Kathy Vaccaro waited until she gave birth to find out whether she was having a boy or a girl. But she knew that if her baby was in fact a boy, she would have to make a decision: Whether or not to circumcise. After receiving counsel from the midwives who helped her deliver and talking it over with her husband, Kathy knew exactly how she wanted to proceed when she gave birth in June 2010 to a little boy named Enzo ... She would not circumcise her son. Four years later, she has absolutely no regrets about her decision.
Kathy talked to The Stir about how she came to this personal decision and why she couldn't be happier about it.
What was the first time you thought about or talked about having to make the decision?
Throughout my pregnancy, we did not know if Enzo was going to be a boy or a girl. We wanted to be surprised, so we didn't know, but we knew that ultimately we had to make a decision, and I think we started talking about it throughout the pregnancy. Then, we used a a group of midwives, and I feel like they lean towards what's natural. One of the midwives was Jewish, and I asked her, 'Well, did you circumcise your son?' And she said, 'Yes, but that was for religious reasons.' So I don't feel like I was being pressured to do it or not do it. I was just getting information. I talked to another midwife, and she said, 'Well, there is no medical reason. If you're on the fence, then I would recommend not doing it, because you can't ever get it reversed.' So I threw it back to my husband, and I said to him, 'Well, you're a boy, and you have a penis, so it's kinda up to you.'
What did your husband have to say about it?
He is circumcised. And anytime [I say] that Enzo's not circumcised, people ask, 'Well, is your husband circumcised?' People want their son's penis to match the father's penis. But that didn't bother my husband at all. He didn't really have an issue with it. And as the midwife said, 'Well, if you had big boobs, would you tell your daughter to get fake boobs so her boobs matched yours?' I would say, 'No, I would not!' But it really came down to the medical reason for both of us. If there was no medical reason, we weren't going to do it. So we didn't, and I could not be happier. Zero regrets.
What research have you done since making the choice?
I've read about what I need to be doing as a mom to clean him. Everytime I go to the pediatrician, I ask and they said, 'The foreskin will retract on it's own. You never pull it or force it.' So when I give him a bath, I will gently open it a little bit, and make sure to use soapy water, but I don't ever force anything. I've also read that it just kind of like cleans itself. There's normal lubrication that happens that's cleansing. So you're really not supposed to be doing anything or interfering or anything like that.
What do you think you'll say if he asks you about it one day?
I know he'll ask me some day, 'Why aren't I circumcised?' He'll be in the locker room or whatever. And I will tell him, 'Mommy couldn't make that decision for you, because it's your penis.' I'm not going to make a decision that could maybe affect his sexuality some day. I'm the mom, but it's not MY penis. I would also probably tell him the reasons behind it, like it's not medically necessary. I wouldn't cut off my eyelid, because I thought my eyelid was ugly! The foreskin serves a purpose, just like your eyelid serves a purpose. If he gets teased about it, we could just talk about people being different and making different choices and that type of thing. I'll have to prepare myself for that conversation, too.
What sort of conversations have you had with other moms about it?
I have so many friends who have boys, and I usually ask them, 'Are you going to get them circumcised?' and they always say yes, and I always keep my mouth shut. Because you know what, it's kind of like the breastfeeding thing. I breastfed, I'm a huge proponent of breastfeeding, but if someone chooses not to, that's their decision. I'm not going to shun them, judge them. But when people say, 'Oh yeah, I'm going to circumcise!' it's almost like they didn't give it that much thought. Granted, I didn't do a ton of research. I was just listening to the midwives, but now that I've done more research after the fact, I wish more people would do their research instead of routinely doing it. But if it's a religious thing, that's fine, too. Everyone has their own reasons for doing it.
Have any friends or family members expressed discontent with your decision?
My dad probably did say something after the fact, and I may have said something like, 'Dad, I'm so happy with this decision. Too bad.' People have also said, 'But your son is going to look different in the locker room.' I've gotten that so many times. And they've asked, 'What happens when he looks different at school? What if he gets teased about it?' I'm like, 'I don't care, because he's not going to be the only one in his entire class!' He might be one of the few. And as time goes on, you would hope that the [percentage of circumcised boys] goes down.
What kinds of interactions have you had with other moms about it?
When we're on a playdate, and I'm changing his diaper, and someone else is in the room, I'll say it in passing, in a very matter-of-fact way that he's not circumcised. But it's never really turned into a topic of conversation. I almost wish that it would! But I don't ever want to be the mom that's like, 'You have to it this way! You need to do it that way!' People probably don't do that much research on circumcision, because it is so routine. But I bet if [moms] did more research about it, they'd do it a bit differently.
How did you make the decision to have it done to your son or not?
Image via Kathy Vaccaro