Snippity Snip – Or is circumcision that simple?

on April 28 | in Circumcision | by | with 108 Comments

Nothing feels creepier than saying to your good friend, “Hey, can I see your son’s penis? But that, friends, is exactly what I recently did. Because I just had to see a certain flap of skin that has been the source of so much controversy.

Just a few years ago, circumcision was something I fully expected to do if Daniel and I had a son. Like many families, we have since changed our minds.

Disclaimer: It makes me sick to think I would write anything that would create offense rather than promote dialogue. I’m not sure that my words communicate my feelings on this subject properly, but I just want to state one more time that this is MY OPINION, humbly offered. I am the judge of no one and apologize if you are offended by this post.

Challenging Conventional Wisdom

It wasn’t an easy break. My Judeo-Christian background teaches that circumcision is something God commanded Israel to do. How could a good and loving God command a traumatic and unnecessary procedure? I have since learned that circumcision as it was practiced then was very different from what’s now common.

What we now call ‘circumcision’ was not performed in the same manner in antiquity (or among many Jews the world over today). At that time it was a ‘cutting of the blessing’ – a very, very small slit made at the end of the penis to allow a few drops of blood to fall.

“Cutting the Blessing” in antiquity was VERY different than today in modern N. American culture where we amputate the entire prepuce organ. Hebrews and early Jews made a very tiny slit in the tip of the prepuce to allow for a few drops of blood to be shed as the blood sacrifice of the covenant. The Hebrew words used for the practice are “namal” and “muwl”. In Hebrew, namal means ‘to clip’ – like one would clip the ends of our fingernails. Muwl means ‘to curtail, to blunt’. Neither of these words mean “to cut” “to amputate” “to remove” “to cut off” etc. There were very different words in Hebrew to represent ‘the cutting off’ or ‘the removal of’. The difference was obviously clear to people at the time.

After all, you could not possibly amputate the prepuce organ in antiquity and expect the child to live! Even today we deal with a 1-in-3 rate of complications associated with prepuce amputation. At that time, babies would have hemorrhaged if this organ were removed, and if they lived through the blood loss, they would have died of disease.

Comment left by Dr. Momma on Dr. Cindy’s blog, “They Don’t Remember.

The Trend is Changing

More and more families are opting out of this procedure. In my opinion, we are only one or two generations away from pretty much abandoning this practice.

The procedure of routine circumcision became commonplace between 1870 and 1920, and it consequently spread to all the English-speaking countries (England, Canada, Australia and New Zealand). None of these countries now circumcise the majority of their male children, a distinction reserved today for the United States (in the UK, in fact, nonreligious circumcision has virtually ceased).

Motivations for “Medical” Circumcision

Religious Reasons?

Still, I understand why many families go through with it. For me, it was difficult to break with this perceived tradition. The knowledge that modern circumcision is radically different from ancient Jewish practice made it easier, as did New Testament scriptures that clearly discourage circumcision for gentile converts.

In preparing for this post I came across a much more disturbing fact. Circumcision as it is now performed in the U.S. was promoted by doctors John Harvey Kellogg and Sylvester Graham as a preventative measure for masturbation. What??? According to Dr. Kellogg:

A remedy for masturbation which is almost always successful in small boys is circumcision. The operation should be performed by a surgeon without administering an anesthetic, as the brief pain attending the operation will have a salutary effect upon the mind, especially if it be connected with the idea of punishment. In females, the author has found the application of pure carbolic acid to the clitoris an excellent means of allaying the abnormal excitement.

Motivations for Medical Circumcision

Carbolic acid on young women? How many families are going along with this because they think they are respecting some time-honored Judeo/Christian ceremony when in fact they are submitting their sons to a procedure advocated by men that came up with THAT? The reasoning (decrease the capability for sexual pleasure to increase chastity) is the same that is currently used to justify horrifying female genital mutilation practices in parts of Africa. Blech.

The Undeniable Importance of Fitting In

Neither tradition nor the desire for our child to “fit in” are compelling enough reasons for our family to circumcise, so I’m at peace with our choice. I do want to say, however, that I do not judge parents who have had this procedure done. These parents love their sons and did what they felt was best for them. In a culture that views circumcision as something healthy and hygienically necessary their choice is not surprising. Except for two, I actually don’t know which of my friends sons are intact and which are circumcised. If someone tells me that their son is circumcised it isn’t going to change my opinion of them. I won’t love them any less, and that’s the truth.

I am not an expert on circumcision. There is a lot I don’t know. For instance, some rabbis may perform the tiny cut version of circumcision rather than removing the whole foreskin. For those to whom the tradition is very important that might be an option. Please leave a comment and tell me what I don’t know!

All I’m saying is: The more we learn about the history of modern circumcision, the risks of complication, and the long-term effects of pain during infancy on the adult brain, the more we need to reconsider this procedure.

Third Party Resources on Circumcision

Photos of Circumcision – WARNING! Very Graphic!

Motivations for Modern “Medical” Circumcision

Dr. Momma: Are You Fully Informed? Great article plus a list of links, books, and other resources

Infant Pain, Adult Repercussions: How Infant Pain Changes Sensitivity In Adults

Dr. Momma: Cut Vs. Intact Outcome Statistics

Babies Do Feel Pain

Basic Care of the Intact Child

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108 Responses to Snippity Snip – Or is circumcision that simple?

  1. I expect certain people to strongly disagree with this post. That’s fine. I’m not the least bit interested in arguing with them.

    I will simply quote Scripture and close with one line.

    1 Corinthians 7:18
    Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised.

    1 Corinthians 7:19
    Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts.

    Galatians 5:2
    Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all.

    Galatians 5:3
    Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law.

    Galatians 5:6
    For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

    Galatians 6:12
    Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ.

    Galatians 6:15
    Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation.

    Colossians 2:11
    In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ,

    If God makes no case for Gentiles to be circumcised in the New Testament, why would I choose to put my baby boy through the pain, trauma, and irreversible loss? To live an entire life without something God created him with?
    .-= Daniel (Daddypotamus)´s last blog ..Back Before the Days of Twitter =-.

    • Des says:

      Oh Daniel. Sorry, but that’s a bit dramatic don’t you think?
      .-= Des´s last blog ..Expanding our Family =-.

      • Well, I’m not saying the pain is unbearable. That all depends on the approach and the pain medication employed. But I can tell you I regret that my parents made this decision. I feel VERY fond of every part of my body that God made me with.

        Hear me on this. I’m not judging anyone. But I would feel similarly if my parents had my tonsils removed at birth. I still have my tonsils, and I’m the only one in my family still with them.

        I don’t think there’s a way to be too dramatic about this. It’s something that’s irreversible, and the child has to live with the parents’ decision for the rest of his life. And there have been studies that show the pleasure of intercourse is increased by the nerves in the foreskin. Whether that’s true or not, I’ll never know firsthand. But I would assume that it serves a purpose, and ultimately I see no Scriptural reason to do it, so I will avoid it.

        I’m not telling anyone else what to do. But I grew up hearing about how it’s healthier for boys to be circumcised, which has since been disproven. So ultimately, I’m without something I was born with for no good reason. On a personal level, it saddens me that I did not have the choice.
        .-= Daniel (Daddypotamus)´s last blog ..Back Before the Days of Twitter =-.

    • Based on multiple accounts in New Testament Scripture, the circumcision decision means nothing. My point is that I’m not going to alter my child for tradition’s sake when I’m clearly told it doesn’t matter by the author of 2/3 of the New Testament.
      .-= Daniel (Daddypotamus)´s last blog ..Back Before the Days of Twitter =-.

  2. Des says:

    It was important for me and my husband to have our son circumcised. We did so on the 8th day and have no regrets. Being present for it I can GENUINELY say my son did not suffer any more than he did when they pricked his foot for his PKU test. He actually cried more during that then he did during his circumcision. He suffered no complications nor do I know of any of my friends who had any complications when their sons went through theirs. Obviously it happens, but it’s like anything. I can give you a dozen stories on either side of the line for almost any subject.
    But again, like I say with most of your posts, you got to go where you find the most peace as a parent. If you don’t feel a peace about something, then don’t do it no matter what other people say.
    .-= Des´s last blog ..Expanding our Family =-.

    • Heather says:

      Destiny, this is a post I may eventually regret writing. Unlike some of my other controversial posts, I think I failed to communicate as humbly as I would have liked. That is truly the position of my heart, but I don’t think my words convey it. For me, learning the difference between ancient and modern techniques was a big deal and answers a lot of questions for me about God. That was my main motivation in sharing this. If others are struggling with the same question I hope this info will help.

      I found this comment on the spiritual significance of Hebrew circumcision particularly helpful:

      “Ancient peoples never dreamed of doing away with an organ that was so useful, so important. The prepuce was regarded with such honor that it was thee organ seen as being most GOD-LIKE. Hence the reason it was the organ ’slit’ for the blood letting as a sign that YHVH is the one “I” am trusting in — not my own ‘god-like’ member.” http://www.drcindyblog.com/they-dont-remember/2010/

      Also, I should have said this somewhere, but I think circumcision done by a rabbi (or someone else trained to do things without forceps and possibly using local anesthesia) on the 8th day is a different experience from what’s depicted in the first link under resources.

      Regarding complications, I do know of at least one boy that was permanently injured during circumcision. It is my understanding though that most complications don’t manifest until puberty/adulthood. http://www.circumstitions.com/Complic.html

      It makes me sick to think I would write anything that would create offense rather than promote dialogue. In fact, I just added a note to the bottom of the post to that effect.

      Up to this point we have been able to cheerfully embrace different approaches. I am still “there” and hope you are, too.

      • Mdean says:

        My husband has some complications from his circ. He has loss of sensitivity, his scar is half way down his shaft (making it very tight when erect), and pain after intercourse. So your children may be “fine” now, but ask them when they are about 30 and see if they are suffering any damages like my DH.
        Not all circs are the same, and i do know of one boy who bled out and had to have an artery in his penis cauterized. That is the day I swore to never NEVER circ any boy I may have.

      • Abby says:

        Just to clarify, the Rabbi is not who performs the circumcision. He would oversee the ceremony (B’rit Milah, or bris), but the circumcision itself is performed by a mohel, who in modern times is usually a medically trained person in the procedure.

        I’m not sure how true it is that the Old Testament commandment was to merely make light slit, as you’ve said. The word “circumcise” means “to cut around,” not to slit. In Genesis 17, Abraham is commanded to circumcise himself and future generations as a sign of a covenant. A visible sign of a covenant cannot be achieved by just drawing a little bit of blood from a baby. There are references to circumcision in the Old Testament in which other people can clerely tell whether or not a man is circumcised, i.e. Genesis 34:14, Jacob wouldn’t marry his daughter to an uncircumcised man. I doubt that it was merely an issue of not being able to find a tiny faded incision scar on his foreskin.

        Misinformation around the Internet has led people to think that circumcision is barbaric, and not a big deal in terms of religious practice. It is not barbaric when practiced in sanitary, ethical conditions, and in terms of religion, it is a huge deal. These misunderstandings are causing laws to be proposed which would severely restrict religious practice in areas that are densely populated by Jews. It’s fine to choose to keep your baby intact, but please be careful not to contribute to a growing notion that Jews and religious leaders don’t know the facts and are not practicing it in accordance with our own Laws.

        • concerned cynic says:

          I have never read a doctor or a loose woman describe what the penises of present day Jewish men look like. A fortiori, we (including devout living Jews0 do not know what circumcised men looked like in Biblical times. Leonard Glick and others have argued that some time between 200BCE and 200CE, the procedure became more radical, to make it impossible for a circumcised Jew to pass himself off as intact. But we do not truly know this. Hence I am agnostic about what Dr Momma asserts, what Heather cites, and what Abby claims in her comment.

          Circumcision without anesthesia, the Jewish and American maternity ward norm, is indeed barbaric. The intense pain of hospital circumcision has been documented in the medical literature. Brit milah is a big deal, but that fact is a tragic one. It is also strange that many of the North American Jews who do not respect any of the lifestyle commandments, who have little time for God in their lives, who are embarrassed by all talk of a Chosen People, who take the Genesis 17 covenant as a myth, still circumcise their sons. Many secular and unaffiliated Jewish families outside of North America no longer circumcise.

          No one proposes to ban circumcision, only to postpone it until the owner of the penis can give informed adult consent.

          American medicine has yet to study carefully the possible long term adverse consequences of RIC for adult sexual pleasure and functionality, especially after age 40. For this reason alone, RIC is an unethical medical practice. And what medicine has failed to do, modern Judaism has likewise failed to do. Never forget that there is a Jewish duty to marry and reproduce, and that Jewish married couples are supposed to take delight in each other. Hence anything that attenuates marital pleasure is not good.

          No one can say for sure that circumcision has no adverse consequences for foreplay and healthy marital intercourse. Many believe that if infant circumcision was sexually damaging, we would know it by now and the practice would have stopped. The trouble is that the damage of routine circumcision is very random in its incidence and in the way it slowly worsens with age. The random nature of this damage has enabled it to elude detection for centuries. The rule of thumb in Australian medicine is that 1% of baby boys routinely circumcised grow up to have permanently damaged adult penises. This rule of thumb, which I take to be conservative, was deemed a sufficient reason to strongly discourage Australian parents from circumcising their sons.

    • I think Heather wasn’t as clear as she could have been on a couple points. Neither of us are saying that circumcision will lead to complications later. She was sharing some of the historical arguments for and against it.
      .-= Daniel (Daddypotamus)´s last blog ..Back Before the Days of Twitter =-.

      • Heather says:

        Um, yes. All I was saying is that some complications may not be immediately evident and sometimes those experiencing long-term effects don’t recognize circumcision as the cause. With that said, I believe God can heal anything!

  3. Des says:

    absolutely we are :-)
    I definitely don’t agree with all the points you’ve made, but that doesn’t mean I don’t respect your decision to not circumcise your son. Not agreeing in the fact that I don’t believe that my son will have issues at any point nor do I believe that there will be emotional problems for “loss” in that area. I have both examples in my family and also over here it is not common practice, but still stand firm in our decision. We didn’t use a rabbi, but used a pediatric surgeon who did use localized anesthetic.
    Ahh, life is all about controversy, and it keeps you on your toes, which is never a bad thing :-)
    .-= Des´s last blog ..Expanding our Family =-.

    • Heather says:

      Des – I can’t tell you how much I value your comments. It’s one of the most challenging and best parts of blogging to find someone with a different perspective that is willing to dialogue and stay friends. Thank you so much!

  4. Scott says:

    Well done, Heather.
    I have almost always enjoyed Dr. Momma’s website. She can be a little extreme on a couple topics, but is certainly right-on with circ. Let’s also be very honest… what does almost everything come down to in life, and even more so in the medical world? That’s right – MONEY! In 2004, the average cost for a circ was $828.42 !!! CHA-CHING! and it only takes 5-6 minutes total including prep. Doctors don’t present the option of not circ’ing because they would be decreasing their commission on services rendered. Harsh? I think not.
    A couple other articles that I found useful:
    http://www.mothering.com/health/cutting-kids
    Also, just Google “David Reimer” (mentioned in above article) and look at the results. Horrific.

    And Daniel, it is my opinion that you said nothing dramatic. You stated the word of God and your exegesis of it.
    I look forward to the dialogue, Heather, and you shouldn’t feel the need to disclaim so much– it is a topic that is very difficult to not be passionate about. One will either read this and agree, read this and disagree, or read this and be defensive. It was written by you, and isn’t being forced on anyone to be read. SO THERE! :)
    .-= Scott´s last blog ..Is there one waiting for us? =-.

  5. Melanie Buck says:

    My only humble advice and thought is that both parents agree on this procedure. Richard and I did not agree and I still hold hurt and upset.

  6. Melanie Buck says:

    On a lighter note, do you think anybody really notices or looks? I know I am going to a personal place, but after 11 years of marriage I don’t think I could pick my own husband out of a line-up.

    O.K. I am looking at the submit comment button should I, shouldn’t I? O.K. I am clicking it.

    • WOW. That is just about the funniest comment I’ve ever read on this blog, Melanie. You crack me up.

      FYI, I’m going to now address women in general here, not you specifically, Melanie. I’m not the least bit offended by you, but I imagine many more women will read this and feel compelled to comment, so this is for them.

      If you’re about to comment, please consider this:

      This topic is a very sensitive and intimate one to me. It’s a very personal subject. It’s not so personal to a woman. I mean, a woman has never had this part of skin. A woman will never know what it is like either to live with or without this part of the male reproductive organ. Some men won’t care. Some men will be glad they didn’t stand out like a freak in gym class. Some men will be intensely grateful their parents waited to allow them as men to make the decision for themselves later on.

      This topic is too important to me to really go back and forth on. So I’ll just close by addressing women as a whole: Please guard yourselves against insensitivity on this subject. A lot of men will be indifferent (they will also be the most uninformed on the subject). But some men are not indifferent, and for a woman with no personal experience to treat this subject casually is insulting. That’s all I’ll say.
      .-= Daniel (Daddypotamus)´s last blog ..Back Before the Days of Twitter =-.

      • Mae says:

        Actually, Daniel, I have some very interesting info on that subject.
        Did you know that there are several indigenous people of Australia and Africa who cut off the clitoris of baby girls? Sometimes, if women don’t have this procedure done at birth, they do it at whatever age they are. five, ten, thirty-five. It doesn’t matter. Many woman are DYING from this procedure because the bleed to death. Why are they doing it? Some of the “doctors” quote the same scriptures for their personal agenda as many Christians use to justify their decision. They also do it to keep women from masturbating, and having pre-marital sex. Women who do survive have been reported as going through excruciating pain when having sex, some to the point of blacking out, others death. Some doctors have even sutured the labia closed when applying the stitches to the clitoris in an effort to further prevent sex, causing many women to die of UTI’s and other complications due to not being able to urinate.

        Just food for thought.
        .-= Mae´s last blog ..Weekend in Pictures =-.

        • Annette says:

          Whoa, wait a minute, my “LOL” was about Melanie’s comment about the line up. I think it went to a different place? *yikes*
          I may as well comment now. Thanks for this post.

          I’ve been reading about this subject, and I do regret having circumcised. When I was approached in the hospital with the question about whether I want to or not, I said I don’t know. I truly had no idea what to do. The nurse asked if I’d like something to read about circumcision. She brought me a paper that was very sparse on information. It cited two possible reasons, religious reasons, and hygiene reasons. I was confused and I felt pressure to do it because almost everyone does it. Yep, just ignorance about it. I don’t mean to sound goofy but when she told me he was about to be circumcised I cried because of any pain he’d feel. I was young, and confused, and upset.

          I wasn’t a christian back then, or I probably would’ve known that this was a covenant for the Jewish people from long ago, and all of Gods people are to have circumcised hearts unto the Lord. I take it as a sensitivity to Him. I don’t have any idea why it continues as it does.

          I have recently seen websites about “restoring the foreskin”. What I learned is that the glans (the tip) is usually covered by the foreskin, keeping it tender, and sensitive. When circumcised, the glans rubs against clothes all the time, and it’s said that the skin keritonizes, in other words, toughens up. Unfortunately, that means less sensitivity. Another thing I learned is that during an erection some men can feel pain from the skin being tight. The foreskin is part of the sexual organ, and it has it’s role, which I’m not sure if I should express what I’m thinking. I’ll try. It has it’s role in “gliding” of the penis in and out of it, within the vagina, causing reportedly more pleasure for the man, and also the woman, during intercourse. There may be a good point about hygiene, but really, any part of our body that folds over another needs thorough cleansing. That certainly doesn’t do it for me.

          My son is twenty seven. I gingerly approached this subject because I felt bad. He’s very private, but he did tell me that he’s had pain because of clothing sometimes. He is actually working slowly and gently on restoration, and I’m very glad :)

          I also don’t mean ANY offense whatsoever. I am very happy for anyone who has been circumcised and is fine with it. I appreciate all this information, very interesting. There’s very much I did not know. I do have a tendency to think that the slit type circumcision makes alot of sense. I’d love to see more info on this someday, especially if it proves one way or the other. God bless.

      • Des says:

        having a husband who is “unsnipped” I get all my info from him. He is not uninformed and of course I did research (which is why I opted for pediatric surgeon instead of rabbi), but he does not think he is more of a man because of it. And he still chose to have our son circumcised even though it’s not really a cultural thing over here. Just because people choose to have it done does not mean they are uninformed.
        .-= Des´s last blog ..Expanding our Family =-.

        • Des says:

          NOT meaning to sound defensive, because obviously I am at peace with our decision, but I also wanted you to know that I’m not just shooting from the hip when it comes to this decision and wanted you to know I am not being insensitive in my observations/conclusions.
          .-= Des´s last blog ..Expanding our Family =-.

        • Des, my statement doesn’t disagree with what you’ve just written. Those who are INDIFFERENT are also the most uninformed. People who don’t care one way or the other are the least informed. So we are in agreement on that.
          .-= Daniel (Daddypotamus)´s last blog ..Back Before the Days of Twitter =-.

        • Heather says:

          That’s worthy of note, Des. Uncircumcised father chooses different for his son. Hadn’t really expected to hear of that. Thanks for sharing.

    • Heather says:

      Melanie, you are HILARIOUS! When I read your comment I started laughing so loud Gigi asked “WHAT is so funny???” Um, how do I respond? So glad you clicked submit.

      • Melanie Buck says:

        You are so gracious. I realize now that I was hiding some hurt. The truth is today I used Johnny’s nap time to cry, as emotions came flooding back. I was so overwhelmed, anxious and scared as my little baby was whisked off for this procedure. Richard insisted on doing it for health reasons and I just did not understand. As I lay in the hospital bed I wondered if Johnny was hurting, if I was a bad Mother. I knew nothing about the procedure and we all know the unknown is frightening. My prayer and hope for your writing is that parents discuss, prepare and decide before the birth of their sons.
        My husband is a beautiful parent. Johnny and I are blessed. I am grateful for all of the research he pours over to make sure that baby Johnny is safe, happy and healthy. We are compatable and, I think, make a great parenting team. However, we did not discuss this, nor did I educate myself before the birth and we were not aware of each others differences and we caught each other off guard.
        What I loved, thanked God for and what is even now moving me to tears in reading today’s Mommypotamus is that you and Daniel are in agreement with this very big decision.
        I love you both and I love Baby D
        XXXXX

  7. Richard says:

    Speaking as someone who was never snipped, the only “issue” is making sure I clean under the foreskin. Other than that, I’m the only man my wife has had that wasn’t snipped and she definitely notices a difference. As for me, I couldn’t tell you.

    As for when we have a son, I’ll be damned if he’ll get snipped. We are against the idea because it really doesn’t do anything and no real need to cause pain for an ounce of flesh.

    To each their own though.
    .-= Richard´s last blog ..Relay For Life – Recognizing Survivors and Those We’ve Lost =-.

  8. Mae says:

    *I had permission from my husband to share this information :]

    None of the men in my husband’s family have been circumcised, which I find very admirable on my in-laws part. I am one of four girls, so my parents were never faced with this decision. Like Richard, my husband did have one “issue” as he got older- keeping the area under the foreskin clean. This only became a “problem” in Eamon’s teenage years because the men in his family did not talk about this. So the lack of communication definitely hindered him on this one, but just briefly.

    Also, concerning the fact of “will women notice”:
    I have only slept with one man my entire life, and it was after we were married, a value we pray that Lily will grow close to. The fact that we assume our women to be promiscuous in seeing several men’s penis speaks VOLUMES about our society. I find my husband extremely fortunate in not having to worry about whether or not his WIFE sees or FEELS a difference in his penis than any other man she’s been with [even aside from circumcision]. I think that is one MAJOR way any single woman can bless her future husband.

    That leads me to my last point: Sex
    In preparing for marriage, sex is something that Eamon and I were nervous about. I heard all of the horror stories from my friends of how they bleed on their wedding night and how it hurt too badly to continue. Both Eamon and I were very focused on this for a while. Then Eamon stumbled upon some more information that men are too embarrassed to talk about: stretching the foreskin. Luckily, Eamon was armed with the knowledge of what to do to prepare himself, as was I and there were NO complications on our wedding night-for either of us.

    I think the more knowledge people are equipped with, the easier this issue will be to discuss.
    .-= Mae´s last blog ..Weekend in Pictures =-.

  9. Mae says:

    There was one more thing I forgot to add:
    Prayer.
    Though both “sides” are armed with scripture that supports their decision, have we honestly waited patiently for the Lord’s voice in whatever our decision may be?
    From birth control [the pill, NFP, TCOYF, abstinence, condoms, nothing at all], to home birth versus hospital birth, immunizations, the list goes on and on- the main thing I want to convey to ALL people is to PRAY about your decision, FERVENTLY! If you do on every single decision you make for your family, they will, in fact, NOT be your decision, but God’s. This results in NO ONE being able to question, undermine, or just plain trash talk your decisions for your family. If you can truthfully say, “God has called us to this” the need for defense may be vanquished, and you feel undeniably at peace with your family, as well as be more understanding for other families faced with the same decision that the Lord may have called to a different conclusion.
    .-= Mae´s last blog ..Weekend in Pictures =-.

  10. Hannah Tallo says:

    Wow Heather, your brave to open a can of worms like this! =) I respect people’s opinion to do as they choose. I am all for educated decisions, I think God blesses that! When you are informed and in agreement with your spouse in my opinion, it becomes right for you. I have seen circumcision done in the hospital and from a Rabbi and if God blesses us with a boy we will cicumcise with a rabbi on the 8th day. It is a near painless procedure and I can attest to that fact from watching it be done and living with the baby after it was done.

    I also think its easy to take scripture out of context and use it to prove a point. I believe God uses scripture to confirm and show us things but not always can we take that scripture and prove our point with it. That is my opinion at least!
    .-= Hannah Tallo´s last blog ..Casting My Cares =-.

    • Heather says:

      Thanks for sharing, Hannah. I think I said in a comment somewhere that circumcision methods seem to vary widely and cause different amounts of pain. Since you mentioned a rabbi I’m curious if you know about the Brit Shalom. I’ve heard it is more similar to the ancient practice and only cuts but doesn’t remove the foreskin. Have you heard of rabbi’s performing that type of procedure in the U.S.?

    • Heather says:

      Hannah – Since the can of worms is already open, would you mind sharing your reasons for choosing circumcision? You know I respect your opinions on things, so I’d really like to hear from you!

  11. Heather asked me to look over this post before she published it. I did, but I was tired and wasn’t thinking as clearly as I am now that we’ve had some feedback.

    Through your feedback, I think I would have recommended a more specific approach. Something like this:

    1. Historical Reasons for Circumcision
    a. OT command to Moses
    b. whatever other reasons in Dark Ages
    c. belief in health hazard
    d. conforming to social norms
    e. etc.
    2. Refuting Historical Reasons
    a. Paul says Jesus/New Covenant makes the issue meaningless
    b. response to fears of lust and masturbation
    c. studies that disprove the health hazard
    d. the explanation that social norms are in fact changing
    e. response to other issues
    3. Statement that I personally have no reason left to circumcise my sons. The ONLY reason anyone ever started circumcising was because of a command and that command has been nullified. Therefore, I choose to return to the natural state of things, which is to not remove parts of the body or flesh.

    4. Acknowledge that other people may have personal reasons for circumcision that are meaningful to them.

    5. Also acknowledge that, as with ALL parenting areas, no one really likes to feel like they’re being told that they were wrong for something they did in the past with a clear conscience.

    6. *Possibly* invite those who feel called to circumcise based on their interpretation of Scripture to discuss – although this will go nowhere for the people directly involved in the conversation, and will only benefit the observers who still have to make the decision in the future.

    That about sums it up. Of course, it wasn’t MY blog post to begin with, so Heather might still disagree with me.
    .-= Daniel (Daddypotamus)´s last blog ..Back Before the Days of Twitter =-.

  12. Kate says:

    It wasn’t really something I had to think about…… studies have shown that there is no benefit and New Testament scripture is clear to me…

    BUT

    I have immense respect for people, like Hannah, who have educated themselves and sought God about their decision. Like everything in life, we all have different convictions and we are ALL just trying to do what we feel is best for our children.

    p.s. In case you haven’t noticed, “passionate debate” is one of my husband’s favorite hobbies. But I think, like Daniel said, this topic means a lot more to men.
    .-= Kate´s last blog ..Is there one waiting for us? =-.

  13. Mark Lyndon says:

    It’s illegal to cut the prepuce off a baby girl, so why don’t boys get the same protection?

    Everyone should be able to decide for themselves whether or not they want parts of their genita1s cut off. It’s *their* body.

  14. Kate says:

    I also know people like my sister, who are against it but their husbands are very adamantly for it. She chose instead to respect and honor his wishes which I believe is very commendable as well.
    .-= Kate´s last blog ..Is there one waiting for us? =-.

  15. Whittney says:

    Love to read the passionate opinions! We have come to a simple conclusion about the matter for our family. God makes no mistakes. He created the male body perfectly. Like every other part of our awesome body, the foreskin has a role and purpose. It is my opinion that my husband and I do not have the right to alter God’s design.

    For those families who feel differently for whatever reason, I do believe that circumcision with a rabbi on the 8th day can be close to painless and not at all traumatic. I think it is highly superior to conventional circumcision in a hospital setting very shortly after birth.

    Just my 2 cents!

    • Heather says:

      Whittney, as commenters have educated me on the less painful ways to perform a circumcision I agree that it does not necessarily have to be traumatic, but I still wonder about soreness and discomfort when the anesthesia wears off. One of the articles in my Resources section talks about how pain in infancy affects the adult brains pain tolerance. I’d like to see more research done in this area. What do you think?

  16. lizzy says:

    Wow! I had no idea people so passionate about this subject. both my sons are circumcised. i guess i’d be one of those people daniel says are the worst kind of ignorant. i just took it as ‘this is what you do’… which is odd because i usually research things ad naseum and am not prone to trusting doctors at their word.

    having said that, i still think we did the right thing for our family. however i totally respect the people who disagree.

    ps. don’t you love when your posts get like a million comments?! they are so fun!
    .-= lizzy´s last blog ..i’m gonna open my eyes… see the world =-.

  17. What I don’t get is if it was only a small slit, what did Zipporah toss to Moses’ feet?

    Exodus 4:25 Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said , Surely a bloody husband art thou to me.

    You could make the argument that it was the stone she threw, but I don’t read it that way.
    .-= Charles Martin´s last blog ..Seder Controversy =-.

    • Heather says:

      Hmmm . . . I don’t know! I wonder if there is a rabbi or OT expert on this issue? You seem more versed in biblical research than I am . . . any ideas about whom I could contact?

    • Michelle says:

      The story of Zipporah is one of the most bizarre passage in the Bible. The Bible/Torah is full of euphemisms. “Feet”, is the euphemism for genitals. I’ve questioned Zipporah’s
      enigmatic words, “Surely a bloody husband art thou to me.” before. There is conflicting information regarding this scripture. Scholarly works from historians suggested this verse is in reference to the marital blood women shed during the first consummation. I still don’t fully understand it. note: not all women will bleed during the passing of their virginity. Although, purely anecdotal (including one testimony here in the comments), men who still have their foreskins intact provide a barrier to protect his bride from bleeding. This does not mean its entirely pain free for her first time with her intact husband but bleeding is less likely.

      These books explains in great detail the history of this ritual:
      http://astore.amazon.com/peacefparent-20/detail/0195315944

      http://astore.amazon.com/peacefparent-20/detail/0465043976

      http://astore.amazon.com/peacefparent-20?_encoding=UTF8&node=2

      Circumcision is believed to be the covenant between the Jews and God. But historical research has shows that this “mandate” was an invention of the priests added to their writings circa 550BCE, over 1,000 years after the time of Abraham. Scholars David Rosenberg and Harold Bloom have published a full translation of the original verse, which dates from about 950 B.C. Here, Chapter 17 is conspicuously absent. All we read is that:

      It was that day Yahweh cut a covenant with Abraham: “I gave this land to your seed, from the river of Egypt to the great river, Euphrates-of the Kenite, and Kenizzite, the Kadmonite; of the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Rephaim; of the Amorite, the Canannite, the Jubisite.”

      In this passage, argued as the original text, there is no mention of circumcision as a sign of this bargain.

      Here are few quick notes on Zipporah. Although, you may already know this:

      Zipporah was a Midianite not Hebrew. Circumcision was practiced by Egyptians long before Hebrews instituted as a ritual.

      Zipporah and Moses had marital issues, obviously. Moses himself was not circumcised and didn’t want his son, Gershom circumcised and abolished it after leading the Hebrews out of the land of Egypt. To be clear, Moses was born with a congenital defect in which the penis failed to fully develop with a prepuce organ while in the womb. This birth defect is called Apothsia. This usually results from a mild form of hypospedious. Sometimes, although very rare, it just fails to develop without reason.

      The Midianites worshiped Hathor as their Great Mother goddess and fertility goddess.

      Hathor’s son Horus, her animus projection, when he would transform into an animal would have a flint knife paw. Golden Calf ceremonies were a part of Hathor worship.

      The stone in the scripture is that flint knife paw.

  18. [...] into explaining our choices. Where to begin? There’s co-sleeping, allowing our son to remain intact (no snippy snip), choosing not to vaccinate, home water birth, extended breastfeeding . . . in the [...]

  19. Lindsay says:

    Circumcision complications are real and no child is a gurantee. My oldest son was circumcised and bleed severly. He still has occassional pain five years after the fact. Yes, we have been to doctors, but have been told by several doctors to leave it alone until puberty because it will grow and seeing as his circ is probably too tight, there might be nothing they can do. We had a really awesome doctor who did the circ, yet he still “walked” away with complications. His penis was just trying to heal itself and cause lots of reattachement issues. My second son is intact and not one issue.

    • Heather says:

      Lindsay – Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I think it’s wonderful that you chose to let a son remain intact if although his older sibling is circumcised. Seems to me it would take a lot of courage knowing that some awkward conversations will inevitably arise.

  20. RMB says:

    To the author-

    I see you being awfully apologetic about your viewpoint.

    I’d like to present a thought for you. If this discussion were about FEMALE circumcision, would you be so… careful? I understand the fear of offending, but I find that our society is terribly sexist when it comes to the topic of circumcision. Most people have no problem looking down on the “heathens” that cut their female babies/children, but we do the same to our boys behind closed doors, pretending that it is normal and more civilized.

    What is that thing the Bible says about “You are lukewarm and I will spit you out of my mouth”?

    There are some things that do not have to be a gray area. It is okay for some things to be black and white.

    If it is wrong, needless, sinful, and even illegal for parents to amputate portions of their daughter’s genitals, why… WHY… in this modern world where we pretend to be all about equality, do we accept a different standard for boys?

    If a friend told you that they had their *daughter* cut because “it looks better” or “because it is too hard to clean otherwise” or “because I wanted her parts to look like mommy’s”, or “because other people do it too”… would those be acceptable reasons? Or how about we apply the same thought-process to any other body part? There are countless body parts that are rife with potential risks. We could remove the breast buds from little girls and eliminate the massive 1 in 8 risk of cancer! That would be exponentially more sensible and useful than circumcision. But rather than responding with “Hey, that’s your valid choice as a parent, and those are all good reasons, and I respect that”, I think most people would be like “are you CRAZY?!”.

    There is still much progress to be made with this issue. But the numbers are dropping FAST, so the power of information that is available to our generation is making a profound difference.

    I commend your choice to speak out, and I hope you don’t take this as an attack, but rather just an attempt to open up the thought process on this issue some more :-)

    • Layla says:

      Very well said!

    • Heather says:

      RMB – There is a fine distinction between what I said and ““Hey, that’s your valid choice as a parent, and those are all good reasons, and I respect that.” My main objective was to communicate to parents that have ALREADY allowed this procedure that I do not judge them (after all I was very ignorant about this topic only a few years ago), and to plead with those who are considering this procedure to do their research.

  21. jenifer says:

    so, this is always such an interesting read.

    for those of us far outside the primary monotheistic religions, none of this is at issue, and yet the american culture just seeps right into the question. how does a non-religious person deal with the cultural force of this process? including, btw, talking with religious people who are actively choosing this process that — in my own opinion — whether done in the “old” way or the “new” with or without pain killers or whatever, is absolutely unnecessary and done to a minor?

    in our modern context, we have moved to a concept that each individual is the sovereign of their own body, and as such should be able to make decisions about that body. This idea is what keeps certain activities happening to minors–including female circumcision.

    But some things seem to be excluded from this idea: male circumcision and female infant ear piercing.

    for me, the process was simple: my son’s body is not my body. i cannot just do with it what i want. I am his caregiver, and it is my job to care for and protect his body. When he is an adult, he may choose to have any number of body modifications of his choosing. After all, i have my ears pierced, my nose pierced twice (nostril and septum), my nipples (which were removed for breastfeeding and will be redone when my son weans, as we will not likely have another child), and my clitoral hood (appointment in January). I also have a tattoo. I did all of these things after age 18.

    Certainly, I am not adverse to body modification for any number of reasons–including my own spiritual ones And with this, I am not adverse to an individual choosing amputation as part of that process, should s/he wish it. This includes, btw, amputations around the genitals.

    But, I am adverse to taking my son to my body piercer and giving him a prince albert piercing at age 2 years old.

    Like many people who choose to circumcise–for religious or cultural reasons–I love the look of such a piercing, honestly, and it is safe and healthy, supposedly makes sex better when he’s an adult, and i could probably come up with some prayerful, thoughtful reason to get such a piercing for him, and *heck* my piercer is one amazing guy who does amazing work and is all about it NOT being painful, healing quickly, and so on. his technique is impeccable. Any pain my son might suffer for such a modification would be minimal, honestly.

    But, that’s not really the point. The point is that it is *still* my son’s body, and what if he doesn’t want such a piercing? a retired prince albert doesn’t close, just like a foreskin will not grow back should a man decides he no longer wants the modification given to him as an infant.

    And more ironic, in my opinion is that should I go forward and pierce my son’s penis, there would be a *massive* public outcry. In fact, many of you who chose to circumcise your sons might consider me an insane, abusive woman who mutilated and violated my son. And even more ironically, my son might even be taken from me and into protective custody.

    Why? it’s considered “mutilation” and a violation of his little body. But had i circumcised him, if i circumcised him now, it would not be. Why is this?

    Somehow, we find it easy to say “this is a parent’s choice” with circumcision, particularly when we wrap it in religion/religious-cultural tradition, but the fact is that we really aren’t that culturally comfortable with other forms of body modifications on children. More and more people are becoming uncomfortable with infant ear piercing, for example. I know I am uncomfortable with it, and have been for a long time.

    So, how is it that one modification is “ok” but another modification is not ok?

    This really comes down to *culture* not religion, not prayerful or thoughtfulness, but the conditionings of our culture.

    Sure, you might be “at peace” with the decision, but i’m still curious as to why circumcision–in it’s various forms–is more acceptable than piercings, tattooing, other amputations? anything that would be “permanent.”

    And, i’m just “begging” this question, not actually asking. Just posing it–even to myself. Why do i accept things in some ways but not accept them in others. :)

    Anyway. . .:D good post.

    • Heather says:

      Jenifer – LOVED the thoughtfulness you put into your response. It definitely frames the issue in a new light. Thank you, and BTW we chose not to pierce our daughter’s ears for the exact reason you gave. If she wants to in the future I will take her (mine are) but it is her decision.

    • Layla says:

      Excellent! This brings up the aspect of human rights and the rights of children to have intact, unmodified and whole bodies even in the face of deep cultural and religious beliefs.
      It is certainly appropriate for a civil society and peace-loving religions to question and examine long held and practiced beliefs and rituals. That sort of questioning has led cultures, religions and societies to let go of all sorts of rules, laws and rituals that we would now deem barbaric.
      I would call that progress.

  22. Layla says:

    I’ve seen a few brises performed by mohels and they were very far from being gentle or less invasive than a circumcision done in a Dr.s office or at a hospital. There was still a probe ripping the foreskin from the glans, the scalpel, “crush” and scalpel again. Along with babies either screaming and writhing or going into shock and shutting down “quiet, not in pain”. I am so thankful for all of the attention this surgery is getting and that fewer and fewer boys are having to go through this. Even Jews are starting to let go of this practice wwwjewishcircumcision.org. http://Www.jewsagainstcircumcision.org. I highly recommend the book Questioning Circumcision: a Jewish Perspective to both Jews and Gentiles. A very enlightening read.

    • Heather says:

      “I am so thankful for all of the attention this surgery is getting and that fewer and fewer boys are having to go through this.” I totally agree, Layla. I am INCREDIBLY grateful to the people in my circle that helped to educate me on this matter.

  23. Joel says:

    I am not a parent, so perhaps that will explain my perspective being different than the majority of those already posted:

    I think the fallacy most depicted on this blog is the overriding assumption that this is a parental choice. I don’t mean to cause offense in making that suggestion, but I hope you’ll hear me out:

    Healthy, valuable body parts are protected, by law, from being cut off. This includes any part of the female genitals. The only exception is a baby boy’s foreskin. Even earlobes and pinky toes are protected. You also can not cut the foreskin from, say, your pet dog. So.. why is the male foreskin exempt from the standard law that governs the protection of healthy, functioning, sensitive, normal body parts?

    From my perspective, as a male, I actually do feel offended to hear people talking about it being “totally fine” for parents to choose whatever they want – because they’re really saying that they think it would have been fine for my parents to make that choice for MY body. I don’t think my parents were “choosing” to give me the great gift of keeping my foreskin any more than they were giving me the great gift of keeping my nipples and my pinky finger. THOSE ARE MY body parts. You know? I don’t want to come across sounding angry or something, but I really want to get across the point that we’re talking about a body part that many men REALLY TREASURE having.. and when you cut someone else’s body, you’re taking that away from THEM.

    So, should we comment a mother for letting her husband make the choice when she knows that medical organizations around the world say it’s non-therapeutic and unnecessary? I don’t think so, personally. I think she should be more focused on protecting her child from having a really awesome part of his body removed, rather than protecting the ego of her husband, who I’m sure has good intentions, but so do the parents who remove parts of their baby girl’s genitals in other countries – who we call criminals in this country.

    I’m not trying to cast blame to anyone, and I certainly don’t BLAME anyone who has made this choice in the past, not fully understanding the situation – but once you KNOW that the foreskin is a healthy, normal, sensitive, functional body part – you OWE it to your child to not make this choice on his behalf.

    Preventative medicine does not cover cutting off thousands and thousands of fully-functioning nerve endings from a baby. Baby girls get far more infections… but we’re not running any genital-cutting studies to see if that helps prevent them for girls. Wonder why?

    Those aforementioned thousands and thousands of nerve endings found in the foreskin are highly-specialized and like those found in the fingertips and lips. We’re talking about one of the most sensitive parts of the body here. So.. as much as Iove all of the parents and well-intentioned efforts to not offend anyone – I think its more important to point out that this practice permanently removes something valuable – and if you don’t think it’s valuable.. use that to decide if you want to cut off part of your own genitals.. not someone else’s.

    Why does the foreskin not get the same respect as the labia and the clitoral hood, which serves the SAME functions and develops from the same tissue in the womb? In fact, if you stop the substance 21-hydroxlase from affecting the development of a baby girl in the womb, she will be born exactly the same as any other girl.. except her external genitals will not be shaped like an ordinary clitoris, hood, and labia.. she’ll have a penis: glans, foreskin and scrotum. So, WHY exactly does that one chemical make it HORRIBLE for a parent to think cutting is their choice and TOTALLY FINE otherwise?

    If this were about personal choice, I would not be on a blog, leaving a giant comment.. I would be doing something fun instead. But we’re talking about permanently cutting something very valuable from a CHILD without their consent.

    So, please, can we just let people make choices for their own bodies? If it’s so wonderful for religious reasons, then when your child grows up and agrees with you, he can choose it for himself. There are worse things than opting to do it when you’re older – guess what, you get WAY WAY better pain control when you’re older. and more importantly.. you made the choice.

    • Joel says:

      this is a fairly impassioned comment.. so I really want to follow it up by saying that if I said something offensive, know that that was NOT my intention. Although I don’t think parents have the right to cut healthy, normal parts from their children, I KNOW this practice is very common, and I know some amazing, AMAZING people who’ve made that choice for their kids – and I still love those people just as much.

      My message is about looking to the FUTURE. What happened has happened. Instead, let’s grow past this procedure in the future, by making new choices armed with new information and understandings.

      • Heather says:

        Well said, Joel! Although I do make exception for the “shedding of blood” (small cut) that some in the Jewish faith ascribe to, I sincerely hope that this practice is all but abandoned by the next generation.

        • Joel says:

          Thanks Heather. Admittedly a small process that causes only a few drops of blood sounds like a fair compromise, though personally, I feel even something like baptism should be a personal choice…

          Nevertheless, I really want to thank you for taking on this issue, and having the courage to speak out to your friends and family about it in hopes of educating them about the details that you are so glad you were educated about.

          If you are serious about your goal of helping to see this practice stop nearly altogether in roughly a single generation, then I hope you’re willing to be part of the growing movement of us who “won’t shut up about it”… and by that I mean… take the opportunity to bring this up with people on an individual level and really keep trying… not moving on to a different issue and forgetting about this one in a few months. This can be an uncomfortable topic, so I know it isn’t easy, but we really need intelligent, non-angry, passionate people JUST like you to make this a regular topic of discussion.

          It’s honestly the ONLY way. Are you willing to take on that challenge, Heather?

          • Heather says:

            Yes I am. My first son was born 12 weeks ago and he remains perfectly intact. I hope our decision not to circumcise him will open the doors for many thought-provoking discussions in the future. Plus, even with the time constraints of caring for a toddler and a new baby I feel compelled to blog five days a week because I have so much to say. Shutting up is not my strong suit. :)

  24. Julie Sutton Jones via Facebook says:

    It is a “purely cosmetic procedure” is what our son’s dr. told us when we brought up our concerns and dislikes about it before he was born. People act like we are insane for not having it done. Sorry, I wasn’t about to let someone tie my child down and cut part of him off for a “purely cosmetic procedure”

  25. I was wondering why my inbox was blowing up as I had subscribed to that comment thread :-)

  26. Cara says:

    I’m glad you wrote this post! I looked into circumcision and we chose not to do it, though we are pretty Messianic-ish (we believe the laws written in the OT are important). Also, in researching circumcision it looks like the way Jesus was circumcised was just cutting a little bit off, enough to draw blood- not the procedure at all done in hospitals today at all.

    I usually try to be patient with people’s ignorance, but it drives me NUTS when they say ‘it feels right to us’ about circumcision without researching it at all. This is their child, and so many put more effort and research into the party favors given out at their wedding than they do about an elective cosmetic surgery on a newborn.

    • Heather says:

      Great points, Cara! We are not necessarily Messianic-ish but we certainly do honor the Jewish roots of Christianity. I’ve attended several amazing shabbats and boy do I love challah bread!

  27. [...] Katie and I are busy making the Christmas decorations I posted yesterday, so no post this morning. However, thanks to Dr. Momma at Peaceful Parenting there is a great conversation going on here. [...]

  28. Sarah says:

    Dear Heather and Daniel- (I’m reminded of my very favorite poem- by Odgen Nash… “Behold the hippopotamus- we laugh at how he looks to us- and yet in moments dank and grim- we wonder how we look to him- peace peace tho hippopotamus- we really look all right to us- and you no doubt delight the eye- of other hippopotami ) I am a Christian parent and I am gearing up to write a blog post on Circumcision and Christians for the holidays- (because Jesus was circumcised eight days after his birth.) I am very distressed by the situation with American Christians using the existence of circumcision in the Bible to shield themselves from the hard truth behind their secular predisposition to circumcise (reasons which often are decidedly anti-Christian) as well as what I feel has been a serious neglect by our clergy to really buckle down and discuss this honestly with their congregations.

    A friend wrote this and rather than restate it… “And what Paul, and all the apostles, and Jesus said was: “Faith ALONE can save you from eternal torment. Works can play NO part in it.”
    It’s the same as adding one tiny drop of poison to a barrel of water. Any addition to faith is deadly.
    So, yes… Circumcision is NOT commanded for anyone nowawdays from the Bible, and it does NOTHING for you spiritually. And as a matter of a fact, if you do put some stock in the act … spiritually speaking… you are in for rude suprise.”

  29. dianthe says:

    before i had babies, i (like many people) just assumed i would circumcise my boys because that’s what you did – when i was pregnant with Sydney, i’d decided to circumcise if she was a boy and never gave it any more thought than that – fortunately, she was a girl!

    when i was pregnant with Myles, i’d become friends with several mamas with intact boys and began to do more research – i was still leaning toward circumcision but decided we would have it done by a mohel – i was talking about it with my mom one day and she mentioned that my brother was still intact – she said she just didn’t see the point in doing it – and the more i thought about it, i didn’t either.

    i mentioned to Kelley that i didn’t want to circumcise if it was a boy and he, being circumcised, wanted to know why – i promptly emailed him every piece of anti-circumcision piece of information i could find with only the word “thoughts?” – he never responded and the decision was made. :)

    unlike most “intactivists”, i really don’t have strong feelings about it one way or the other – i can list all of the reasons why i believe it to be a bad idea and can tell you why the cons outweigh the pros, but my ultimate reason is still “i just don’t see the point” – i do think it is irresponsible to circumcise without doing the research – and i think that if most people did the research, they would choose to leave their sons intact – personally, i’m happy with our decision and know if i had circumcised Myles knowing what i know now that i would have regretted it.

  30. Lindsay says:

    I really don’t see the whole issue of one being circumcised and one being intact an issue. I get asked this alot. Kids handle things way better than adults do most of the time anyway…lol. I think once we explain it to them and we apologize to our oldest, they will walk away stronger and better men. i think worse than circumcising a child in ignorance…is to circumcise one when you know better(especially just because his brother is done). Funny how, if my oldest was missing an arm or a chunk of ear lobe, no one will mention how my youngest might feel weird or how my oldest will be upset that he is missing an arm, so his brother should too…

    • Heather says:

      “I think worse than circumcising a child in ignorance…is to circumcise one when you know better(especially just because his brother is done).” So true, but I believe it may seem easier to many parents to deny that there is a problem and continue on with the status quo. I love that you choose to take responsibility and I LOVE that you would apologize even when your decision was made in ignorance. Because of how you have framed the situation, I wholeheartedly agree that they will both be better and stronger men! As a momma to my first son (12 weeks old) that statement now has a whole new dimension to it!

  31. Thank you for speaking up on behalf of babies and research-based information.

  32. Lindsay says:

    Thanks Heather…yes apologizing is a important step. Yes, we did it in ignorance and will tell him so, but he is still owed an apology. I am always telling him when he accidently hurts his brother he still says he is sorry. No, he doesn’t get a time out like if he did it on purpose, but you do say your sorry when you hurt someone on purpose or on accident. Not that we accidently circumcised(although in a way we did, cuz if we were actually told what was involved in a circumcision and that it wasn’t medically necessary, we wouldn’t have done it), but we hurt him(or signed off on an unnecessary procedure that hurt him), we didn’t mean to, but we did…so he deserves an apology and an explination.

  33. Joanna Moore says:

    Oh how I wish this post had been written 10 months earlier! When we found out we were having a boy, I didnt really care whether he was circumcised or not. My husband, being circumcised, naturally wanted the same for his son, so we had it done. Now, that being said, we fully intended on having it done on the 8th day with a rabbi, although we didn’t really do any research on the subject. Well, he was born 2 weeks early so we didn’t have a chance to arrange it as we had hoped, although we did refuse it in the hospital. Obsessing about getting it done on the 8th day, we quickly tried to make an appt with somebody to have it done but the soonest we could get was the 11th day with a dr in an outpatient facility. Then we found out there were two different kinds, plastibell and the other i don’t remember the name. Well that got me researching about which to do at the last minute and i so wish i wouldn’t’ have ignored the comments at the end of a few articles i read– things like “it is cruel”- i totally dismissed them and now regret it! we found out at the time of surgery that they could only do plastibell and if we wanted the other it would have to be scheduled at the hospital under general anesthesia. um, no thanks. so we had it done then and there. how i didn’t scoop him up and run off after seeing the “circumstraint” is beyond me. riley stayed in there with him while i waited in the hall. he refused to nurse afterwards, which is totally weird. the pain must’ve been absolutely horrible. the nurses just told us to give him tylenol.
    a couple months later i started getting into cloth diapers then eating healthy, then into a completely new crunchy circle of moms and discovered the truths about circumcision. i feel so bad about what we allowed our son to go through! no doubt we will apologize to him someday, and if we have another son you better believe i wont be making the same mistake of paying somebody to amputate part of his genitals.

    • Heather says:

      Joanna – My heart simultaneously ached and filled with hope as I read your post. On the one hand, I know how you love Josiah and I can totally identify with the “if only I had known” part of your experience. However, I am really grateful that you were willing to be vulnerable and share your experience so that others can learn from it. Thank you.

    • Annette says:

      In my post (I accidentally made two because I’m Wilma Flintstone with computers, and Heather, could you please delete the one that doesn’t have paragraphs?), I said that I didn’t mean to sound goofy but I cried when I knew the circumcision was happening. The more I read, the more I don’t think it was goofy at all! It was a knowing that my baby was going to be in pain. Ohmygosh, I didn’t even know they had something that holds them down. I am so sad about this. I hope everyone realizes somehow, how different this “practice” is from what it really was so long ago, I believe that, and how it is NOT called for in the Word. It is something that continues as a tradtion, and one that could cause pain, and harm, and certainly a loss of pleasure with his future wife.

  34. I really like this particular page:
    http://www.udonet.com/circumcision/christian.html
    Please check it out; it is a quick read for Christians on this subject.
    One of my favorite scriptures in in James: “The true religion is this: helping widows and orphans in their distress and not allowing yourself to be corrupted by the world”.
    I believe that cutting our baby boys is a type of corruption that comes from the world.
    I am also a Registered Nurse (for20yrs), currently in graduate school, with emphasis on ethics, informed consent and patient rights. It is a violation of professional medical ethics to remove healthy and functioning tissue from a human being without their full informed consent. Parents are only permitted “proxy” consent if the procedure is to cure or diagnose disease. No medical organization in the world recommends circumcision, because it is not health care. It is at best cosmetic. It is at worst mutilation and never therapeutic for a baby. A person’s genitals do not belong to their parents. A person’s genitals do not belong to their parent’s religion. A person’s genitals do not belong to the doctor or the mohel. The baby boy will be a man someday, with his own preferences and his own ideas about his sexual expression and his penis. No one ought to have permanent and irreparable control over his private parts. I am working diligently to compel doctors and nurses to abide by their own ethical codes of conduct. Nurses have the ethical obligation to PROTECT their vulnerable patients. And doctors, of course, have the obligation to DO NO HARM.
    I so appreciate this thread. It is civil and respectful. I respect all people who think before they act, especially when their child’s well-being is at stake. I just wanted to chime in as a Christian and as a health-care professional who is researching policy and ethics.
    One of the problems with “researching” circumcision is this: it is unethical to vivisect humans for purposes of research. So the very act of cutting a child’s genitals is unacceptable as a research subject, yet our culture accepts it as a reasonable “parent’s choice”.
    The practice of circumcision pre-dates Judaism by thousands of years. It was used as a way to humiliate men and to mark slaves in captivity. Medical circumcision in America started in the late 1800′s as a punishment for and deterrent to masturbation in adolescents. It was promoted and done to both sexes and touted as a cure and preventative for every disease known to human kind.
    http://www.historyofcircumcision.net/index.php?option=content&task=view&id=90
    In those days, people believed that too much sexual excitement or pleasure made them ill, blind, deaf, spastic, degenerate, shy, poor, obnoxious, etc, etc.(This was prior to germ theory). Circumcision has never been about hygiene; it has always been and remains an issue of sexual control. The United States is the only country in the world that practices routine medical circumcision of baby boys.
    The anatomy and physiology of the human prepuce was never studied until 1996. Coincidentally, 1996 was the same year that female genital cutting was made illegal in the U.S. So it is illegal to so much as prick a female’s genitals with a pin, but boy genitals are open game. This ought not be so. Why don’t boys deserve to be safe and protected as much as girls?
    There was a time in our country’s history when many people owned slaves. Money was made from the institution of slavery, and it continued. Many who argued in favor of it explained passionately about slavery being a condition in the bible, and thus an acceptable practice.
    Today we have a money-making endeavor called circumcision. It is talked about in the bible, so many people defend it as acceptable on that premise.
    Food for thought.
    We are all fearfully and wonderfully made in His image. I pray that God will touch and soften the hearts of the those who would harm defenseless children with the painful act of circumcision. I ask in the name of Jesus that little boys and girls all over the world will be protected and guarded and loved with His unconditional love.
    Sincerely,
    Dolores

  35. Andi says:

    Hi Heather!
    I’m the RN who used to work on the OB floor with your mother in law (I was actually working the evening shift with her the night you were in labor with your first child).
    I have to agree with Dolores. Despite circumcision not being endorsed by any medical organization as a routine procedure, it’s still performed in large part due to the financial aspect. It’s a surgical procedure that removes healthy, functioning tissue. There is always risk with any medical intervention/surgical procedure and I don’t understand why a parent would put a newborn at any risk without a strong, valid medical necessity. Fortunately, I’ve never seen a baby die from circ complications (although it does happen) but I have seen several major complications over the years. I’ve never once seen a foreskin problem though, even while working in medical/surgical or adult home health. I’ve also never once seen a baby sleep through a circ, even after receiving a penile block. Babies will sometimes refuse to nurse for a day or so after a circ though.
    In parts of the world where circumcision isn’t the norm, men never seem to have issues with hygiene or infections. We need to all speak to our families and friends and encourage them to put aside the myths of foreskin and learn the truth about circumcision. Despite the fact that my husband is circed, my intact son has never had issue with the difference. The son is never an exact clone of the dad so as a society, we need to stop worrying about “looking like daddy”.
    I’m not Jewish so circ isn’t part of my religious beliefs. However, all one needs to do is search on line for Jewish bris videos. Not even the videos put out by the anti-circ movement but those uploaded by proud new parents after the bris. Their babies do cry all during the procedure. I suppose some advantages afforded by a bris on the 8th day would be that natural clotting factors are higher and hopefully the breastfeeding relationship is established, but pain is still a reality.
    I’m happy the circ rates in our area are dropping. My son isn’t the only intact boy I know. I applaud you for your blog entry. The more we gently speak out against circumcision and dispel myths the more parents are likely to do their research keep their son intact.

  36. Emily says:

    Heather please don’t take down this post! I know how you feel about people getting offended but you’ve said nothing for anyone to take offense. But you are so right. This is not a medical necessity it is a custom that has turned into a horrible mutilation. I have argued this one with so many people. There are antibodies and nerves in the area they cut off but everyone that I talked to seems to think the boy will die of infection and that the only way to keep it clean is to cut it off. Parents please think things through before you do anything to your child.

  37. Korina says:

    This is a great post, I completely agree that this is an unnecessary procedure! You put things into words in a way that will help me explain my decision to my family if I have a baby boy. Thanks for the info!

  38. Candace says:

    I only found this post a few months ago and wanted to thank you for doing so much research. My husband and I decided to have our son circumcised because “it is just what you do.” Well, it wound up being an all day and into the night event. Our son never stopped bleeding. He filled his diapers will blood. Finally, after my husband and I had been trying for over three hours to make the bleeding stop, we took him to the ER. As the doctor cleaned him there was a spurt of blood and he said, “Oh, did you see that? He has an arterial cut… It would have been very difficult for you to stop that.” The doctor who had preformed that operation had cut an artery in our sons penis. I am so grateful that we went to the ER and got the bleeding stopped. I just wish that we had really thought things through before putting our baby through all that.

    • Heather says:

      I am so sorry for what your family went through, Candace! I really admire parents like you that circumcised and now share your story to help other families make informed decisions. Thank you <3

  39. Anna says:

    I realize this was posted two years ago but the issue is very important to me so I decided to comment anyway. When I was pregnant with my first child I was asked (when in hospital for delivery) if I wanted my baby boy circumcised – we were expecting a girl so I didn’t bother with it and was only surprised that anybody would even asked (coming from Europe I never even heard of anyone doing this anymore in this day and age). Two years later when I was pregnant with my second child (this time we didn’t know the sex so I made sure I marked NO CIRC just in case) the question came up again and again I was surprised and then did some more research. BOY was I shocked to find out the percentage of american boys being cut righ after birth! In the hospital! By doctors! WOW, that was an eye opener – so here I am, coming from the country I considered less (much less) advanced than USA and I find out that in this great country (I really find this country great) the procedure I thought long gone is still being performed for no good reason. That made me so sad for all those precious little boys. Especially after I had a boy myself. I would never, ever let anyone hurt him like that. Another shocker came a few weeks later when we went for a doctor’s visit – pediatrician tried to retract the foreskin and I just grabbed her hand and yelled: what are you doing??!!! OK, I actually didn’t yell anything which I regret but I did stop her just in time. She shrugged and told me to do it myself when I give my baby a bath that night. WHY? I didn’t ask, I just went home wondering if there is something I didn’t know. How come no one has ever mentioned anything like that to me? Why did it feel so unnatural to do? After coming home I research the subject (my mom was of no help as I only have one sister but she – mom – said she has never heard of anything like that – that there was a need to do that for any reason and that she believed it would just hurt the baby) and a shocker came again! Doctors in the USA do retract the foreskin (and it happens in the nick of time when you don’t even expect that) even though AAP advises against it. It can also happen in a daycare center! I read some horror stories and felt so sad and so greatful that my boy was not harmed. Please please be aware of it if you are planning to have an intact boy (which I hope you are). We printed what AAP has to say about it and took it back to pediatrician next time we had a visit and she was very uncomfortable and only said that this is not what she was thought.

  40. concerned cynic says:

    The sad truth is that millions of Americans have their newborn boys circumcised because they do not want to be reminded of foreskin every time they change a nappy or give a bath. They do not want to face they hygiene and gradual retractability issues posed by the natural penis, and believe that sitting in the bath every evening is all the hygiene the cut penis requires. They fear that circumcised boys will bully an intact boy in the locker room and summer camp. They fear that girls will not date a young man when they discover that he is intact. These motives are not consistent with Christian belief and ethics.

  41. Teresa says:

    Wow, thank you Heather for such an informative reading. I had actually been wondering what the purpose of circumcision was back in the Old Testament days since many (not all) of God’s commands were for health reasons. We have a son and decided not to circumcise him because we did not see the point and God clearly says in the New Testament that it is now a pointless practice. Honestly, I am shocked I had not run across this information before. Very interesting.

  42. Anna says:

    German court rules religious circumcision on boys an assult

    Circumcising young boys on religious grounds amounts to grievous bodily harm, a German court ruled Tuesday in a landmark decision that the Jewish community said trampled on parents’ religious rights.

    The regional court in Cologne, western Germany, ruled that the “fundamental right of the child to bodily integrity outweighed the fundamental rights of the parents”, a judgement that is expected to set a legal precedent.

    “The religious freedom of the parents and their right to educate their child would not be unacceptably compromised, if they were obliged to wait until the child could himself decide to be circumcised,” the court added.

    source: AFP

    • Abby says:

      But they are wrong. This does impede on religious freedom to the fullest extent. We are not commanded to make a choice to circumcise ourselves as adults. Parents are commanded to circumcise their sons on the eighth day of life. It isn’t optional or aesthetic, and is the first major event in the Jewish life cycle of a boy. When Germany makes claims that it is acting respectfully toward Jews, please stop and take their recent history into account, then take what they say with a grain of salt. There have been other instances over the last several thousand years in which anti circumcision decrees have been used to persecute Jews and stifle their practices for the sake of assimilation (see the sorry of Hanukkah). I don’t buy that the Germans, of all people, did this for human rights purposes, it just makes a convenient cover. Its no coincidence that Cologne is home to Germanys largest and oldest religious Jewish community.

      • Mark Lyndon says:

        Gen 17:11-13 also commands Jews to circumcise their male slaves, but we’ve moved on from then. In the Torah, adultery (Lev. 20:10), fornication by women (Deut 22:21), homosexual acts (Lev. 20:13), blasphemy (Lev. 24:16), insulting one’s parents (Exodus 21:17), and stubbornly disobeying one’s parents (Deut. 21:18-21) are all punishable by death. Obviously, these laws are no longer enforced by traditionalists. In addition, according to Torah law, only a man can divorce his spouse (Deut. 24:1). This law was changed by rabbis to allow a woman to terminate a marriage. The Torah law which restricted inheritance to sons (Deut. 21:15-17) was also changed to allow transfer of property to daughters. Awareness of this precedent for change helps us to view circumcision with openness and flexibility.

        Female circumcision was made illegal even though some people regard it as their religious right or duty to cut their daughters. It’s illegal to cut off a girl’s prepuce, or to make any incision on a girl’s genitals, even if no tissue is removed. Even a pinprick is banned. Why don’t boys get the same protection? Everyone should be able to decide for themselves whether or not they want parts of their genitals cut off. It’s *their* body.

  43. Grace says:

    Do you know about restoring foreskins? I just heard about this in a local parenting group-someone was interested if it would work for her husband. I’m wondering, too.

  44. Megan says:

    I usually never feel compelled to comment on super old posts, but this one was different. I know it’s so difficult to put an opinion out there for fear of how it will be perceived. Heather, I feel like you always do an amazing job of stating your case without judgment. We cannot control other people’s reactions and sometimes no matter how you say it, they will have one. They will feel judged by you, when in actuality the judgment comes from inside themselves.
    Our firstborn was a boy. We circumcised him. I was against it, but my husband felt that it was important. I let him have the final decision. I felt a horrible anxiety and emptiness as they took him away. It felt like an eternity. I knew my husband was with him and that did bring me some comfort. He was given a nerve block, everything seems fine at this point. He is only 5, so I really hope nothing comes up later in life for him.
    As often happens when people become parents, our theories on EVERYTHING have changed since then. Circumcision, food, vaccines, where to birth, God, everything. We have gone on to have two more babies- both girls- and plan to have a fourth. We will NEVER circumcise again.
    After reading more and opening his mind, my husband has feelings similar to Daniel. He was circumcised and is also missing his appendix. I am missing my tonsils. We regret having circumcised our son and yet nothing in your post made me feel criticized for having done so. Thank you for your research, honesty and way with words.

  45. Maggie says:

    Heather, thank you for posting this. We had our son circumcised and I now regret it. I thought it was what everyone did and didn’t think much about it. But a few months after he was born I read another blog post on the topic and learned why so many are no longer having circumcisions performed. Whether people agree with you or not, I think it’s important to have this conversation. If I could have read or talked about this subject beforehand i would have made a different decision. I wish I asked more questions. Hopefully someone else will read this post and learn some new information to help them make a more informed decision for their child. What I have learned is to never take for granted any medical decisions and I will always ask questions and do my own research now.

    • Heather says:

      Maggie, mamas like you inspire me. I’m so glad someone took the risk to bring up this touchy subject with me before I had a son, but if they hadn’t I can only hope that I would have been able to write a comment like this. I know other mamas will read it, know they are not alone in their regrets, and very possibly share their experience with someone who will make a different decision as a result. Thank you!

  46. Anna says:

    Maggie, thank you for sharing your thoughts on that. I always question if I have a right to say anything to expectant mothers when they don’t ask for opinion and try to find a polite way to bring up the subject. Very often when I can’t think of a good “opening line” I just don’t say anything…perhaps that’s wrong too. Statement like yours gives me more courage to perhaps search better next time for a way to bring up the subject when I have a chance.

  47. missmarijke says:

    I just found your site today and have enjoyed what I have read so far. I agree that this touchy subject. I have a son from a previous relationship and he is not “snipped” because his dad wanted him to look like him. I was raised with the belief that boys should be cirumcised, but agreed to his dad’s wishes. So far we haven’t had any problems.

    I recently had another baby and waited until birth to find out the gender. My husband and I discussed circumcision and he was insistant that his son be circumcised (like him) so he would not be made fun of growing up. I agreed with his wishes; but really don’t agree with the procedure (a change from eight years ago when my son was born). Much to my surprise we had a daughter so it wasn’t an issue. It is something I will have to come to terms with if we ever have a son though.

  48. [...] Helpful links from a Mommypotamus.com article: [...]

  49. Jonathan says:

    I realize this post was over 2 years ago but this issue is so important to me I would like to put in my two cents. I am 31 years old and uncircumcised. It’s funny how I fault my parents on decisions they’ve made that I disagree with but haven’t given them enough credit for a permanent decision they got right: they refused to circumcise both me and my other 5 brothers (thank God my mother thought it was cruel and religiously unnecessary according to the new testament, which as Christians, is the text that has the final say on all religious matters concerning our Christianity, period!).

    Now, to dispel all myths surrounding circumcision, I’ve never had any complications or major infections ever. The only minor infections I’ve ever had was a result of me being a dirty teenager who didn’t bathe regularly or clean under my forskin (although this may be because my dad is not circumcised and probably didn’t know how to teach me to clean, so I had to learn on my own). Nevertheless, I can’t really even say I got any infections, but moreso, just some redness and minor irritation from not being clean. But after I started getting interested in girls and started taking baths daily, never had any problems since.

    Now, regarding the appearance. The problem is promiscuity, not circumcision. My wife was my first and I was her first. She has no point of referrence and likes what I have just fine…size and all (and I’m only average size). This is because she and I didn’t sleep around so we both brought little sexual baggage into the relationship.

    Now my last point I would like to make is the reason why our culture has been slow to change regarding male circumcision… CHILD ABUSE! The problem is that child abuse is still a problem in our society. Just like how women were treated as less than human over thousands of years, children have been treated as property of their parents, to force them to do whatever they see fit, whether it be work on the farm at age 9, or in factories before child labor laws. The issue again is a lack of respect for the child’s individuality and the fact that a child is, as the scripture says “The Lord’s Heritage”. I know for a fact that my wife and I did not make our beautiful baby girl…God formed her in the womb and her body belongs to God. I am only acting as God’s caretaker for His Child. I think if parents kept that in mind, that their children are God’s, then they would be careful not to abuse God’s children.

    Like Christ said, “Let the little children come unto me and do not deny them, for of such is the Kingdom of God” (my paraphrase…don’t have the bible in front of me). This is why I will be very careful regarding any physical punishment that could result in any permanent mental or physical dammage. At this point, I can’t see myself raising a finger against my daughter. Not that I will be a liberal parent, as I value the discipline my parents provided, and the lasting effect it had on me, as to how I treat others. But some of what was done to me as a child has also had a lasting negative effect and believe that some of the punishments handed down by my father were ostensibly child abuse. I know it was done in ignorance so I forgive him. But the scripture says that “in times past God winked at the ignorance of man…but now is high time for repentence” (paraphrase).

    In closing, there is no grey areo…If you circumcise your son, you lack the faith of Jesus Christ and seek to conform to this world and all its evil traditions. Remember the scripture in Romans “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you might know what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (paraphrase).

  50. Nettie says:

    Ally, I didn’t even give this issue a thought with my first son. He was circumsized, because I thought that was just what you did…his daddy, uncles, and every other male I knew was after all. He had no immediate or visible issues…at first. But, around 6 months, when we started EC a bit, we noticed it was tough to control his “stream”. I wondered if this was normal and started reading. By the time he was peeing on his own/standing up, it was obvious he had a problem, and the reality of my research discoveries was that he probably needed to see a surgeon to prevent further problems (and save the bathroom walls). At 2 years old, after MUCH praying and heart seeking, and due any day with my second child of unknown gender, I held my breath and cried as they knocked my baby out and reopened the scar tissue that had partially sealed his urethra. It broke my heart that an uninformed choice had lead to this day, and I felt like such a failure as a mom. He came through just fine, and within a week our second son was born. He is not circumsized, a decision that wasnt as easy as it should have been for us to make, but even harder to explain. Someday, our boys may wonder, and I hope my oldest will understand that the decisions we made each time were based on the knowledge and soul-searching of resposible parents. No parent makes a decision on this issue with callousness, but out of love. And in approaching this sometimes sensitive issue, we need to remember this, no matter how strong our convictions.

  51. Nettie says:

    *sadly, not ally

  52. Denise says:

    I know this post is a few years old but I feel I have to comment. I had never heard that forced retraction was wrong until today (I knew it in my heart just had never seen it on paper). I consider myself to be greatly holistically educated but as my oldest son is 19, I haven’t had to think about this for many years. We chose not to have our sons circ’d (19 and 18 years ago…. my mother-in-law almost had a breakdown). But when my oldest was 6, my family doc forced his foreskin back, ripping the skin and causing bleeding – right in front of me! I didn’t do anything, I just stood there…I thought he knew best….but I was traumatized as a mother that day and still remember the sickness in my stomach like it was yesterday (we didn’t have the internet back then for me to do research). My son and I have discussed this at length many times and I have repeatedly apologized – he was in lots of physical pain at the time and we cried lots of tears together but he has assured me that it did not emotionally scar him and he does not have any lasting physical symptoms (praise God). DO not EVER let anyone retract your son’s foreskin! Our family’s ordeal with this has been one of the greatest disappointments and regrets of my life

    • Heather says:

      Thank you for sharing your story, Denise! I think it’s important for parents to be aware that these things still happen so that we are vigilant at appointments. I’m so glad your son did not experience any lasting effects.

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