From a medical standpoint there are no good scientific reasons for circumcision. As much as it may prevent certain sexually transmitted diseases and penile cancer, these conditions are too rare to justify routine surgery. Religious, cultural, or personal reasons, on the other hand, may compel you to do so. But if you’re going to trim your son’s foreskin, just be clear about your reasons.
You may want Jimmy circumcised so he’ll look like everyone else in the locker room. But these days, about a half of all boys are uncircumcised. You may not want him to look different from his father. This, too, seems specious; it wouldn’t take long to explain to him why you decided to spare him foreskin-removal surgery. If he decided at some point that he really wanted to look like his daddy, he could always elect to have the procedure done at that point.
In the end, much of the fuss over circumcision seems like mountains out of molehills; both options have been practiced for tens of thousands of years. Whatever decision you make will be the right one.
Pain of Circumcision
If you decide to circumcise Jimmy, there’s still the pain question. Are you subjecting him to a formative physical and psychological trauma that will scar him in later years? Hard to say. Since it happens so close to the shock of delivery, the procedure is probably just another hardship. Painkillers are not particularly effective. A penile anesthetic block requires about three shots in the penis before it takes effect, and in the end that’s just as painful and traumatic as the circumcision itself. Anesthetic creams have a limited effect. Finally, Jewish people use a drop of sweet wine on the baby’s tongue during traditional circumcisions, but last I looked, there’s no Manischewitz at my local hospital’s pharmacy. Having witnessed lots of these procedures, I think that what boys most hate is being held tight for a long period of time. But since they aren’t in a position to articulate their complaints, it’s hard to know for sure.
After a circumcision, the baby’s penis will be wrapped and left to heal. This wrapping presses on the wound to stop bleeding in the first couple of hours following the procedure. It should be removed within the first day, or it will stick to the penis. After it’s off, apply a greasy antibiotic ointment liberally on the penis for a couple of days. This has the virtue of limiting the wound’s contact with stools and urine as well as preventing infection. Healing is usually unproblematic, apart from a little redness and a small yellow crust that lasts about a week. This crust does not represent infection, which is actually quite rare. If infected, the penis becomes much more red, swollen, and painful.
It may surprise you to learn that circumcision is not an all-or-nothing affair. The amount of skin that gets cut varies. Sometimes the foreskin still covers the head of the penis and it looks like nothing was done. Other times, there’s more skin left on one side than the other. This occurs because it’s not easy for the person performing the procedure to control the exact amount of skin snipped, and he or she is wary of cutting it too close. Not to worry. Many years later, after the penis has grown and the extra skin has evened out, it will look just like you think a circumcised penis should.