The Great Foreskin Debate

I’m in a bunch of Facebook groups dedicated to parenting. From cloth diapering to natural parenting and even just parenting in general, the groups are a great place to share funny stories and advice and ask questions and get real life answers from other mamas and just kind of come together to appreciate all of the wonderful and frustrating and rewarding and often comical experiences that go along with being a parent.

Earlier this evening while my older sister Liz and I were on our way to dinner [at Fadi’s. yum!], we got to talking and breastfeeding came up. I admitted that I have judgmental thoughts about women who don’t breastfeed their babies, but I would never want to make someone feel bad about their decision. While I don’t agree with it, every woman has the right to decide what she does for her children (as long as she isn’t harming them) and I do understand that breastfeeding isn’t the easiest thing for everyone. I was lucky enough to have a pretty easy time with it, or rather, as easy a time as you can have with something that leaves you with tugged-on, chapped, achy nipples and leftover stretch marks from your breasts inflating and deflating every few hours. (I went from a B cup to a D cup and back down to an A cup with my first pregnancy. I’m somewhere in the vicinity of a D cup now after my second.) I know it’s a personal decision and that’s why I wouldn’t want to make anyone feel bad about it, though if someone is weighing the pros and cons, I’m happy to deliver my most compelling argument in favor of sharing their precious mommy milk.

That particular conversation made me reflect on one of the groups I’m in on Facebook and a post that has since been deleted. A cloth diapering mama posted a question about having to switch to disposable diapers because her son’s circumcision wasn’t healing properly and she needed to put vaseline on it to keep the skin from fusing together and, as most veteran cloth diapering mamas know, petroleum is not cloth diaper friendly. A few of the responses to the question were very opinionated mamas shaming her for circumcising her son. It was pretty disheartening, not because those mamas were so strongly anti-circumcision, but because the group was supposed to be a safe place for mamas to ask questions and get honest, real life answers from people with experience. It kind of felt like a betrayal of the entire idea of a support group, which is essentially what these groups are. Not all support groups have to be about negative things. I love the idea of a group of women having a forum for their positive and negative experiences. One of my favorite things to talk about is my children and parenting in general. I like listening to other people talk about the way they choose to raise their children and the conscious decisions they make to maintain a certain lifestyle that they believe in. Whether it’s “crunchy” mamas or their “silky” counterparts who take advantage of all the modern-day conveniences that are available to the public, I like to hear their stories because it helps me realize what I feel strongly about and develop the opinions and convictions that shape my own lifestyle and parenting philosophies. How can mamas share freely and honestly when they’re afraid of the backlash of other mamas who don’t agree?

I can understand both sides of the circumcision coin. It is a pretty gruesome procedure when you think about it. You’re electing to have part of your newborn baby’s body sliced and it isn’t a particularly necessary thing to do. You are making a decision on your child’s behalf that is irreversible. In the context of females, circumcision is horrific and, in the United States, illegal.

The arguments on the flip side are just as compelling. The procedure itself is quick and isn’t traumatic. It’s a completely unnecessary flap of skin that will not be missed. It makes personal hygiene much easier for boys and, according to some studies, makes the likelihood of transmitting HIV much lower. Unlike its female counterpart, male circumcision doesn’t effect the quality of sex. And then there’s the religious aspect.

All of these factors played a role in my decision to have my son circumcised. In the end, it came down to a simple comparison. My dad isn’t circumcised and adamantly recommended that I have my son circumcised. My step-dad, who’s Jewish, is and was also on board with my decision. I don’t know a single circumcised man who laments the loss of his foreskin, but I do know a few uncircumcised men who wish their parents had made that decision for them and had it done and saved them the hassel of dealing with it. If my son ends up disappointed because he doesn’t have it, he can make the decision not to have his own sons circumcised and chock my decision up to the inevitable mistakes that parents will make throughout a child’s lifetime. I let my two year old eat mac and cheese even though I know it has artificial coloring in it. I had my son circumcised. I am not a perfect mother.

I guess that’s part of why I felt so strongly about the people who responded by shaming the mama who posted the question. None of us are perfect as parents. No matter what decisions a parent makes, there will always be an argument against it and in favor of something else. There is no such thing as the right answer when it comes to choosing how to parent your child. All we can do is our best to raise happy, healthy children who become positive additions to the world. At least, that’s my two cents.

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