Superstition: a belief or notion, not based on reason or knowledge, in or of the ominous significance of a particular thing, circumstance, occurrence, proceeding, or the like.
I’ve always had a sort of God will punish feeling or idea, mostly tied to my lack of gratitude. The biggest and most glaring illustration I can think of happened at the time my son was born.
To begin with, I had wanted a girl, very badly. When I was pregnant with my daughter I felt sure she was a boy. This was in the days before routine sonograms. I sort of felt like I wanted this thing so much, I wouldn’t get it. After having a daughter, I thought of myself as a “girl” person, and couldn’t picture mothering a boy.
When I was pregnant, everyone, including the doctor, said the baby would be a boy. Again, without any tangible evidence. I didn’t want a boy, and I said as much. I didn’t think I would have one. I sort of feared having one, which I know now is not an unreasonable or uncommon fear. To go from not having a son to having one is a huge life change.
I was due March 10. On February 26, I started to get a weird rash. Again, without the internet, I tried to look it up in books (how quaint!). Dr. Spock described what I had as chicken pox.
I had not had routine immunizations as a child because of my severe excema. I was the only I knew without a small pox vaccine scar. When I was 16, the doctor finally gave me the MMR vaccine and polio, and I was fine. But a chicken pox vaccine didn’t exist in the US back then. I had slept with my cousin while she incumbated chicken pox. Chicken pox went around my classes and through my friends, and I didn’t catch it. I sort of thought I was immune. Then, at 26 years old, over eight months pregnant, and with no one I knew having chicken pox, I caught it.
I called the doctor that Friday night, and talked to the doctor on call. The doctor said not to worry, that if I have birth with chicken pox, they would just isolate me from the other mothers and babies. All weekend my grew slowly, and that two in the morning on Monday morning, my water broke and I went into labor.
I went to the doctor at nine in the morning, and he sent me to the hospital. I must remember to come back and write about child birth and standing pain. For the purpose of this story, though, I’ll just record that he had several doctors look at my rash at the hospital and that finally they analyzed it in a lab, and they found it to be chicken pox.
Apparently this is very dangerous for a newborn. They called the Centers for Disease Control, and helicoptered in immuniglobulin for the baby. They told me I might not be able to see the baby for a while after it was born. I remember crying about that, and the doctor telling me it was a medical decision. OK, but can’t I be sad? I was very desperate to breast feed.
My son was born and he was whisked away. I was shocked to hear it was a boy. After about two hours, they decided I could see him. He was born after seven at night, and we went home the next morning.
I was told to check his temperature at every diaper change, and to go right to the hospital at the first sign of a fever. I had to bring him to the doctor’s office every day to get checked. They said that something like half the babies born to a mother with active chicken pox die. Of those that don’t die, about fifty percent needed drugs that cause brain damange. It didn’t look good.
A week went by, and I started to feel better about his chances. The doctor said I didn’t need to bring him every day any more, but to keep up with the temperature taking. At ten days old, he developed the rash that indicated he had chicken pox. I guess the immuniglobulin didn’t prevent it, and he was exposed at birth, and ten days is the usual incubation period.
Here’s where my superstition comes in. I had a strong feeling that my story was going something like this: God was saying, “Oh, you don’t want a boy? Well you don’t have to have one.”
I know that’s not true. I know that it was chance that gave me then my baby chicken pox. I know it’s chance that let us recover without any complications. He was fine, after all, but he was much more appreciated by me than if that hadn’t happened.