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Why I Didn't Circumcise My Sons

I feel it is my personal duty that Salt & Nectar cover every controversial parenting topic before our first anniversary. Why be a mommy blogger if you can't stir the pot occasionally? Am I right?

We've already covered breastfeeding and co-sleeping, which leaves circumcision! A tiny piece of skin that causes an awful big ruckus. It's also a topic that's back in the news (and blogosphere) after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report concluding that routine hospital circumcisions of newborns have declined over the past 10 years. A survey of three large, independent data sources showed that the rate of in-hospital circumcisions dropped from 62.5% in 1999 to 56.9% in 2008.

I like to think I did my part in dropping that number because neither Griffin nor Amos are circumcised. (Guess I better delete this post right around their 13th birthday!) If I'm being honest, it was a pretty easy decision for me. I have a pretty intense hippie/earth mother streak when it comes right down to it and am generally distrustful of the medical establishment. I gave birth at home. I breastfeed. I vaccinate on an alternate schedule (another post for another time). So, circumcision never really seemed like an option for me.

When people ask me why we didn't circumcise? My reply is always the same. No one could give me a reason to circumcise. I've seen the studies that it can "slightly lower" the risk of STDS, AIDS, and urinary tract infections. However, the impact on infection rates is so small - not to mention I hope to raise sons that understand ways to substantially lower their risk of STDS and AIDS - like say a condom. Heck even the America Academy of Pediatrics (not exactly a fringe group) states there is no reason to recommend routine circumcision in newborn males.

Both my husband and I considered the fact that our boys would look different from men in their family - not to mention other boys in the locker room - but it just wasn't enough to persuade me. However you want to explain its genesis, I think we can all agree that the human body is a superior piece of design. I try not to tinker with that design unless absolutely necessary.

Beyond that, it just didn't seem like my decision to make. In my experience, men take their penises VERY seriously. (Can I get an amen?) It's difficult to think of these tiny little creatures in my care as independent human beings with bodies all their own but that's what they are. If Griffin or Amos decide one day they would like to be circumcised, that's fine with me but I wanted to leave it to them to decide.

So, that's the long and short of it. (HA! Sorry, I couldn't resist.) I decided not to circumcise my sons for my own personal reasons. I'm not an intactivist, although I do admit that is the best name ever. I don't think we should make circumcision illegal. If you chose to circumcise your son, I'm sure you did it for your own personal reasons and I have no problem with your decision. However, I'd be lying if I didn't say I'm glad to see my sons might not be all alone in the locker room after all.

~ Sarah Stewart Holland 

Reader Comments (7)

Good answer. I let my husband make the decision for our boys... both are. I didn't feel it was my decision to make either. :-)

I can't wait for your post on vaccines... You know my take on it.... I am a little hippie myself.

September 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

This "controversy" is usually painted as an ethical issue, so one assumes the decrease in the procedure has to do with people recognizing that unnecessary medical procedures shouldn't be needlessly undertaken or without the consent of the individual. I definitely think that's one reason you've seen numbers drop; however, there is a socio-economic factor at play too. Once the AAP backed off endorsing circumcision for infants, Medicaid stopped covering the procedure in certain states so families that may have previously elected to circumcise their children opted not to due inability to pay. This seems to be one aspect that's left out of the discussion—it's not only about health, religion, ethics, personal beliefs, but also money or the imbalanced health care in the US. A very charged topic, nonetheless. And, consequently, one that is best left to a personal decision. Well said, SSH.

September 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSalt & Nectar

You know I love when the pot over here gets stirred!
While, for many superficial reasons (vanity, future teasing, weird looks from the ladies, etc. etc.) I would be fine with circumcising my child, I was totally nodding along here until the line about letting them decide later in life. Cause....YOW. All I could think of was a college boyfriend who had to be circumcised as a teen for health reasons, which he said was monumentally painful and difficult to recover from, and QUITE LITERALLY left him incredibly scarred. Poor guy.
Just sayin'...something else to think about. (Not for you, obviously, but for others out there on the fence.) I just feel like it's more a now or never type thing. Like tail docking. (Which I will totally do if my kid is born with a tail, btw.)

I need to stop comparing pets to children. Good post, Sarah!

September 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPam Huber

Interesting. We went the other way on this one, but I'm not sure that there is a "wrong" answer.

September 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKaelin

The list of medical pros and cons regarding circumcision is long. Though the American Academy of Pediatrics has repeatedly stated that "there is no absolute medical indication for routine circumcision of the newborn," it has been shown that uncircumcised men have a higher incidence of urinary tract infections, sexually-transmitted diseases, and cancer of the penis than circumcised men. Cancer of the penis carries a mortality rate as high as 25%. This cancer occurs almost exclusively in uncircumcised men. In five major research studies, no man who had been circumcised as a newborn developed cancer of the penis. Human papillomavirus types 16 and 18, which are sexually transmitted, are involved in cancer of the penis.

As a parenty you do what you think is best for your children. Just be sure to always get opinions from medical professionals who all have different views on the suject and go from there. If you always seek advice from one you always agree with, then you're just finding support of your opinion rather than fully understanding the pro's and con's. Be sure it's not about an agenda or making a statement. Doing your own research can sometimes not be the best idea. I'm not saying it's wrong but I am saying it shouldn't be all you depend on.

September 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKatie

I've recently been forced to think about this issue and I'm still undecided. My family are Orthodox Jews and so when I was younger, it went unsaid that any son of mine would be circumcised. However, my partner of 5 years (who grew up in a Christian household but now dislikes organised religion of any type) is horrified by the very thought of circumcision. Part of me, the rational part, agrees with him. After all, I would never condemn my daughter to female genital mutilation so why should I subject a son to this? Yet the other voice in my head (it sounds like my mother) starts fussing about how my sons won't be "real" Jews, how they'll be open to catching terrible diseases, they'll be outcasts from the religious community and they'll be different from all the other little boys.

I admire your decisiveness and I wish I could make up my own mind.

September 15, 2011 | Unregistered Commentershiralah

Kaelin, there is a wrong answer. I was circumcised shortly after birth. I really wish my parents had left my sex organ alone. I am the one who has to live with it, not my parents. Because parents cannot know if their son will approve and appreciate a genital alteration that was forced on him, parents should err on the safe side and let the boy grow up whole, just as he was born. Too bad my parents did not give me that option.

October 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRestoring Tally

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