To Cut or Not To Cut?
One of the most daunting things about being a mother is having to make life changing decisions for my son. I sit here thinking how I can hardly make decisions for myself sometimes, let alone make them for an innocent baby. If you are a parent then you probably know exactly what I am talking about and if you are not, just try to imagine.
Two days ago, I gave my consent for a minor surgical procedure to be carried out on my son. I agreed to have him circumcised. But I tell you it was not a decision that was made lightly. Most Nigerians circumcise their sons as part of culture or religion. Most never question it. I very rarely base my life decisions on "that is just the way it is done". I like to question how certain traditions and customs came to be and why they are still valid today. From the moment I was told at the 21st week scan that I was having a boy, one of the questions that kept popping into my head was, "To cut or not to cut?" For my husband, it was a no-brainer. He was circumcised, he did not know what it was like to be uncircumcised and of course, that is just the way it is done where we come from. For me, it was not a no-brainer. In the UK, circumcisions are not routinely performed on the NHS. The way to get one is to go private. Find a clinic that caters to Jews, Muslims and other ethnic minorities who believe in circumcision, then pay a handsome fee to have a section of your son's penis sliced off. For me this was never going to be a no-brainer. I questioned why I had to subject my 3 week old son to that sort of pain and what in the name of? Religion, culture, cleanliness? Yes sure circumcision is biblical and is something some Christians do, but does that mean that I have to allow it be done to my son too? After all there are other guidelines in the Bible that I do not adhere to like women not preaching/teaching or excluding myself from the company of people during my period or not getting tattooed. Why then do I have to follow this one?
I had to know the pros and cons of this procedure before I gave my consent. I began to do my research. I was really interested in knowing why medical professionals in the UK and many other countries around the world did not think that circumcision was necessary. I wanted to know why millions of men were no longer being cut. I found many articles for and against circumcision. Those for circumcision gave reasons like cleanliness, religion and culture, appearance (as if this could ever be a valid reason to chop off a bit of my son's penis), health benefits like lowering the risk of contraction of certain infections like HIV, and so on. Those against it cited reasons like, "if it isn't broken, why fix it?", it is barbaric, risk of infection, risk of botch up leading to partial or full amputation of the penis, etc. There was one point raised by the anti-circumcisionists (yes this is a word now) that made me choke on my food. They likened male circumcision to female genital mutilation. This did not sit well with me. Could those two things really be compared? For the record, I am vehemently against FGM and so I became worried that I was somehow encouraging it by even considering circumcising my son. I read everything I could find and asked anybody I could ask about the procedure. I needed to be well informed before making such a big decision for my son.
In the end, I gave my consent to have my son circumcised not because I found any overwhelming evidence that it was a better decision than not circumcising him, but because I was satisfied that circumcising him was safe (enough). In the end I succumbed to tradition but I did not do so blindly. I did not give in without first asking questions, without doing my research, without investigating the clinic at which we were to have the circumcision done or the surgeon who was going to do it, without discussing it at length with my husband and certainly not without praying and having peace in my heart about it.
It was difficult standing there watching them numb the area with an anaesthetic injection. My son screamed and I nearly crushed my husband's arm with my grip. It was even more difficult to watch the surgeon separate and cut off the foreskin. It was bloody and it definitely would have been very painful had he not had an anaesthetic. We were told the anaesthetic would take two hours to wear off. LIES! It wore off in less than an hour and my son cried inconsolably the entire hour drive home. He would not even eat at his favourite "breastaurant". It broke my heart!
It is now day three and I am still nursing my extra fussy baby. The ball is now in our court to make sure that the aftercare is done right in order to prevent complications. Like many decisions I will have to make for him before he becomes independent, I have no way of knowing if this is something that he would have chosen for himself if he could. I just have to hope and pray that he grows up happy and healthy.
So, is this something anyone else has struggled or thinks they might struggle with? I would like to read other people's experiences when deciding to circumcise or not to circumcise their sons.