A bris is a Jewish birth ceremony dating back thousands of years that welcomes a baby boy into the Covenant of the Jewish people. The bris marks the beginning of a child's Jewish life and is a very beautiful and meaningful religious event for whole family. Having said that, I'm fairly certain there are a lot of things every mom thinks during her baby's bris that are less than kosher and are best kept to herself. After all, we're only human, right?
While a bris is a very special event for the mother of the baby boy — she has the honor of helping plan the party that will (in most cases) take place on the eighth day of her child's life — the event can leave any mother with more than a few thoughts. Sure, a delicious spread is involved (which will be judged and commented on by guests, mind you). However, you'll also have to hire a professional (the mohel, who will perform the circumcision), and the majority of your planning will be done from the comfort of your postpartum hospital bed. In other words, what a bris requires of a new mother is that she be at her most vulnerable, most raw, most hot mess state ever and still, somehow, put on a dress and a game face and present her newborn child to the world.
I have helped plan a bris for each of my sons and let me tell you, planning and hosting these joyous events doesn't get easier with time. Thanks to an overabundance of postpartum hormones and zero sleep — plus the general tension surrounding the, ahem, surgical aspect of the ceremony — the last thing I wanted to do was be the center of attention at a gathering, let alone, you know, the host. I felt a variety of emotions all at once, during my sons' individual brises: joy at being surrounded by so many people I loved, gratefulness for the healthy babies my husband and I created, stress about entertaining all the guests, and guilt for having this weird, overwhelming desire to just run away from everyone and hide in a corner. So, it's safe to say there were more than a few crazy thoughts running through my head during these occasions, but I wouldn't have dared say them out loud. Well, not until now, I guess.
I was in the hospital like, three days ago, so I'm still recovering from my c-section. At the same time, I'm expected to play hostess to my nearest and dearest while wearing the equivalent of an adult diaper underneath my maternity dress (because that's the only thing that fits right now).
I'm trying to walk like a lady, but it is hard when there's a double wide trailer parked between my legs and I feel like I'm still expelling afterbirth. Sorry for the image, but #TruthHurts.
A lot of my friends and family are really excited to see me and the baby because, you know, there's a baby involved and a birth story to be told. But you guys, I am so tired. I haven't slept in eight days and I have this ugly dress on, and I've had more coffee than I probably should.
Still, I'm going through the motions so I can be here in some semblance of presentableness, for you. Oh, and also for this really special religious event. Inside, however, I'm just dreaming about curling up in my bed with my newborn and my husband's old shirt, where I can simply drip breastmilk over everything in peace.
You've got to be kidding me. Where is she? Did she really pull the work card? How could she not be here? Doesn't she know I need the moral support? How could she leave me like this?
And to think I organized and threw it down at her bachelorette party, and when I was eight months pregnant, no less. Ugh.
Look, friends and family members: my son is still really new and hasn't been administered his vaccines. You just got off of the subway to get here, and I have no idea where you've been before that. I know you didn't wash your hands before greeting the baby, because I saw you come in through the door and immediately make a beeline towards yours truly.
I know you want to see and hold the baby and, hey, that's cool. However, hand sanitizer or some old fashioned soap will only aid in your desire to squeeze my newborn's cheeks off. Until then, keep your hands off of the baby's face. Thanks.
According to Jewish tradition, one does not technically invite people to a bris, one merely announces that the bris will be taking place. So, nailing down the actual number of guests is damn near impossible. I am blown away by the dedication of our little "village," don't get me wrong. I'm just, you know, also frightened that I don't have enough smoked salmon and poppyseed bagels to feed the village.
Some mohels give newborns anesthetic, while others administer a few drops of wine prior to the ceremony for sedation. We chose a mohel who went with the wine.
As our mohel gave my newborn a washcloth soaked in wine in anticipation of the ceremony, I start to wonder, "If we're going with alcohol here, why not go all out? Would scotch be out of the question? Wouldn't that really get the job done in terms of sedating the baby enough, so he doesn't feel or remember much of this at all?" Just saying.
The mohel is beginning his spiel and, to my delight and the delight of others, he is a funny guy. He is kind of like the stand up comedian of mohels, and on a day like this we could use a little laughter and comedy. My husband and I had seen him at the bris ceremony for the son of a close friend's and liked his "work."
Then I look over at my mother and notice she's making a face, like she has just tasted the herring in cream sauce and it isn't the good herring from that place she likes. She is whispering something to her sister and her sister is nodding in agreement. In that moment, I know both my mom and my aunt are not pleased with my mohel choice, and I will be hearing about this for the next ten years (or more likely, until my son's Bar-Mitzvah.)
OK, even though we have friends who can vouch for his work, this is our own flesh and blood newborn and this nice man, although a professional, will be performing surgery on him. I really, really, really hope he cuts as well as he tells jokes.
(Well, better than he tells jokes actually, if you ask my mom and my aunt.)
During the circumcision portion of the ceremony, my newborn's little bottom is exposed and all I can think besides the obvious, "Be gentle with my baby!" is, "Please don't poop on the mohel, kid."
Much like my OB-BGYN, I'm pretty sure the mohel has seen it all before. Still, since this is a ceremony and a sanctified occasion, I'm hoping for as little poop as possible.
This may be way premature, but I'm thinking ahead to my son's future as a strapping and virile man. Don't snip too much off the top, please! We don't want any problems down the road with the romantic partners my son chooses.
I feel like I should probably bear witness to every detail of what is about to happen to my baby right now. However, I realize that the second my baby starts to cry I'm going to unleash the floodgates and lose it (and blame the postpartum hormones, because duh).
Too late. I lost it. Ok, I'll just be over here.
In fact, I'm going to distract myself by closing my eyes and focusing on other important topics. How the heck do you spell mohel anyway? With a y? Moyle? Mowle? Wait, that's not right...
"Sweet little baby boy, if you can hear me through this mother-baby bond we supposedly have, I promise that when this is over we're going to snuggle and I'm going to nurse you until you're totally milk-drunk and you can sleep off the wine for like six hours while I nap too, OK?"
Now that the worst part is over and I can park my butt on a couch and nurse, I sure hope someone with her priorities straight (I'm looking at you BFF who showed up hella late) is busy making me the ultimate everything bagel with lox, just the way I like it. Mama is starving.
Like, you have no idea.
My son might be an 8-day-old newborn but, wow, he's a trooper. He not only survived his first party, met all of his relatives, tasted wine for the first time, and received his Hebrew name; he also took part in a ritual going back over 4,000 years that connects him to generations of Jews before him.
So, yeah, my baby boy is pretty amazing. If I wasn't so exhausted I would revel in this moment a little longer, but as soon as is socially appropriate I'm going to sneak out of here, take off this dress that I've leaked milk all over and pass out next to my little man.