By all means, wince away. The mere thought of a circumcision is enough to make the biggest brute want to stick a thumb in his mouth, curl up into a ball and cry for his mama.
You’ll note from my surname that religion had nothing to do with why we decided to get this procedure performed on our son. As with most countries in the world, circumcisions are not standard practice here in China. We originally intended to have it done soon-after our son’s birth, but the hospital where we had him did not have the proper licensing or facilities to do so. After asking around we learned that Beijing United Family Hospital is one of the few that does.
It certainly wasn’t an easy choice – there is no shortage of controversy over the perceived benefits (i.e. decreased risk of infections and sexually transmitted diseases, a possible reduction in penile cancer risk) vs. the possible risks (risk of infection, pain and discomfort for the baby etc.). But in the end, we elected to go through it for what we believe will be the long-term health benefits – particularly the lowered risk of many forms of infection as he grows older.
Although it’s a fairly routine and short procedure, circumcisions are indeed quite unpleasant for both parent and child (emphasis on the latter, of course). We elected to do this sooner rather than later for our son in the hopes that our newborn’s not-so-developed nerves and capacity for memory would alleviate most, if not all, of the discomfort.
I’d like to think that we made the right choice, but after our baby began sobbing once the procedure was underway it was hard not to feel like a complete and utter turd.
I felt like sobbing too (thankfully mom stayed at home for this one – she probably would have ended up in a hospital bed herself from the stress). The doctor did a fine job (at least as far as we can tell) but be forewarned, your baby will feel it, no matter how young he is.
Without getting into too much graphic (and excruciating) detail, this is essentially how it goes: A local anaesthetic is applied via a syringe (the most painful part, apparently – I’ve read that some doctors use a topical cream, but this wasn’t the case for our baby) after which a series of clamps and specialized scalpels are used to remove the foreskin. The baby is then given .5 mg of infant Tylenol for pain relief and antiobiotic ointment (eye ointment, to be precise) and a gauze bandage are wrapped around the tip. This is followed by a 30-minute observation period to ensure that any bleeding has more or less stopped and the doctor will prescribe saline solution to wash the affected area, more ointment and infants’ Tylenol before allowing you to go home. The entire process took about 2 1/2 hours from the time we arrived at the hospital until the time we left.
Over the next 24 hours we will need to apply the ointment at very regular intervals (basically every time the baby pees or poos) and the gauze should come off naturally by day’s end. We have also been instructed to not bathe our bay for at least five days to prevent infections (wiping him with a damp towel is fine) and saline solution will need to be applied at least twice a day.
The total cost for the entire procedure, including medicine, was a little over RMB 4,000 (after the 20% discount we got for purchasing a BJUnited membership card for RMB 400).
All in all it should take our baby about five days (give or take a couple) to fully recover – at which point I will breathe a huge sigh of relief. At this stage I can’t say that I regret having put him through this (and thankfully he will forget the experience). I’m also most definitely not qualified to recommend for or against this very personal matter for any other family, but I will say this – if you are thinking of getting your son circumcised for a non-religious reason, read up on the pros and cons very carefully. When it comes to circumcision, timing seems to be everything.