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We all have our superstitions: tales of motherhood around the world

World Vision
15 March 2013 by Tamara Blackmore
We all have our superstitions: tales of motherhood around the world

Tamara Blackmore interviews a mother in Bangladesh for World Vision’s new book Vision of Hope: Mother and Child. (Photo by Suzy Sainovski)

Everyone keeps telling me they think I’m having a boy given the way I’m carrying – high and right out in front. They also say if you look tired and drained then you’re having a girl as they say ‘girls suck the beauty out of the mother’!

I’m seven months pregnant with baby number two and have a three-year-old boy at home. I don’t actually know what I’m having but I also suspect I’m having a boy.

Motherhood is not new, nor are the stories, superstitions and traditions that come with it. While modern medicine and science mostly rules out the validity of these theories, so many of us still indulge in a little traditional guess work – just for fun.

Not surprisingly I found many new traditions and superstitions on my travels to Bangladesh and Mongolia as part of my story gathering for a photography book World Vision’s creating with Ken Duncan called Vision of Hope: Mother & Child.

As a part-time working mum, I was blown away when I was given the opportunity to travel to see World Vision’s work and interview women about their experiences as mothers. It combined all my loves – travel, photography, writing and talking to other mum’s about their birthing and childrearing experiences!

In Bangladesh I noticed a young baby with a big black birthmark on its forehead. Well, I thought it was a birthmark until I realised every child had one. I learnt that it’s a cultural practice that all families adopt regardless of whether they’re rich or poor, educated or illiterate.

Women use charcoal mixed with oil to draw on the big dot, which is believed to protect the child, avoid bad luck and ward off evil. Amazingly women keep this up every day from the day the child is born until they’re about two years old! Here’s one of the babies our photographer Suzy met:


Guessing the sex of the baby is as much a common past time in Bangladesh as it is in Australia. People believe that if the mother’s face is sick and tired then she’s having a boy, as boys are more active. If the mother looks fresh and well then she’s having a girl because (they believe) girls are calm and quiet. Clearly they haven’t met my niece!

The mothers in Mongolia also didn’t let me down when it came to superstitions. Families there don’t prepare for a baby’s arrival by buying clothes, toys or other necessities or even selecting a name. They feel to do so is premature and could result in bad luck, so there’s a flurry of activity once the baby is born.

Finally, (and I’m tempted to try this one) once the baby is born families regularly hang a grey felt fox on a string above the baby’s head when they sleep. The fox is said to protect the baby from bad dreams and stops them crying at night. Mongolians believe a fox comes to the dreams of new born babies and takes the mother away, which makes the baby cry.

I’m sure many of us don’t really believe in these superstitions… but then again anything that could possibly help sooth a crying baby in the middle of the night or keep them safe is well worth a shot!

Tamara Blackmore is the Senior Public Relations Officer at World Vision Australia. 

Do you have any traditions or superstitions about pregnancy and motherhood? We’d love to hear your stories!

2 Responses

  • Tully P says:

    My mum used to say that if you had violent morning sickness you were definitely having a boy. I think she just based that on her own experience though, because I had terrible sickness and I had a gorgeous little girl!!

    • Tim, World Vision team says:

      It’s interesting to hear about what your mother said Tully. My mum talked about how the mother looked when pregnant. She said if you couldn’t tell a woman was pregnant from the back, it was going to be a boy! Thanks so much for your comment. All the best 🙂

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