Circumcision – Why We Did It and Why We Didn’t


Baby Boy BootiesThe one pregnancy book I had read included a single paragraph about circumcision which said nothing about why or why not to do it and only stated that it was an intensely personal decision. The nurses were even less helpful than the book. I understand that they did not want to interfere in such a controversial decision, but no one would even tell me why it was controversial or any reason for or against it. So we went with what we were familiar with and had it done.

Within a year we were pregnant again with our second son. By the time he was born, we had read more about the issue and regretted our previous decision, but then we were torn between doing what we thought was best or going for sameness in the family. We decided to leave our second intact and will for any other baby boys that come into our family.

None of the reasons for circumcision are valid for us, but maybe they will be for you so I will mention them. First of all, for some families circumcision is a religious requirement. I won’t argue against that, but it does not apply to us. Second, cosmetics. At some point someone else will see your son naked, and an intact penis is not socially acceptable everywhere. This was not enough of a concern for us, especially since where we lived many of our friends were leaving their sons intact as well, but I understand that a locker room can seem like a torture chamber to a teen who does not fit in. Third, hygiene. People say that circumcision is a healthier choice, but actually in our clean culture it is not necessary and can be detrimental to health.

On the other hand, we found some strong reasons against circumcision. First I’ll mention hygiene. Many people mistakenly think that an intact penis is more prone to infection, but infection more likely results from improper care than anything else. The penis is perfectly designed to prevent infection, and if a serious infection does set in only the foreskin is removed, whereas if there were no foreskin the consequence might be much worse.

I have heard of toddlers being circumcised because of supposed infection, and my heart goes out to those parents and little boys. There seems to be a growing trend in our country toward leaving baby boys intact. Possibly the biggest problem with the change is that the majority of doctors are circumcised and are not very educated about the proper care of intact penises. Consequently, they often give parents poor hygiene advice that causes unnecessary yet serious problems. They also sometimes mistake a natural part of a child’s development as an infection and perform an unnecessary circumcision when the child is a few years old, which of course is much worse than circumcising a newborn baby.

The second reason against circumcision is pain. When we were in the hospital with our first son, we were told that the procedure would be quick and easy for our child, that sometimes the babies don’t even cry, and that it is not traumatizing at all. Interestingly, it was also the only procedure we were not allowed to witness. They took him far away from us with doors in between so that we had no indication of how he handled it, and then several minutes later they brought him back with a pacifier in his mouth.

My sister-in-law told me later that she was with her son when he was circumcised and that it was completely awful. He was screaming like crazy and she never wanted to put a child through that again. Besides the pain and terror to a newborn, there is also a risk that the incision will be done in the wrong place since there is no sure way to determine where the foreskin begins. In most cases there are not problems, but it is a risk.

The third reason against circumcision is that sexual pleasure is supposedly enhanced when the foreskin is intact. This has been indicated by numerous studies even though I can’t figure out how this kind of research is even possible. If it is true then I would consider it the most important reason not to circumcise. This is also how it becomes a human rights issue since it is a permanent decision and debatably a violation of a sex organ.

Personally, I don’t think circumcising baby boys should be illegal, but as a parent I feel almost unqualified to make that decision for my child. It doesn’t really make sense for me to say “if I were to do it again” because I wouldn’t, but if I were I would insist on being with my child throughout the procedure. I have never heard a man complain about it having been done to him, but there are probably men out there who feel that way. In any case, it is an important discussion to have as a couple before your son is born.

Rule One for Week One with Baby

DSC_01912You had a baby? Congratulations! As exciting as that is, chances are your energy is depleted from the long pregnancy and laborious birth, not to mention the demanding cries of your new sweet one. You might be on a hormonal high for a couple of days, but it won’t last and will possibly crash. So before you get lost in all the demands of holding, feeding, changing, bathing, dressing, and cooing over your baby, I have one suggestion that will not only be healthy for your baby but will put you on track for restful nights in the near future: give your baby full feedings every time she nurses.

Believe me, keeping your baby awake enough to drink her belly full of milk will be hard at first, but the effort you put into this in the first few days will pay off 100-fold over the next several months. She will be relaxed and energetic enough to peek around and get to know you a little before her next nap after which she will be rested, hungry, and ready for another full feeding. Just as snacking leads to more snacking, beginning wake time with a full meal allows a baby to develop healthy metabolic and sleep patterns. Within a week or two, she will probably transition into a natural routine of eating every 2 ½ to 3 hours and spending 30 to 40 minutes nursing at each feeding, but in the beginning forget about the clock and just focus on full feedings.

Every newborn is incredibly sleepy and the comfort of warm milk encourages dozing. Here are some tips for getting in those full meals:

  • Feed your baby as soon as she wakes up. You’ll probably still see the eyelids drooping, but it will be easier to keep the baby nursing if she’s just woken up from a good snooze. Additionally, it’s the first step to establishing a healthy metabolism.
  • Follow a 10-10-5-5 (minutes) feeding pattern alternating sides or otherwise interrupt the meal, possibly to relieve burps. The movement will recapture your baby’s attention and help her stay awake.
  • Talk to her, gently squeeze her feet, and and give nudges to keep the eyes open and the sucking strong.
  • Strip her down to just a diaper for the meal. She will have enough heat from your body and the warmth of the milk, and being a little cooler will help her stay awake. Besides, it’s very likely she will need a diaper change before she is through feeding anyway and this will speed up the changing process. Warning: If you have problems with leaky diapers, use a small, thin blanket between you and the diaper area as a shield.

These suggestions comes from the book, “On Becoming Baby Wise,” by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam.

Should I Vaccinate My Kids?

When I hear people make generalized statements about vaccines, I consider them ignorant whether they are for or against them. Because here’s the thing: each vaccine is different, each disease is different, each child and family circumstance is different. Parents should weigh the risks of a particular disease against the risks of its available vaccines and use their own judgment to determine which immunizations to give their children and when.

Five years ago, I was pregnant with my oldest child when I first heard about those “wackos” who don’t vaccinate their children. The idea made me curious and a little fired up. Were these parents crazy? How could they possibly justify that kind of neglect? What were their motives and the effects? I also realized I didn’t know very much about vaccines or the “terrible” diseases they’re meant to prevent, and I felt a little silly for my blind belief. So I did a little digging and I found that there are legitimate reasons for concern.

Reasons I use caution with vaccines:

  • Needles hurt and are scary. Being repeatedly poked is traumatic for kids.
  • The brain has natural defenses to keep toxins out of it, but these defenses are not fully developed in newborn babies. Unless a disease is particularly dangerous to children of that age, it is safer to wait a few months or years before starting vaccinations.
  • For most people vaccines are effective at producing antibodies, but they are not as effective as actually having the sickness. Routine vaccination must be continued for a lifetime with booster shots at five or ten-year intervals, but most adults do not keep current with immunizations. This is serious considering some diseases are more dangerous for adults than for children (ex: Chickenpox). For these reasons it may be better for a child to build natural immunity by experiencing the sickness.
  • There may be unknown risks with some of the ingredients such as heavy metals. Thimerosal (mercury) is no longer an ingredient in children’s vaccines (discontinued in 2005), but no research has been done on aluminum toxicity in vaccines even though aluminum is known to cause neurological harm. Vaccines contain such small amounts that most people don’t worry about it, but little is known about the real impact particularly on children.
  • Many vaccines contain animal and human cell tissue. Even though these tissues are screened for infection, it is possible that they will contain something unknown or undetectable. This has actually happened with the SV-40 virus. It was given to almost 30 million Americans between 1955 and 1963 and again to 150 newborns in 1980, but the virus was not discovered for decades afterward. SV-40 is known to cause several kinds of brain tumors and cancers in animals, and it has been discovered in human cancer cells of people who were injected with the vaccine as children.
  • A few vaccines contain live viruses which make them more risky. For example, the rotavirus vaccine is a relatively new vaccine for babies, and many moms and caregivers do not know that the virus is often still alive when it comes out in the diaper and is not killed by common cleansers. This makes it easy for siblings and friends to contract rotavirus from a recently vaccinated baby. Another example is the live virus polio vaccine (no longer given in the US). In 2005 an American received this vaccine overseas, then returned and spread the disease within their community.
  • There is no point in arguing that vaccines are harmless. Although there’s controversy about how severe and common adverse reactions are, even the CDC acknowledges that vaccines have risks.

Do vaccines cause Autism?

It is very possible that the mercury in vaccines caused autism in some children, but we will never know for sure. Some reasons are that diagnosis is fairly new and the definition of autism keeps changing–it is a very broad name for many conditions and varies from kid to kid. So many other factors have changed in society over the years that we cannot directly tie this change to vaccination trends.

The most impressive information I have seen suggesting a correlation was a side-by-side chart comparing Asperger’s Disease (autism) to mercury poisoning.  Something else to consider is that the number of reported cases of autism and similar severe symptoms are significantly higher for MMR compared to other shots, which makes me think at least some of them are caused by the vaccine and not just coincidence.

Although mercury is no longer used in routine vaccines for children, it is in many flu shots and adult vaccines (so watch out pregnant mamas!).  Even without it, there is no guarantee that we won’t have similar results from other ingredients used in place of mercury.

What We Did

At this point you’re probably wondering if my husband and I vaccinated our children. Yes, we did give them some vaccines even before we decided to be international travelers, because there are some awful diseases that we wanted to protect against.  With international travel and new health trends and troubles, I would not be surprised to see outbreaks in the future. But we did our research, we discussed the issue with our pediatrician who had helpful information about outbreaks specific to our area, and we set our own vaccine schedule for our children. In addition, we took the following steps to decrease chances of adverse reactions when vaccines were given:

  1. Only give one vaccine at a time. (Don’t overload the immune system.)
  2. Be sure my children show signs of good health when they receive vaccines.
  3. Give vitamin C (or other boosters) to strengthen the immune system for a few days.
  4. Do not give new vaccines to my children. Wait at least 6 months to see if any side effects are found after widespread administration.
  5. Request individually packaged dosages. (Doses from bulk packages might be too concentrated if not shaken.)
  6. Carefully observe my children for a few days after they receive a vaccine.

Well, best of luck to you making this one of many important decisions as a parent. The best tangible resource I’ve found about this topic is The Vaccine Book–Making the Right Decision for Your Child by Robert Sears.  (You can read a rebuttal published in Pediatrics and Dr. Sears’s response online.)  And don’t forget about spiritual resources, too. God gave you your child which means He trusts you and will guide you.