Even if you don't consider yourself a superstitious person, you can expect to receive an in-depth education in superstitions and old wives' tales from the moment you become visibly pregnant. Complete strangers will give you the oddest advice, and it will seem that everyone you meet has a "foolproof" method of predicting your baby's gender. This author can't count the number of times she has been told (over the course of two pregnancies) not to put her arms over my head at work or sit cross-legged "because it will wrap the cord around the baby's neck." Right.
Maybe it's because pregnant women seem vulnerable, or because the time between conception and delivery has been a mystery until recently; whatever the reason, it seems that every culture has its own superstitions about pregnancy. Many reflect the insecurity we feel about our lack of control over the pregnancy's outcome. For example:
- Until recently, many people thought that if a pregnant woman consumed strawberries or port wine, the baby would be born with large red or purple birthmarks (still called strawberry marks and port-wine stains)
- In Guyana, it was thought that a baby would be born cross-eyed if its mother wore high heels while pregnant
-In China, harelips were thought to be caused by the pregnant mother eating rabbit meat; in Mexico, it could have been because she was out and about under a full moon.
-Just by staring at the moon or viewing a corpse, it's said that a mother can doom her unborn child to mental problems (lunacy) or an early death
- Oh, and make sure you don't have an owl living under your roof- it could cause a miscarriage
Of course, not all superstitions warn of such serious consequences; superstitions about predicting a baby's gender are still very common today. You'll run into people (seemingly on a daily basis) who will "predict" the gender of your child based on:
- how a wedding ring or sewing needle swings when suspended over your belly
- how high, low, round or wide your belly is
- the fetus' heart rate or activity level
- how cold your feet are, what you're craving... even the shape of your nose!
Not surprisingly, these methods all turn out to have about a 50% accuracy rate!
So what are we to do about those well-meaning busybodies who are so eager to "help" us? If it's an unimportant thing like telling you, "it's a boy for sure!", the best response is probably a smile and a thank-you, or a "well, we'll see...". If you want to confuse them, of course, you can always say, "well, we know it's going to be a boy because I ate an apple while standing on my head the Tuesday before he was conceived. Thanks anyway."
If, however, someone is (for example) accusing you of strangling your child when you're holding the overhead bar on the bus or is shaking her head at your blatant consumption of a cup of tea (horrors!), it's perfectly alright to tell her, "thank you, but I've discussed it with my doctor, and she/he says it's fine." That usually shuts them up.
Remember, in a few generations, people will probably be laughing at many of our beliefs, so try to relax and let yourself laugh about all of those silly superstitions. It's good practice for when people start to tell you all about what's good or bad luck for your new baby!