Tag Archives: pregnancy

Scissors on the bed during pregnancy

HK: When I was pregnant my mother in law said that I shouldn’t have scissors on the bed because then that will make you have a miscarriage. So don’t cut anything on the bed, don’t put anything that can cut on the bed. Related but not the same, it also means no remodeling, no hammering, no knocking down walls or anything. 

MW: And what did you think of this?

HK: Well…you don’t wanna believe it but when they tell you stupid shit like that…it’s like walking under a ladder. You know nothing’s gonna happen probably, but now you wonder about it. And then it leaves this little scab in your heart when you do do it, because now you’re like, ah, well, what’s gonna happen to me? It just always makes you wonder, you know? So annoying.

Context:

The informant, HK, was born in New York but has parents who are from China. She married and has three children. This story was collected over a Zoom call when she was talking to my mom.

Thoughts:

The “little scab on your heart” that the informant mentioned is interesting because it makes me think that that must be how superstitions get perpetuated. While people might not believe on an intellectual level that it will happen, if you do it it will still stick with you, like a residual fear that clings to your mind; so because of that, it’s easier to just not do it in the first place. I think that’s important to realize, because sometimes the negative effect of the superstition might just come from your own guilt (or at least be related to it).

High stomach means you’ll have a boy

Conversation between me and the informant explaining this belief which she called an old wives’ tale:

Informant: When you’re pregnant, and your stomach is high, you’re gonna have a boy. If it’s low, you’re gonna have a girl. That’s bs, not true at all.

Me: Where did you learn it?

Informant: I dont know…old ladies. People believe it, I guess.

Context and Background: The informant is my mom. She is a white baby boomer from the East Coast, who comes from a very traditional, conservative family. She is very independent and feminist. She brought this up when I asked her about any interesting folklore she knew.

Thoughts:

I think people have a lot to say about babies and pregnancy reveals, but really there is a 50/50 percent chance that you get it right. I think it’s kind of like astrology, where you attribute any coincidences to having truth value, and anytime it doesn’t work out, you essentially consider it to be an exception to a rule. This seems like BS to me, and I don’t know why people would believe it, unless if they didn’t have ultrasounds.

Rubbing the belly of a pregnant woman to absolve it of “El mal de ojo” or bad energy

Main Piece

Informant: This one is weird because strangers can just come up to you and ask to rub your belly. It happened to me. If a woman has an impure thought or is envious when they see a pregnant woman, usually it is about them not being able to have a child, they ask the pregnant woman if they can rub their stomach so that their child doesn’t have “Mal de Ojo” or any bad energy. The Mal De Ojo is between the woman to woman, but the baby is caught in the middle, so they rub the stomach to absolve the baby if that makes sense. I have never seen a man do it, that would be kind of..weird. Oh! And the woman rarely discloses why she rubbed the belly, it is more about absolving their conscience so when it happens you just kind of let them rub it so your baby can get cleansed. It is very odd, it is kind of scary because you find out these women are having bad thoughts about you. It is even scarier to think about the ones who don’t rub the stomachs and just let the bad energy impact the baby.  

Interviewer: Did this ever happen to you?

Informant: One time. The person didn’t even know I was pregnant because I wasn’t showing. I just think she was talking ill of me and found out I was pregnant and rubbed my stomach. She probably thought I was just getting fat haha haha. She was an acquaintance of my ex-husband’s family, so that explains a lot haha. 

Interviewer: Can you explain more about El Mal de Ojo?

Informant: It is interpreted as an evil eye. In the sense of pregnancy the evil is are the ill thoughts of the woman, only she knows why. To try and remedy their conscience they rub the stomach, and disclose if they may “ay no lo quiero dar el mal de ojo, me permites?” (“I don’t want to give the baby the evil eye, may I?”) You do it in an apologetic way, to secure the baby and to get forgiveness for having those bad thoughts. I think its humanity. I think it is an immediate remedy to perhaps absolve an ll thought. People have ill thoughts all of the time- jealousy, comparison. So they do it to apologize in a way, and to save the baby from these ill thoughts, because they don’t deserve that. 

Background:

The informant is my mother, a Mexican woman who is first-generation and the oldest of 3, who was born and raised in San Ysidro,CA  a border town just north of Tijuana, Mexico. Influenced by memories and conversations with her great great grandmother, many of her practices, customs, and beliefs were passed down from her maternal side of Mexican customs. Fluent in both English and Spanish, the informant has always felt conflicted about her culture as she wanted to fit in with American customs but wanted to preserve her Mexican heritage and traditions. The informant had her first child when she was 18, and worked her way as a single mother with two kids to attain her Master’s Degree and is now the Executive Vice President at a non-profit health clinic that serves the community she was raised in.

Context

My whole life I have heard of this premonition, and saw it for the first time when my sister was pregnant and a stranger at a store came up to her and asked to rub her stomach. With that story in mind, I asked the informant more about it and she explained. 

Analysis

This is a very interesting form of folk magic, superstition, and protection. At the end of the day, this practice stems from a belief of magic harming the baby just from a glance. However, I think it is interesting that the act of this practice requires someone to admit that they were sending bad energy in the first place. However, as the informant describes it is more to protect the baby who doesn’t deserve to be impacted by that bad energy. This demonstrates the link of witchcraft to women, and is also a form of superstition present in Mexican communities.

Using a Safety Pin to protect unborn babies during a lunar eclipse

Main Piece

Informant: When I was pregnant my mom- you know the news tells you when there is gonna be an eclipse– well she saw that and she told me that I needed to place a safety pin near my stomach inside of my shirt, near my stomach.  

Interviewer: What was this for exactly? 

Informant: It was supposed to be to avoid harming my baby–defects, birth defects. I don’t know of what kind. Maybe a lazy eye? I don’t know. Haha. 

Interviewer: Were eclipses usually known to cause babies harm?

Informant: That’s what they say. I don’t think there is scientific proof on that. My guess is someone had a baby with a deformity and then they blamed it on the eclipse and it spread. I don’t know. I’m just guessing. 

Interviewer: Did you do it? 

Informant: The consequences of not doing it, even as silly as it sounded, was tugging against me. What if something did go wrong? There didn’t seem to be any logic to the request, but it was simple so I did it. My mom was happy that I followed, and there was a sense of protecting my baby and doing it in case something were to happen to her during the eclipse. I had it secured so it wasn’t gonna poke me, haha.

Background

The informant is my mother, a Mexican woman who is first-generation and the oldest of 3, who was born and raised in San Ysidro,CA  a border town just north of Tijuana, Mexico. Influenced by memories and conversations with her great great grandmother, many of her practices, customs, and beliefs were passed down from her maternal side of Mexican customs. Fluent in both English and Spanish, the informant has always felt conflicted about her culture as she wanted to fit in with American customs but wanted to preserve her Mexican heritage and traditions. The informant had her first child when she was 18, and worked her way as a single mother with two kids to attain her Master’s Degree and is now the Executive Vice President at a non-profit health clinic that serves the community she was raised in.

Context

During our interview, we were discussing all of the different experiences with folklore that she experienced when she was pregnant with her kids. She mentioned a safety pin and eclipse in passing, and I asked her to discuss it further as it was my first time hearing about it. 

Analysis

This form of folk protection is very rooted in the belief of superstition and fear of the unknown that expecting mothers can feel when they are carrying. Wanting to do everything to protect the child, the informant listened to the superstitions and how to protect the baby that were passed down to her from her own mother. This shows the flow of pregnancy superstitions via maternal channels, and the spread of cultural premonitions and protecting practices.

Pregnancy Craving Beliefs

Main Text:

DC: “When you are pregnant and you begin to crave a specific type of food, you must eat the type of food you are craving or else the baby will be born with the face of that food”

Collector: ” When you were pregnant with your son, did you ever ignore a food craving?”

DC: “Yeah, but nothing really happened” *laughter*

Context:

DC is a Mexican woman who immigrated to the United States and has one five year old son. DC mentioned before she told me this belief that when she was pregnant, her mother always told her not to ignore her cravings and she remembers it because of how bizarre it actually is. Despite this being just another folk belief in her eyes, today she continues this belief and mentions it to her friends or family whenever they mention that they are craving a specific food while pregnant. When asked why she continues to pass this belief along, DC responded that it encourages people to eat more when they are pregnant and not feel bad about the “weirdness” and the “changes” that their body is experiencing. She said that she likes to make people feel comfortable while they are pregnant and that sometimes this belief can just be for good humor if someone needs to hear it.

Analysis:

The idea behind cravings in general is a way for your body to tell you what food it needs or what nutrients it is lacking. To couple this with pregnancy, I believe that this folk belief was a way to address the needs of the baby and to make sure that it is also getting all the nutrients it needs from the mother. Another way to analyze this belief relates to the culture of the informant. Growing up in a hispanic family, one is usually encouraged to indulge at family dinners and to specifically not waste food. This in part can be explained by the limited resources of a developing country where water, food and money are very important life aspects.Either way, this belief is passed along by hispanic families who encourage others to indulge in their meals as well as not to waste anything, and both of these aspects would be fulfilled by a pregnant woman satisfying her cravings. Hispanic culture is also one that values new children to a high regard so in a sense I think that this folk belief is representative of the value placed on the birth of new children in that it encourages protecting and fulfilling all of the needs of an unborn child.

The Pregnancy Dream

Background Info/Context:

My mom told me that when she was pregnant with me and my younger sister, she had a very distinct dream about each of us. Korean people call this pregnancy dream, 태몽 (pronounced tae mong). This apparently happens most frequently, to the mother, but often times the family or close friends. The dream uncovers some insight about the baby that is imminent.

 

Piece:

Korean:

Sophia-

내가 임신하기 전에 꿈을 꿨는데,

아침에 아파트 수영장에 나갔는데, 수영장에 큰 검은 물고기가 하나 가득있었어.

나는 그중에 제일 큰거를 한마리 잡아서 들고 왔는데, 엄청 크고 빛났었어.

그 얘기를 엄마한테 했는데 엄마가 태몽이라하더라고.

 

Jamie-

연수는 임신하고도 태몽을 안꿔서…

누구 내 태몽 꾼사람 없나… 하고 있었는데,

한국에 있는 친구가 갑자기 전화가 와서 나보고 임신했냐고 묻더라고,

내가 어떻게 알았냐고 물었더니,

내가 걔 꿈에 나와서 엄청큰 보석반지를 끼고 예쁘다고 자랑을 했다하더라고…

 

태몽은 예전에 아기 낳기전에 아들인지 딸인지 몰랐는데 알고싶으니까

태몽으로 아기 성별을 맞춰보곤했지

너희 꿈은 둘다 딸꿈

 

English Transcription:

Sophia-

Nae gah eem shin ha gi jun aye koom uhl kuh nun dae,

Ah chim aye ah pah tuh soo young jang aye nah gat nnun dae, soo young jang aye kun kum uhn mool go gi gah ha nah gah tuhk ees suh suh.

Nah nun guh joong aye jae il kun guh rur han mah ri jab ah suh dul go oah nun dae, um chung kuh go beet nah sus suh.

Guh yea gi rur umma han tae het nun dae umma ga tae mong ee ra ha duh rah go.

 

Jamie-

Yon soo nun eem shin ha go do tae mong ul an koouh su…

Noo goo nae tae mong koon sa ram ub na… ha go eet sus nun dae,

Han gook aye eet nun chin goo ga gap cha gi jun hwa ga owa suh nah bo go eem shin han nya go moot du ra go,

Nae ga uh dduh kae al at nya go mul ut duh ni,

Nae gah gae goom eh nah owa suh um chung kuhn bo suk ban ji rur yeah buh da go ja rang ul het da ha duh rah go…

 

Tae mong uhn yeh jun aye ah gi nat gi jun eh ah dul een ji tal een ji mol lat nun dae al go ship uh ni ka

Tae mong uh roe ah gi sung byul ul mat chi bo gon het ji

Nuh hi goom un dool da tal koom

 

Transliteration:

Sophia-

When I pregnant before dream had,

Morning apartment swimming pool outside went, swimming pool inside big blackfish one full.

I between most big one catch and carry came, very big shiny.

This story mom told she tae mong it is.

 

Jamie-

Yeonsoo (my sister’s Korean name) pregnant after tae mong not…

Someone my tae mong dreamt wonder… thought had,

Korea in friend suddenly call came me pregnant asking,

I how did you know asked,

I her dream in came out very big

 

Tae mong is long time ago baby before born son is or daughter is did not know wants to know. Tae mong with baby gender guess. You all dream both daughter dream.

 

English Translation:

Sophia-

Before I was pregnant I had this dream. It was the morning, and I went out to the apartment pool. In the pool, there were a ton of big, black fish. Out of all of them, I caught the biggest one and carried it back. It was so big and shiny. I told this story to my mom and she said it was a “tae mong.”

 

Jamie-

When I was pregnant with Yeonsoo (Jamie’s Korean name), I did not dream a “tae mong.” But while I wondering if someone else dreamt a “tae mong” for me, I suddenly got a call from my friend in Korea. She asked me if I was pregnant. I asked her how she knew, and she said I appeared in her dream and was bragging about a giant jeweled ring.

 

Tae mong was used a long time ago before a baby was born to try to guess if it would be a boy or a girl. They used tae mong to try to match the baby’s gender. My dreams about both you and your sister were daughter dreams.

 

Thoughts:

As I’ve never been pregnant before, I cannot attest to the gut feeling of when a dream specifically pertains to an unborn child. But this is a phenomenon that I’ve heard from multiple adult women. In fact, my photography professor’s mother, who is also Korean, stated that she’s heard that if the object in the dream that represents the child is small, the baby is male, but if that object is big, it will be female.

The distinct pregnancy dream may be a result of a combination of a multi-generational herd behavior and confirmation bias. When you hear that mothers and people around you have had strange dreams about an unborn child, you may think that one of the dreams you’ve had is related to theirs, snowballing the herd mentality.

This folk practice has been around for a long time, as implied by my mom, when she stated that pregnancy dreams were used as a method to try to guess a baby’s gender before there were ultrasounds and other technological advances. Although the accuracy of them is unknown, these dreams are remembered and shared with friends and family, even after many years.

 

Watermelon Seeds Make You Pregnant

Text:

Informant (C): Remember at Walton’s when we used to have watermelon and I refused to eat it and said I was allergic?

Collector (J): Yeah

C: I was never actually allergic and I actually really liked watermelon, but when I was at school some other dumbass kid told me that people got pregnant from eating watermelon seeds so I was crazy paranoid about like, being a child mother, and so I just avoided it like the plague because I didn’t want a kid.

J: Really?

C: Yeah, because, like, my mom was pregnant like my sister and the kid said “oh she probably ate watermelon” and I was like “what?” and they were like “well, like, she has a watermelon in her tummy” or whatever and my dumbass just fell for it. I thought that, like, if you swallowed the seed, you would grow a watermelon in your stomach and then the baby would form in the watermelon. Like now I know that’s ridiculous, but like it was believable as a kid because I didn’t know about sex. I guess that kid’s parents or someone told them that because they didn’t want to explain the whole “your mom and dad had sex” thing. But yeah, after I learned about sex I started eating watermelon again.

Context: C and J met at a summer camp (Walton’s). At the end of each camp session, there was a camp-wide barbeque where watermelon was served.

Analysis: Like the informant said, this belief likely started as a way to wholesomely tell kids how their mothers got pregnant. Instead of explaining puberty and sex, the narrative of having a woman swallow a watermelon seed is easier to explain to a child. It also makes physical sense, because a pregnancy belly does approximate the size of a small watermelon. The inside flesh of the watermelon also arguably could resemble human flesh, which is why it is so believable that a baby can be formed in it. There is also something to be said about the association of fruits and fertility, with the human and plant lifecycle often being associated with each other. The cyclical nature of life as both human and watermelon allow a further association to be made with the human gestation period. Overall, the idea that pregnant women are carrying watermelons and are pregnant because of watermelon seeds isn’t that far-fetched from the eyes of a child who has no knowledge of sex.

Fish dream

Context: I remembered my friend mentioning some superstition in regards to a fish so I asked her about it again and she explained and this conversation was recorded.

MG: What does the fish in your dreams superstition mean?

KR: “Okay… so it means someone close to you, or it could be actually you, is pregnant. Usually it’s someone close to you that you know. So say I dream it, it could mean my sister or my roommate is pregnant. Its kinda scary. Who knows if it is a coincidence or an actual thing but my mom and grandma have predicted all 4 of my sisters’ pregnancies with this fish dream thing!”

Background: Informant is from Memphis and grew up in a very superstitious family and she had recently been told that her mom had a dream of a fish so she is curious if anyone in her family is pregnant. She explained to me that this is an old wives tale that gets passed down but usually moms dream a fish and then find out their daughter is pregnant. However, this fish dream only applies to women because men do not have this dream.

Analysis: I thought the connection between fish and pregnancy was very interesting. I did try to research on the connection between pregnancy and fish but could only find concerns for eating fish while pregnant. An important connection I made was the fact that both her previous experiences involved her mom, grandmother. In many other cultures moms and especially grandmothers are seen as wise. They have that sixth sense and are able to pick up on signs. Additionally, this superstition discusses pregnancy which is a very scandalous topic and if a woman is young or unmarried she may be afraid to tell her mom or others. Dreams can reveal suspicions or even fears but sometimes they can also just be dreams without a meaning.

Egg-pregnancy ritual

MG: “Did you partake in any pregnancy rituals?”

LR: “yeah i did the egg thing… my mom did it on me when I was pregnant like she cracks the egg. She rubs it all around and then she cracks it in a vaso [cup] and if there is telaranas [webs] in it than someone is wishing bad upon you”

Context: I was asking the informant about her pregnancy.

Background: LR is a master student at the University of Southern California. She grew up in a Mexican American household and has grown up hearing superstitious things. She has chosen to partake in this ritual because she wanted what is best for her daughter and also as a safety measure. She did not want to regret not listening to cultural superstitions.

Analysis: Eggs are very symbolic and they are often used to ward off the evil spirits, see Newall, Venetia. “Easter Eggs” THe Journal of American Folklore, vol.80, no. 315, 1967, pp. 3-32. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/538415 for more examples of how eggs are used. It makes sense that an egg ritual would be used while pregnant because during pregnancy because the mother and the child are very vulnerable to illnesses and evil spirits. Pregnancy is also regarded as very sacred since you are bringing in a new life into this world so it is important to take care of your baby.

Children Hand Sign Language about Sexuality

Collector’s Note: This child’s hand sign song has a particular hand motion that comes at the end of the first two sentences. It is followed by two more gestures within the second sentence after the word “this”. It is best to first read the song straight through and later refer to each sentence’s number and timing of hand motion while viewing the corresponding pictures in order.

“Good girls sit like this. (1)

Catholic girls sit like this. (2)

Girls who sit like this, (3)

get this, (4)

like this. (5) *snap* ”

Screen Shot 2019-04-24 at 3.13.11 PM

Context: This piece was collected at the childhood home of a friend of the collector from both elementary and middle school after speaking about their friendship as children.

Informant Analysis: While in elementary school around the age of 10, she remembers that girls would sing this song with the corresponding hand gestures to each other during recess. She said that it is “weird” to look back on that hand game since it seems to represent the sexual activity of women through stereotypes and body position. She recited the meaning as, “if you are a good girl, you keep your legs closed. If you are a Catholic girl, you really keep your legs closed by crossing them. If you are a bad girl, you sit with your legs apart, which for some reason means you will get d**k quicker? I mean, that is essentially what it says, but it says it politely.”

At the young age of when they preformed the hand game, she said that it was not necessarily considered to be sexual in nature, but more of a fun sign language you could teach other girls. She recalls that she never had seen a boy make the hand gesture and song while in elementary school, as it seemed to be like a secret code/handshake between girls. The informant was uncertain as to who taught her the game, but guessed that it was a friend. She also could not remember if this hand game was ever shared with adults, but believed it was probably not. Even though at the time they did not view the hand game as sexual, they did understand that if adults saw it, they would be punished, and they  “did not want to get in trouble.”

Collector Analysis: Being a participant in this folk gesture/song/game, there were a few key aspects that I had not noticed until interviewing the informant. It is easy to assume that this hand game is a way to teach young girls to suppress their sexuality with, what could be considered, the goal of having fewer teen pregnancies. This would imply that adults with knowledge of the effects of teen pregnancy would have to be the root of this piece. Another viewpoint is that the hand game is a way young girls teach each other about the image one presents to the world and it’s importance in not becoming promiscuous (perhaps an antecedent form of slut-shaming). However, I do not believe these interpretations to be the most nuanced if we take into account that the actual piece never mentions girls sitting with their legs open as being “bad” as the informant said.

We can also note that the hand game was played only between young girls. The explicit nature of the content may have something to do with why this piece is gender segregated. It could be that there may be a level of shame that perhaps young boys do not encounter as harshly with regard to their own sexual activity. However, there must be more to the gender segregated sharing of this piece since the young girls did not fully understand the meaning of the hand game at the time. Therefore, I argue that the gender segregated sharing could not only be the sexual shame that often occurs for women as they hit puberty. What the informant referred to as a secret code or handshake seems more probable a source to create the gender segregation. The hand game gives young girls, upon the sudden awareness of gender in elementary school, a way to form a group or friendship around gender commonality. Thus, the performance of the hand game would be an expression of being in the group by having intimate knowledge of their particular gestures.

Lastly, the game itself explicitly refers to girls while never mentioning the male gender except through a crude phallic symbol. To this extent, it is very much a childish thought to represent men only as their sexual organ while also only referring to it as “this” (perhaps taboo word). The game’s proliferation among girls occur by virtue of the excitement in referring to a taboo subject or word among children.