Ever since I can remember, I’ve been superstitious. I don't know how it started or why it happened, but I do know it hasn't been something I've been fully able to shed — not as a grownup, not even as a mom, and especially not when I was trying to get pregnant with my second child. In fact, that's when I nearly lost control of my life and my focus on all the good things in it.
My earliest superstitions were innocent enough — knocking on wood or throwing salt over my shoulder — you know, the typical, run-of-the-mill superstitions I likely learned from Momma. I mean, I had no idea why I was doing these things beyond that I was supposed to for good luck.
Rather than fading away as I entered adulthood, my superstitions evolved, morphing into a larger and more complex beast than I ever could have imagined. Instead of simply throwing sodium to the wind or rapping an oak table with my knuckles, my behaviors grew maddeningly complicated — and unhealthy.
Every time I board a plane, for example, I step with my right foot first, kiss my hand, and touch the plane with my left hand as I say a quick prayer. That started innocently enough over 20 years ago when I was really nervous about flying, and now I honor it ever time I fly. Would I be unable to fly if I couldn't do my thing? I’m honestly not sure. It doesn’t matter that 99.99% of me knows how ridiculous it is; it’s the .01% that rules.
I’ve been able to find a small amount of comfort in knowing I’m not alone. My husband can get carried away with the superstitions, too. He refuses to do anything important on the thirteenth of any month — even when it doesn’t fall on a Friday.
As intelligent and rational-thinking adults, we know our superstitions are absurd, but that knowledge isn't enough. I somehow can’t help feeling like I'm tempting fate if I don’t follow my own arbitrary list of superstitious actions. I can poke fun at myself for my quirky behaviors, but forgetting to perform a particular ritual puts me into panic mode. This was never more true than when I was trying to get pregnant again.
Even though I’d long recognized the problematic nature of being systematically superstitious, I only realized how troublesome my ruling rituals had become at this low point of my life.
I was lucky that I got pregnant easily with my first son, Brooks. My “honeymoon baby” didn’t lead me to foresee a problem with conceiving again. But, when my husband and I started trying for Baby Number Two, nothing happened. Every month, I got my period. And, every month I started freaking out — trying to make implausible connections between getting pregnant the first time with trying to get pregnant the second time. I found myself obsessing over what we'd done the first time I got pregnant. I tried to remember what I'd been wearing, what Scott had been wearing. Had we blessed our marriage candle? Did I drive the same route past my church and say a prayer at precisely the right time? I over-analyzed everything.
While I tried to laugh about it at first, and tell myself I was being silly, as time wore on with no baby, what I had or had not done started to take over my thoughts. They became all-consuming. Maybe if I just prayed harder, lit more candles, wore my lucky charm necklace 24/7, then I’d get pregnant again.
It was Brooks that eventually helped bring me back to reality. I was so grateful for my perfectly healthy and wonderful little boy that I began to see the light beyond the darkness of my pregnancy struggle. I started to let go of the superstitions. I focused on being a loving mother to my child and refused to let pregnancy woes get the best of me. Wouldn’t you know it? That’s precisely when I got pregnant.
I am nearly six months pregnant now and thrilled — obviously! After Scott and I got the good news, however, I allowed some of my superstitions to creep back in. I drove the same route to my doctor’s appointments to ensure I would always get good results. In the end, I realized that these obsessive actions were hurting me far more than they’d ever help. After all, it was the behaviors themselves that were causing my anxiety.
In this complicated life, I know we sometimes take comfort in the little things. For a lot of us, that means holding on to superstitions. But, these rituals aren’t going to lead to happiness. Not everything is going to work out just the way we'd imagined. I’d like to think that things happen for a reason, and although we might not understand our frustrating or tragic moments, that’s okay. Maybe we need to get comfortable with that. Maybe we need to leave the superstitions at the door.
In short, I’ve got to believe the results we get in life are about who we are and how hard we work to achieve our goals. They’re not about whether or not we accidentally break a mirror, light a candle, or wear the same T-shirt to bed seven nights in a row.
When I start to feel myself being superstitious, you know what I do? I purposefully step on the biggest crack I can find.