Just like exclusively breastfeeding, sleep training, and pacifiers, circumcision has stubborn camps on both sides of the aisle. It’s one of those blacklisted parenting topics that you just don’t bring up in polite conversation.
For me, the answer seemed straightforward. Men in my family and my husbands had all been circumcised. Although the idea made me nervous, it seemed like the right thing to do for our son for a variety of reasons.
The doctor agreed, our family agreed, our prenatal class even covered the subject of how it’s done and how it’s perfectly normal and ok. I researched why it was beneficial and saw the recent studies linking STDs and HIV to uncircumcised men and felt that we were making the right call. The benefits seemingly outweighed the risks.
I was still hesitant but my husband was on board and my doctor assured me that the injected local block/anesthetic would keep my son’s pain low. According to her, the baby just feels pressure and mainly cries because being trapped and strapped to the procedure bed is uncomfortable. The benefits scientifically outweighed the risks from what we were told, and if we waited or had him decide later in life the risk of complications was much higher.
So we did it.
My husband and I were both there. It was the worst thing I’ve ever witnessed. The nurses had to grab a chair so I could sit down because I was literally about to pass out halfway through. His cries were so hard to hear and it was so excruciating to watch. I felt like I had failed him.
But, he recovered quickly. He got through the healing without much pain or trouble at all it seemed. He was pretty much back to himself the next day, which surprised me, and he didn’t even need extra doses of medicine after the second day. He seemed perfectly fine. I breathed a sigh of relief. Maybe we made the right call after all.
Then about two months later a close friend of mine started posting anti-circumcision articles on Facebook. Her son was just born and she was feeling pressured to get the procedure done. So in a very “her” blunt way she was fighting back by incessantly and frequently posting article after article about circumcision being child mutilation.
The guilt I felt the day of his procedure came roaring back to life with a vengeance. I felt sick.
In an almost compulsory desire to punish myself, I read every article. I googled and found more articles. I was shocked at how many there were. Why hadn’t I come across these before?! True, they were a mixed bag of opinion pieces, hit or miss science, and unreputable blog articles, but they were adamant that my choice was misguided and cruel.
I have never in my life felt more guilt than reading through those articles.
My poor baby boy. Is that why he sometimes cried for no reason? Is that why he wasn’t sleeping through the night? Had I already (literally) scarred him for life?!
I talked with my husband and my parents. We were told stories of men how didn’t get circumcised and wished they had. We were reassured that the science was sound and that we did the right thing. I even found articles negating the arguments against circumcision with actual reference to scientific studies. My guilt quelled but wasn’t silenced.
It’s been 9 months since his procedure and at least once a month I go through a depressing spiral of guilt about our decision. I’ll see an article like the one I saw today and I am consumed. Not even the previous articles I’ve found seem to pull me out of it. Then I’ll talk to my husband or my parents and find temporary piece again.
I can’t change it so I must accept it.
But what if we have another boy? Would I make the same choice? Would I dare to choose differently and have to explain to each of them why they look different? Does the argument against circumcision really warrant a different decision if we have another son or am I just easily swayed due to the traumatic experience of watching our first go through it?
These are the questions that circle around in my brain. For now, the only answer I have is that I don’t know. Maybe there will be more science, maybe I’ll feel more at peace or more against it.
As odd as it may seem, I am stuck in a place where I regret the decision I made but am unsure if I would have done differently or would choose differently in the future.