To Cut or Not to Cut? The Dilemma of Circumcision.
During my first pregnancy the idea of a daughter delighted me for many reasons. But the one that stands out the most was that I did not need to decide if I should have my child circumcised. Alas, it was not to be. The birth of my first of three boys would forever be the moment in which I joined one side or the other. To cut or not to cut? That was the question…
I grew up in a white Catholic household, so I had no religious or cultural influence on the idea of circuscision. My father and brother were both circumcised (wait…how do I know this?????), so it would be natural for me to be pro-cut for my own son. One snag to this line of thought…my husband was a Mexican native, and as such did not have a routine circumcision as was customary in the States. So now what?
To be honest, at the time of my first birth I had little experience with infant circumcisions. I was a labor nurse, and those sorts of things happened, well…after. Ask me about birthing positions, antibiotic treatments in labor, or how to “crash” a baby who’s heart rate had tanked…and I was your girl! But circumcision??? I had no clue.
I had cared for some men in the ICU before going to the bright side of labor and delivery. To be honest, it didn’t seem that being circumcised or not had any direct influence on their health. So nothing there for me to draw from.
In 2012, The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published their latest recommendation regarding circumcision.
After a comprehensive review of the scientific evidence, the American Academy of Pediatrics found the health benefits of newborn male circumcision outweigh the risks, but the benefits are not great enough to recommend universal newborn circumcision. The AAP policy statement published Monday, August 27, says the final decision should still be left to parents to make in the context of their religious, ethical and cultural beliefs (AAP.org; Newborn Male Circumcision, August 20, 2018)
There is plenty of banter online about what this statement really means, but when it comes down to the evidence…it really is up to you.
How to Decide
Do you purposely inflict pain on your child in the first days of his life to possibly prevent problems in the future with sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s) and urinary tract infections (UTI’s)? As a nurse I knew that any procedure could potentially put my child at risk, no matter how routine. It was a surgical removal of skin around my boy’s penis. I mean c’mon, is that really necessary??? My gut told me it wasn’t worth doing, especially being that I had my husband to teach my kiddo proper hygiene. I felt confident when the time came I would be the proverbial momma who could comfortably talk STD prevention with my son. In many years to come. I mean like…YEARS (enter denial shoulder angel here). Ok so, easy decision right?
Here was my big hurdle…the locker room. I was so much more concerned about my thirteen year old baby being teased in the locker room than I was about any health risks. This is what was hanging me up. And my husband made it so easy for me. He said, ahem…. “You’re a nurse, you know what to do. I trust you, whatever you want.” Ahem.
So it came down to trust. Acutally my husband’s brush off was much more helpful than he probably intended. I had to trust my gut. My first big move as a momma was to trust my instincts and follow through with it. I chose NOT to circumcise my son because I felt that any health benefit from doing so would be counteracted by my influence as a mom and a nurse, teaching good hygeine and safe sex practices. Ahem. YEARS from now.
More importantly though, I had to trust in myself as a momma. I had to believe that one day when he IS teased for having skin over his penis, that he will not only know how to respond to these insecure boys but that as parents we will know how to boost him up after such an encounter. I realized that there will always be opportunity in his life to have his self esteem tested, or even shattered. And it will probably have nothing to do with his penis. It was our job as parents to raise him in an environment that promoted self awareness, self confidence and self love. And when he doubted that for any reason, (because of course that day will come) we as parents are able to show empathy and compassion enough to help him through those times.
Was not circumcising my children the right way to go? It was for us, but as the AAP says, “the final decision should still be left to parents to make in the context of their religious, ethical and cultural beliefs”. So unfortunately…you have to decide for yourself. Parents of boys have this hurdle to jump, albeit unfairly only hours after embarking on this extroadinary parenting adventure.
Gratefullly, I learned early on the lesson to trust in my ability as a mom through this one simple choice. We all have decisions to make for our kids. What makes them right or wrong is our willingness to stand behind them. Ultimately the job of parent is to be there for our kids as they learn life’s hard knock lessons. So here we go…two feet first.
I’m just glad it will be YEARS before I have any more decisions to make about my son’s penis.