Life & Culture

Baby, I loved your big day

Jennifer Lipman felt so lucky to be able to celebrate with family and friends


I never imagined I could enjoy a bris so much. I mean, the catering is usually decent — a mini bagel here, a rugelach there —but in essence, there’s something a bit jarring about throwing a party where the main event is surgery on an eight-day-old baby.
Last time round, with my first son, I dreaded the bris and spent most of it upstairs, far away from the chaos. The thought of all those people invading our newborn bubble unsettled me, while as a first-time mum I was terrified for the actual circumcision and putting my baby through it.
And yet. Having just had my second child, and second boy, I found myself thrilled to be hosting an (admittedly intimate) gathering of close friends and family on my son’s eighth day on the planet.
Partly it’s that on a second go I’m less anxious as a parent: liberated by knowing that I’ve done it before and that most of the things you fixate on don’t matter. But mainly because, unlike so many friends over the last few years, I had the opportunity to do so, unencumbered by rules of six, masks or outdoor staging only. Of course, Covid is far from over, but with everyone vaccinated the risk felt low.
Having experienced my first maternity leave in those halcyon days at the end of 2019, and returned to work just as those first worrying news reports were emerging from Wuhan, I still feel intensely sad for those who gave birth alone or with partners quickly shuffled back to the hospital carpark. For the friends who introduced new arrivals to elderly relatives on icy doorsteps through that endless, frozen winter lockdown — or indeed not at all for too many months — and for the mothers who weren’t even allowed to walk round the park with anyone other than their designated support bubble. And of course for those who held brises — along with every other rite of passage —on Zoom, cries of “can you mute” echoing through ancient prayers. How lonely, how far from what the experience should be.
Pregnant just as Omicron hit, I did fear being in that boat, and there’s nothing to say things won’t revert over the winter this year (although I suspect public adherence to lockdown rules has unreconcilably withered). So for the time being I’m going to make the most of the ability to have visitors to meet my new boy, or to go out and about in the free and easy way I did last time. In his first week, like any good north London Jew, my son has already breakfasted in Temple Fortune and perused the baby section of John Lewis in Brent Cross.
And that holds true for the Jewish moments too; I’m excited to take him to shul, not taking for granted that I will be able to do so at a later date. I want as many shared Shabbat meals as possible; bring on his first Rosh Hashanah and the chaos of a meal with his cousins and older generations.
So while I’m not relishing the post bris nappies — or indeed, the fact that my tiny baby had to endure such pain so young — the bris was, like every other simchah of late, life affirming and joyous. Here’s to many more celebrations just like it — and to be sharing them in real life once again.

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