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The Unkindest Cut of All

People sure do ask a lot of funny questions when they find out you're pregnant.

For example, more than one of my friends responded to the news with some variation of: "On purpose?"

I'm sure they meant well. People had a right to be surprised. We hadn't told anyone that we'd decided to start "trying." We figured it would take a while, that we'd have time to talk about it — that maybe, just at the start, it would be our little secret.

And then we hit the jackpot on the first try.

After the shock wore off, the next question generally was: Are you going to find out the sex?

Now, after our recent major ultrasound and amnio, we know: It's a boy.

Last week, a friend who is currently trying to get pregnant (a close friend, mind you, with whom I discuss pregnancy stuff all the time, and who therefore has the right to ask personal questions, but who nonetheless had the manners to preface her question with "I know this is a very personal question...") asked The Question. The one that I'd hoped to avoid by having a girl: "Are you going to have a Bris?" (Actually, she said "Brisk," because she's not Jewish, but even so, getting the term nearly right wins her bonus points.)

For those unfamiliar, a Bris is the Jewish circumcision ceremony, performed eight days after the birth by a Mohel. In addition to the procedure itself, there's usually a party, blessings, and snacks.

The same week I found out I was having a boy, my local newspaper published an article about the decrease in popularity of circumcision, medical or otherwise.

I don't want to have to make this decision. But I, or rather my husband and I will have to make this decision. To cut or not has implications medically, aesthetically, socially, and religiously. What is best for our baby's health and well-being? What will I do as a Jewish mom?

If I decide to make the cut, there is another debate to be had regarding hospital versus Mohel. On that count, I actually have very little doubt that I'd pick Mohel. Many of them in my area are current or retired pediatricians. One pair that works together are a pediatrician and pediatric plastic-surgeon team.

Giving the baby eight days to get used to being in the cold stark world seems like the least I can do before...and there's something much more appealing to me about doing it at home, with the baby surrounded by family and friends, held by a trusted family member, rather than strapped to a gurney under fluorescent lights and surrounded by strangers. I'll take the ritual and the blessing.

In the highly liberal Bay Area, where we live, many parents, Jewish and non-, still choose the scalpel. Yet it does seem like more people are opting out. The discussion strings at the Berkeley Parents Network website are long and knotty, and mostly come out against.

This same friend who asked me what I'm going to do shared her position on the subject. She likes the "intact" member, aesthetically speaking, but more than that, she couldn't imagine "mutilating" her child like that.

Some say to be Jewish is to debate and question, and therefore choosing not to circumcise is in fact a very Jewish act. Some people believe there are health benefits from the procedure (in fact, recent studies confirm a reduced HIV risk). Some people say that whether its about health or religion, perhaps he should get to choose for himself?

I have not decided what I am going to do. And in a way I wish I could keep it a secret. But if we invite you to the Bris, you'll know.