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A low-stress bris?

May 2006

We are gearing up for a bris for our son in June and would welcome any suggestions on how to make the event as stress-free as possible. We have selected a mohel that we feel comfortable with, and he has glowing references. Our concerns are now more focused on preparing for the event and minimizing unpleasant family dynamics. In particular, I will be having a c-section and am not sure how much I will be able to do prior to the event. I'm trying to avoid having the family alpha she- males (my mother, my husband's mother, and his step mother) completely take over with the preparations. Any suggestions on easy menus to prepare ahead of time or frozen entrees? Catering is not in our budget. Finally, the event will be small - just the grandparents and possibly some siblings. My husband's parents had an acrimonious divorce long ago and some ill will still lingers. Any suggestions on how to make everyone comfortable? Thanks - we appreciate any input!

As a veteran of two brit, I felt compelled to respond to your post. My first son was born by c-section, my second a VBAC, and I want to suggest that you reconsider trying to put the bris together by yourself. I couldn't do much at all 8 days after my c-section, and even 8 days after a VBAC. You're going to have a new baby to take care of, your own pain to manage, plus the hormonal changes of giving birth. Please do as much as you can in advance (paper plates, drinks, etc.) and then delegate. Maybe one grandma can get bagels & cream cheese, another can make a fruit salad and someone else can bring dessert? They are going to want to help and you might as well let them. I don't know the dynamics of your family, but giving them each a separate task will likely make your life easier during an already difficult time. And most importantly, it will let you focus your energy on your baby and your own healing. Good luck to you! 2 Boy Mom

My husband and I wanted to have a simple bris, but months before the baby was born, were pressured by the probing and silent disapproval of relatives to have something bigger. Well, it was way bigger than we wanted -- there were probably three times as many people there as at our wedding (it was held at a community center). It was very stressful and I had to campaign hard beforehand to make sure the baby wasn't passed around to a hundred people. So, first of all, I commend you on keeping it small! I'm not sure how to solve tensions between relatives, as that seems to be a universal problem. I would suggest having classical music in the background before and after the ceremony as a way of soothing people and filling awkward silences. For food, you may want to delegate that to your female relatives.

It will satisfy their need to take over, but only give them the impression that they are taking over -- you'll be the one giving orders! Maybe you can tell them you want simple finger foods, like vegetables and dip, pita and hommous, chopped liver and crackers plus little desserts like brownies and fruit salad, etc., and let them duke it out. Make it clear that it would stress you for them to involve you in the menu at all and tell them exactly when you want them to come to set up at the house. Also, make it clear ahead of time when you expect everyone to leave so that you and your family can rest.My other suggestion is to considering having the doctor do the bris at the hospital, and have the religious ceremony a month later when you feel more recovered from your C-section. After going through the first bris trying to please relatives, I felt resentful and realized it was our right to conduct our life as we wanted, and that if anyone didn't understand, that was really their problem. You're the mother, and you'll have just gone through a huge physical and possibly emotional change, your baby will be getting used to life outside of the dark, warm womb, and you both need rest and as little stress as possible! Don't be afraid to set boundaries that you expect others to respect. Good luck with the bris -- I hope this helps! A Sympathetic Mom

Oops -- I just posted above, suggesting a bris at the hospital - - I meant the circumcision at the hospital, and the religious ceremony later at your house or wherever you're holding it. A (Tired) Sympathetic Mom

You asked for suggestions on how to make the event as low-stress as possible. Low-stress for the family? I think low-stress for you is more important - you are the one giving birth and planning this event. Are you sure you want to coordinate the event just after giving birth? Just adapting to having a new baby is a huge adjustment, and planning an event is a huge stress. Is there anyone else you can trust to plan the event - a friend perhaps? Even if she's not attending, she could maybe coordinate it as a birh gift for you. Foods that freeze well include meatballs, lasagne, other meats. Potatoes don't freeze well. You could probably check out a ''once a month cooking'' message board for ideas on specific meals.

Small bris, bigger naming ceremony later?

Feb 2003

We are expecting a boy in April (our first child), and I'm feeling overwhelmed with the decision about how to structure the bris/naming ceremony. My first thought was that I don't want a lot of people around for the actual bris- to me it feels like a personal thing, one that I'm have reservations about myself (but that's another story) and that I don't necessarily want my larger community to witness (don't know how many would react, etc.). However, I would like to celebrate the coming of my baby with a larger group. I thought of having the actual bris earlier in the day, with only family and a few close friends, and then having a larger naming ceremony later that evening. I wonder, though, if I would be making more work/stress for myself that way? Another thought was to have a small bris and then a bigger welcoming a month or so later, but that doesn't really work because family couldn't come from out of town twice. It is so hard to anticipate how I will feel- a lot will depend on unknowns, i.e. how the labor and birth goes, etc. Eight days after having a first baby seems like an awful time to have to do all of this!!! Does anyone have any advice about how they did it? What worked? What do you wish you had done differently? How did you make these decisions? Thanks!!!!! Martha

Congratulations on the upcoming birth of your son! I can totally relate to your feelings about the bris. I, too, had lots of reservations and anxiety about putting my son and myself through such trauma. I didn't want anyone around for the actual procedure. First we decided that it would just be my husband, me, the baby, and the mohel. But then the mohel said he needed an extra set of hands so we had my in-laws join us (which they were hoping for anyway; my parents were glad not to witness the event). It was actually nice to have my mother- in-law there because she held me while I sobbed in the kitchen. We then had a couple of hours down-time before our guests arrived and had a small, informal naming ceremony. I felt surprisingly good for only being eight days postpartum. And, remember, if you don't feel up to being present during the whole party, people will understand if you take the baby or just yourself and take some time alone. Long before my son was born, I made my husband promise that he would take the lead in setting up the party and being the host in case I didn't feel up to it. So, if you have a partner and other family/friends that are willing to prepare food, clean the house, and otherwise organize the party, you'll feel much less stressed about the event. One regret I have is that we didn't invite people soon enough (you only have eight days to plan unless you have a scheduled birth!) so a lot of friends regretfully couldn't come. By the way, the mohel recommended not to pass the baby around much at the party and to keep things as quiet as possible as the bris is already an overwhelming experience. He'll need to stay extra close to his parents that day. Amanda

A few days after giving birth, I was completely wiped out and couldn't imagine having people over for a bris/naming ceremony. However, somehow, when day 8 came, I felt completely up to the occasion and really enjoyed the opportunity to be with people (I hadn't seen almost anyone up until then). I had the good fortune of having a husband who took care of all the arrangements--all I had to do was show up, and I could go upstairs and rest at any point if I felt the need. It was a wonderful occasion and I'm very glad we did it and included everyone. anon

First of all, very happy for you and hope that the coming birth goes very well. The best way to plan a bris (in my humble opinion) is to have someone else do it for you in their house. You can help with as much as you can ahead of time (e.g. freezing food or arranging caterers, finding a mohel you like), but let them do the actual work of set up, clean up, everything on that day. Do any planning of the ceremony ahead of the birth (something I wish I'd done and didn't!). Leave yourself with few responsibilities other than showing up and nursing your son afterward. And make sure you talk to the mohel ahead of time about his plans for pain-killing (wine before and breastmilk after are best in my opinion). I personally think it's nice to have a bris with lots of friends/family but you could also have a small bris and a larger pidyon ha-ben/naming ceremony a month later. Good luck with it all and enjoy your son and your part in the thread of generations of 4000 year old ritual. joyous jewish mommy

Please don't take this wrong, but frankly, we were secretly hoping for a girl so as to avoid exactly what you are going through in terms of dealing with a bris/naming ceremony when you are brand-new parents of a newborn. It just didn't sound like anything we wanted to be dealing with 8 days into parenthood without having any family in the area, though obviously we would have had it been a boy. We are Reform Jews, which will be quite evident by what I am going to share. Therefore, this may or may not be useful. Also, we are adoptive parents and we have a girl, so take it all with a grain of salt! We had originally planned on having a naming ceremony for our daughter early on (we adopted her at 2 days old). We found that due to a variety of factors, including the illness and subsequent death of my father, that we needed to postpone the ceremony until it felt like the right time. Well, it took a few years, but we finally had a lovely naming ceremony when our daughter was 3. A friend of ours who is active in the Humanistic Judaism movement wrote a ceremony with us and included our daughter in it, and performed the ceremony, all of which turned out to be very special indeed. We kept it very small and it was held at our home. It was really lovely and more moving that I would have thought. Good luck with whatever you decide! LB

This is surely the wrong forum for such a question, but I was wondering if someone could provide a brief summary of what this bris ceremony is about. I obviously have no Jewish friends, but am curious about this seemingly stressful yet wonderful event. Thanks anon

[Editor] Here is the Wikipedia page about Bris: