Ear­li­er this week, Eytan Bayme wrote about tast­ing Kornbluh’s track­le­ments for the first time and cel­e­brat­ing his third Christ­mas in Europe as an Amer­i­can Jew. Eytan is guest blog­ging for the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil all week as part of the Vis­it­ing Scribe series here on The ProsenPeo­ple.

I said it so many times that first trimester, it almost became a mantra: If anyone’s gonna do it, it should be us.” We learned that some par­ents, with a lit­tle prac­tice and a guid­ing hand, per­formed the rit­u­al them­selves. If we were going to cir­cum­cise at all, we should be the ones mak­ing the cut. 

It’s easy to feel bad for an eight-day-old baby under­go­ing an inva­sive cos­met­ic pro­ce­dure with no appar­ent med­ical ben­e­fits, but cir­cum­ci­sion is like a dream: they cry for the few min­utes then taste their first drop of wine before falling asleep and for­get­ting the whole thing took place. Some claim cir­cum­cised men suf­fer PTSD and inti­ma­cy issues lat­er in life, but no one I knew — myself includ­ed — seemed to be deal­ing with stuff like that. My son, if he was any­thing like me, wouldn’t miss his fore­skin; he’d take for grant­ed that it was nev­er there in the first place. 

But I would remember. 

I would remem­ber the nine months my wife car­ried him, six of which she couldn’t walk with­out pelvic pain. I would remem­ber the safe­ty mea­sures we took to keep him out of dan­ger — the healthy food we ate, the insur­ance we pur­chased, the vac­ci­na­tions we researched, the fire­proof­ing of the house, the organ­ic cot­ton paja­mas we bought. We were so con­cerned with our unborn son’s health and safe­ty that the impend­ing cir­cum­ci­sion felt like sadis­tic tor­ture. For us. 

Cir­cum­ci­sion is a test, just like God test­ed Abra­ham with Isaac, and cir­cum­cis­ing my son was a test to see how com­mit­ted I was to Juda­ic tra­di­tion. If I was as hon­est as I strived to be, the peo­ple mak­ing the com­mit­ment should be the ones hold­ing the knife. The test was for us, not the mohel who cir­cum­cis­es three kids a week.

Make sure you don’t mess him up for life,” my wife told me. She pre­ferred not to do it at all. She found the whole thing anti-fem­i­nist. Here we were mak­ing a big fuss over a boy, talk­ing about cater­ers and fly­ing rel­a­tives in from over­seas, yet none of it would be rel­e­vant if we had a girl.

I wish we were hav­ing a girl,” I told her. We nev­er asked the ultra­sound tech­ni­cian the sex, but she kept refer­ring to it as he, and asked us if we could see the sex. I wish none of this was relevant.” 

As the due date got clos­er, I lost my nerve. I was too wor­ried about the birth. I need­ed to make sure we had every­thing in place for our planned home birth. I need­ed to inflate and fill a birthing pool with­out flood­ing the flat. When was I sup­posed to learn how to per­form a cir­cum­ci­sion? Who was sup­posed to teach me? Also, the more I thought about it, I didn’t like that my son’s faith would be mea­sured by the way his penis looked. It was no one’s busi­ness. I spoke with our Rab­bi. I want­ed some air-tight argu­ment for it, some­thing along the lines of There is no stronger con­nec­tion to Jew­ish Peo­ple­hood than bris mil­lah,” but I knew there was no such argu­ment that would speak to us. It’s a per­son­al deci­sion,” our Rab­bi said.

Maybe we’ll just get a doc­tor to do it,” I told my wife. We’ll wait till he’s nice and strong, for­get the eight-day thing, and then take him to a clin­ic. No rel­a­tives, no bagels.”

You need to make this decision.”

Two weeks late, we went into labor. My moth­er-in-law and I took turns push­ing a two-foot-by-four-inch piece of lum­ber into my wife’s back to release the pres­sure off her pelvis. Eight hours in, the mid­wives showed up; ten hours in, my wife told me to take the clock off the wall; at eigh­teen hours we called the para­medics to wait out­side; and after twen­ty hours she deliv­ered a healthy and bold, eight-and-a-half-pound baby girl, on the left side of the couch. 

It took us six weeks to agree on her full name, which we announced at a small syn­a­gogue near our house. We’ll prob­a­bly let her share our bed one or two nights a week up to her first birth­day. Most days of her life, we try mak­ing as big a fuss over her as we can, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t relieved.

Eytan Bayme is a grad­u­ate of McGill Uni­ver­si­ty and a for­mer stage actor. Orig­i­nal­ly from New York City, he lives with his wife in Lon­don. High Hol­i­day Porn is his first book.

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