Monday, July 5, 2010

Tough Choices...

Not being one to shy away from controversy here, I have wanted to write a post about circumcision over the last couple of weeks, I just haven't had the time. When I saw this article in the Toronto Star today, it gave me the motivation to wade in. This is one of those issues that parents, especially mothers, oddly enough, seem to have such intense feelings about. I spend time on and some attachment parenting groups and there, you wouldn't raise the topic unless you were prepared to be viciously attacked. Here, I feel a bit safer.

Five days after Ij was born, he was circumcized. For us, it was a no-brainer. While we don't judge other people's decisions, for us, we felt that it was something that NEEDED to be done. Dh was not done as an infant because he was so premature and then, at age 9, he developed problems that ultimately led to it being done. Just try and picture the shame, the pain and the fear faced by a boy going through that procedure. From the little that he has said about it, the experience was nothing short of a major trauma. We were not prepared to take that risk with our son (and we did later discover from the pediatrician that did Ij that the problem Dh had is probably genetic and Ij would have faced an increased risk). We did not have it done at the hospital where he was born - after some research, we found a pediatrician whose methods seemed the most humane and we were very happy with our choice. Ij slept through the entire procedure and there was very little issue after the fact. He did not need stitches, he did not seem upset and the doctor used freezing. It was entirely worth the $200 and the drive to the pediatrician's office.

What really angers me in the discussion of male circumcision is the "head in the sand" position of some who are against it. I had a woman on one of the groups I am on tell me that while Dh was done as a child, that "it is almost always unnecessary, even when done later", it's "just an easy way for doctors to deal with things." Easy? Really? Would you, as a parent, find anything easy in your son having to have part of his penis removed, with fourteen stitches and a three week recovery period involving attempting to keep bandages from becoming stuck to his wound and potentially needing to be peeled off? Would you, as a doctor, suggest that as the "easy route"? Would you, as a parent, lightly undertake that with your child???

My doctor and I had a good discussion about this last week. Her take on the situation was that while many boys can be uncircumcised without a problem, we can't guess which boys will have a problem and need to be done later and a number of them WILL have problems. Dh and I were pretty quiet about the fact that we were having Ij done, just because we knew that many people were so intensely against the procedure. Even so, we have heard about four other boys who had to be done later, and we have heard about that just in the last week or so. If even in our small group of people we have seen and talked to, we have heard about multiple cases, can it really be that rare?

I realise that those who are vigorously opposed to the practice will continue to maintain that it is child abuse, that it is the same as female genital mutilation and that it is entirely and completely unnecessary. Nothing that I say will changed their minds and I will be vilified for having "mutilated" my son. I don't care. My son will not have to go through the trauma of chronic infections, he will not have to have the procedure done later and heck, if he decides that he wants to convert to Judaism or Islam later in life, we have spared him the trouble of a later-in-life procedure. And, if you follow the studies in the article above, we may have reduced his risk of HIV infection by up to 60%. I am not sorry for that.

I will not judge other parents choices in terms of what they decide. I respect their rights when it comes to making decisions for their own children. It's too bad that other parents aren't as willing to show that respect to others (a bit like with breastfeeding - it's an issue that brings out the worst judgementalism in people... but that's another post). I would like to see those with strong feelings on the issue admit the complexity of the situation and not over-simplify. There ARE reasons to support the practice and the fewer boys are done, the more we will get a clearer picture of the potential risks of not doing it. It's not pretty and I will admit that driving to the doctor's office, I started to have second thoughts but in the long run, I believe it was the right thing to do. I just wish we could discuss the situation in a clear-headed, respectful way.


  1. We had The Bun done, too, but don't advertise it around because it really is one of those hot-button issues about which people are very polarized and not very open-minded, which only makes those discussions into flame-wars.

    We used a doctor that came recommended, asked about his procedure, which involved tylenol, then local ana for the needle, then freezing, leading to virtually no feeling, and The Bun wasn't upset by it. There were not stitches, as the wound closes when the skin is released, and only a very slight bruise from the needle. Healing was easy. (And the dr noted that he had had a lot of skin, so may have been worth doing if only to avoid the extra difficulty in hygeine that little boys are not so good at.)

    The facts as I found them in reading around first are that the reasons for and against are very evenly split, which in my opinion makes it a personal decision about which side you are going to fall on. And I will admit that knowing your Dh's history was a very tiny factor, as well. I don't regret our decision and would do the same again.

  2. It sounds like you had exactly the same procedure that we did. Like I said, it was the decision that worked best for us.

  3. We never hear about it much in our neck of the woods. I didn't bother doing it with our son, but I have to say that I don't understand why people would get all in a tizzy over something like that. Personally, I think it's all up to the parents to decide. Really. What's the big deal? Doing it while the child is younger and won't remember is much better than having to have them go through the procedure later if they need to for medical reasons, and if you have history of that, it almost seems like a no brainer to me.

    I guess it's not such a hot topic in our area...