Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Tipping Point

By Mimi Hecht




"I felt deeply that G-d was looking out for my son's reproductive organ."


THE TIPPING POINT 



I was recovering in the hospital after the birth of my son when I
learned that the American Academy of Pediatrics no longer endorsed
routine neonatal circumcision. While my family buzzed excitedly with
plans for the Bris, a hospital pamphlet encouraged me to make “an
educated decision,” presenting me with reasons to opt out of the
pending procedure (on my unknowing son’s behalf, of course).


But "educated" or not, I knew that I had no choice. As a Jew, no
matter who endorsed or didn’t endorse circumcision, my son was going
to enter the covenant of Abraham by marking the eighth day of his life
with the celebratory removal of his foreskin. Though I was not immune
to the speculation that circumcision could possibly be harmful to my
baby - potentially ridding him of precious antibacterial proteins and
erogenous sensitivity - I felt deeply that G-d was looking out for my
son’s reproductive organ.

Indeed, eight days later, my son followed two thousand years of Jewish
tradition and bid his foreskin adieu.

However, I, his Jewish mother, silently followed the circumcision
debate. Having been introduced to the questions, I was now curious.
Could there really be a reasonable argument against Judaism’s earliest
ritual? I read the studies, perused "Mothers Against Circumcision"
sites and learned about the growing number of parents opting out of
circumcision.

But I quickly became lost. No matter how hard I tried in collecting
facts, there seemed to be no real consensus among pediatricians and
surgeons. While the AAP no longer endorsed circumcision, they
certainly didn’t condemn it. Furthermore, I was forced to rule out the
voice of anti-circumcision campaigners, an outcry consistently based
solely on being disgusted by the circumcision procedure itself, citing
possible complications that pediatricians all agree are rare. The only
solid piece of information, of little importance to me and my family,
was that circumcision was successful in curbing the spread of AIDS in
men in Africa.

Then one day, I was flipping through the most beloved motherhood
manual, “What to Expect: The First Year,” when a simple reminder
changed the course of my queries. In her opening to the section on
circumcision, Heidi Murkoff writes, “Circumcision is probably the
oldest medical procedure still performed.” That straightforward fact
hit me like a thousand bricks of “duh.”

Why was I acting lost on the matter? A Jew questioning circumcision! I
suddenly felt ridiculous (and a little guilty) for being so concerned
with what everyone else had to say about circumcision, when it was an
unchallenged fact for my father and his father and his father…all the
way back to the original commandment. While the world was easily
throwing a question at the extra foreskin with all its inconclusive
studies and articles, Judaism was confidently calling the Mohel.

My realization about circumcision’s history ended my search with the
one authority I began with: my own faith was the only clear voice on
this below-the-belt matter. Now I have returned to researching more
consequential things, wishing G-d’s voice would also ring out about
whether or not to buy a Bugaboo stroller or his take on the perilous
war on child vaccinations.

Though I have swiftly cut off my questioning on foreskin, articles
addressing circumcision still beg my read. Most recently, a study
showed that most parents feel it’s important to have their boys
resemble daddy – if the father is circumcised, the son should follow
suit. Now that sounds just like what my Jewish brethren have been
doing all along…all the way back to our father Abraham
.

8 LadyMama voices:

Chani V said... [Reply to comment]

You always have a way of saying things as they are. Being HUMAN, you questioned the idea of circumcision, I too felt that way. Just because of the pain that my firstborn son went through,, I actually asked Hashem not to give me another boy to have to put this through... Foolish me. My boys are delicious, and growing up exactly as I want them to today. Still I cant help but admire your courage to publicly say, I AM HUMAN. I can feel things, and question things. When all is said and done, our nurture, meaning the environment that we grew up in, kicks in, and allows us to decide right and wrong. Fantastic article Mimi, as you show, that a person who grew up with your convictions will come to the right conclusions, regardless of if she loves those 'right things' that need to be done.

Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

Medicine is like fashion, certain fads come & go and various theories are presented like they are facts and later discovered "facts" overturn what was once believed to be THE truth. Untimately only the ONE who wrote the Owner's manual knows THE truth so it's wise to follow His advise! when i was in medical school (and it wasn't so long ago!), they said circumcision prevents certain conditions such as priapism because the bacteria (and virusus like HIV mentioned in the article) don't have a place to incubate. so it was medically endorsed then. many moms go thru this trauma and can relate to your emotions, thoughts, and concerns. some non-orthodox circles do it with topical anasthesia because they feel it is more humane--less suffering for baby.

Rebecca said... [Reply to comment]

"Extra foreskin"? What about it is "extra" exactly? The male infant is born with the penis as a single, unseparated organ -- his foreskin is fused to his glans (head of he penis), the same way our fingernails are fused to our fingers. Don't you think that means it's supposed to be there? The 90% of men in this world who are intact are not signing up for mass circumcision -- indicating that they don't feel all those nerve endings and the sexual functions of the foreskin are "extra," disposable at the whim of someone else's religion or aesthetics. Not to mention, what about the right of the owner of the penis to decide how he wants it to look? What if your sons don't give a damn if they look like their dad, or if they grow up to reject your religion? What if they resent you for altering their most private parts without their permission and for no good reason?

Too bad you let that horrible "What to Expect" book undermine your decent, human urges to protect your son and instead jump on the bandwagon of thousands of years of unjustified mutilation.

Rebecca said... [Reply to comment]

"Extra foreskin"? What about it is "extra" exactly? The male infant is born with the penis as a single, unseparated organ -- his foreskin is fused to his glans (head of he penis), the same way our fingernails are fused to our fingers. Don't you think that means it's supposed to be there? I don't think intact men feel that all those nerve endings and the sexual functions of the foreskin are "extra," disposable at the whim of someone else's religion or aesthetics. Not to mention, what about the right of the owner of the penis to decide how he wants it to look? What if your sons don't give a damn if they look like their dad, or if they grow up to reject your religion? What if they resent you for making this choice for them, permanently altering their most private parts for no good reason?

Too bad you let that horrible "What to Expect" book undermine your decent, human urges to protect your son and instead jump on the bandwagon of thousands of years of unjustified mutilation.

Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

Your son's body is not yours. You had no right to mutilate him if it wasn't medically necessary. Circumcision leaves the child in trauma for the rest of his life. It also reduces men's sexual pleasure by 70% and has no significant health benefit. Your son's well-being should have been your FIRST concern, and nothing else should have mattered, especially not religion.

Myway613 said... [Reply to comment]

The same trauma that vaccination leaves. The same trauma that weaning leaves. The same trauma as that first day of school. The same trauma as their first break-up. The same trauma as their first rejection notice from college or a job. ... Yes, trauma is difficult and trauma is unpleasant- but it is a necessary part of life. For a Jew circumcision is a sign of agreeing that all of your baby is committed to being a Jew. A Jew covers their head. A Jew covers their body to reveal their dignity. and a Jew is either circumsized and/or circumsizes their son to show that even their most intimate part is to be used al taharas hakodesh.

StopChildRapeNY said... [Reply to comment]

@MyWay613

Circumcision is permanent sexual mutilation. I'm Jewish, circumcised, and I'm so upset that I'm undergoing a multi-year, multi-thousand hour process to restore some of the functionality of my foreskin.

To compare genital mutilation to a person's first breakup or weaning is bizarre. I don't regret my first breakup every time I urinate, every time I have sex. And last time I checked no person has a right to inflict their religion's call for permanent bodily mutilation on a baby. In other countries, people use the same excuse to cut off girls' clitorises for "religious reasons."

Last, let's not forget the many baby boys, every year, who lose their entire penises or even their lives from complications of circumcision and botch jobs. Please tell the boy whose mohel left him with no glans that this is trauma is a normal, acceptable part of life.

Miriam said... [Reply to comment]

I, like you was raised in a Chabad household and questioned circumcision. I still question it, after my son's bris. In my heart of hearts I believe it is wrong. I have read about the history of the practice and the evolution of the extent of the milah to what is termed "full priah" of the foreskin. I don't believe this is a Godly or kind act and in line with other "Jewish values". I don't believe that for a Jew to identify as a member of the tribe we need to perpetuate a violent, patriarchal act upon our children. I would love to continue the conversation and am really happy to see you open it. Though you write you have closed it, just by commenting on a subject held long-taboo in frum circles you have opened a tiny door for which I am grateful. Thank you.