Nine months have gone by so quickly. The journey has been rewarding so far. I’ve definitely experienced and learned lots about my own culture when it comes to taking care of oneself (and baby in belly) during pregnancy. Most cultures, even in this day and age, still adhere to some traditional superstitions, be it as original as they were or practised with modern interventions. As for me, I’ve been tuned in to the Malaysian Chinese way of maintaining a healthy and safe pregnancy. From the type of food to my daily actions … sometimes I really wonder how these superstitions were formed in the first place. It really amazes me – as educated as I am in the 21st century of advanced science … I still find myself taking a step back to re-consider a superstition. Perhaps, I am the kind who is more willing to consider all options to guarantee the best … as long as it sounds reasonable enough and it is morally right. Typically, it doesn’t cost more money. It doesn’t hurt anybody. It just may prove to be a little more inconvenient at times. Who knew … I never expected my husband to be more cautious and strict in following superstitions considering he spent half of his life immersed in North American culture.
Anyhow, the following is a list of common pregnancy superstitions and my personal opinion and experience of its outcome. Will I continue to follow it? Probably, since I’ve already been through it. And it’s my job to annoyingly pass it down to my children in the future 🙂
Do not announce your pregnancy until after 3 months has passed …
Superstition: I was told that by telling the whole world you are pregnant, it will “chase” or “scare” the baby’s spirit away thus leading to a miscarriage …
My two cents: I think through the years, research and science has showed that the first three months (first trimester) of pregnancy is unstable. A higher percentage of miscarriages occur during the first trimester. Some people may feel it is just wiser to wait until after the instability period is over to inform Uncle Joe and Aunt Sally. Others may not mind if the whole world knows what happened to the pregnancy. Most people are proud of sharing positive news, but when things turn around … there’s a lot to take in from the world, especially when the mother herself has to go through the emotional pains of a miscarriage. I remember my mom was so taken aback when I informed her of my pregnancy because she adhered strongly to this superstition. In my opinion, she was my mother and I wanted her to be the first person to know. I was looking for support and perhaps advice that can minimize the risks during the instability period. Yea, it wasn’t fun breaking the news to my mother. Oh well. Still, I think it is fine for immediate family members to know, but at the end of the day it is personal preference.
Do not … (throughout whole pregnancy)
- Hammer nails into the wall
- Stick anything on the wall
- Re-arrange furniture (especially the bed you sleep on, and other large furnitures)
- Renovate the house or move to a new home
- Sit on the bed to cut anything
- Place heavy boxes or luggage/suitcases on the bed
- Open boxes or luggage/suitcases
Superstition: I was told that any of the above could “hurt” the baby’s spirit, which will then indirectly affect the fetus during the pregnancy. Common fears are development of clefts and undesirable birth marks in babies. Worst fear would be a risk of miscarriage.
My two cents: This one is still a mystery to me. I cannot seem to find a reasonable modern-age explanation for why this superstition exist. In general, I think people want their pregnancy to be smooth-sailing, so the above actions actually create an environment where it can be stressful for the mother-to-be. While the superstition here believes that the baby’s spirit is present around the house, and perhaps can be seen as always “following the mother (or father) close by”. Therefore, the actions that are taken can somehow affect the baby’s spirit, thus the fetus itself indirectly. I’ll share two stories; one relating to my sister and the other of my husband’s relative:
When my mother was pregnant with my sister, she had accidentally stuck some tape on the wall to hold something that had dropped out of place. Two hours later, she suddenly realized she had made a mistake as she remembered this superstition. She immediately removed the tape. My sister was born with a birth mark on her cheek. Fortunately, the pigmentation was not very dark and so her birth mark is not very obvious. My mother attributes this to the duration that tape was stuck on the wall. She still thinks that if it was left on the wall longer, my sister would have a darker birth mark on her cheek.
When my cousin-in-law was pregnant with her oldest child, she had experienced a lock-out from her own house. In a frantic effort to try and get back into the house, she had asked for help to break open the main door of her home. The people who helped her used a crowbar to force open the door. The thing to note here was that she was present at the doorstep while they were doing the work. Her baby was born with a cleft on his lip.
However, I have to point out, it’s not like one is completely forbidden to do this. Of course, there will be circumstances where the above activities need to proceed. There are ways around it, and of course it is believed that the best way is to avoid doing it completely, especially living in a house which is going through major renovations. Even moving to a new home is a no-no during the pregnancy. It is advised to wait until baby is born before moving, especially if baby was conceived at the current home. My mother-in-law taught us a method of countering the negative effects of the superstition. When we were living in our apartment in US, we had to move some big furniture around to accommodate new furniture. First, I had to be out of the house. Before I exited the apartment, I had to “say” a few words to baby, informing her that daddy was going to move some furniture around and that it will be dangerous … so baby has to follow mummy out of the house. After I leave the apartment, my husband takes a broom and sweep in the air around the area that he was going to work on while saying in Cantonese, “Paak Mo Kaam Kei, Cheh Meh, Cheh Meh”, which in English instructs the baby’s spirit to move away for a moment or “please excuse me”. This method is believed to help temporarily shoo the baby’s spirit somewhere else to reduce the risk of injury to itself.
Placing heavy boxes or suitcases on the bed is believed to symbolize “pressing” on the mother’s womb thus posing a risk for miscarriage. Similarly, opening boxes or suitcases is symbolize opening or weakening the mother’s womb. You can pretty much guess the symbolic superstition of sitting on the bed to cut something while pregnant. I guess, during ancient times couples conceive children on the beds, hence the significance of the bed in this superstition. Also, the fact that the couple has successfully conceived in the current home, it is believed that the “luck” is present there. So moving to a new home, in which one doesn’t know what kind of “luck” or “energy” might be present (I blame this on the influence of Feng Shui and traditional religious beliefs), is a definite no-no because it could adversely affect the couple’s luck/fortune with the pregnancy. The funny thing was, I started analyzing other activities such as when I’m cooking and handling the knife in the kitchen … wouldn’t that be even more dangerous since I cook almost everyday? My mother said the superstition doesn’t apply in that situation. She did not really give me a good explanation as to why … so no further comments here.
At the end of the day, I really do not know the true logic of this superstition, but we ended up following our parents’ advice anyway to the best of our ability. I can’t recall if I did any of the above activities carelessly. To be honest, I know in North America, many mothers-to-be decorate and furnish the baby’s nursery during their pregnancy. I’m sure their babies have turned out fine? Perhaps, you can disapprove this superstition by sharing your experience here!
Do not eat crab during your pregnancy
Superstition: It is believed that your baby will be born as a thief. The symbolic meaning here is that the crab has many limbs, which somehow associates a person with “many hands” to stealing, pickpocketing, etc …
My two cents: I have no real data to evaluate this superstition, haha! But I think it’s more of a health concern rather than the future profession of the child? Anyhow, eating anything as long as it is in moderation is fine to me!
Do not attend weddings during your pregnancy
Superstition: This superstition can be related to the traditional Chinese belief of a person’s birth time, Four Pillars of Destiny (生辰八字 Shēng Chén Bā Zì, see link). Most traditional Chinese weddings choose an auspicious date for their wedding celebration, and in reality this auspicious day may not be everybody’s lucky day because each person has their own Four Pillars of their birth time. The Chinese believes the qi energy and the “luck” of the bride and groom is at their highest on their wedding day. If the pregnant mother’s 生辰八字 somehow clashes with the bride and groom’s, there is a risk that the counter force or energy will backfire and cause harm to the health and luck of the pregnant mother, thus indirectly affecting the fetus.
My two cents: Personally, I’d like to be present at any wedding celebration, especially if it’s relatives’. I think the superstition is more of a safety precaution for the pregnant mother. One just has to be careful since weddings can get crowded and stressful because of the noise and activities. The one method that I’ve always been told to avoid the “clash” is not to look directly at the bride and groom when they first enter the house or the reception area. I have not attended any weddings during my pregnancy so I can’t speak for myself. But I’ve noticed other relatives who were pregnant and attended weddings utilize this method in light of this superstition, and their pregnancies have turned out fine.
Do not sit facing the sharp point edge of a rectangle or square table
Superstition: This one is related to Feng Shui, I believe. The “Sha Qi” or poison arrows in Feng Shui terminology literally means “killing” energy. It is believed that the bad energy being directed to the belly in this sitting position is harmful for the fetus/pregnancy.
My two cents: I’m quite a believer of Feng Shui, I must say. Although, I pick which Feng Shui and the related situation to believe. As for this, my mother-in-law kept insisting I avoided sitting in this position, especially when we try to squeeze many people around a table. She would always take that seat for me, so I would say she is a strong advocate of this superstition. In my opinion, the logical modern-day explanation for this is again, a safety precaution for preggy mom. There’s always a risk that a sharp pointy edge will hurt mother’s belly, mostly by accident. So to avoid any such unwanted occurrences … perhaps, the superstition proves to be helpful for some 🙂
Do not look at frightening or ugly images of animals, monsters, or other fictional characters out there
Superstition: It is believed that your baby will have a resemblance to those images.
My two cents: To be honest, the one example of this superstition I’ve heard of is if a pregnant mother gets frightened by a monkey or a cat. Then the baby’s face will have a resemblance to a monkey or a cat. I don’t know how true this is, but don’t you ever wonder sometimes … at some point in your life where you’ve come across people who do … resemble … ?? Whether or not their mothers were frightened by these images, who knows? However, my mother keeps telling me to avoid watching horror/thriller movies or Discovery channel featuring snakes or other not so pleasant looking animals. Even, the movie “The Hobbit” was somewhat frightening with the images of the ghouls and trolls. I don’t know if it really affects the baby’s look at the end of the day, but I think I’ll just stick to looking at pretty things or cute, chubby baby photos.
Well, well. These are the few key ones I remember from my pregnancy. Perhaps, you have something to share from your culture?