How to guess the sex of a pregnant woman’s baby

Informant Data: The informant is in her late 40’s, Caucasian and self-identifies strongly with Judaism. She is married with two daughters, and has a career as a Family Mental Health Therapist.

Item: The folk-belief that in pregnant women, girls are carried high and boys are carried low, as well as the folk-ritual of guessing the baby’s sex at the baby shower. At the baby shower, the expecting mother with lie down on her back with her belly exposed. A friend will then dangle her wedding ring, tied to a string, over the belly. If the ring swings back and forth, it’s a boy, and if the ring moves in a circle, the baby is a girl. The following quotations are direct transcriptions of my dialogue with the informant, while the additional information provided is paraphrased.

Contextual Data: My informant was introduced to both of these items when she was pregnant with her first child. “I was told that I was going to have a girl, because I was carrying so high. And sure enough, I did. Second time I was pregnant I was carrying high again and many people I met told me as well “must be a girl!” And sure enough, another baby girl. I always thought it would be more comfortable to carry a pregnancy low though, but never got the chance to find out.” When asked, my informant said she did not believe it’s a valid predictor of sex, that her experience with it “was two coincidences back-to-back.” Furthermore, she says that “whether you carry a baby high or low, I think, is dependent on your body type and configuration. I don’t think many women who have multiple children switch.” As for the baby shower folk-ritual, my informant detailed that “this was done for me at both my baby showers, almost more for the delight of my friends than my own! They took my wedding ring, tied some thread around it and held it above my belly. Then, they all screamed as it started in an oval-like path, both times. I took this as an “in-between” kind-of answer, since it wasn’t really a circle and it wasn’t really back and forth, but my girlfriends took it for a circle.” Again, the sex of her children correlated with this method’s prediction as well. “I still don’t think there’s much validity to it, but I sound so cynical because both methods of guessing my babies’ sex were right, four out of four times!” My informant chalks both of the items up to coincidence, explaining “I don’t think I could even guess a biological or rational reason why they worked for me, so I’m going to say it’s a funny coincidence.” These practices seem to have their roots in a pre-modern era, due to the contemporary technologies that eliminate the need for guessing. Therefore, they seem to be upheld by tradition and their interactive nature. “People love to comment on pregnancies, whether it evokes nostalgia for them or perhaps your excitement is contagious, loved ones like to feel like a part of the process,” and these two items are ways to feel incorporated.