To snip or not to snip? That was the question we couldn't get past.
There are certain questions you should ask your partner before getting down to the business of having kids: In what religious tradition do you want to raise your child? What sort of schooling do you prefer? Will you want childcare? How do you feel about circumcision?
When my husband and I started trying to have kids, these conversations went swimmingly. Until we got to circumcision. That’s where we discovered a clash: Should I get pregnant with a son one day, my husband thinks he should be snipped, and I don't.
This led to a series of debates, some more heated than others.
As a circumcised male, my husband thought any son of his would naturally undergo the procedure as well. There would be no questions about why our future son didn’t look the same as his dad, or why he didn't resemble most other boys his age, and since the operation is a minor one it isn’t really that big of a deal.
I, on the other hand, was horrified at the idea of altering a baby boy's body in an irreversible, painful way without need. I wouldn't pierce a baby girl's ears, much less remove the boy's foreskin. I couldn't see any good reason to do it. I'm an atheist and my husband is an agnostic, so religious tradition isn't even an issue for us.
Sure, I understand a man wanting his son to be like him, especially in this particularly masculine way. The thing is, when my husband was circumcised it was because of an actual, honest-to-goodness medical necessity. The foreskin was too small. It was painful, so the surgery had to be done. His mother wasn’t wild about the idea but she didn't have a choice. If it were medically necessary, I would do the same thing.
But the oft-touted medical benefits, such as decreased risk of transmission of HIV, HPV, and herpes, seem to me like a false sense of security. I would rather teach my son about safe sex than let him think he can rely on a modification to his body to protect him. The studies show only partial protection and even the American Academy of Pediatrics has said there isn't enough evidence to recommend all male infants be circumcised.
Barring any medical necessity, the thought of subjecting my child to a surgery with all its potential complications, such as the ones this mother encountered when her baby required penoplasty to correct a botched circumcision, makes my head spin. The fewer medical interventions, the better, as far as I'm concerned.
Granted, I don’t have a penis so my vested interest in this is somewhat limited, but a growing number of fathers have opted not to circumcise their sons. There was even a failed attempt to have the practice completely banned in the city of San Francisco.
From where I’m sitting, the idea of circumcising my future son strikes me as bizarre and unfamiliar, considering I would never even think to do the same to my potential daughter upon her arrival. For girls, we don’t even refer to it as circumcision; we call it Female Genital Mutilation. We rise up in protest when we hear about cultures that do it to their daughters but we alter our sons' bodies without worry.
Ultimately, my husband said that since I feel this strongly we should plan on not circumcising our son, should we have one. I appreciate his willingness to err on the side of caution for my sake. We are both passionate, opinionated people and I don’t expect to win every argument or for every conflict to have such a neat resolution. But in this case, I'm grateful.
Now I just need to get pregnant. I should get on that.