, was unacceptable, no matter how infinitesimal the odds of such an occurrence might be. Those odds dropped to zero when I decided to not have him circumcised. That was good enough for me.