Readers sometimes are uncomfortable with our usual topics, so let’s change things up. Today, let’s not talk about the prepuce (which all males and females are born with).
Let’s talk about nails instead.
We’ll start with the humble toenail. Toenails may or may not be attractive looking, and usually we don’t give much thought to them. Unwashed, they might even appear dirty or smell a bit. They are, after all, part of the foot.
Their purpose is to protect the toe from injuries, and they are part of the structure of the toe that helps us balance and have an awareness of our motions. A registered nurse reports that when toenails become too thick due to a health condition, it is possible to thin them out again by filing them down, and patients report having better balance.
Now let’s think about fingernails: we use them for tapping, scraping, poking, creasing paper, and glissando-ing down the piano.
I think the Creator got fingernails and toenail right, and He himself called them, along with the rest of his creation, “very good.”
Now, I don’t mean to scare you, but did you know that fingernails and toenails could be detrimental or even deadly to your health?
Think about the common hangnail and how painful it can be – and that’s just the beginning! Ingrown toenails are also painful and lead to many complications, especially in people with health conditions such as diabetes. Sometimes nails become brittle due to age or health conditions and require special care. Some of the conditions have mysterious and scary medical names like “subungual hematoma” and “onycholysis.”
My Terrifying Toenail Tale
Paronychia is an infection of the nail bed that can be caused by fungus or bacteria. My toddler had the misfortune of experiencing a paronychia infection recently. It started with a mild redness around the base of the nail that we treated with various creams, salt water soaks, and other recommendations from his doctor. But the infection spread to behind the toenail and nothing was helping.
Eventually we had it cultured and it was a very strong strain of penicillin-resistant staph, and also a strong strain of strep. By the time we got the results back the toenail had fallen off completely, which actually seemed to help the situation even though it looked gnarly. We continued all the topical treatments and gave the prescribed non-penicillin antibiotic. Thankfully, the infection seems to have cleared up and the toenail is growing back.
I’ll admit it was a lot of work to care for that infected toenail. Trips to the doctor. Trips to the pharmacy. Bills. Tubes and bags and bottles of various medications on the countertops. Watching it carefully for any concerning signs. Trying to keep him from wiping off the medicines and bandages, or sneaking medication onto the toe while he slept. And have you ever tried to squirt “cherry” flavored antibiotics down the throat of a screaming one year old twice a day for two weeks? He is totally worth it, but it was a lot of work!
So should I de-nail my children?
So after all that, do I think that nails are no good? Am I sorry that I didn’t have his toenails removed as a newborn? No, not a bit. And I’m even glad that his toenail grew back.
But what if this experience had left me with doubts about nails? If I were to have future children, what would you say to me if I confided that I was probably going to have the new baby permanently de-nailed in order to prevent paronychia, ingrown nails, and all the other health conditions that nails can bring?
You’d probably say, “Hannah, that toenail infection your child experienced was unusual and rare! He came out fine after medical treatment, and any future kids are unlikely to have problems. Plus, the problems that diabetics have with toenails are caused by diabetes, not by having toenails! Why put your babies through the pain of having their nails cut out, and the risk of infection or losing too much blood related to the operation? Sure, removing the nails means you can't have nail problems, so technically there are ‘benefits,’ but think of all the other issues it’s going to cause. The risk just isn’t justifiable. Trust that the Creator got it right when he made us with fingernails and toenails.”
Is the connection back to circumcision clicking for you? Removing the protective outer layer of of a baby’s penis to prevent possible medical problems later is backwards, overkill, not sensible, not evidence-based medicine, and not respectful to God’s good design.
People who have financial or cultural reasons to cling to the practice might say there are benefits. Of course, for every body part you remove, there are certain conditions that you cannot experience anymore. But if you haven’t agonized over whether to remove your child’s fingernails or toenails, don’t waste your time agonizing over whether or not to have your child circumcised. Simply say “no” to circumcision and learn the basics of caring for your intact son. It’s easy, but since there are so many myths floating around, you want to make sure you have correct information.
If you don’t have a son on the way, then remember what Proverbs says:
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. (Proverbs 31:8)
If you’re not comfortable talking in detail about the prepuce and the circumcision process, simply send people towards the Little Images website. Or maybe chat with them about toenails instead and remind them that each part of their child’s body, including a newborn’s foreskin, deserves the same common sense respect that we give the toenail.