Superstition – USA


“When pregnant, you must not physically change your house, set up any furniture, or otherwise alter any room in preparation for your child.  You may have things ordered or purchased, but nothing can be set up or altered for the baby’s arrival.”
Nancy told me that she first learned this superstition when she was pregnant with her first child in 1987.  She was nervous over the whole process and her only prayer was that she would give birth to a healthy child.  She recalls a phone conversation with her mother Elaine Lieberman, living in St. Louis, Missouri who informed her of a Midwestern folk belief that her mother told her when she was pregnant with Nancy.  She was careful in her instructions; nothing in the house should be changed, and she should do no renovation or other alteration for the baby.  As Nancy described her conversation with her mother; “this was a jinx to the pregnancy and could complicate it, or god-forbid, otherwise affect it.”  She went on to state that things could be purchased or ordered form a store, but nothing was to be set up nor  were any physical accommodations to be made to any room in the house.  Nancy says that she did not ask questions and went along with the superstition.  Nancy can’t express how thankful she was that the pregnancy went smoothly.  Of course, she followed the same superstition in giving birth to her two other children, both pregnancies went very well she is overjoyed to report.

This is a terrific example of folk superstition.  Though we know that Elaine heard it from her mother and thus it can be traced back to the Midwest, we will never know the true origin with certainty.  Strangely enough, there are several “jinx” based folk superstitions very similar to this one.  While I was in high school in Scarsdale, New York, the school-wide superstition for those waiting to hear back from colleges was that they could not wear any paraphernalia from any of the schools that they wanted to get into or they would get rejected.  People could buy or order hats, shirts, sweatshirts, etc. from the schools of their choice (they frequently did this after visiting the gift shop on a college tour), but could not wear it until they had officially got in.  I know I refused to wear anything “USC” until I was officially accepted as not to jinx my fate.  It is interested recognize the similarities between these two folk superstitions.  We will never know if they are the results of two cognates that were created in two different places and evolved differently, or if the superstition really comes from the Midwest but spread and evolved into a different form as it traveled to the east coast.