pregnancy

'When I told a relative I lost my baby, she blamed a Christmas superstition.'

Every year there’s plenty of cheerful debate over the “right” day to take down Christmas decorations. Boxing Day? New Year’s Day? January 6? Or just anytime you can be bothered, so long as it’s before the following Christmas?

But for some people, it’s a deeply held superstition. They believe that bad luck will befall anyone who doesn’t take down their tree and tinsel by the end of the 12 days of Christmas. It’s this superstition that led to a woman in the UK being on the receiving end of an unbelievably cruel comment about her pregnancy loss.

The woman, posting on Mumsnet, explained that she’d had a termination for medical reasons at 20 weeks last year because of a serious defect. She explained that all her family knew about it – and she said she still didn’t have any children, despite being pregnant twice.

Last Sunday, she went out for coffee with a family member and mentioned that she hadn’t finished taking down the Christmas decorations yet because of illness in the house.

“She was a bit shocked and said it was really bad luck to leave them up past the 5th and wasn’t I worried about that sort of thing,” the woman wrote. “I was a bit surprised as I didn’t realise she was superstitious so I made a joke about how we ended up leaving our [white] fairy lights up over the fireplace last year as they looked cosy, so we kept them up all year, and the sky didn’t fall in.

“She then said flippantly, ‘Well, you did have that thing with the pregnancy – I would say that was bad luck. If it was me I wouldn’t chance it!’

“I don’t know if I’m being oversensitive but it really seemed like she was saying I could have caused that bad luck by leaving those lights up.”

Midwife Melissa Pearce on the guilt that comes with pregnancy loss. Post continues below…

Oversensitive? Uh, no. The Mumsnet community was unified in their condemnation of the family member. Some of the printable comments they made included “thoughtless”, “utterly crass” and “a raging tit”.

One woman said she’d recently been for her 12-week scan where she’d been warned about things such as smoking, drinking and eating soft cheeses.

“They never mentioned the risks of leaving one’s Christmas decorations up,” she added. “I think the peer-reviewed evidence is probably a bit thin.”

Another woman said she’d also been on the receiving end of an insensitive comment about a superstition, although not in the same league.

“I wore pearl earrings when I got married and a relative said they were bad luck and so-and-so who wore pearls had a very unhappy marriage – nothing to do with the fact that her husband was a twunt.”

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Trying to make a link between leaving up Christmas lights and losing a pregnancy is truly bizarre, as well as massively insensitive. But the fact is that throughout history, across cultures, there has been a lot of superstition around pregnancy.

In England in the Middle Ages, it was believed that if a woman blasphemed, her baby would be born deformed.

A very raw Monique Bowley speaks about miscarriage, grief, and how friends and family can help someone who is struggling. Post continues below…

A number of cultures have traditionally believed that pregnant women shouldn’t attend funerals, because if an unborn child gets close to the spirit of the deceased, it could lead to a miscarriage. There’s also a Liberian superstition that strangers shouldn’t be allowed to touch a baby bump, for fear of spirits stealing a baby from the womb, and a Hmong superstition that pregnant women should keep away from large bodies of water for a similar reason.

Some people believe that stepping over ropes or even electrical cords while pregnant can cause the umbilical cord to become tangled around the baby’s neck.

On top of that, the tradition of not sharing news of a pregnancy until after three months sometimes has a superstitious element to it. Likewise, some people don’t want to buy baby items or receive gifts for their baby before the birth, thinking it could be bad luck.

Pregnancy loss is such a random and tragic event that it’s not hard to see why people over the centuries have tried to come up with reasons for it, to try to convince themselves they can escape it. But there’s just no excuse for mentioning superstitions to women who have lost a pregnancy. No one should do anything that could add to their grief by making them wonder if they could somehow be responsible for it.

The woman who wrote the original post on Mumsnet thanked everyone for not making her feel like she was overreacting. She said she’d told her husband about the comment made by the family member, but played down how upset she was by it.

“I’ve said that if anyone speaks to her I will do it,” she wrote. “But I’m not sure whether to just leave it now. I feel like maybe the moment has passed.”

Would you say something or not? Let us know in the comments.

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