I love The New York Times. I dream of the day when my handsome husband and I can hide away at our favorite little cafe in Greenwich Village and tackle the crossword together while nibbling on scones and leafing through an actual paper copy of the “Style” section to see how Sarah Burton is faring at the helm of Alexander McQueen. We’ll read theater reviews and art critiques and decide which museum opening we’d most like to attend…. I’m sorry–where was I?? Oh, right. I love The New York Times.
For now, I am lucky to have 5 minutes to quickly scan online headlines and maybe even skim a particularly compelling article while downing my thrice reheated cup of coffee. My mother, also a Times fan, emailed this article on circumcision to me about a month ago and I actually read the whole thing. Twice. You see, we’re pregnant with a boy and until my mother sent this article, I’d utterly forgotten that we have to make the circumcision decision in just a few short months.
I have a 15 year old son and have had to make this choice before. In the realm of medical science, however, every piece of information I gathered when making the choice the first time around is, well, so very 1997. So I’m starting from scratch here. I’ve been reading every article , editorial and blog post regarding the great circumcision debate that I can get my hands on to make an informed decision for my baby boy.
Circumcision is a traditional rite of passage in a handful of religions, but how on earth did it become the norm for families of all religions (or no religion at all) in the United States? Turns out that it’s a relatively new practice in the old U.S. of A. It wasn’t commonly accepted until about 1900 and the reason behind it is a bit fuzzy in the history books. How is it that the mention of female circumcision/genital mutilation outrages us, while male circumcision is regarded as unquestionably normal? How is it that everyone thinks pierced ears are acceptable, but a pierced tongue is over the top? Male circumcision is something that our society accepted over time and after a point fell into “well, that’s just how it’s done” territory. That’s not good enough for me.
There is some evidence that circumcised males are at a lower risk for contracting STDs, but many countries are now taking the stance that the reduced risk is not great enough to warrant the removal of part of a boy’s body. I read an article that likened it to removing a female’s breasts because she might get breast cancer someday. In the U.S., approximately 32% of baby boys were circumcised in 1933, skyrocketing to 85% in 1965, and settling back down to 54% in 2010. Why? Because more and more international health organizations are issuing statements stating that the procedure is not medically necessary, with some European countries (and San Francisco!) actually attempting to make the practice illegal. Meanwhile, the American Academy of Pediatrics (which is my end-all resource in raising healthy babies) has gone from a stance of laissez-faire neutrality to one of suggesting that parents make an informed decision for their child.
My head hurts. This is one of those moments where being a parent is just SO HARD. There’s a lot of conflicting information out there and so many societal, religious and health considerations for parents. We’re still doing a lot of research, talking to doctors, and just generally making sure we’re doing the right thing for our son. The right thing for us might not be the right thing for someone else. It’s so intensely personal. Ultimately, I believe that any choice you make that is informed, thoroughly considered, and comes from a place of love and a desire to take incredible care of your child is the right one. At the end of the day, that’s the best a parent can do.
Are you pregnant with a boy and facing the circumcision decision?
What matters most to you when making the choice?
Do you have a boy already and want to share some words of wisdom?