Godless Living

Living a fulfilled life without God

To Cut or Not to Cut: Two Godless Parents’ Decision on Circumcision

For those that have been keeping up with us, you know that we were scheduled to have our third son last week.  I didn’t mean to leave everyone hanging, but everyone is doing well.  Healthy mom, healthy boy, and ecstatic dad and brothers!  Thanks for the well wishes, congratulations, etc.  We’ve been on quite a high for a few days with this new precious little boy.

A couple of months ago my wife and I started talking about the topic of circumcision.  I think this is a pretty personal topic and one I intentionally didn’t share earlier due to the controversy surrounding it.  Comment threads on the web can get out of hand and I didn’t want our decision to circumcise or not to be solely influenced on the emotions that can come up in these conversations.  I just wanted to decide what was right for our child.

This topic surfaced while reading some of the godless articles that I read and also on some videos I watched.  I was confused by the conversations as people were really emotional about this and comparing it to genital mutilation.  When I first heard it, I thought surely they were talking about doing it to older kids, out of hospitals, or something like this.  I quickly learned that there are people strongly against circumcision even in a hospital setting, by physicians, with anesthesia, etc.  I had no idea this was such a controversial topic since I apparently had been living under a rock.  I have two older boys and I don’t even recall giving this a second thought.  It’s just what you do in this part of the world/country (or so I thought).  So without getting too wrapped up in the controversy, I wanted to just share a personal story from two parents trying to do the right thing for their new child.

It started for me months ago.  I read some articles and a few things stuck out to me:

  • It was unnecessary.  The official stance from the American Academy of Pediatrics was that there were potential benefits to male circumcision, but none that would warrant this on a routine basis.  This was originally stated in 1999 and reinforced in 2005.  I learned that it was so unnecessary that some insurance companies were starting to not cover for this any longer.
  • This was not common all over the world.  I was especially surprised to hear that it was very uncommon in the UK.  What especially caught my attention was that some countries were considering outlawing it.
  • The rates in the US were declining and dropping to around 50%.  While the area that I live in happens to have a really high rate (85% or so), states like California are dropping to around 30%.
  • This was painful for the child for 7 – 10 days.  I honestly wasn’t even sure what was done during circumcision and was very ignorant about it.  I had no idea the babies experienced the level of pain that they do.  I read a particular study that measured physiologic responses to the pain and compared it to other things and was surprised to hear that this was a pretty painful experience for the child.  A common response to this was that the child wouldn’t remember, but I didn’t understand how that made it any better.

So those were the things that caught my attention:  It was painful, it was unnecessary, and it was not as common as I thought.  I was having trouble wrapping my mind around the idea of causing my child pain for no reason.  I brought this up with my wife who initially was caught off guard by the topic and just thought, “Of course we’re going to have him circumcised.”  It took me a couple more months to bring it up, but when I finally did I just asked her to read some of the articles, studies, etc. and asked that we talk about it more.  I was really struggling with the idea and didn’t want to have him circumcised, but I wasn’t willing to let it be only my decision.  I wanted the two of us on the same page.

After doing some research on her own from some websites that she often visited for childcare tips, she felt the same way I did.  We were just in shock that we didn’t know this before.  We started feeling bad for circumcising the other two boys, but we really didn’t know better.  We just thought you were supposed to and were under the impression that it was medically recommended.  We decided to get some opinions outside of our own.  We knew that ultimately it was our decision, but we were open to other opinions.  I talked to a pediatrician that I know, our boys’ pediatrician, and some other people I work with at the hospital.  I was surprised to hear that almost unanimously the professionals encouraged us to get it done.  Their reasoning?  Because my other boys were circumcised and that he would feel weird.  To be clear, the reason I was told that I should allow someone to cut my sons penis and cause him pain for days was because I wouldn’t have enough parenting skills to explain to my kids why their penises looked different.  That was it.  Everyone acknowledged that this wasn’t a medical thing and was strictly cultural and cosmetic.  I had trouble with this.  Was I downplaying the psychological effects this could have on him?

As I struggled with the responses, I sought additional opinions.  I was really curious if this would have an adverse psychological impact on my child considering his brothers were circumcised and that it is so prevalent where we live.  I had a few friends in particular that helped me make a decision.  One was a psychologist.  I asked her if I should consider this aspect a little more.  Her response was very helpful and without making a recommendation, assured me that the important thing was deciding as parents what was best for our child.  It will be up to us to communicate this to him when it comes up.  Another friend was equally helpful in sharing his thoughts and also keeping me focused on what was best for my child.

All of this led us to the decision to not have him circumcised.  We were open to someone giving us a reason to circumcise, but if it wasn’t better than the argument that he will look different than his brothers, we weren’t doing it.  I asked my wife days before he was born if she was comfortable with the decision, and she confirmed that she didn’t want to do it.

All was well until the day after he was born.  We had discussed with everyone that we didn’t want to do it.  Nurses, doctors, etc. were all aware.  The day after he was born the pediatrician assigned to us in the hospital came by to check on him.  Her and I had discussed circumcision the day before and while I could tell that she felt like we should circumcise him (since his brothers were) she was respectful and ended up telling us that if it wasn’t important to us, there was really no reason to do it.  We thought this was the end of it until this second visit.  She came in and said that she discussed our decision and situation with a colleague and was informed that the American Academy of Pediatrics was planning to restate their position on Monday, August 27th, 2012 and while she hadn’t seen the statement, had read in a USA Today article that the plans were to note “significant health benefits” to circumcision.  She used the word “significant” because the article used it.  I was pissed.  I couldn’t imagine what would have changed.  I have read very recent articles and statements on this and I couldn’t understand what “significant” health benefits there could be all of a sudden.  I couldn’t help wondering if the pediatricians were just going to reword their statement to make people feel less bad for choosing to do it.  I was confused.  I asked my wife if we should reconsider while he was in the hospital.  I mean, after all, if there were truly “significant health benefits” why wouldn’t we?  How was I to know if this was just the USA Today’s slant on the statement or truly the statement from the AAP?  The bottom line is that I wouldn’t know this until we were already gone from the hospital.  I was frantically reading everything I could when I finally just realized that nothing had changed.  Currently the studies still indicated no need for routine circumcision and I wouldn’t know what the AAP changed until we were home from the hospital.  I still saw no reason to circumcise my son, but this created a lot of stress as I really struggled with making the right decision.

So we’re home and our little boy didn’t get cut.  I just dropped it and realized that we had made a decision we felt was best for him and moved on.  As I was posting photos on Facebook this morning, I ran across an article that mentioned the new statement from the AAP.  Basically the only thing that changed was that their previous statement said there were potential benefits and the new statement said there were potential benefits and the new statement removed the word potential. They are still very minimal and nothing to warrant routine newborn circumcision according to the AAP. The use of the word “significant” wouldn’t be appropriate since it’s still not recommended on a routine basis. Essentially nothing has changed and the controversy will rage on. For this family, we’re happy that we didn’t circumcise him and more than willing to engage our family in all necessary conversations around this topic as our boys grow up and start asking questions.


6 comments on “To Cut or Not to Cut: Two Godless Parents’ Decision on Circumcision

  1. pinkagendist
    August 27, 2012

    That statement and what the basis for it were slanted. Basically they identified a co-relation between a rise in STDs and a decrease in circumcisions. But co-relation is not causality. People get STDs because of unsafe sex not because they’re uncircumcised.
    Paradoxically Western Europe has declining STD rates, invariably lower than the US and we’re not routinely circumcised except for Jewish and Muslim minorities.
    The statement was based on bad science and I think it’s a shame statistics are misused in this manner.

    • Abebi
      December 14, 2012

      I agree. The “change” was so that doctors could continue lining their pockets and perhaps increase the lining back to the way it was before. My son was born last year. When my doctor came in to check on me the day before I was to be discharged, she asked if he was going to be circumcised. I told her no. Her response: “Good. It’s just cosmetic anyways.” I am pro-choice when it comes to circumcision. — This child’s choice. When he becomes a man, if he wants to have a piece of his body removed, it is HIS choice. He can make his own educated decision about his body. “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.”

  2. Pingback: Circumcision: Do the Health Benefits Outweigh the Genital Mutilation?

  3. Synesthesia
    December 14, 2012

    Look at it this way, if he decides to get it done when he’s an adult, he will have that option and pain medicine and also anesthesia. Babies don’t get that. I say, just let the boy decide when he’s a man. Plus there’s condoms to consider and warm water. You can get all the health benefits from those without cutting and days of pain. Real actual health benefits considering how well EUROPE is doing without circumcision.

  4. Judith Bakley
    December 14, 2012

    Thanks for sharing. I too used to think it was normal and everyone did it. And I was very surprised to learn I was wrong. It’s sad how we’re all brainwashed in the US to think this is normal, but I’m happy to say I protected my son…and I’m glad you were informed for your third son. 🙂


  5. cosmopolite
    December 17, 2012

    The AAP’s position as of 27.8.2012 is:

    Parents have a right to decide how the most sexual part of a son’s body, the tip of his penis, shall look and function. Their preference shall override that of the person connected to the penis and those of his future sex partners.

    If giving parents the penis they prefer costs money, third parties, esp. Medicaid, should willingly pick up the cost.

    This is not a policy, but a cowardly surrender to sexual myths and the fear of nonconformity. To many adult Americans, the natural penis looks weird. The response to this situation is not the scalpel, but education. American medicine persists in not researching the possible harm that circumcision can do to normal adult sex, and the sexual advantages of retaining the moving foreskin. American medicine also refuses to solicit the views of sexually sophisticated women.

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This entry was posted on August 27, 2012 by in Atheism.
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