When I converted to Judaism and later took a job in a synagogue I expected to find myself in the company of well traveled, well educated people. What I didn’t expect was to find myself surrounded by some of the most superstitious people I had ever met.
Family is one of the founding Jewish values, and as such, you expect that most Jews would get very excited when someone they are close to announces a pregnancy. However, most just ignore the whole thing completely. I work with some of the smartest people I have ever met, but they would rather never mention a pregnancy or a coming baby until the baby is born. Their superstition is mind boggling.
It is a common Jewish practice to not purchase anything for a new baby until it is born. Buying things for an unborn child is akin to jinxing the pregnancy. Talking about the pregnancy makes people uncomfortable because it also may jinx it. Should you make fun of this rationale, they will tell you that it also protects the parents. Should something go wrong they won’t have painful memorabilia to remind them of what they have lost.
Pregnancy is not fun. I’d even go so far as to say that it’s 9 (10) months of unpleasantness punctuated by brief moments of joy. Spending that whole time not thinking about a happy outcome, not planning for a new baby is especially hard. I, personally, can’t do it.
When you go home with your band new, squalling, red faced infant you are constantly assailed with doubt and self recrimination. Each time they sneeze, each rash, each ache, you wonder if it was something you ate, something you did while pregnant. Adding superstition to that is a recipe for disaster.
Shit happens. Babies die. Sometimes babies die before they are born, and sometimes babies die two weeks after they come home. Some babies die when they are 16 months old because they have undiagnosed seizure disorders. It wasn’t because someone bought them a cute pink stuffed bunny, or because they have a closet full of clothes waiting for them at home.
Pregnancy and motherhood are plenty hard enough without throwing superstition into the mix, but try as I might I can’t convince my coworkers of that.