Friday, April 1, 2011

To Snip or Not To Snip?

As all parents will admit, we make a lot of mistakes. I make them every day. One of the ones I regret the most happened when Josiah was a mere 11 days old. We paid a doctor to permanently amputate a perfect, functional, healthy part of his tiny little body.

Why? I really don't know. Cultural tradition, religion, preventative health...  several bad excuses we could choose from.

The problem is, well, there are several problems.

First of all, it shouldn't have been our choice. There was nothing at all wrong with his foreskin. It was not medically necessary. No parent should have the right to subject their child's body to cosmetic alteration. He had no choice. Had he had the choice, I have no doubt what he would've chosen. That's why they have this thing called the circumstraint.

Most babies that are breastfed really like to nurse. It satisfies their hunger along with calming mental/emotional/physical discomfort. Josiah refused after the procedure. I could immediately tell he was traumatized. Had I had my brain turned on before the procedure, I would've taken one look at that room, snatched him up and taken off running.

But I didn't, and I will always regret it. Someday I will apologize to him and hopefully he will forgive me. In the meantime, I fully intend to try and inform people who are still under the impression that routine circumcision is the right thing to do, that it is by all means NOT.

Here are a few facts:

~In the US, an average of 117 baby boys die every year from complications to circumcision.
~Circumcision is the most commonly performed medical procedure in the US, so of course there is money to be lost. Think about it.
~Were it to be left intact, a baby boy's foreskin would grow into 12-15 square inches of adult skin.
~The circumcised infant penis actually requires more care than the intact one. A natural, intact penis requires no special care, beyond gentle washing while bathing.
~The American Academy of Pediatrics says on their website that "circumcision is not essential to a child's health." No professional medical association in the United States or the rest of the world recommends routine neonatal circumcision.
~It's not a birth defect! The foreskin has many purposes: keeping contaminants from entering the urinary tract; sexual pleasure due to the thousands of nerve endings contained therein, and natural gliding.
~Circumcision as it is routinely performed today is not a mere snipping of some extra flap of skin. It has to be sliced and pulled off.
~You wouldn't circumcise your baby girl (it's illegal, as a matter of fact), so why the double standard?
~Some statistics claim that the percentage of boys now being circumcised is only one out of three.
~Most medically advanced countries leave their boys intact, and people throughout the world are appalled to hear that American doctors routinely remove part of a boy's penis shortly after birth. 
~Most men in the United States are circumcised, but our STD rates are as high as or higher than those in countries where circumcision is rare.
~Even if they don't remember, that doesn't make it okay.  Experiences not consciously remembered later in life still contribute to a negative or positive effect on each individual.
~Studies have shown that boys who are circumcised have a lower level of pain tolerance later in life.

And the #1 most important reason you should not circumcise your son:

"Because children should be protected from permanent bodily alteration inflicted on them without their consent in the name of culture, religion, profit, or parental preference. Under accepted bioethical principles, parents can consent to surgery on behalf of a child only if it is necessary to protect the child's life or health. "Routine" circumcision fails this test because it painfully and permanently removes a normal and healthy part of a boy's penis, does not protect the child’s life or health, and in fact creates new risks. Removing the foreskin is no more justified than removing a finger or any other healthy body part."

I'm amazed at all the controversy there is around this subject. It might even rival vaccines and spanking. Anyway, for me it all comes down to this: most boys are born with a foreskin that has absolutely no problems and were it to be left intact would most likely never have any medical reason to remove it. Most medical doctors will tell you that routine circumcision is purely cosmetic. Only the person whom the body part belongs to should be able to consent to any kind of modification. I'm not saying that if your son has a real issue with his foreskin, that you shouldn't be able to get a doctor to take care of it. Neither am I condemning the practice of, after much prayer and scripture-searching, taking your son to a mohel to have him perform a biblical circumcision (nothing like the kind they do in hospitals today, rather a simple nick to draw a drop or two of blood).

We fully intended on having it done on the 8th day with a rabbi, although we didn’t really do any research on the subject. Plus Josiah was born 2 weeks early so we didn’t have a chance to arrange it as we had hoped, although we did refuse it in the hospital. Obsessing about getting it done on the 8th day, we quickly tried to make an appointment with somebody to have it done but the soonest we could get was the 11th day with an MD in an outpatient facility. I had no idea how or where to hire a mohel. If I had known at the time that it was completely different, I most definitely would've waited until we could figure it out and do it the better way. The good thing is, God is gracious and like one of my favorite songs says, "I don't have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way He loves us!"

    If any of you still think signing your son up for a typical infant circumcision is a good idea, I strongly encourage you to go watch this video and see exactly what you would be putting your son through in the name of whatever reason you think you may have.

    Now before you start writing me hate mail, let me say this: I am not out to condemn or judge anyone who has allowed their son to be circumcised. After all, I did it too. What I am after, is for people to be better educated about the truth behind this awful practice, so that one or a hundred or a million less boys have to suffer the way our sons and brothers and fathers and husbands have. While many circumcised men have no complaints or angst toward their parents for getting them circumcised, it doesn't change the fact that they were robbed.

    If you're interested in reading more, my friend Heather (aka Mommypotamus) has posted two great blogs about circumcision, you can find them here and here. Another friend, Dr. Cindy has a really good one here.


    PS- nothing against my tattooed friends, y'all know I love you! I just couldn't resist that pic ;)


    1. Standing ovation and tears from the D house. This is an AMAZING post, Joanna.

    2. I heard today that some use the argument that 'a boy should look like his father'... Does anyone subscribe to that one that could help me understand it. I do think it is interesting how many things we listen to the doctor on. Turns out that I've never even met a doctor who said that they would do what they do for work to their own child when it comes to vaccines or the big snip. If you are a doctor who does either and thinks that most or all people should participate, I'd like to hear from you and understand your side of the story.

    3. Wow, what a well-written and researched post! Since Paul clearly states that circumcision is no longer nessecary, and there really are no health benefits, I have often wondered why parents even consider this procedure. Comsmetic reasons shouldn't even be considered. It's funny to me that people who are appaled about puppies tails being docked wouldn't blink an eye at this "routine" surgery.

    4. Thank you, Heather! i keep reading your comment over and over. it really means a lot to me, especially coming from you, a mother and writer i admire so much!

      Angela- thank you! I must admit though, that I didn't have to dig very far to find a lot of my information... I only wish I'd found it sooner! I too am flabbergasted by the hypocrisy of personal rights and what is and isn't considered cruelty.

    5. GREAT post! Of course, I am an odd ball and think that a baby shouldn't have their ears pierced for the same reason. It should be their choice later when they are old enough to decide for themselves.