For years, it was routine practice for American mothers to circumcise their sons at birth or for Jewish parents to do so on the eighth day. It was considered healthier, more sanitary and just the way it was done.
In fact, circumcision was once so routine that many people are not even aware of what the foreskin looks like (unless they have spent time on European nude beaches). In recent years, this trend has started to slip. Severely. In some parts of the country, it is still routine, but in others, it has fallen (deeply) out of favor. I am in the latter part of the country. Mentioning that we are considering circumcising our son-to-be in mixed company is somewhat akin to announcing that Huckabee is the candidate for us. There is much jaw dropping and whispering and a sort of pity for our old-fashioned, backward values.
But we are thinking about it.
We are considering it for the health reasons. It does reduce the risk of spreading AIDS and of developing Penile Cancer (although the latter is a very rare form of cancer). But for me, the main reason I am considering it is tradition. I am not a terribly religious person, but it is important to me that my children be raised with a Jewish identity and to not perform a Brit Milah (Bris) is a big deal. There are also some modern Jewish families who have been doing the "Bris" without the snip part. We may consider that.
But it is important to my father (who is completely Agnostic, I might add) because of tradition. I think the idea of having an uncircumcised grandson may be too much for my culturally Jewish father to handle. Since it means enough to him to say something (an infrequent occurrence with much of anything), I am giving his feeling a lot of weight in the decision process. I may also note that my husband, the baby's father, is about 80 percent sure that he does NOT want to circumcise. So what is a semi-Jewish, modern thinking liberal mommy to do?
My problems with circumcision are varied. I am not comfortable with the idea of hurting my child. If we did do it, it would have to be with pain relief of some sort. But there are other reasons, too. A child is born perfect and lovely. Why should we feel that we have the right to alter that in any way? Wasn't he born the way nature intended? The practice is archaic and in many parts of the country, so routine that some parents recently had to sue a hospital after they performed a circumcision without even consulting the parents. I am not fond of doing anything "routine" without putting a lot of thought into it.
I worry that my son might not want to be circumcised and that 20 years later, he will be angry with us for choosing for him. No joke, there are support groups for this issue (read: "Men who now regret their circumcision") Yeah. I don't want my son in one of those. Further, it is entirely possible that sexual pleasure would be reduced. The problem is, no man I know can answer this as no man I know has been on both sides. The last thing I want is to hurt my son's future sex life (or maybe I do--just kidding).
Whatever we choose, I am going to have done extensive research. I refuse to do it just because "it is the way it done" or to not do it because many of my liberal, upper middle class friends will think it declasse. I am going to do the right thing for our family. Now I just need to figure out what that may be.