To snip or not to snip: circumcision and mother's guilt


I grew up in a house of girls. My dad was outnumbered from day one when my eldest sister arrived. It’s a trend that wasn’t bucked in our household. So when I was pregnant, I was convinced the lineage of Moses women would continue.

Well, I was wrong. ‘Oh look, one leg, two legs… three legs,’ was what my gynae said to me five years ago, when I asked (just to be sure) about the sex of my baby. I was floored. The ensuing chat with my sisters went something like this: What are we going to do with a penis? A boy? But how? Now what the hell do we do? Ouma was stunned into silence – the purple Minnie Mouse sandals to be passed on to someone having, well, a girl!

Ag wat, seuntjies is maar maklik (boys are easy), an old friend reassured me. Multi-tasking need never be an issue for you! They’re easy to please. And once the initial shock wore off, I was fine with it. Sure he’d be busy – and that has been 150% true. I don’t really get squeamish. What’s some dirt and spiders and boy’s stuff got on me, right? Dinosaurs are cool, and I have become rather adept at the likes of Optimus Prime, Bumble Bee… Side Swipe… Leonardo, Raphael, Spiderman, Avengers, Justice League. Glitterforce doesn’t do much for me, although he does like that too! Food, cars, super heroes – all in a day’s work.

So in January this year, when Luca came to me and said, 'Mommy, my penis is sore,' I wasn’t too fazed. We have already done the stitches-ER-run a few times. He had had a playdate, maybe they just played rough. The next morning, however, things were looking a bit hairy. Off to the GP we went, who immediately got the paediatrician on the line. 

The diagnosis was balanitis, as well as quite a serious bladder infection – rare in boys, I am told. He was given an oral antibiotic, and an ointment to be applied directly to the penis for the foreskin issue – but make sure you really get in there, the doctor instructed me.  So I did as I was told. But suffice to say, it was a bit too up close and personal for me. (He’s five, not five months!)

When it happened again recently, I thought I was prepared. Steeling myself for the ointment drill, I went straight to the paed this time. When she had a look, I saw so much more than I did the previous time – the retraction went way back. I sat down very quickly. We were sent packing to the urologist. After yet another eyeful for mom, and a perfunctory sniff from the specialist, he promptly booked him in for a circumcision.

Luca wasn’t circumcised at birth because there was no medical or religious reason to do so. The advice from several doctors was to leave him be. In his natural state as it were. What did I know?

But doing due diligence, I went to do my reading about the procedure, minor as it was. And because maybe I might be a little paranoid. I wish I hadn’t!

Like antivaxxers, those against circumcision are something.

There are movements called The Whole Network: Not Just Skin… The emphasis is on keeping your son WHOLE. 

"Does your son realise he's getting surgery to cut his foreskin off? If not, he will likely be infuriated and may very well develop deep, lifelong emotional issues, rage, and distrust. And, yes, circumcision is exceedingly painful and takes a long time to heal. Babies can only cry and have no words to tell how much they hurt. I would strongly encourage you to cancel his surgery! Most doctors have not been taught properly about the natural penis," was a post on one of the forums I read.

I wasn’t aware I was attempting to make him NOT WHOLE. This of course sent the paranoia to another level. I don’t have a penis… I have no idea if I will be ruining his life in any way… OMG what have done?

But then I came to my senses. Repeated infections that could lead to long-term damage are clearly not an option. He will be fine. He may hate me for a few days after – there are bribes for that. And grovelling, lots of grovelling.

And a vineyard of wine for the mom guilt that is coming post-op. 

Read more:

Taking care of the newly circumcised penis

The Man-Up campaign: promoting voluntary medical circumcision

Has your son developed balanitis or a similar infection that prompted the doctor to advise you to have your son circumcised? Send your comments to us at and we may publish them (anonymously if you wish).

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Gauteng DA leader Solly Msimanga says the party's voters want it to explore conditional coalition talks with the ANC. 
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
It's a step in the right direction. An ANC-DA coalition would be the most stable option for SA
33% - 2858 votes
The DA should focus on working with all opposition parties, including the EFF, to unseat the ANC
15% - 1267 votes
The DA should rather remain in opposition than form a coalition with the ANC or the EFF
52% - 4532 votes
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.