Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Why We Didn't Circumcise Lily

No, I did not go completely nuts. I am absolutely aware that female genital mutilation (FGM) is illegal in the US, Europe, and many other parts of this world. But still it was our first pregnancy, which we decided to spend as "team green" and eventually resulting in us meeting our beautiful daughter, that we had to discuss a practice that is still very common throughout the United States: Infant Boy Circumcision.

While routine circumcision is not practiced in my native Germany, I was aware that it was "what you do" in the U.S. I talked to my colleagues, who, with my mom being a continent away, were the women I primarily turned to with my questions and concerns about pregnancy. They all had boys, and they all had them circumcised. I learned that a circumcised boy is easier to clean, will have a lower risk for a number of diseases, and since his nerve endings are not quite developed yet he will not feel anything. After all, can the majority of families of newborn boys be wrong (as of 2010, a good 58% of newborn baby boys were circumcised according to the CDC)?

Before discussing circumcision for our son I may be carrying with hubby, I was slightly pro-circumcision, assuming to do the right thing adapting to he culture I was now a part of.  The discussion with hubby was, however, quite short and admittedly also a bit surprising for me. Asking him whether he would prefer circumcision for a son, he plain and simply answered: "No, why? It's an unnecessary procedure."  With him having such a clear stance against circumcision, we had made our decision for our potential son.

However, after watching an episode of the TLC-show "Bringing Home Baby", where a little boy suffered from pain and bleeding after being circumcised at the hospital to the point where even the father, who was a doctor, could not do much to relief his boy's agony, I felt compelled to do more research on the issue. What I found was horrible. After the episode of "Bringing Home Baby", all I needed to see to be personally absolutely against circumcision is the so-called "circumstraint", the board where the babies are tied to before the procedure:

I knew that no-one will ever be allowed to tie a son of ours to one of these contraption. Why would they need to tie the little ones down like that if it didn't hurt?

Furthermore, there is a long list of potential complications of circumcision, including, among others:

- removal of not enough or too much skin
- adhesions and skin-bridges
- urinary retention
- sexual dysfunction
- urinary tract infections
- hemorrhage (excessive bleeding)
- death

What about the commonly perceived benefits of circumcision?

- it's easier to clean.
I wouldn't know how cleaning a raw, bleeding penis is easier than wiping an intact penis. From experience I can say, cleaning an intact penis is as easy as cleaning a finger.

- circumcision decreases the risk for diseases.
There are indeed studies that suggest that circumcision lowers the risk of certain STDs and even HIV/AIDS - by a very small percentage than more traditional prevention methods like condoms. In order to be save, just practice safe sex as an adult, don't cut babies!

- baby won't feel the pain, as the nerve endings aren't fully developed yet.
En contraire! Circumcision is extremely painful for babies; why else would they scream in pain and sometimes develop attachement issues, nursing issues, or even symptoms of PTSD after circumcision? Furthermore, a piece of skin with an extremely high number of nerves is being removed, which certainly will affect the sex life later (I know, nothing we as parents want to think about now, but it's still their bodies!!)

If you are expecting a boy, or plan on starting a family, I ask you to please do your research - for your sons' sake. Not only girls deserve protection from FMG, also boys must be protected from random cosmetic surgery on their private parts. Genital Mutilation affects the lives of both genders, but while people are appalled by the rituals around FGM, male genital mutilation (MGM) is widely accepted and even paid by many insurances. Check out resource pages like Saving Our Sons, and if you seriously consider having your son circumcised, do yourself (and HIM) a favor and watch a clip of a circumcision on YouTube. We all are watching birthing videos at the birth preparation class, but how many women really know what happens to their sons when they are taken by the medical personnel to be circumcised.

Obviously, Lily is not circumcised, and neither is any other of our children. Should any of them prefer any body modifications later, they are welcome to do them. But it's their bodies, and therefore their decision alone.


  1. Replies
    1. I totally was, shockingly so. I tried to watch the episode of Penn & Teller's Bullsh!t on circumcision and had to stop when they actually showed a circumcision there. This poor, poor little boy. After all the information I've found, I could never, ever in my life make my son go through something like that. Unfortunately, the mis-information is still all over the place, and more boys have to undergo this horrible procedure..