“It’s a boy.”
When I first heard those words, I was both elated and disappointed. A boy. Perfect! I mean, I know everyone says they don’t really care what gender their baby is as long it’s healthy, and I didn’t. Except...
We’d have to do the snip.
You know the one I’m talking about. The one Muslim boys get. The one Jewish boys get. The one some kids just get.
Growing up in an Indian Muslim household, circumcision wasn’t really talked about, but it was understood that it was something boys had done, and, that if I ever had a little boy, he’d have it done, too. And I was okay with that - until I started to look into the procedure, that is.
The deeper I probed, the more concerned I became. I mean, I knew circumcision was supposed to make things cleaner down there, less prone to infection. But current research - backed by the American Academy of Pediatrics - suggests that circumcision does no such thing. In fact, there are no tangible medical benefits to circumcision outside of high risk environments such as the third world.
Outside of the third world? Studies suggest that circumcision can reduce the transmission of STDs and HIV. But, in the Western world, everyone knows to use condoms, right? All right, maybe not everyone. But Joe and I fully intend to take charge of Mir’s education, and talk to about the ins and outs, dos and don’ts of safe sex when he’s a bit older. Okay, significantly older.
So circumcision wasn’t a medical necessity - but that wasn’t the only issue. When I brought the subject up with our pediatrician - a Jewish woman with a circumcised son - she suggested we think about the norm for our family. Would Mir be growing up around all circumcised males? All uncircumcised? A blend? Who will he be talking to when he starts to get curious about his body? “Think about how he’ll feel,” she said. “And if he’ll be okay with not being the same as everyone else?”
The idea of Mir’s not fitting in bothered me - I’m not exactly a poster child for conformity, but I am a mother, and I worry about every aspect of my baby’s life, present and future. Joe was less concerned. “He’ll just have to get over it,” he told me. “Besides, don’t you want him to grow up understanding that he’s more than the sum of his parts, that beauty is on the inside, not the outside, and all those other things you’re always blabbing on about teaching him?”
And then there were the risks. As with all surgery, there’s a risk of infection. The circumcision itself can also be botched - some doctors and moyles remove too little skin (meaning the procedure has to be done again), while others remove (painfully) too much. Worse, most circumcisions are performed without anesthesia and can be quite traumatic for the baby.
By the time my water broke, I still hadn’t made up my mind. As we raced to the hospital on that dark and stormy night, the decision loomed over my head. We were at the eleventh hour, and I still had no idea what to do.
Until he arrived. When our nurse, Maggie, slipped Mir into my arms, I cuddled him, checked he had all his fingers and toes, checked that he didn’t have a tail. I marveled at his ear hair - at 38 weeks, he was a little premature, and had a bit of adorable fuzz on the tops of his earlobes - then kissed him all over.
And that’s when I knew. No snip for my baby. I couldn’t hurt him, not even a little bit. Sometimes, even now, I feel a bit strange, knowing that I’ve gone against culture, religion, and upbringing. But as a Muslim woman in the 21stcentury, I’m fast discovering that flexibility is key - things aren’t as clear cut as they used to be. And I’m okay with that.