Piercing Babies' Ears: Why I Did It To My Kids

Piercing Babies' Ears: Why I Did It To My Kids

Every so often the “to pierce or not to pierce a baby’s ears” debate flares up in the U.S. This is probably because there are more and more little Latina girls running around with earrings adorning their cute little earlobes. A lot of Anglo moms consider the practice barbaric and even borderline child abuse. Latina moms accuse Anglos of cultural insensitivity in the same breath that Anglo moms compare earlobe piercing to genital mutilation. There’s no winning this argument.

The latest buzzmade me remember my struggle when my girls were born. Being bicultural, not only did I have to think of names that would sound similar in both English and Spanish, but I also wondered whether I would pierce their ears. And, if so, when? And, how?

Image Credit: Lorraine Ladish

I even wrote about it in a journal I started for my first baby when I was still pregnant. I was tormented, wondering what the right choice was. I argued about it with my then-husband, who while also bicultural, thought the practice was barbaric. Yet if we had a son, he wanted to have him circumcised. I thought this was insane, because in Spain nobody cuts a little piece of skin off their baby´s cute little penis! If the boy has any kind of problem when he is older, it is addressed then, but not sooner. And most Spanish men have all their foreskin intact, thank you very much!

But, since we ended up having two girls, I was able to dodge the whole circumcision situation and instead had to deal with the earring thing.

See, my American mother did not pierce my ears when I was a kid. So when I moved to Spain at 5 years old, I was one of the few girls who did not wear cute earrings. I felt different and upset that my parents hadn’t pierced my ears. When I was 7 and about to have my first communion, I asked my grandmother to please get me some earrings to go with my miniature bride’s dress. My parents were divorced by then and my mother wasn’t around. At first my Spanish father wouldn’t hear of it, but he finally let my grandmother have her way. I was so thankful!

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Back then, it wasn’t a question of a simple trip to the mall. We had to go to some lady’s dark and dreary house—I guess she was considered an ear-piercing expert? Her cats circled around my legs as I waited patiently, but a little frightened, as I watched her sterilize a sewing needle by burning it in alcohol. She drew a dot on each ear, and proceeded to pierce each lobe and thread it. It hurt. I bled. Or so I remember. She tied the ends of the threads into two small loops and I was sent home with instructions for my abuela on how to take care of my lobes until they healed. Then I could wear my first pair of gold studs, right in time for the communion. I was a happy camper.

My sister never had her ears pierced as a child and, perhaps in retaliation, when she was a teen she numbed her lobes with ice and pierced several holes in her ears and wore multiple earrings. I also ended up with more piercings than I knew what to do with. I wonder if it was a way of expressing my anger that I hadn’t had my ears pierced at birth “just like everyone else” in my culture.

Fast forward to me during my first pregnancy, many years later. As soon as friends and family knew I was expecting a girl, I got the first gifts. I ended up with at least five pairs of beautiful gold studs for my baby girl. Because in Spain, the custom has always been for your baby to leave the hospital wearing her first bling. After more than one heated discussion with my husband, I finally decided I would wait. I would postpone piercing my baby´s ears, or maybe not pierce them, ever. I was torn.


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