In 1985 when my son was born, conventional thinking on circumcision had begun to change. No longer was it just an accepted fact that boy babies would have their foreskins snipped.
In fact, 1985â€™s pregnant women were told that circumcision was an invasive, unnecessary abuse of babies.
Most women I knew preferred their men circumcised, though. An aesthetic thing.
So I was undecided for nine months as to what I would do when my baby boy was born.
Complicating this decision were two personal experiences I had had. When I was a TV reporter in Atlanta, Iâ€™d done a series called â€œBirth Without Fear.â€ One segment was on home deliveries. The nice couple whoâ€™d agreed to let us tape them having their baby at home liked the videographer and me so much that they invited us to the home circumcision.
The baby screamed and screamed. Mommy cried and cried. I was horrified.
Then, a man I knew told me that his son had gone into shock while being circumcised sans anesthesia. Oxygen deprived, the babyâ€™s brain was damaged. Mentally, he would never progress beyond â€œlittle boy.â€
So, even though insurance companies cover the procedure and many hospitals offer it to newborns free of charge, for my sonâ€™s first three years of life â€“ he wasnâ€™t circumcised. He got multiple infections under his foreskin, no matter how conscientious I was about keeping him clean. I had to pull it back to apply Bacitracin. It stuck. Then bled. My baby screamed. Mommy cried.
Then I began reading articles that said uncircumcised men might be more at risk of contracting AIDS and urinary tract infections. Also, he was confused and embarrassed when kids at his preschool teased him for looking â€œdifferent.â€ So, when he was 3 Â½ and having a dental procedure that required general anesthetic, I decided to have him circumcised while he was â€˜out.â€™ I havenâ€™t regretted that decision, nor does he.
About a decade ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics (http://www.aap.org/) stopped endorsing routine circumcision. But a recent study of African men concluded that those who are circumcised contracted AIDS less often than those who are not. The academy is revisiting the issue. In Upper Midwest states, like Ohio where I grew up, studies find circumcision remains routine. In Western states, like California where I live now, with its large Latin American and Asian populations, studies find it is in decline. In those cultures, most boys who look like dad still have their foreskins.
Nonetheless, circumcision remains this countryâ€™s most common surgery â€“ ongoing controversy notwithstanding.