Saturday, March 22, 2008

Cutting Parts Off Babies: Cool or Not?

Someone asked for my opinion on circumcision and all of the other popular Babycenter debates. This is a great question because I have LOTS of opinions on all of these things, having debated them 9 trillion times on Babycenter and dealing with them in my own life.

I am far too verbose to cover them all in one reasonably sized post, so we'll start with Circumcision. I've glossed over my opinions on this before, when discussing how rude people "on the other side" of the debate often are in real life but I'll give you the unabridged version here and now.

PERSONALLY, we decided it was unnecessary. Well, I decided and then beat Mr. Ashley into submission.

While researching like the good First Time Mom that I was, I encountered the circumcision debate. I didn't even know there really was an option other than doing it and had never really even thought about it before.

The idea made me a little queasy. I can't look at a scraped knee without my stomach flip flopping.

So I read both sides of the debate and every piece of literature (biased and unbiased) that I could find (because I'm a little OCD like that).

The prevailing arguments for doing it were:

*Looking like daddy. Frankly, this one disturbs me a little. Are families seriously hanging out examining each other's junk and developing complexes as a result? I spoke to a few people about this phenomenon, including members of my own family, and found several examples of people with a penis that looked different from their father's who were fine with that. In fact, some didn't even know they were different from their father until it came up in this discussion (and yeah, I know more about the penii in my family than I would ever want to know. All in the name of research.)

*Cleanliness. I have always heard this one, even before I knew there was a debate. Having no penis, and finding them all kind of yucky, I had no idea how hard they would be to keep clean, but I just couldn't imagine that it would be that difficult. So once again I "looked into it" and found that you're not supposed to do anything to it at all until it comes out of it's little sleeve. This takes years. Then you just pull it back and wipey wipe. It sounded even easier than teaching a girl to bathe to me, and in all honesty, I plan on raising my kids to shower daily or at the very least wash down stinky areas.

*Increased risk of STDs. This one did actually give me pause. Until I read the studies done ON the studies of those African AIDS studies and found that they were really flawed to begin with. As far as increased risk of HPV, HPV is running rampant in this country as it is. I know at least 5 women who have gotten HPV who haven't ever even been with an intact guy. Besides, there is just no excuse for unprotected sex these days. You're in just as much danger without a foreskin, in my opinion. It's a total and complete gamble.

*Fear of teasing in the locker room. Come on. Seriously? So if he has a big nose should I get him a nose job so no one teases him in the hallway? Besides, WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE STARING AT EACH OTHER'S PACKAGES?? This one is such a non-issue for me that I can't help but laugh when it is mentioned. It is just so bizarre to me. I guess I will instruct my children to scream, "Why the hell are you staring at my dick, pervert?" and start some rumors around school.

*Girls don't like it. I have encountered some girls that really do like it. A lot of the others don't know anything about it. Some don't like it. Most don't care. I *really* hope that any chicks sleeping with my sons like them so much that this is something they will gladly accept about them. If this is such a turn off for them that they can't deal with it, au revoir you shallow bitch.

*I let my husband decide because I don't have a penis. With all due respect to every woman that has ever uttered these words...wh-wh-wh-WHAT? Oh no. Around here I am 75% of every single decision involving my children. I get the extra 25% because I did more to get them here. Besides, men love their penises. They freaking love them. There is no better looking or more functional penis than their own. Also, let me point out that men only have experience with the penis they have. So they are as unqualified as you are to make an unbiased decision.

So after coming up with my own stance on these issues, reading that the American Academy of Pediatrics doesn't recommend it routinely and discovering that my insurance at the time considered it cosmetic, I had pretty much made up my mind. Watching a video of one being done sealed the deal for me, it was professionally and medically done, with pain medication, but even the sight of the thing they strap them down on just made my stomach sink.

Above and beyond all else, I have enough faith in God, Science, Evolution, Biology and all of that other good stuff, to believe that human beings are just not born needing to have a piece of them cut off.

So I informed Mr. Ashley that this was something I now felt passionately about and he said "Oh hell no."

I explained the history of circumcision (made popular again to help cure men of insanity and sexual deviance such as masturbation), I went over the debates and I begged him to see that people weren't born with extra pieces that needed removed and that babies don't need cosmetic surgery.

Finally, at a total stalemate, I insisted that he read the research and watch the video and get back to me. He said he would but that it wouldn't change his mind.

Of course he never did, further infuriating me. Finally it came up again when I was 10 months pregnant, during a Florida summer, and I yelled, "You will have to tear this baby out of my arms in the hospital if you think you are cutting anything off of him. And that is that!"

Luckily, when the nurse asked us in the hospital, and we both looked down at that precious 6lb tiny bundle who was born blue and not breathing and who had had one hell of a day, he agreed with no hesitation that he wasn't going anywhere and would be leaving the hospital with all of the parts he was born with.

NOW...before you moms who did circumcise think that I think that you're mutilators, you're wrong. I'm not a hard core Intactivist who thinks this is a Human Rights Issue. Personally, I don't think it's my choice to make for my child but I don't begrudge any parents making their own decisions.

Mostly, this is a cultural/traditional thing in our country. Do I think the African tribes tattooing and piercing their children are mutilating them? Or that that's a Human Rights Issue? Nope. It's a part of their heritage, traditions, culture, religion, whatever.

So while of course I wish everyone thought like me, I don't think badly of people who don't. It really is not a defining force in anyone's life, almost everyone will be fond of the penis you gave them, regardless of what you did or didn't do to it.

So far, what we've done has worked out great. No extra care, no issues, no identity crises about not looking like daddy, no urinary tract infections, no teasing. Can I also say that I've noticed that being uncut gives the illusion of extra length? Either that or my kids are well endowed compared to other kids their age. I don't know, I'm just sayin'. That sort of thing could really help out in all of these naked locker room arguments.


Maggie said...

Go Ashley. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. If anybody's wondering, my grown son never had anybody make fun of him for having a foreskin.

jenn said...

It ended up not being an issue, since I wound up with two girls, but my husband and I had decided against circumsion when I was pregnant. It just struck me as one of those things we do because society says we should and .... why? Incidentally, my husband is "trimmed" and he was totally fine with not circumcising his potential sons.

Things I May Regret Writing said...

Here here. I don't have boys, but would have made the same decision you did.

Melodie said...

I've never had this issue since all of my children are girls, but a friend of mine has three uncircumcised sons. She says that the two oldest have learned how to do "penis tricks" involving their foreskin. Have your boys discovered how to do this yet?

JET said...

Ashley - I think I wrote this! Not really, but you took ALL the words right out of my head. The only difference is that after DH looked at me like I was crazy I convinced him to read the literature and he did. After that he agreed with me. Both my boys (17 and 3) are intact.

Anonymous said...

Atta girl Ashley. We're all about the foreskin here!

Becky said...

Ashley, I can totally relate! We weren't going to have our son circumcised anyway, but after seeing him with an IV in his head (group B strep + fast labor = IV antibiotics), there's no way I would've put him through any more procedures. Our pediatrician gave us kudos for that decision on the first couple of well-child visits.

That being said, I want NOTHING to do with the maintenance of said foreskin...that's completely Hubby's job!

Anonymous said...

Great post. You stated everything exactly how I feel. I am 36 weeks pregnant, due with my first boy (and last child--already have a girl), and we are not going to have him "trimmed." The thought of someone strapping down my baby and doing that? **Shudders** NO. Thanks for your thoughts though, you put it into words so much better than I could have.

Anonymous said...

I lurve you because you have your views, yet respect that others have their own.

You should teach on class on the correct way to be opinionated. :D

Now where's your blinkie? You know the ones I mean! ;) j/k

Anonymous said...

I will say when thinking ahead before the first time I saw hubby's (of course this was while we were dating), I had a little panic attack wondering what to do if he wasn't trimmed. I was kind of afraid of the possibility. I know it's weird but that's what I thought.

How do the Jews feel about all this?

Suzanne said...

Great post Ashley! We did decide to have our only son circumsized, but I don't have any neg. attitudes towards those who don't. It's a personal choice IMO. I also feel the same way about vaxing (we selectively vax on a delayed schedule), co-sleeping (we do), turning carseats at age 1 (we did), breastfeeding (did all three), spanking (we don't), etc. Most of my friends do the opposite on one or more of those, and you know what? Their kids aren't any different than mine!

Multislacking Mama said...

I can't believe this is even a debate with some people. I don't understand how other parents can't leave other parents decisions alone. That might of not made sense but it did in my brain before I typed it.

Good 4 The Ashley's for doing what The Ashley's think is right. Rock on Chaka Kahn.


Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you posted this entry! We're Pg with our first boy and are getting hounded to circ. at large! I was so leaning towards not, and now I'm made up.

RubiaLala said...

I totally think it's a personal decision and I honestly don't understand why someone would judge you about that. Like, how is that even coming up in conversations? Anyway, our son was circumcised, I honestly didn't think about it. My husband's is that way so that's what we did. Can someone nominate me for Worst Mother of the Year Award (for not researching it?)? Thanks.

Mitch said...

My opinion -- not that anyone asked -- who's business is it but mine and DH's about how my son's bull looks like? That's our own personal decision and I don't personally care what decision anyone else makes. I don't plan on checking out all the penii in the world to take inventory.

But, we HAD to have our son circumsized. He had hypospadia -- not a really bad case but enough to have to have surgery to correct it at 10 months. The doctors had to use his foreskin to cover the area that was extended with the extra skin.

So, to each his own, and I don't care what your sons' penis looks like (I mean that in the nicest of ways, btw).

Rebecca said...

Thank you for this post! I know a lot of people are wondering why anyone asked you your opinion, but I only did it because I actually find you highly intelligent and I knew you'd post valid points to help me in making my decision. My husband even read your post and now we're on the same boat - we will NOT circumcise!

Also, after watching a video of the procedure on YouTube, my mind is definitely made up NOT to do it!

Anonymous said...

First, I am sort of a hippy/earth mother type. I had my sons at home with a lay midwife, it was great. We did not circumsize them. At first.
Until they were 4 and 6 yrs old with tight foreskins and had to have major surgery to remove them.
I still would of made the decision not to at birth, but something to think about when deciding.
They are 19 and 20 now, one has his own son and yes, he is circumsized.

Unknown said...

I am surprised that they made such a decision so young. At 4 most boys aren't usually fully retractable, I know we were concerned about Big Kid before looking into it further.

Was this a while ago?

Unknown said...

Also, I love the idea of a homebirth!! If I had a fleet of housekeepers so I wouldn't have to worry about the place being a mess when the time came, I would love to be able to stay snuggled up in my bed, versus having someone come take my blood pressure and harass me hourly.

Anonymous said...

Ashley, great post good solid factual information. I saw somethings I wanted to comment on so here it goes.

First I just want it to be clear that the foreskin requires no special maintenance; it is self cleaning. I know you basically covered that but it is worth repeating because many US doctors don't provide the proper information with regard to this issue. Many will tell you that it needs to be retracted over time and cleaned regularly. This is not the case and can actually be damaging. Simply washing the exterior is sufficient until a boy is naturally retractable which may not be until his teenage years. Here is a link to the AAP care guide which is mostly right. And a link to the NOCIRC care pamphlet.

Second, the lack of knowledge about proper care extends to issues like tight foreskin too. The average age for full retraction is 10.5 years but some may not get there until later and some earlier. Even at 10.5 years more than half won't be fully retractable. A boy with a tight foreskin even at age 5 is not unusual (nor would it be at 10). As long as function (urination) is not impeded, things are just fine. If a boy gets to a point were they are not fully retractable or have a tight foreskin into say mid teens (less than 1% of them), circumcision is not the first course of action to consider. Often betamethasone 0.05% cream for 4 to 6 weeks has been demonstrated to be very effective (something like 90%) and is certainly less invasive. ;) More on these issues can also be read here and here.

Just providing this for those who will be leaving their sons intact. I encourage further digging the CIRP library provided in this post is a good place to start. Again great post.

Fishy Busyness said...

I'm so glad you posted this! We left our first son intact after he had breathing issues in the hospital and the pediatrician didn't wish to circumsize anyone who didn't even have breathing completely down yet. So, we were to bring him back at a week and a half to have the "procedure" done. Has anyone tried to get a precious baby home and bond with him for a week and then take him back to have some of his darling parts sliced up? Impossible! I was nauseated by the thought but hubby thought it was best. Until he spent an evening holding and snuggling with the boy. That was the end of that. He called the next day and announced to the doc that his services wouldn't be required. We have had one issue with infection at about 2- his foreskin is very tight and one doc recommended circumsision. Our regular doc did not think it was necessary and I'm SO RELIEVED to now read Joe's comments (whoever he is) and know that there should be no worries. Our new baby is also intact (duh.) What a great post!! (and sorry for the ridiculously long comment)

Anonymous said...

Mr QM was more against it than me. I am glad we abstained, and I really don't care what other people do, but we did what we right for our family-or rather "didn't"

Interestingly, I have never been peed on-I think the foreskin gives a little protection in that area!

~Gretchen~ said...

Where's my Mutilatin' Mama blinkie when i need it?

Jackie said...

This is a really interesting post- my husband and I (no babies yet) have had this discussion before- and he (who is cut) is actually vehemently opposed to it. Not from personal experience, but from knowing the history of circumcision in our country. After hearing him out, and doing my own research, we've decided to let things be if we end up with a baby boy.