Question of the Week:
My son is having his bris tomorrow. I am beside myself. I know I will go through with it, but the thought of giving my precious baby over to be circumcised is just terrifying for me. I am sure I am not the first mother to feel this way. So how do people get through it without breaking down?
Your fears are completely understandable. And at the same time, there is absolutely nothing to fear. Here are a few important facts to keep in mind.
A bris does not really hurt. It is only skin being cut, no muscle or flesh. The nerve endings are yet undeveloped, and so the baby has little sensitivity there. The knife used is so super sharp that the cut itself is not noticed by the baby.
Now if you have ever heard a baby squeal at a bris, you may find it hard to believe that he is in no pain. Well, let me tell you something.
I remember once, when my daughter was eight days old, I was changing her, and I noticed that she squealed the exact same excruciating high-pitched screech that a boy would give at his bris. I have since improved at changing babies. But I learnt that they cry from the cold when their nappy is removed, and scream when their legs are being held down.
Watch a circumcision closely and you will see that the boy starts crying as soon as he is exposed and restricted, but when the actual cut is performed he does not flinch. The friends and family gathered around are grimacing sympathetically while the baby cries; meanwhile the baby himself is just trying to say, "Can you wrap me up and get me warm already!" As soon as you do, he settles down.
All the above is a description of the facts. The fact is, a bris is no big deal for a baby. But it is a big deal for a mother, because facts don't always speak to emotions. Who can imagine the feeling of a new mother, sleep-deprived and hormonal from childbirth, giving over her sweet little baby to be circumcised? The Holy Zohar compares it to placing your child on an altar to be sacrificed. While in fact a bris is nothing like that - you get your baby back intact at the end - the feelings are similar.
This is the heroism of our Jewish mothers. For four thousand years, they have been tearfully giving their babies to be circumcised, then celebrating by eating bagels and lox. It is not always easy. But it may be a little easier for you to know that the hard bit is being the mother, not the baby. As usual.
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