Why we chose not to circumcise

I'm pretty libertarian when it comes to circumcision. I was a little dismayed when I heard that the city of San Francisco was trying to ban circumcision, because to me, that seems like religious discrimination. But, I do feel that choosing to circumcise needs to be an informed choice, with lots of research and forethought. I have several friends who are expecting little boys and are facing this decision themselves, so I thought maybe it would help to hear pro-intact reasons from someone who is not necessarily an "intactivist".

So why did we decide not to circumcise?

1. It's not my body. The biggest reason was that Oscar is the one who has to live with his penis-- not me. If he ever wants to get circumcised in the future, he can choose to reverse our decision-- something he could not do if he were circumcised at birth.

2. We had no religious reason to do it. We're not Jewish or Muslim, and considering that Paul devotes a chunk of Galatians to arguing why Christians shouldn't have to circumcise, we don't feel a Christian obligation to do it, either.

3. You can't mess up intact. According to this site, about 117 baby boys die each year from circumcision-related problems, usually by bleeding to death. Non-fatal circumcision complications include adhesions, crookedness, circumcision leaving the skin too tight (which can cause a lot of pain later on down the road), and partial or complete amputation.

4. Inadequate pain relief. When anyone older than an infant gets circumcised, they go under general anesthesia. Babies are too small for that, so doctors do the best that they can with local anesthetics (although, I just discovered, some doctors feel that anesthetics are too risky and slice away without any pain relief. O.M.G. Omg, omg, omg!!!! I think I'm going to be sick). Unfortunately, local anesthetics don't effectively eradicate the extreme pain a baby will feel (study). Sometimes, the baby won't cry much, which might give the illusion of no pain; however, silence can also be a sign of shock, and pain from circumcision has been known to interfere with breastfeeding and normal newborn behavior. When Oscar had his prolonged stay in the NICU, I was SO glad that we'd made the decision to keep him intact-- with all the needles and monitors he was already being assailed with, I was relieved to not be adding trauma upon trauma.

5. The cleanliness factor. The biggest reason for choosing circumcision that I hear floating around is... circumcision promotes better hygiene. It's supposedly easier to clean. Using that logic, why aren't we cutting off little girl bits, too? Having changed the diapers of both genders, I can say with confidence that female parts are much harder to clean. Girls are way more likely to get genital infections than uncircumcised boys, and yet, we don't circumcise females. So far, cleaning my intact boy has been a piece of cake-- it's just like wiping a finger. When he is older, I'll have to teach him to wash his foreskin, like I'll teach him to wash his hands. Or his ears. None of which are routinely chopped off, even though they are also burdensome body parts to clean.

Also, I doubt that it is hygienic to possibly expose an open circumcision wound to newborn pee and poop.

6. We didn't have a good reason to circumcise. There is not a single medical organization that recommends it. Insurance often doesn't cover it. Looking like peers is becoming less and less of an issue as circumcision in the U.S. declines, putting intact boys in the majority. But what about Oscar not looking like his dad? Maybe males are different, but I remember trying to look at anything BUT my mom when she was dressing. And even so, Oscar was never meant to be a carbon copy of my husband. If anything, I think this provides excellent material for teaching that having different features is A-OK!

So those are the main reasons we chose not to circumcise. I definitely respect a parent's choice to circumcise, but cutting off someone else's body part is a very serious action and needs lots of research and soul-searching before coming to a final decision about it. If you don't feel 100% right about circumcising your boy, then wait on it. You can always choose to circumcise later. I have heard plenty of stories from moms who regret circumcising, but rarely any that regret leaving their boys intact.

So there is your light Saturday reading. :-P Hope you are enjoying a beautiful fall day!

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