The Knife Under the Bed and Other Pregnancy Superstitions
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If there's one thing a woman loses while pregnant (besides her waistline), it's any sense of control. Will it be a boy or a girl? Will my baby have 10 fingers and 10 toes? Will labor be easy or difficult? With so many unknowns out there, it's no wonder pregnancy and birth superstitions have proliferated for as long as they have.
Thanks to advancements in science and technology, some of these superstitions are losing their relevance. For example, moms-to-be no longer have to rely on dangling a wedding band over their bellies to determine their baby's sex. Sure, they may have had a 50/50 chance of being right, but ultrasound is much more accurate and DNA is, well, pretty hard to contest.
Did you know that one in 10 newborns are diagnosed with a vascular birthmark, those dark red or purplish marks more commonly known as strawberries, port-wine stains, stork bites or angel kisses? Before we had the science to explain that they are simply a mass of extra blood vessels in the skin, many cultures saw them as something sinister, referring to them as "the mark of the devil," while other societies explained away the unsightly marks by claiming the mother had indulged in red berries while pregnant.
Another medical phenomenon ancient cultures attempted to make sense of is the harelip, a colloquial name for cleft palate or cleft lip, which occur in approximately 1 per 500 to 700 births worldwide, according to Operation Smile. Ugandans believe if a pregnant woman sees an eclipse, her baby will have a harelip. In Mexico, harelips occur if she's out during a full moon and in China, if she eats rabbit.
Chinese culture abounds with such myths. If a Chinese woman wants a boy, she should munch on carrots and lettuce. For a girl? Feast on fish and pickles. Other Chinese superstitions: An expectant mother who rubs her stomach ad infinitum will produce a spoiled child, and the first object a baby grabs upon entry to the world (a finger? nose? stethoscope?) signifies the child's destiny (pianist? perfumer? doctor?).
Perhaps, the weirdest of the bunch? Chinese women are told to rub a chicken's tongue on their baby's lips so he or she will be a good talker.
And some superstitions are stranger still. According to a commenter on a Yahoo board who goes by the name "curious savage," if a Turkish woman steals something while pregnant, the baby will have a birthmark in the shape of the stolen object. Think of all the possibilities for a mom to bestow her child with an awesome "tattoo" -- an anchor, an eagle with the American flag wrapped around it, a skull and crossbones.
Mother-of-two and CaféMom member RanaAurora tells ParentDish in an e-mail that she's "heard some very odd superstitions, from the typical 'raising your arms above your head ties the umbilical cord around the baby's neck" to the extremely odd 'eating carrots is what makes your baby be born with hair.' "
She goes on to say that "the only one I know that is held as a superstition that I believe in is that heartburn increases your chances of having a baby with hair -- but that one is actually scientifically backed."
Another CaféMom member who goes by the name of housefullofkidz (indeed! She has seven, ranging from 12 years to 2 months) says, "My most favorite crazy one that my mom told me is 'Don't look at a monkey or your baby will have a monkey face.' "
As for the knife under the bed? That's also from the Chinese culture, and advises pregnant women to do so in order to protect their unborn babies from evil spirits.
Oh, and if she wants an easy labor? A woman should refrain from using glue throughout her pregnancy. Guess that means no scrapbooking until after the baby arrives.
Got any pregnancy superstitions floating around your world? Tell us!
This article was originally published on Apri 1, 2010.
Related: Are You Superstitious About Your Sport?