I was folding a pair of blue pajamas in #2’s future drawer this morning when it occurred to me: #2 was a boy. Of course, I knew that already…but hadn’t really processed it beyond admiring cargo pants in babyGap and deciding I should really learn what noise a dump truck makes. But #2’s boy-ness goes a lot farther than muddy soccer cleats and train sets and blue pajamas at bedtime. He’s got boy parts. Parts I don’t have. Parts I don’t know how to take care of. And the very first day he’s born, I have an important decision to make: circumcise him? Or not?
I’ll admit it: penises scare me. Not the adult kind, just the baby variety. I’m suddenly realizing I’ll be responsible for maintaining #2’s penis for the next several years. I’m not so sure I’m up to the task. First, there’s my terrible fear of being peed on. E’s peed on me, twice, both times because I let her run around naked too long before her bath. But those were the lap-soaking kind, with the worst casualty being a pair of jeans getting tossed in the wash. I’m afraid of the changing table pee—the straight-up-in-the-air, expertly aimed kind of stream that might get in my eye. Or my mouth. Or my freshly straightened hair. And there’s the cleaning—how is that supposed to happen? It seems like there’s a lot going on below the belt where boy babies are concerned, whereas E’s diaper area is pretty straightforward. At least, from my perspective—no mysteries there.
Circumcision used to be a no-brainer—it seemed like everybody did it. In my medium-range experience with men before I got married, I never came across a guy who hadn’t been snipped as a baby. Even with the current trend toward leaving male babies intact, the decision should still be a no-brainer for J and I—our religion dictates that baby boys be circumcised on the eighth day of their life, accompanied by an important religious ceremony called a bris. But we’re not particularly religious. There’s no way we would allow a surgical procedure to be performed anywhere but a hospital (someone’s living room next to a giant deli platter is the way it’s supposed to go, but we’re both way too germ-phobic to consider such a thing.) And I’ve never been one to hold with tradition if there’s a better, more modern argument for going down a different road.
So…what to do? A little web research revealed the religious significance of circumcision in the Jewish faith—to sum things up, it symbolizes the covenant between God and the Jewish people. It’s a way to make the physical world more holy, and a way to symbolize that we are not born perfect, and must continue to improve upon God’s raw materials for our entire lives.
All of this means something to me. Being Jewish has always been more about tradition than religion for me, and it’s hard to consider letting #2 be the first in a long line of ancestors to retain a foreskin just because I value modern science over ancient custom. But--while I appreciate knowing the spiritual and religious significance behind circumcision, I’ve still got questions. Is it really safe? Is it really better? Are there health risks? And most importantly, will the pain cause lasting emotional damage? I couldn’t even handle the heel pricks E had to endure after being born underweight. The thought of inflicting mortal pain on my new little guy is more than a little bit upsetting.
So before I let #2 go under the knife, and anger my family and my ancestors by defying a religion I was raised to love, I need to know I’m making the right decision. To all the moms of little boys out there: Did you circumcise, or leave nature as is? What information factored into your decision? And would you do it differently if you had to choose again?
(Oh—and while you’re answering questions…could someone give me a ballpark number of times I can expect to be peed on?)