Since anybody who sees me these days can immediately tell, I think it’s safe to let the cat out of the bag: Come September I’m expecting my first island baby.
Now that the pregnancy is pretty far along, people are really starting to notice when they see me – and boy do some of them have a lot to say! It turns out that there are loads of old wives tales, superstitions and traditions about pregnancy and babies that I had no idea existed until now.
One common theme has to do with “marking the baby,” or doing something that will lead to a child being born with a birthmark. Among the things that might mark your child are bumping into something, which in theory leads your baby to be born with a mark on the corresponding spot on their body; or denying yourself a food you’re craving while pregnant and then scratching yourself. If my child is born with a birthmark that looks like a carne asada taco, everyone will know why.
Another theme has to do with predicting the sex of the baby. Friends from the United States swear that because my “baby bump” is visible right under my ribs, my baby will be a girl. Meanwhile, friends from the Dominican Republic think the opposite: most of the extra weight I’m carrying is located around my hips, which, they say, means the baby will be a boy. A few different friends have also predicted a boy, but for entirely different reasons: a girl baby makes the mother sick and miserable, the thinking goes, and I’m having entirely too pleasant of a pregnancy for this not to be a boy child. Since I’m waiting until the baby’s birthday to find out the answer, it’s easy to nod along with everybody’s predictions.
My favorite Caribbean baby related traditions are the ones that have echoes in other cultures. For example, it’s common to hear folks in the BVI say that the first time you meet a child you should “put something in their hand.” This is a polite way of saying that you should give the baby some cash. The literal blessing you give the child helps make sure he or she will be blessed with good fortune. This is very similar to a tradition among Filipinos that says that the first time a baby visits your house you should give them cash, although my understanding from the Filipino “aunties” who did this when I was growing up was that giving cash to the baby would bring the giver the good fortune.
Anybody else heard any good wives tales about pregnancy and babies?
This column first appeared in the Aug 24th edition of the Limin Times.