(page 2 of 2)
Rabbi Asher Lopatin, president of the liberal Orthodox Yeshivat Chovevei Torah in New York, says the superstitions surrounding pregnancy and birth are not based in Jewish law and may even contravene them.
“As Jews, we are supposed to believe that God protects us, and sometimes these superstitious practices rely on forces other than God,” Lopatin said. “It’s almost in the category of magic.”
Historically, magic and superstitions were a way for expectant mothers to deal with the complicated, unpredictable and dangerous process of pregnancy.
While technology has eliminated some of those unknowns and dangers, pregnancy is still a fraught process, and superstitions have persisted, says Sylvia Barack Fishman, a professor of contemporary Jewish life at Brandeis University.
“Pregnancy superstitions remain a combination of fear of evil wishes and a very practical response to medical realities,” Fishman says.
Today, many Jewish women say superstitions have no place when it comes to pregnancy. Many plan full baby showers without concern about whether celebrating before the birth tempts fate. Others hold smaller celebrations, such as tea parties, that do not involve gifts.
Jewish educator Sarah Wilensky, a mother of two, said she did not want a baby shower when she was pregnant with her daughter, but her sister-in-law insisted on a party so she relented.
“But I told her no gifts for the baby – just casual brunch for friends and family – and that if people really wanted to bring gifts, maybe something small for me and my husband to enjoy while we were waiting for her arrival,” Wilensky said. “It ended up being lovely and I received many gifts.”
Connecticut-based Jewish blogger Cara Paiuk said she told her close friends and family immediately when she discovered she was pregnant with her first son. She did the same for her twins, who are nearly 3 months old.
“I firmly believe in sharing with your friends and family,” said Paiuk, who blogs for Kveller. “If, God forbid, something went wrong or was going wrong, it gives them the opportunity to love and support you rather than be in a vacuum where no one knows and you feel isolated and lonely.
“I had some complications with this pregnancy and I was very open about them. The community and friends rallied. They brought food, kept me company, looked after my son when I was in the hospital.”
Jordana Horn, a journalist, lawyer, blogger and mother of five, says she holds on to some superstitions.
“I would never buy things for the new baby before the baby was born and keep it in my house,” she said. “But I have five children, and I like to find out what the gender is when I can – in no small part to tell the older sister or brother what is coming to them. It’s fun to get excited.”