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Changing Opinions Over the Changing Table

If you are one of the growing number of parents who leave their baby boys' foreskins alone, as nature intended, you might need to brace yourself for the holidays.
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If you are one of the growing number of parents who leave their baby boys' foreskins alone, as nature intended, you might need to brace yourself for the holidays. You are likely to spend time with relatives and friends who will be meeting your son for the first time. Grandma or Auntie may be shocked to see your intact (uncircumcised) baby on the changing table. And chances are they will begin to question why you didn't circumcise him. And they won't let up!!

Oh, the joys of going home for the holidays. Wouldn't it be easier to talk about politics or religion?

Here's my suggestion: turn this into a teachable moment.

I know you would like to say, "How dare you tell me to butcher my baby! You don't know anything!"

But what if you said instead, "You know, I was pretty clueless about circumcision in the past, because it's been the so-called normal thing to do in America. But I decided to get educated, and I'm so happy I did. Do you want to hear what I learned?"

I hope they'll want to listen. We need more people to engage in thoughtful, adult conversation about this unnecessary, awful practice. In my experience, the more one knows about circumcision, the more one is against it.

The problem is that most people don't think about circumcision at all, unless they are expecting a baby. That's just in the United States. In the rest of the world, doctors and people in general think circumcision is really crazy. You can tell your concerned relatives that in Europe, circumcision rates are well under 10 percent. Yet, there have been no epidemics in Europe of all the bad things that Americans are told to fear from the foreskin - no higher rates of urinary tract infections (UTIs), penile cancer, AIDS, or other sexually transmitted diseases.

Point out that circumcision is a custom, not a medical necessity. Talk about this history - that circumcision was promoted in Victorian times as a way to discourage masturbation. (Look how well that's worked out!) After World War II, when hospital births became the norm and doctors could make money by billing health insurance companies for more procedures, the circumcision rate soared, from 35 percent of male births in 1932 to nearly 90 percent by the mid-1960s. Today, the rate has dropped to 58 percent in the U.S., and no medical association claims that it's medically necessary to amputate the foreskin from baby boys.

Appeal to your relatives' hearts. Say, "Look at my beautiful boy. Isn't he perfect? Why would I want to let them tie him down on a board to cut off part of his body?" If your relatives poo-poo the idea that an infant feels pain, remind them that scientific studies (and probably their own personal observations!) prove otherwise.

Finally, talk about the foreskin--something I doubt they have ever discussed before. Tell them it's not just "extra" skin. Liken it to the eyelid, which is there to protect the eye and prevent it from drying out. Tell them the foreskin is full of nerve endings, and it is much more sensitive to touch than the glans (head of the penis). If you've still got an audience, you might want to mention that cutting off the foreskin reduces the size of a man's penis, impedes the gliding action needed for comfortable intercourse, and - in general - deprives both men and women of pleasure. Say, "It's hard for me, too, to think of this little boy having sex, but he will."

I'll bet that your relatives have never heard any of these points before. (And there are so many more points to make, including that it is unethical to perform a medically unnecessary surgery on a baby that cannot give his consent!) Be sure to hug your baby and say, "You can't improve on what Mother Nature gave him."

Let the conversations begin!