My son Jude, age 27 months, will be going under the knife tomorrow morning. It’s nothing serious, really, except I’m opting to have him circumcised. I’m still freaking out about it. And maybe more so now since he’s a toddler and usually this is a process that is either done soon after birth or forgotten about because it was not opted for during infancy.
I’m experiencing anxiety about this, mostly because I feel like a bad mom for a) not deciding to do this earlier or b) deciding to do it at all. When Jude was a baby I just didn’t feel circumcising was necessary. To me, what would excess skin really do? Why would a baby need to be strapped to a board and cut, without anesthesia?
Well, as I embarked on furthering my nursing education, I had a lightbulb moment. It was during the Reproductive Unit in my Pathophysiology class that my stomach felt all funny and immense guilt washed over me about my son’s uncut penis. Staring at me were words like “increased risk for cancer” and “complications with care”. Why, oh why, hadn’t I truly researched this? Why had I taken a laissez-faire approach to something rather crucial in a boy’s life? I tried to ignore my feelings, reassuring myself that the health decision I’d made for Jude upon his arrival was the right one. His first dad wasn’t altered, so why should he have to be?
A couple weeks after that small seed was planted in my brain, we found ourselves at the local nurse practitioner’s office for a check-up and pre-dermatology consult (for an entirely unrelated issue). It was discovered at that appointment that Jude’s er… equipment wasn’t being managed as well as it should. There’s actually work involved in having a non-circumcised boy. And I wasn’t keeping up on the whole foreskin-management thing. Talk about embarassing. There I stood, wanting to believe that I had made the best choice for Jude in not making him be chopped by a knife and the ARNP was telling me I hadn’t taken good enough care of the penis because his foreskin wouldn’t retract. I felt horrible. How could I have failed Jude like this? Not to mention his right testicle doesn’t entirely descend without some manipulation. Recalling my textbook, I knew that these two things put Jude at an increased risk for penile cancer and other anatomical complications.
I heard myself saying the words “Yes, I’d like a urology consult” before I actually realized what that meant. I’ve been told that the older a boy gets, the more a circumcision hurts. Oh great. Not only have I failed to manage my son’s foreskin but now I’m going to cause him unforeseen pain? The urology consult fell on a date that I was in class. Without second thought, Kane did the fatherly duty and took Jude and later relayed information to me. It’s probably best that way, because I’ve had moments where second (and third and fourth) thoughts flash through my mind and I want to back out of the procedure. I want to spare Jude whatever pain awaits him. I’m scared that his penis will be disfigured. I’m scared that my advanced two year old is going to wonder ‘Why the hell did my mom do this to me?!’ I’m scared that changing my mind about something so critical in a boy’s life means I was irresponsible about the whole decision in the first place. Mostly, I’m tired of feeling like I have to explain myself, which is mostly explaining of myself TO myself. (Does that make sense?)
Besides the fact that I’m entirely responsible for Jude’s health and well-being, I think what strikes as most ironic about this situation is that I don’t even have a penis and I’m obligated to make a decision about one. I felt so strongly about not circumcising Jude as an infant that doing a 180 is almost a dose of humility. To say “As I learned more about this my opinion has actually changed” is not always easy, especially when you’re talking in the context of being a parent. As a parent, I want to believe that the decision I made and the instructions I gave the first time around were the right ones and that I didn’t fumble (if not completely drop) the ball in regards to my children’s lives. As a mom, it is my duty to always do what’s best for my son (and step-daughter in waiting) and realizing that I didn’t quite make the most informed decision (for me and my beliefs) is a big pill to swallow.
Melodrama aside, Jude will go into the procedure room around 8:00 a.m. tomorrow. He will come out being my same smart, sassy, sweet, sweet boy. Someday I may explain to him the internal struggle this had caused me. I may not. Someday he may come to me asking parental advice about something that’s a big deal to him and his wife. I’ll simply tell him “Parenting is a journey. It is both a solitary journey of growth and learning and a team journey you take with your children, who teach you and catalyze your growth. Parenting is the singlemost challenging and rewarding thing you may ever do in your lifetime. Listen to your brain and your heart in equal doses. Always remember that the little pair of eyes looking at you is watching and abosrbing how you learn and handle situations. Children glean from you your grace and dignity, so even if you change your mind about something (which you are entitle to do), show them that you are confident in every choice you make. Show them also, that every choice you make is with their best interests at heart.”
Please pray in Jesus’ name for a safe and speedy procedure tomorrow and for God to give me the words to speak if Jude asks “What happened to my winky?”
*Disclaimer: I am fully aware that parenting views, thoughts and opinions vary greatly. For some, circumcision is a controversial topic. If I have offended you in any way, please know that is not the intent of this post. This is merely a personal story about my personal journey as a mom. Please do not offer criticism to this post, as I’m not interested in it. Thank you for reading and happy parenting to you (if applicable)!