By Vivian Samson
As we near Saint Patrick’s Day, it seems that everywhere you turn, you see leprechauns, pots of gold and four-leaf clovers. People swear by the “Luck of the Irish” and it is also considered lucky to kiss someone Irish. We don’t stop to think twice about these and other superstitions; they are so woven into the fabric of our culture. And they are not just for special holidays… people avoid the number 13, they knock on wood, and brides wear something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue (and a sixpence in your shoe).
When it comes to getting pregnant, there are a host of superstitions dating back as long as humans have been trying to conceive. According to The Bump, such superstitions include rubbing fertility statues, waiting for the full moon, wearing rose quartz and other crystals, and not sweeping under the bed (if that were true, we’d all have our own small army of kids). In fact, there’s an entire industry dedicated to fertility charms, just check Etsy.
So what about ‘getting lucky’ when ‘getting lucky’ isn’t working like it should? Anyone going down the IVF (in-vitro fertilization) road would think, “Oh no. This jaded skeptic does not fall prey to such silliness.” After all, there is enough real, scientific stuff to get right, like mixing your injectables correctly, timing your trigger shot or understanding how your TSH affects your FSH (and on and on). After all, we’ve been ‘trying’ long enough to know fertility charms don’t actually work, or we wouldn’t be here, right? Right?! Well… then again, some of us will take all the help we can get.
Like many undergoing IVF, I turned to superstition as well. By my fifth assisted reproduction procedure; after one cancelled IUI (intrauterine insemination), three failed IUIs and one failed IVF cycle, I found myself hanging on the every word of my girlfriend who swore up and down that this one “evil eye” charm would work for me. It had, after all, been passed around to three or four friends and each time it was in their possession, bingo… preggers. This was just a one inch round piece of blue and white glass shaped like an eye; commonly sold in local Armenian supermarkets to ward off evil spirits and all-around ‘bad juju.’
As an educated, professional adult I knew there was no scientific proof that these charms actually work. How could I be so gullible to put even an ounce of hope into a piece of glass? Yet I found myself hoping and praying every night holding that smooth little round eye. When it comes to IVF, adoption, or pregnancy in general, why are we so superstitious?
I believe we find comfort in charms and superstitions, particularly when we are experiencing things out of our control. It allows us to feel like we’re helping along the process, which in turn alleviates some anxiety. An article in Psychology Today entitled, “Why We’re So Superstitious”, cites the uncertainty hypothesis; “the notion that when people are unsure about an outcome, they try to find a way to control it… For many people, not having control over an outcome is a frightening proposition. The more important these uncontrollable situations are, the more likely you’ll try to dream up ways to control their outcome even though it may be unrealistic.” You cannot characterize IVF any better than that: a very important and very uncontrollable situation.
In the end, I did end up getting pregnant and having our ‘miracle baby’ once I received the evil eye charm. Coincidence? Probably. Who knows? But in my case, it was helpful to help me feel less anxious overall and it didn’t cost a penny. And really, what’s the harm in that?
Vivian is a volunteer and former staff member of RNE. She lives in Arlington, MA with her husband Devon and five year old daughter Grace. When she’s not chasing after her not-so-little ‘miracle baby,’ she can be found at the local pool with her Masters swim team, following the black line back and forth and humming tunes that get stuck in her head.