Finding out your baby is a boy—either months in advance or moments after he is born—can be bittersweet for a Jewish mama’s heart. Choosing to circumcise (or to not circumcise) your son is a deeply personal decision that you and your family will make. If you do decide to host a traditional bris, there are plenty of things you need to figure out: how to choose a mohel, whom to invite, and what to serve.
In the midst of all that, it’s easy for a mom to get overwhelmed, so here are a few tips to make things easier on yourself. After all, you did just have a baby.
*The #1 tip to remember: Plan in advance. The more you can do in advance, even if you don’t know the gender of your child, the easier it will be on you once your baby arrives.*
READ: FAQ: Everything You Need to Know About Planning a Bris
1. Choose your outfit.
This might be one of the more depressing aspects of the Jewish tradition—to host on-lookers eight days after giving birth. It is important not to put unrealistic expectations on yourself or your body after giving birth to your son. Choose something to wear from your maternity wardrobe that is comfortable, clean (laundry!), and easy to nurse in if you are a nursing mother.
Trying to squeeze into pre-pregnancy clothing can put added stress on you that you do not need. Everyone will think you are gorgeous no matter what you are wearing, because presenting your son to the Jewish community is a breathtakingly beautiful tradition.
2. Keep the food simple.
When Jews gather, food is always expected. It is not, however, expected that YOU prepare the food. Your job in the eight days following birth is to recover and bond with your infant. Leave the food making to friends, family, or a caterer. What you can do is check the catering or dietary restrictions of your venue, run a mental list of your guests to see if kosher food is required, and find someone to cook, prep, and pick up the food you want to have served.
3. Tune out the negative voices.
Circumcision has become a highly controversial subject. If you have chosen this ritual for your family, guard your choice and your feelings wisely. Remember that this is an ancient sacrifice. Rabbis often lament that people used to sacrifice their children—it’s just the foreskin we give now. This is a tradition that links our people to Abraham and Isaac, and focusing on that historical significance can often be a source of comfort.
4. Gather ritual items you may need in advance.
As in, before you give birth. You’ll need a pillow, candle sticks, tallis, and kiddish cup. Think of it as part of nesting—that way you are not rummaging around your house in a postpartum haze looking for your late grandfather’s tallis.
5. Delegate, Delegate, Delegate.
After a baby arrives, people are always asking how they can help—so let them! Make a detailed task list of things that need to be done and assign a person to do each of them. Assign someone to remember to bring the checkbook in order to pay the caterer/mohel/rabbi. Have someone who will make sure the venue is left as it was found so that you don’t incur fees and that important ritual items return home with you, including the bris certificate which should be presented to you by your rabbi and/or mohel. Even if the bris is held at your house, be sure to have people stay afterwards to clean up.
6. Arrive early.
If you are having a bris somewhere other than your house, arrive early so that you can spend some time to get familiar with the space and cuddle your baby prior to the ceremony.
7. Be gentle on yourself
Know yourself and your limits. If you are the kind of mama who needs to see every detail, then by all means choose a seat up front, but many mothers sit off to the side during the procedure. Anticipate that your baby will cry and that this may trigger a flood of postpartum emotions for you. Yes, it’s OK to cry at your son’s bris; your emotions are your own and no one should place expectations on your reaction to this procedure.
8. Be gentle on your baby
While guests might be anxious to meet your new addition, post operatively is not the best time to do so. Before the ceremony you want to make sure your baby is calm and fed and has had some time for the breast milk/formula to settle. Retreat after the bris to feed/nurse and hold your baby. Some babies sleep immediately following and are not interested in eating, while others need the comfort of being close to you. During this time surround yourself with supportive, positive people—ones who will sit quietly with you or bring you a drink and a plate of food.
9. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Don’t be alarmed if baby sleeps a lot after the procedure, but check in with your pediatrician and mohel with any questions. You can’t be too vigilant at this time because it is traumatic in many ways. Have your baby checked that evening or the following day by either your mohel or your pediatrician.