Monday, June 25, 2007

the circumcision decision

Soon after I learned that we were expecting triplets - two girls and a boy - I started losing sleep over whether or not we would circumcise our son. And of course like just about everything else I do in my life, I decided to wait until the last possible moment to make the final decision.

Because we had no religious or cultural reasons to circumcise - I was at a loss.

From what I could tell, in my American family, circumcision has always been the "thing" to do. According to my mother, sisters and aunts, all the boys in our family were circumcised. Although Charlie's family, who hails largely from Canada, made the decision that their sons would not be circumcised.

But was there a medical advantage to this procedure that predates recorded human history?

What I recall is that the soonest the doctors would perform a circumcision would be on a baby born at 36 weeks gestation. Because our triplets arrived nine weeks prematurely, at 31 weeks, having our son circumcised following his birth wasn't an option. I also recall that the doctors wouldn't perform circumcision on a baby boy who is more than three weeks old, without completely anesthetizing him. So, even if we had wanted to have William circumcised while in the hospital, we couldn't.

Since we could not have our son circumcised in the hospital, our options were limited to having a Mohel come to our home, or taking our infant to see a pediatric urologist that would put him under general anesthesia and complete the procedure.

Neither option sounded too good.

So, we stopped thinking about it.

When William was just shy of 10 months old, he was diagnosed with a bilateral inguinal hernia. He was extremely fussy one afternoon and when I removed his diaper to inspect his abdomen, I noticed that he had a huge bulge just above his groin. After spending several hours in the emergency room that evening, I was referred to a pediatric urologist, who quickly scheduled surgery to complete the repair.

This would have been the ideal time to have our son circumcised. He'd already be under anesthesia for the hernia surgery and the pediatric urologist said that if we wanted to have him circumcised, he could complete it at the same time.

After voicing my concerns about a botched circumcision I'd learned about in sociology (that resulted in a boy being raised as a girl and later, reverting back to a boy), I was assured that circumcision is an extremely easy procedure. I was also told that there were no clear medical justifications to complete the procedure, it was largely done for cosmetic reasons.

We started debating what to do.

We researched the topic, exhaustively, on the internet.

We weighed the pros and cons.

We talked to our pediatrician.

We canvassed a large number of people who had sons regarding how they came to their decision to circumcise. Or not.

I posted the question to my triplet support group and several parenting websites I was frequenting at the time.

We even reached out to men that we knew had been circumcised later in life and asked why they did it. And more importantly, are they glad they did?

We talked to a friend who had chronic urinary infections as a child and was circumcised when he was 10. Other men that we talked to chose to be circumcised because their cultural or religious status changed. Or, they thought that it was more hygienic.

We talked to my dad, who had been circumcised just before entering the Navy and he told us that it was one of the worst decisions he'd ever made.

Just about everyone we talked to had a different spin on why we should or should not do it.

Ultimately, we decided that we were going to leave things as nature intended.

I was surprised that when we told the pediatric urologist that we didn't want to do the circumcision, he gave us a big smile and said that he wouldn't do it either, if it was his child.

Thus far, there haven't been any problems and I hope that as our son grows - he will be glad that we made the decision that we did.

It certainly wasn't an easy one for us.

But now, as we're preparing to meet our second son ... I'm happy that with all the other indecision we have swirling about regarding what his name will be and how he will make his entrance in to the world ... there is at least one thing we do know.

And I'm sure that as our boys grow older, they will be thrilled that I have written about this topic on my blog. Maybe they'll thank me if they ever find themselves debating what to do with their own child.

Or maybe not...


  1. Our NICU surgeon basically told us when we were on the fence about our first son, that what we decide now will affect future children. He basically said it would be wrong to have two boys, one with a circumcision and one without. So it was a pretty easy decision with our second son. It's going to be bad enough when they start playing show in tell together. Ugh...why do they have to grow up again?

    Congrats on making it this far in your pregnancy. We thought going from 2 to 3 kids was mind blowing. I have no idea how complicated things will be with four. I'm sure we'll find out, no?

  2. I have to agree with Eric. I have 3 sons... and the doc recommended on the 2nd and 3rd going for the circ... and it really was a no brainer after that. Good luck -it's not easy, huh??
    OH... your blog was nominated for having the best blog name on our site!!
    Check it out!!
    - Audrey
    Pinks & Blues Girls

  3. we also did not circumsize our son.
    i cannot begin you are this close! so excited for you!

  4. Studies and more and more doctors are saying that circumcision is not medically necessary and it not needed for hygiene. Why would God create babies with a need to be fixed? So why put a new baby through a painful procedure on his most sensitive parts? People in this country are all up in arms about female circumcision, why aren't we up in arms about male circumcision? They aren't that different, and they are both largely done for cultural reasons. The argument that bothers me the most is that people do it, just because "that's what people do." And it cracks me up when people say, well, we want the baby to look like his father. What newborn's genitals look like his father's genitals? That would be SCARY! That is my two cents, I obviously have some strong opinions.

  5. I came across your site through "Notes From the Trenches."

    We too had this decision to make. We decided to not circumcise our son. We haven't regreted it yet, but he is only 11 months old.

    Congrats on your upcoming birth!

    I'm excited to see pictures!

  6. Every mammal on earth evolved a forskin before there was surgery or even soap.

    No medical association on earth recommends infant circumcision.

    Easy. HIS body, HIS decision.

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  8. You made the right decision by not having your son circumcised. I would be extremely angry and my parents if they would have had me cut. Many of my friends complain about a loss of sensitivity and painful erections.