the wedge

By Joe, Board of Directors, Little Images

You and your wife get along pretty well.

I mean, you wouldn't have married her in the first place if that weren't the case, right?

But there's one topic here in America that seems to drive a wedge between husband and wife that rocks at least one of you to the core.

That wedge? Circumcision.

You might have never discussed it before the 20-week ultrasound when the technician proudly proclaimed to you, "it's gonna be a boy!" Now, she's against it, but you want it done. You tell yourself that she's going to just have to get over it. Your son is getting circumcised. End of discussion.

It might be because you're circumcised, and you want your son to be like you.

Or maybe you heard horror stories about what it was like for someone you might know who got picked on in the locker room, or had some health problem.

Maybe it's because you're religious, and you're pretty sure it's in the Bible somewhere.

Maybe you're not sure why. You just want it done.

You might say, “it's just what you do.”

But your wife doesn't agree with you. What now?

Chances are she's tried to tell you her point of view.

She probably gave you some articles to read.

She probably wants you to watch Elephant in the Hospital.

Even more disturbing, she might be asking you to watch a video of an actual circumcision.

None of these things are gonna sway you. Your mind is set. 

Except it shouldn't be set, because your decision should be a fully-informed one.

Here's the thing. She might fight you until the last second. You might win. Your son might be circumcised. You might not think twice of it. But it will haunt her forever. 

Think about it. She has a mother's instinct about her child. She has the innate drive to protect her children at all costs. She's a 'mama bear'. And she's made up her mind that circumcising her son is not something she morally or ethically agrees with. As the nurturer, she feels that this is wrong. She's done her homework and learned some things, and she desperately wants you to see things the way she sees them.

And she's being forced to go against every instinct in her heart telling her to protect her baby. 

You're making her choose peace with you over protecting him. And that's not fair to her.

When given the option between letting her win this one vs. hurting her by making her go through with it, there's only one loving option.

Think about it: she'll be reminded of what she allowed to happen against her conscience every time she changes his diaper. Every day, multiple times a day, she is immediately confronted with it. I would never wish this on my wife. 

She might never tell you how she feels either, especially if you make it seem like it's futile to even try.

Don't believe me?

Here's a story that a mom recently told me under the agreement I would keep her anonymous:

"I feel like I failed my son when he could not speak for himself. With this I have a lot of guilt related to my first son's circumcision.

The conversation of circumcision started before I was even pregnant. I knew a little on the importance of staying intact and knew I wanted to leave my sons intact but didn't educate myself quite enough.

My husband always stayed on the stance that it's tradition and he wanted our son to look the same as him. He's generally very supportive and we work well in parenting generally but this is where we hit a head. During my pregnancy, especially towards the end, we got into some heated arguments where we ended up not speaking for the rest of the day. We spoke to family and friends, and they also pressured me to agree to a circumcision. Many of their arguments were regarding tradition and how this decision should be left up to the father since he's the one with a penis.

I felt defeated because I knew no one that would support and back up my decision to leave my son intact. Then came the time to get him circumcised. I went into the office feeling sick, my husband by my side. They took him back and about 10-15 minutes brought him back. He was in so much distress. I couldn't calm him and I sat in tears that I just tortured my son.

Then came the aftercare.

I have never seen a penis so red and swollen. Every diaper change was excruciating for my son and me. Everyone told me to just give it a few days and it will drastically improve.

Two days passed, then three, then five, then onto a week. He was still so swollen and in so much pain.

It has caused long standing traumatic feelings for me. I hated myself... I still hate myself for that.

I was so angry at my husband. I emotionally detached from him for a while. He knew I blamed him for what I felt was cruel treatment.

I think ultimately we got over the fresh cut of the damage done to the relationship. But with that being said, it seems as if the wound is gradually being reopened as we are getting closer to having to make a decision again.

I knew eventually we would decide to have another kid and although I really wanted a boy I would wish for a girl so that I wouldn't have to figure out how to prevent another circumcision while everyone around me criticized my desires. But here I am about 20 weeks pregnant with another boy. I've brought up circumcision with my husband and he just withdraws and doesn't want to address it. Maybe it's because he knows I'm better prepared this time and more willing to fight. Maybe it's because he figures if he waits this will just blow over and I'll agree. I'm not sure. But I'm sure a battle is brewing especially now that we have one son that is cut."

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Here are just a few statements from other moms who have spoken up:

"I agreed to it because of course my husband knew best since he had that equipment. Then I read more about it. My relationship with my husband was impacted in subsequent pregnancies. At first he was very insistent that if we had more boys they be circumcised. As depressed as I became after our 3 miscarriages, I actually prayed before our gender reveals with our 2 daughters that if I were pregnant with boys God would take them home before birth rather than let me harm them that way. When my husband learned that, he was willing to take a second look."

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"My husband is my best friend and love of my life but I can't seem to fully forgive him yet either.And I absolutely hate that. This is so unlike me to hold onto anything. Ignorance is bliss because I was once one of the happiest moms you may have met."

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"Do I regret it? Yes. Do I wish I had stood up to my husband and handled it differently? Yes. Would I have done things differently if I had a more smooth delivery? Most definitely."

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Contrast these stories to these professions of relief and joy:

"When it came down to the final weeks of pregnancy, things were still high tension surrounding this subject. Hubby and I were still on extreme opposite sides of this argument. It came down to this: it wasn’t a medically necessary procedure and therefore the baby would stay intact. I cannot tell you the healing that has come to me through breaking the cycle of pain by leaving our second intact. There are no words."

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"I agree that this scenario happens too often. I can think of 3 good friends who submitted with a lot of mental/emotional anguish, very reluctantly consenting to have their infants circumcised. I'm so thankful that my husband took the time to listen to my reservations about circumcision and ultimately agreed to leave our son whole."

Another thing to consider: This topic is being discussed more and more in today's culture. When your son asks your wife about circumcision in the future, and why you had it done to him, it's very possible she'll say something like, “well, I didn't want to do it, but your father insisted on it.” You might have some explaining to do. Your son might be pretty upset. It might even damage your relationship with him. Is that something you want to risk?

The Moral of the Story: This is not a fight worth winning.

You might win the argument, but you'll lose part of her in the long run.

Let her have this one. I guarantee you won't regret it.